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Lexington, Ky. Has a Solution for Its Charter/Spectrum Problems: A New Fiber Competitor

An Indiana company will spend between $70 and $100 million building a fiber-to-the-home network delivering gigabit broadband speed in Lexington, Ky., partly in response to months of consumer dissatisfaction with Charter Communications’ Spectrum service.

MetroNet could make Lexington the largest gigabit city in the country, according to the city’s mayor Jim Gray.

“Santa Claus is coming to town,” Gray said.

Headquartered in Evansville, Ind., MetroNet provides internet, phone and television service across a 100% fiber optic network in 35 communities in the midwest —  mostly in Indiana and the western suburbs of Chicago. The company started operations in 2005, wiring the community of Greencastle, Ind. Since then, it has grown with the financial support of billionaire investors including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Nike’s Phil Knight. Oak Hill Equity Partners, a private equity firm, has a financial interest in MetroNet, along with investments in WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, Wave Broadband, and Cincinnati Bell.

MetroNet may have selected Lexington because it has a poorly received cable operator — Spectrum, and Windstream, a competitively inadequate phone company. Windstream does not provide the kind of service AT&T’s U-verse and AT&T Fiber offers in other Kentucky cities.

All of Lexington’s residents could get service from MetroNet is as little as three or four years, because the company has agreed to wire the entire urban service area, a departure from the “fiberhood” concept introduced by Google, wiring individual neighborhoods only after a sufficient number of customers pre-register for service and pay a deposit. The project is likely to win a quick approval from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, allowing construction to begin in January. Because MetroNet sells television service, it will have to apply for and receive a franchise from the city.

“This means three things,” Gray said. “First, a fiber-optic network will provide gigabit speeds to homes and businesses. Second, it will bring a new cable provider to Lexington, which will bring competition to Spectrum and Windstream. MetroNet will have Kentucky basketball. Third, MetroNet has a great record of customer service.”

Prices and packaging:

  • 100/25Mbps $49.95
  • 200/75Mbps $59.95
  • 500/100Mbps $69.95
  • 1,000/250Mbps $89.95
  • Television packages range from $18-79 a month
  • Digital Phone service is $9.95 a month
  • Discounts of $10-20 a month are available for customers selecting a two year “price lock” agreement
  • a $9.95/mo “technology fee” also applies.

Although most welcome the competition, some noticed MetroNet does not intend to sell service at fire sale prices.

“I checked their rates in Lafayette, Ind. and they weren’t that cheap,” commented James Wood. “100Mbps internet + Standard tier TV+ phone was $146/mo for two years.”

MetroNet uniquely charges exactly the prices it pays for cable television networks, with no mark-up. (1:39)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Announces Plan to Eliminate Net Neutrality

Pai

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unveiled plans on Tuesday to repeal landmark 2015 rules that prohibited internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content in a move that promises to recast the digital landscape.

FCC chief Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, said the commission will vote at a Dec. 14 meeting on his plan to rescind the so-called Net Neutrality rules championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama that treated internet service providers like public utilities.

The rules barred broadband providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain content. They were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and prevent broadband service providers from favoring their own content.

The action marks a victory for big internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications that opposed the rules and gives them sweeping powers to decide what web content consumers can get and at what price.

It represents a setback for Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook, which had urged Pai not to rescind the rules.

With three Republican and two Democratic commissioners, the move is all but certain to be approved. Trump, a Republican, expressed his opposition to Net Neutrality in 2014 before the regulations were even implemented, calling it a “power grab” by Obama.

Pai said his proposal would prevent state and local governments from creating their own Net Neutrality rules because internet service is “inherently an interstate service.” The preemption is most likely to handcuff Democratic-governed states and localities that could have considered their own plans to protect consumers’ equal access to internet content.

“The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that could be pro-competitive,” Pai said in an interview, adding that the Obama administration had sought to pick winners and losers and exercised “heavy-handed” regulation of the internet.

“We should simply set rules of the road that let companies of all kinds in every sector compete and let consumers decide who wins and loses,” Pai added.

