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With a 180-page filing
(pdf) and a blog post
, Comcast today formally made their sales pitch to regulators regarding approval of Comcast's planned $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Most of what's included in the sales pitch are things Comcast has argued repeatedly already in the court of public opinion; namely that the two companies combined will create amazing synergies that will benefit consumers in a myriad of ways, and that the merged company can't possibly engage in bad behavior because relatively tiny operations like Google Fiber will somehow keep them honest.
Last fall Comcast began tinkering with
a new bundle that offered HBO, basic cable, and 25 Mbps broadband. While Comcast offers the bundle initially under promotion for $40-$50 a month (depending on your market), though it doesn't include HD content and the price jumps to a less sexy $70=$80 a month after one year.
The cable industry has historically found itself at the very bottom of customer satisfaction rankings across nearly all industries
, in large part because of the constant rate hikes
, but also because they simply don't want to pay for quality customer support. Comcast is no exception, and has spent most of the last decade trying to, as they put it, "combat consumer perceptions" that they're not very good at doing their job.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts seems to have popped up every few months or so over the last decade to make a promise that the company's rock-bottom customer satisfaction rankings are going to change soon -- yet they never do. With Comcast wanting regulatory approval for their Time Warner Cable acquisition, once again the company is promising everyone that customer service is a priority
and will get fixed any day now
Comcast Executive VP David Cohen told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that "it bothers us that we have so much trouble delivering a really high quality service level to customers on a consistent basis. It is not something we're ignoring." "We have spent billions of dollars over the last five years improving our networks to try to make them more reliable."..."We are deeply disappointed as to where we are."
Except reliable networks don't cure your customer satisfaction problems when you vehemently refuse to compete on price or spend serious money to improve your customer service systems, whether that's better training and support for front line support reps, or spending more money on better subcontractors so they don't fall asleep
, kill anyone
, torture kittens
, dig in the wrong yard
or blow up any laptops
We've discussed at length how AT&T's "IP transition" is being framed as some sort of evolutionary transition toward a "glorious all-IP future," but is really largely about AT&T gutting regulations in order to hang up on POTS and DSL users they simply don't want to upgrade
. After Verizon used Sandy as an excuse to refuse to upgrade their own unwanted POTS and DSL customers, the FCC stepped in to mandate two small IP transition trials
to help analyze what kind of problems we can expect as users are cut off from the PSTN and pushed on to wireless.
T-Mobile is the only one of the big four major carriers not to disable new functionality in the Galaxy S5 that helps speed up downloads. Android Police
was the first outlet to notice the "download booster" feature was disabled on AT&T devices, and Verizon and Sprint tell Fierce Wireless
they won't be offering the functionality on their versions of the device, either. Samsung heavily promoted the feature at the S5 launch event at Barcelona; it allows users to combine cellular and Wi-Fi data to speed up downloads larger than 30 MB. None of the three carriers blocking the functionality gave explanations for their decisions.
Over the last few years, cable operators have paid a lot of lip service
to lowering cable TV prices, insisting that they were very conscious of the fact that the recession and housing implosion left many users struggling. Instead, the industry has refused to compete on price, not only passing on bi-annual rate hikes from programmers, but imposing new fees
and higher rates for services like DVR rentals whenever possible.
Currently only available in a small portion of Austin at speeds of 300 Mbps, AT&T has recently hinted that their "1 Gbps Gigapower" U-Verse upgrade will soon be coming to portions of Dallas
and San Antonio
. Now AT&T is hinting that the faster service could appear in portions of the Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions of North Carolina.
T-Mobile today added a new wrinkle to its wireless options, unveiling a new "Simple Starter" that provides users with unlimited talk, text, and 500 MB of data for $40 per month. Once users reach their 500 MB hard cap (there's no throttling as with other options), a device message will pop up offering users $5 for an additional 500 MB for the day, or $10 for 1 GB to be used over the next week.
