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Verizon Denies Throttling Florence Victims, But Customers Deal with Slow Speeds

Verizon Wireless claims it is not intentionally slowing data services for its customers in North & South Carolina, despite growing complaints from customers about slow speeds.

Stop the Cap! has heard from nearly 20 readers in central and eastern North Carolina and they are displeased with Verizon’s performance.

“Signal is five bars but speed might as well be dial-up,” reports one reader. “I have consistently gotten 20 Mbps or better service for at least a decade from my home and workplace on Verizon’s network, but now the speed shows it starts at around 20 Mbps but quickly declines to less than 1 Mbps within 3-5 seconds. I have an unlimited data plan and have relied on it since Spectrum went out over the weekend.”

“Of course they are throttling us,” said Paul Ingell, who moved inland from New Bern to share a room with friends near Charlotte. “As soon as you go over 20 GB, the speed throttle game begins, and they are playing it. My bill reset date was today and by gosh speeds magically returned to normal. But my sister-in-law is still being throttled. Her phone delivers less than 1 Mbps sitting right next to mine and I get around 15 Mbps. We both own the same phones and have unlimited plans.”

The Washington Post covered the alleged Verizon slowdowns as well, and one Raleigh area reader claimed he is being throttled now as well.

“We lost power/cable and were using my Verizon unlimited data plan for internet access, and were very frustrated when attempting to access pages with dynamic content,” he wrote. “This is not typically a problem in central North Carolina, a high-coverage area. It seemed clear our data was being throttled.”

Another reader in New Bern who rode out the storm said Verizon service was very poor as he attempted to get news from CNN and Google during and after the storm. Browsing was almost impossible.

“E-mails and texts were the only reasonably quick way for me to get information. Other people complained of the same issue,” the reader wrote. “Having lost power and internet, the phone was our only contact with the outside.”

First word of the claimed throttling came from a reddit thread from AbeFroman21:

My family lives in a small town in eastern North Carolina, and we were just devastated by the hurricane. Our power has been out for five days now and internet service is gone as well. Two days ago my wife and I noticed that we couldn’t retrieve our email from our phone or check Facebook [for] updates from our community about the storm or when service would be restored.

We traveled into a bigger town and called Verizon to check and see if there was a data outage and when we could expect it to be restored. Only, I was told that my unlimited plan was deprioritized for being too low tier of a plan. But if I upgraded to a higher plan my service would be restored.

There’s no outage, just corporations sucking dry a community that as already lost so much. Thanks a**holes.

Verizon categorically denies it is throttling any customers in North Carolina.

“On North Carolina, we are not throttling,” said Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman. “The most likely scenario is that the customer, who can’t connect to the internet, is in an area that has lost cell service.”

Verizon Starts Taking Orders Thursday for 5G Home Internet in Houston, Indianapolis, LA and Sacramento

Verizon 5G Home will begin accepting new customer orders for its in-home wireless broadband replacement as of this Thursday, Sept. 13, with a scheduled service launch date of Oct. 1.

The new high-speed wireless service will be available in select parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is calling the service part of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. Initial reports indicate speed will range between 300-1,000 Mbps and existing Verizon Wireless customers will get a $20 price break on service — $50 a month instead of $70 for non-Verizon Wireless customers. We are still waiting word on any data caps or speed throttle information. Verizon informs Stop the Cap! there are no data caps or speed throttles. Service is effectively unlimited, unless hidden terms and conditions introduce unpublished limits.

Interested customers can determine their eligibility starting at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday from the Firston5G website. If you are not eligible initially, you can add your email address to be notified when service is available in your area.

Early adopters will be awarded with a series of goodies:

  • Free installation (a big deal, since it could cost as much as $200 later. An external antenna is required, as well as in-home wiring and equipment.)
  • 90 days of free service (a good idea, considering there may be bugs to work out)
  • 90 days of free YouTube TV (a welcome gift for cord-cutters)
  • Free Chromecast or Apple TV 4K (a common sign up enticement with streaming cable-TV replacements)
  • Priority access to buy forthcoming line of 5G-capable mobile devices

Customers in the first four launch cities will be using equipment built around a draft standard of 5G, as the final release version is still forthcoming. Verizon is holding off on additional expansion of 5G services until the final 5G standard is released, and promises early adopters will receive upgraded technology when that happens.

Verizon is clearly providing a greater-than-average number of enticements for early adopters, undoubtedly to placate them if and when service anomalies and disruptions occur. Although Verizon has done limited beta testing of its 5G service, it is very likely the 5G network will get its first real shakeout with paying customers. Unanticipated challenges are likely to range from coverage and speed issues, unexpected interference, network traffic loading, the robustness of Verizon’s small cell network, and how well outside reception equipment will perform in different weather conditions, particularly heavy rain and snow. With a large number of freebies, and no charges for 90 days, customers are likely to be more forgiving of problems, at least initially.