Tom Wheeler, who headed the FCC under Obama and advocated for the Net Neutrality rules, called the planned repeal “a shameful sham and sellout. Even for this FCC and its leadership, this proposal raises hypocrisy to new heights.”

AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have said that repealing the rules could lead to billions of dollars in additional broadband investment and eliminate the possibility that a future presidential administration could regulate internet pricing.

‘HEAVY COSTS’

Pelosi: FCC move will hurt consumers and chill competition.

Verizon said it believed the FCC “will reinstate a framework that protects consumers’ access to the open internet, without forcing them to bear the heavy costs from unnecessary regulation.”

The Internet Association, representing major technology firms including Alphabet and Facebook, said Pai’s proposal “represents the end of Net Neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans. This proposal undoes nearly two decades of bipartisan agreement on baseline Net Neutrality principles that protect Americans’ ability to access the entire internet.”

Pai’s proposal would require internet service providers to disclose whether they allow blocking or slowing down of consumer web access or permit so-called internet fast lanes to facilitate a practice called paid prioritization of charging for certain content. Such disclosure will make it easier for another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to act against internet service providers that fail to disclose such conduct to consumers, Pai said.

A U.S. appeals court last year upheld the legality of the Net Neutrality regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit led by telecommunications industry trade association US Telecom.

The group praised Pai’s decision to remove “antiquated, restrictive regulations” to “pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades.”

The FCC’s repeal is certain to draw a legal challenge from advocates of Net Neutrality.

Nancy Pelosi, the top U.S. House of Representatives Democrat, said the FCC move would hurt consumers and chill competition, saying the agency “has launched an all-out assault on the entrepreneurship, innovation and competition at the heart of the internet.”

Republican Senator John Thune said Pai’s plan was an improvement over the Obama rules but that “the only way to create long-term certainty for the internet ecosystem is for Congress to pass a bipartisan law.”

The planned repeal represents the latest example of a legacy achievement of Obama being erased since Trump took office in January. Trump has abandoned international trade deals, the landmark Paris climate accord and environmental protections, taken aim at the Iran nuclear accord and closer relations with Cuba, and sought repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Pai, who has moved quickly to undo numerous regulatory actions since becoming FCC chairman, is pushing a broad deregulatory agenda. Pai said he had not shared his plans on the rollback with the White House in advance or been directed to undo Net Neutrality by White House officials.

The FCC under Obama regulated internet service providers like public utilities under a section of federal law that gave the agency sweeping oversight over the conduct of these companies.

Language in the new proposal would give the FCC significantly less authority to oversee the web. The FCC granted initial approval to Pai’s plan in May, but had left open many key questions including whether to retain any legal requirements limiting internet providers conduct.

His plan also would eliminate the “internet conduct standard,” which gave the FCC far-reaching discretion to prohibit internet service provider practices deemed to violate a list of factors and sought to address future discriminatory conduct.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham

This Week: FCC’s Ajit Pai Plans to Announce Sweeping Plan to Dismantle Net Neutrality

Phillip Dampier November 20, 2017 Competition, Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 5 Comments

Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is preparing to announce a complete dismantling of Net Neutrality protections enacted during the Obama Administration, despite millions of comments from Americans demanding the agency retain rules protecting an open internet.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (use link embedded in tweet below to avoid paywall), Pai seems poised to introduce a complete rollback of the rules requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally, which appears to have been his original plan before opening the matter to public comment.

The changes, likely to be adopted by the 3-2 Republican majority at the FCC, will allow ISPs to sell paid or bundled packages of websites and content and offer it to consumers at higher speeds, lower prices, or without counting usage against data caps. “Paid prioritization” was specifically forbidden under rules introduced by Obama-era FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler, who expressed concern ISPs already wielded too much power over the internet experience.

WSJ:

If the rollback survives likely legal challenges, it has the potential to reorder the online business environment. It could give internet providers such as AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. more flexibility to use bundles of services and creative pricing to make their favored content more attractive to consumers.

These companies generally profess support for basic principles of “Net Neutrality,” such as not blocking content or throttling its delivery. But with the Obama-era bright-line rules widely expected to be eliminated, many experts predict the industry will experiment with new services. The big internet providers either declined to comment or didn’t respond over the weekend.