According to a T-Mobile press release
tethering is allowed under the plan, which will be available in stores this weekend, or for prepaid users starting on May 17.
"We are freeing consumers from the predatory practices of traditional US wireless companies and that includes these plans that start with a low price and a low data limit, but then hit you with insane fees if you send one too many emails," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile in a statement. "It's wrong! And I personally want to drive those ridiculous schemes out of this industry."
Meanwhile, a blog post
by Legere suggests there's some additional "uncarrier" announcements coming over the next several days.
Dyn, Inc., who started out as a volunteer and donations-based service as dyndns.org, announced yesterday
that in 30 days, on 7-May-2014, their free dynamic DNS service will be disabled. Notices were sent out 7-Apr-2014 to customers
claiming that with "mixed emotions," the company will be ceasing the free service so it can focus on better serving paying customers.
Back in January we were the first to report
that Comcast was again doubling speeds on many of its tiers, starting first with the company's Midwest division. As noted then, upgraded Comcast users will see the company's "Performance" tier bumped from 25/5 to 50/10 Mbps, their "Blast" tier from 50/10 to 105/10 Mbps, and their Extreme 105 speeds bumped from 105/20 Mbps to 150/20 Mbps.
News emerged this week that the Internet's most popular implementation of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol has contained a bug that allows a hacker to siphon all manner of private data, including passwords and authentication cookies, from many websites server memory. Dubbed "Heartbleed" by the researchers that unveiled the massive bug this week, major online service providers and websites are scrambling to deploy a new patch for the vulnerability. story continues..
In news that might be of interest to the six of you that currently own a 4K-capable television, it appears that Netflix is now offering 4K streams of their hit series "House of Cards." First spotted by UK website HDTVtest
, the website notes the streams are being delivered at a bitrate of 15.6 Mbps using the HEVC/h.265 codec. Last fall, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stated users would need at least 15 Mbps for the streams
, though they'd obviously "be fine" if they have a 50 Mbps connection.
According to the New York Times
and an AT&T blog post
, AT&T will be ditching the company's "rethink possible" marketing mantra and replacing it with "mobilizing your world." AT&T is ranked number 3 on the list of biggest United States advertisers, spending $1.8 annually. Why the change? AT&T tells the Times that research suggests the old slogan just didn't convey they oodles of "innovation" and "value" AT&T provides consumers:
Consumer research spurred the change, said Esther Lee, senior vice president for brand marketing, advertising and sponsorship at AT&T in Dallas. While consumers knew and remembered “Rethink possible,” Ms. Lee said, the research found that the phrase did not sufficiently convey the idea that AT&T is “driving the mobile revolution” through innovation. The new theme better communicates “the specific value we’re creating” for consumers, she added, and that “it’s not just about making a phone call."
"Mobilizing your world" places an obvious emphasis on AT&T's mobile ambitions, while "rethink possible" doesn't really jive with the fact that AT&T wants to hang up on tens of millions of fixed line POTS and DSL customers because they don't want to put some of that marketing money into upgrading them.
Cincinnati Bell has announced that the company will be selling its wireless business and PCS, AWS and 700 MHz spectrum to Verizon in a deal worth $210 million. According to a press release
, closing of the deal is expected sometime in the second half of the year. Cincinnati Bell will continue to own and operate the company's fixed line and fiber "FiOptics
" TV and broadband products.
"We appreciate the loyal support from our Cincinnati Bell Wireless customers over the last sixteen years, and we remain committed to providing them with wireless service and support throughout the transition period,” said Cincinnati Bell CEO Ted Torbeck in a statement.
In a new SEC filing
, Sprint has stated that the company will be shuttering its existing WiMax network by the end of 2015. Most of Sprint's operations currently ride on the back of their new (and under-performing
) LTE network, with the exception of former Clearwire customers (who Sprint has tried to push elsewhere via rate hikes
) and Sprint's pre-paid subsidiaries, who'll be migrating their services to LTE. The shutdown will involve the elimination of roughly 6,000 cell sites, with Sprint working to upgrade the remainder of acquired Clearwire sites to TD-LTE.