Chromecast

Verizon’s 5G network depends on millimeter wave spectrum, which means it will be capable of providing very high-speed service with greater network capacity than traditional 4G LTE wireless networks. But Verizon will have to bring 5G antennas much closer to subscribers’ homes, because millimeter wave frequencies do not travel very far.

Verizon will combine a fiber backhaul network with small cell antennas placed on top of utility and light poles to reach customers. That explains why Verizon’s initial 5G deployment is unlikely to cover every customer inside city limits. There are substantial deployment costs and installation issues relating to small cells and the optical fiber network required to connect each small cell.

Verizon’s existing FiOS network areas will offer an easier path to introduce service, but where Verizon does not offer its fiber to the home service, it will need to bring fiber optic cables deep into neighborhoods.

AT&T sees a similar challenge to 5G and is openly questioning how useful wireless 5G can be for urban/suburban broadband service, considering it can simply extend fiber optic service to those homes and businesses instead, without a costly 5G small cell deployment.

Verizon introduces 5G wireless in-home broadband in four U.S. cities and starts taking new customer orders on Thursday. (1:00)

Article updated at 6:28pm ET with information about data caps and speed throttles provided by Verizon.

Fixed Wireless Not a Good Solution for Rural Areas; Usage Demand Outstrips Capacity

Morrow

Australia is learning a costly lesson finding ways to extend broadband service to rural areas in the country, choosing fixed wireless and satellite networks that will ultimately cost more than extending fiber optic broadband to rural customers.

Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is tasked with supplying virtually all of Australia with internet access, using fiber/wired broadband in urban and suburban areas and fixed wireless and satellite internet access in the country’s most remote locations.

But just a few years after debuting satellite broadband and fixed LTE 4G wireless service in many parts of the country, demand has quickly begun to overwhelm capacity, forcing costly upgrades and punitive measures against so-called “heavy superusers.” The NBN has also scrapped plans to introduce higher-speed fixed wireless services, fearing it will only create additional demands on a network that was not envisioned to manage heavy broadband usage from video streaming.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow has elected to place most of the blame on his customers, specifically “superusers” that he characterized as “online gamers” who spend hours during the day and peak usage periods consuming large parts of the fixed wireless network’s available capacity.

“In the fixed wireless, there’s a large portion [of end users] that are using terabytes of data,” Morrow said. “We’re evaluating a form of fair use policy to say, ‘We would groom these extreme users.’ Now the grooming could be that, during the busy period of the day when these heavy users are impacting the majority, that they actually get throttled back to where they’re taking down what everybody else is taking down.”

Under the current NBN fair use policy, monthly downloads per household are capped at 400 GB, with maximum usage during peak usage periods limited to 150 GB a month, which is already significantly less than what most average American households consume each month. With expensive and unexpected early upgrades to more than 3,100 cell towers to manage rapidly growing usage, the cost of service is starting to rise substantially, even as usage limits and speed reductions make these networks less useful for consumers.

In areas where the NBN extends a fiber optic network, the fixed wholesale price for a 50/20 Mbps connection is $32.00 (U.S.) per month. (A 100/40 Mbps connection costs $46.25). For fixed wireless, prices are rising. A 50/20 Mbps fixed wireless connection (with usage cap) will now cost $46.25 a month.

Morrow took heat from members of Parliament over his claim that online gamers were chiefly responsible for slowing down the NBN’s fixed wireless network.

“With great respect to everything you said over the last 15 minutes, you have been saying to us the problem here is gamers,” said MP Stephen Jones (Whitlam).

Morrow clarified that online gamers were not the principal cause of congestion. The main issue is concurrency, which drags down network speeds when multiple family members unexpectedly use an internet connection at the same time. The worst congestion results when several family members launch internet video streams at the same time. Online video not only leads average users’ traffic, it can also quickly outstrip available cell tower capacity. High quality video streaming can quickly impact 4G LTE service during peak usage periods, driving speeds down for all users. The NBN now considers these newly revealed capacity constraints a limit on the feasibility of using wireless technology like LTE to supply internet access.

The current mitigation strategy includes limiting video bandwidth, discouraging video streaming with usage caps or speed throttles, capacity upgrades at cell towers, and public education requesting responsible usage during peak usage times. With capacity issues becoming more serious, Morrow canceled plans to upgrade fixed wireless to 100 Mbps speeds because of costs. The proposed upgrades would have cost “exponentially” more than wired internet access.