The change would affect not only how the internet is regulated, but who regulates it. Under the new plan, legal experts say, oversight responsibility would shift to include the Federal Trade Commission as well as the FCC.

The FTC has long been the principal regulator of most internet businesses, a regime effectively ended with the 2015 rules. The shift is significant because unlike the FCC, the FTC generally doesn’t adopt overarching rules, instead developing case-by-case determinations about what business behavior is fair or unfair.

BREAKING: Justice Dept. Will File a Lawsuit to Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Phillip Dampier November 20, 2017 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice will file a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T Inc’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier, struck a deal in October 2016 to buy Time Warner, which owns the premium channel HBO, movie studio Warner Bros and news channel CNN, in order to compete by bundling mobile service with video entertainment.

Shares of Time Warner fell to trade about 1 percent lower on Monday on the back of reports that the U.S. government is set to make an antitrust announcement.

The media company’s stock was trading near the flatline before the news hit. AT&T shares, meanwhile, jumped about 1 percent. Bloomberg first reported the news.

Wave Broadband Offers Unlimited Gigabit Broadband for $80 in Wash., Ore., and Calif.

Phillip Dampier November 20, 2017 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Data Caps, Wave Broadband No Comments

Wave Broadband, an independent cable operator providing service in the Pacific Northwest, has announced it now offers gigabit broadband service across its three state footprint of Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

Wave has been testing gigabit service in select multi-dwelling units in Seattle, Portland, and portions of greater San Francisco, but has now expanded service to all of its residential and business customers.

“We are thrilled to launch gigabit speeds throughout our coverage areas in Washington, Oregon, and California,” said Harold Zeitz, Wave president and chief operating officer. “During the past several years, Wave has focused on growing our fiber network specifically to accommodate gigabit and faster connections for our customers. The demand for fast, reliable internet connections at an affordable price is growing, and our Gig Speed Internet is the ideal solution for both residential and business customers.”

Details:

Wave Fiber 1000: 1,000/10Mbps for $80/mo year one, $99/mo thereafter. Unlimited data included (on slower plans, it costs an extra $20/mo).

In contract, Wave also offers a 100/5Mbps plan that includes a 400GB data cap for $50 a month. Doubling the cap to 800GB costs an extra $10 a month. Removing the cap entirely costs an extra $20 a month. That means customers seeking an unlimited experience can spend $10 more to move from 100Mbps to 1,000Mbps service.

Wave currently serves 673,000 homes in communities bypassed by Comcast, the region’s dominant cable operator.

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Recent Comments:

  • MarkLex: I looked on Yelp and there are only 11 reviews for MetroNet - but they are all horrible reviews....
  • George: The Public Service Commission should rescind the merger of Charter and Time Warner. Spectrum is GREATLY overcharging NOW!!!...
  • BobInIllinois: Correction to above: MetroNet so far has 3 SW Chicago suburb retail offices in Oswego, Plainfield, and Romeoville, IL....
  • BobInIllinois: Thanks for the MetroNet financial info above. Detecting a private equity trend in these fiber overbuilders. Overbuilders seem to be interested in sm...
  • msexceptiontotherule: Something tells me that transparency isn't Pai's top priority. Just when it seems like things are slightly not terrible......
  • MarkLex: I live in Lexington and I actually have had Windstream for years and it's very consistent. But this is awesome. More competition!!...
  • Ian L: MetroNet's prices aren't too bad, honestly. Sure, they're not the $55 Google is charging for gigabit in San Antonio. But you can also get TV from them...
  • JayS: "Pai’s proposal would require internet service providers to disclose whether they allow blocking or slowing down of consumer web access or permit so-c...
  • Josh: sigh Of course he does. Elections have consequences, people......
  • kaniki: I would say, as a whole, most places really only have one option. Especially in rural areas.. The only places that will usually have at least 2, will ...
  • kaniki: Trust me, I know this.. Look at the current merger / takeover / buyout in alaska.. They are charging something like $180 to get unlimited internet at ...
  • EJ: As I have stated before if these companies are smart they will collaborate together and make it clear that if net neutrality is reversed they will col...

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