We just explained in detail how The Weather Channel wasn't having very much luck holding DirecTV hostage for higher retransmission rates, given that unlike most retrans disputes, customers didn't appear to be missing the channel
(largely because of its new focus on fluff). However, after being missing from DirecTV's lineup since January, The Weather Channel has now returned after the two companies struck a new carriage deal
While most of us love the faster speeds provided by fiber, over the years we've seen more than a few complaints about destroyed property. When Verizon was heavily expanding FiOS heavily back in 2005, for example, there were more than a few complaints about trampled azaleas
or exploded garages
Dissatisfied with service from the likes of Time Warner Cable, last fall the city of Los Angeles used an innovative approach to get 1 Gbps connections to all city residents: they simply asked if any companies wanted to come to town to build and fund an all fiber network. As we noted at the time this was a fairly obvious pipe dream
, experts noting that the city wasn't really bringing any inducements to the table to lure companies to invest.
After announcing they'd be offering 1 Gbps on the heels of Google Fiber in Autsin, AT&T stated the company would also be expanding the faster service to Dallas
, though in neither instance did the company give hard numbers on how many users would receive the ultra-fast service. Now San Antonio radio 1200 WOAI
states AT&T is "eyeing" San Antonio for possible expansion of the Gigapower service, though again without getting too specific about how many customers we're actually talking about:
At next week's City Council meeting, council will consider granting AT&T the same deal that Google was granted last month, the right to use city property, mainly exiting police and fire stations and libraries, to erect 'prefabricated communications equipment shelters' and to string fiber along existing city rights of way.
Google's recent deal with San Antonio
only lays the groundwork for the potential placement of fiber huts; there's no guarantee San Antonio actually sees Google Fiber service. AT&T's promise seems similarly ambiguous in nature; AT&T's core concern is to manage the perception that they're not being outperformed in their core industry in their home state by a search engine company -- even if they are.
For much of the last decade Seattle has explored the idea
of building their own ultra-fast broadband network. Much of that motivation was fueled by the sub-standard service provided in the region by regional telco Qwest (now CenturyLink), which in turn resulted in regional cable operator Comcast not working very hard.
Comcast has officially won the Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" award for the second time. According to the website
Comcast beat out a significant number of heavy hitters riding massive waves of negative public sentiment for the honorary "golden poo," including Monsanto, numerous banks, and Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner Cable.
An attempt to bypass federal appeals court and take NSA data collection to the Supreme Court has failed, according to a report by Reuters
. Political activist Larry Klayman hoped to expedite the issue's inevitable appearance before the high court, piggybacking on a ruling we covered last December made by US District Judge Richard Leon
, who declared that the NSA's metadata collection violated the Fourth Amendment and was "almost Orwellian" in nature. In short the case likely will spend another year bouncing around the appeals courts and political arena before finding its way back before the Supremes.
Less than a week after Charter CEO Tom Rutledge publicly admitted that their current TV service offerings simply weren't very good
, Charter last November announced plans for a brand refresh for the company's broadband and TV services. Like AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, Comcast Xfinity, and Cablevision Optimum, Charter has announced they'll be re-branding the company's broadband and digital video services under the name "Spectrum" in the hopes of changing public perceptions.
For the second time in as many months, HBO's online streaming platform HBO Go has struggled to keep up with capacity demand. The service appears to have choked on the hit HBO show "Game of Thrones," as millions of users flocked to the streaming platform to watch the show via the Internet. "HBO GO did experience issues due to overwhelming demand around the premiere of Game of Thrones. The service was fully restored on all platforms by midnight ET," an HBO spokeswoman stated Monday
. HBO Go, only made available to users who also subscribe to traditional cable, also had trouble meeting capacity demand
for the recent finale of the HBO show "True Detective."