Hype vs. Reality: Most Australians reject fixed wireless and satellite internet as woefully inadequate. (Source: BIRRR)

Actual Fixed Wireless speeds

Actual Satellite Internet speeds

The concept of supplying fixed wireless or satellite internet access to rural areas may have made sense a decade ago, but there are growing questions about the suitability of this technology based on growth in consumer usage patterns, which increasingly includes streaming video. The cost to provide a sufficiently robust wireless network could easily rival or even outpace the costs of extending traditional fiber optic wired service to many rural properties currently considered cost prohibitive to serve. In Australia, fixed wireless and satellite has delivered sub-standard access for rural consumers, and requires the imposition of “fair usage” caps and speed throttles that inconvenience customers. For now, Morrow believes that is still the best solution, given that Australia’s national broadband plan relies heavily on wireless access in rural communities.

“[The benefit of a fair usage policy is] big enough to where if we did groom them during the busy time of the day, it would be a substantial [speed] lift for people,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a silver bullet in any of this – this is going to require us to think through a number of different areas.”

Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Rural Australia (a volunteer consumer group) shares horror stories about relying on satellite to solve rural broadband problems. (7:50)

 

Rochester, N.Y. Based GoNetspeed Delivers $90 Gigabit Broadband to Pittsburgh and Connecticut

A Rochester, N.Y.-based broadband company founded by an ex-president of Time Warner Cable and a former top executive at Rochester Telephone is bringing broadband competition to thousands of residents in Connecticut and Pennsylvania through its fiber-to-the-home network.

GoNetspeed has been aggressively expanding its service in Comcast, Verizon, and Frontier Communications service areas in suburban Pittsburgh and several cities in Connecticut. According to chief operating officer Tom Perrone, GoNetspeed has managed to buildout 100 network miles of fiber across 13 towns in two different states in just the first six months of 2018, providing a new choice for broadband service to over 30,000 homes and businesses.

Most recently, the company completed expansion in the New Haven, Conn. neighborhoods of Beaver Hills, Edgewood, and West River, adding an additional 3,000-5,000 homes to its network service area.

GoNetspeed prioritizes expansion in areas where there is little competition and where neighborhood density makes it financially feasible to bring fiber optic cables into an area. The company markets its service with simplified, lifetime pricing:

  • $50 for 100/100 Mbps
  • $70 for 500/500 Mbps
  • $90 for 1,000/1,000 Mbps

In areas when service is first offered, the $100 installation fee is traditionally waived. There are no data caps. Static IPs and inside wiring are available at an additional cost.

GoNetspeed has received positive reviews from customers in parts of Bridgeport and West Hartford, where service is already available in Connecticut. In suburban Pittsburgh, GoNetspeed is available in parts of Ambridge, Beaver Falls, Baden, Conway, Beaver, Monaca, and Rochester. Over the summer, it announced it would soon also service New Brighton and Aliquippa. In general, the company wires neighborhoods where at least 10% of residents are committed to signing up for service. In Pennsylvania, it faces competition primarily from Comcast and Verizon. In Connecticut, competition will come from incumbents Comcast, Altice USA, and Frontier.

GoNetspeed’s headquarters are in suburban Rochester, N.Y. Ironically, it does not offer residential service in New York.

A GoNetspeed truck

The company originally behind GoNetspeed was Fibertech Networks (since sold to Crown Castle, a cell tower owner/operator). The founding partners were John K. Purcell, a former vice president at Rochester Telephone Corporation (now Frontier Communications) and Frank Chiano, the former head of Time Warner Cable in Rochester.

Fibertech was founded in 2000 as a fiber optic network operator. Purcell passed away in 2017, but Fibertech continued, eventually amassing a valuable 14,000 mile metro fiber network serving cities around the northeast. Fibertech served commercial customers like corporations, institutions, and wireless network operators seeking fiber connections to buildings or cell tower sites.

In the last several years, fiber network operators have started to enter the retail broadband marketplace as fiber overbuilders — providing fiber to the home service to areas where demand warrants investment. Most overbuilders target areas where no existing fiber competitor exists, which makes the northeast a viable target.

Verizon dropped its FiOS fiber to the home network expansion project eight years ago and incumbent telephone companies including Verizon, Frontier, Consolidated (formerly FairPoint), Windstream, and CenturyLink have shown little interest in investing in significant fiber upgrades in medium-sized cities in New England, the Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic region. That has given Comcast and Charter Communications — the two largest cable operators, a substantial and growing market share. But customers often loathe both cable operators, and there is built-in demand for new competition.

New Haven. Conn.

Local officials are also happy to see another competitive option. New Haven officials, like many others in Connecticut, have embarked on an effort during the last few years to attract new players to the state, especially after Frontier Communications acquired the assets of AT&T Connecticut. Many communities in Connecticut report a significant digital divide, particularly over the cost of internet access. New Haven, which has a significant low-income population, is happy to see GoNetspeed be part of the solution, but has wondered if GoNetspeed will expand service into lower-income areas of the city.

Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz, whose office manages broadband expansion in Connecticut, told the New Haven Register GoNetspeed’s expansion in New Haven “is just another strong indicator that Connecticut consumers are interested in having different options for broadband Internet service.”