T-Mobile's latest "uncarrier" sales pitch? Selling LTE-capable tablets for the same price as Wi-Fi only versions, and offering users a year of "free" data. One, according to a T-Mobile announcement
, all of the company's LTE-enabled tablets are on sale to match the price point of their Wi-Fi only counterparts (so a $639 iPad Air with LTE will run you $499). Two, in addition to the 200 MB of free data new T-Mobile tablet buyers have received since last November
, new customers get $10 off for signing up for T-Mobile's $20 1GB mobile internet plan, plus another $10 off as part of this promotion, meaning new users get the $20, 1GB data plan free through the end of the year.
Blackberry CEO John Chen doesn't appear to be helping his struggling company's attempt to right the ship. After recently getting into a pissing match with T-Mobile
, Chen this week raised eyebrows when Reuters
quoted him as suggesting the company would be getting out of the handset business.
Back in February Sprint announced
that the company was offering a new Wi-Fi calling service that provides free voice and messaging over Wi-Fi, though the service didn't provide seamless handoff between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. It also only worked on a piddly number of phones, including the Samsung Galaxy Mega, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4 mini. Today Sprint announced
that the tri-band capable Galaxy S4 has also been added to the mix, and owners should receive an automatic OTA upgrade to enable the functionality.
There's a growing number of wireless companies that have recently started trying to offer cell phone services that rely heavily on Wi-Fi, most of them riding on the Sprint network (Scratch, Republic Wireless). Recently rumors emerged suggesting that Google was thinking about doing something similar
; namely a wireless phone service offered only in Google Fiber markets that piggybacked on Wi-Fi networks, using Google Voice heavily and relying on cellular networks only as a last resort.
Aereo has announced that the company is bringing their live TV streaming service to Google's Chromecast dongle starting in May. According to an Aereo blog post
, the company will launch Aereo on Chromecast on May 29, offering users access to Aereo's live TV and DVR service, which starts at $8 a month and up. The launch comes one month before Aereo faces broadcasters before the Supreme Court, a showdown that could result in the company ceasing to exist. Survey results released by a company called Centris this week state that 40% of subscribers would cancel TV service if Aereo was made available in their market
In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft.
If you recall, Snowden documents leaked back in January
suggested that while the intelligence and law-enforcement communities long-ago tapped into most telecom networks, there was one communications method they hadn't yet gotten their noses into: in-flight broadband. According to earlier comments by Glenn Greenwald, Snowden stated the NSA was "obsessed" with the idea that people could have conversations while in flight -- likely due to the frequent tower to tower jumping that occurs using services like GoGo -- without being able to monitor activity.
Russia has, over the last few years, ramped up their deployment of anti-piracy initiatives (something the United States complained they had long been too lax on). Those included a 2013 law that allowed ISPs to start blocking websites if they didn't respond quickly enough to takedown requests. story continues..
by Revcb 07:12AM Monday Apr 07 2014
Charter's hopes to acquire Time Warner Cable were squashed when Comcast made a higher offer for the company, but falling Time Warner Cable stock price since the merger announcement has left the door open for a Charter counterbid. Executives are still considering such a play, anonymous sources tell Bloomberg
, though the company is way of a bidding war that would result with them getting nothing at all. The company is apparently worried that they could annoy Comcast executives too much with an ongoing fight, resulting in them failing to even get the 3 million Time Warner Cable customers Comcast plans to divest as part of a merger condition.
Fed up with difficulty in striking live content streaming licensing deals with a cable and broadcast industry terrified of disruption, Microsoft is one of countless companies now exploring the creation of original content. Bloomberg
notes that Microsoft is preparing to offer a slew of original content to their Xbox One and Xbox 360 gaming consoles with the help of former CBS executive Nancy Tellem.
by Revcb 07:34AM Thursday Apr 10 2014
by Revcb 07:54AM Friday Apr 11 2014
by Revcb 08:16AM Tuesday Apr 08 2014