“The more competition there is for consumers, for them to have choices, the better off we are,” Katz said. “It’s really important for our state to have ubiquitous access to affordable high-speed broadband that is reliable and that touches every corner of out state.”

C-Spire Introduces Unlimited 120 Mbps Fixed Wireless for $50/Month in Mississippi

For residents of 10 Mississippi communities, an alternative broadband option is now available delivering up to 120/50 Mbps speed with no data caps or throttling for a flat $50 a month, taxes and fees included.

C Spire 5G Internet” is as described, except it doesn’t use the official 5G standard and will require the installation of a “dinner plate”-sized antenna on one’s home to get the service.

C Spire is using an 802.11 variant with equipment developed by Mimosa and Siklu, leveraging C Spire’s existing 8,400 route miles of fiber infrastructure to extend service wirelessly to each customer without the cost of wiring a fiber optic cable to the home.

Siklu’s EtherHaul products work in conjunction with its point-to-point and point-to-multipoint radios that operate in the 60 and 70-80 GHz millimeter wave bands. Because of the vast amount of spectrum available on these uncongested frequencies, C Spire can provide connections up to 10 Gbps from each small cell site.

C Spire is using Siklu’s EH-600 mmWave backhaul equipment for its fixed wireless internet service in Mississippi.

Mimosa supplies short-range MicroPoP architectures and in limited tower deployments including Mimosa A5 and A5c access devices, Mimosa C5 client devices, and Mimosa N5-360 beamforming antennas.

“Our service is backhauled by Siklu’s carrier grade solutions enabling us to deliver high-speed internet access without the arbitrary data caps usually associated with LTE or satellite services,” said C Spire president Stephen Bye.  “With a flat rate of $50 a month, which includes taxes and fees, our customers can now easily get all of the content they want and need.”

C Spire said it is quickly working to introduce the service in “dozens” of markets in Mississippi, in addition to its earlier plans to offer fixed wireless to over 90,000 locations across its service area. The “5G” fixed wireless service being introduced in Mississippi is not the same as C Spire’s earlier fixed wireless initiative.

Customers report wireless speeds are within a reasonable range of what is advertised, but antenna placement can be critical to get the best speed. It isn’t known how many customers are currently sharing each small cell site, and C Spire has protected itself with a contract clause allowing it to begin data caps, usage based billing, or targeted suspensions for customers deemed to be consuming too much data if network congestion becomes a problem.

Mississippi is broadband-challenged because many of its rural locations are populated with some of the country’s poorest citizens. AT&T, the state’s largest phone company, has shown little interest expanding fiber into many of these areas, especially in northern Mississippi, and the state’s cable companies include Cable One, notorious for being expensive and data-capped. As a result, the state is ranked 49th out of 50 for broadband availability.

C Spire is a regional mobile provider — the sixth largest in the country — and directly provides its own cell service in Memphis, Tenn., Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.

C Spire introduces 120 Mbps fixed wireless internet access for a flat $50 a month in Mississippi. No data caps or throttling. This company produced video introduces the service. (1:23)

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Recent Comments:

  • Dylan: Just isn’t that nice? I would drop them quickly if they told me that my plan was too “low” and I needed to upgrade and pay more for better service. Wh...
  • Dan: Nice job Verizon first throttle first responders then hurricane victims. Fcc step in oh wait. Ajuit pia is worse than useless he is anti consumer....
  • LG: I didn't hear these speeches, and really don't know if what he said was incendiary or hateful, but I do know the left-wing media cannot be trusted to ...
  • Dylan: 20gigs? Abysmal. I would use that in a couple of hours. Even 50. I’m certainly fortunate to have unlimited internet with Spectrum....
  • EJ: I wonder if they are going to extend service based on demand. That system is used by many telecommunication companies that are coming into a new area ...
  • Phillip Dampier: Just to clarify, I think they are throwing in a free or discounted dish, which isn't such a big deal if you can find a promotion that does the same. I...
  • EJ: Well I guess I should of scrolled down first lol. Question answered by the Verizon article. Good job Phillip. Note to self scroll down a few articles ...
  • EJ: My question is what exactly is HughNet doing with the money? They already offer free installation in most areas so what is this money going towards? A...
  • Mark Wilkinson: This is a nightmare. Life was good until Verizon sold us to Frontier. Our service has been cut off twice for non-payment of an "non-returned equipme...
  • Don: I don't even have Greenlight available yet at my address. I am in Gates and Greenlight is taking orders for my address so I look up to see what would ...
  • Jon Belkin: Since it launched, XFINITY Mobile (and likely Spectrum Mobile) have been unable to accept any Android devices on its plans that were not bought direct...
  • J.B.: Thanks, but I don't have their phone service; can barely stomach having to have them as my ISP, but there are no other REASONABLE options where I live...

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