Home » Public Policy & Gov’t » Recent Articles:

FCC’s Ajit Pai Proposes Eliminating Net Neutrality Rules; Claims Government is ‘Controlling Internet’

Phillip Dampier April 27, 2017 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't, Reuters 4 Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announces his opposition to Net Neutrality at a FreedomWorks-sponsored event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed overturning the landmark 2015 Obama-era Net Neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to certain internet services over others.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, named by President Donald Trump in January, said at a speech in Washington he wants to reverse rules that boosted government regulatory powers over internet service providers. Proponents who fought to get the rules passed said his proposal would set off a fierce political battle over the future of the internet regulation.

The rules, which the FCC put in place in 2015 under former President Barack Obama, prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a “fast lane,” to certain internet services over others.

The rules reclassified internet service providers much like utilities. They were favored by websites who said they would guarantee equal access to the internet to all but opposed by internet service providers, who said they could eventually result in rate regulation, inhibit innovation and make it harder to manage traffic. Pai said he believed the rules depressed investment by internet providers and cost jobs.

“Do we want the government to control the internet? Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach” in place since 1996 until revised in 2015, he asked.

A federal appeals court upheld the rules last year. The Internet Association, a group representing Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc, and others, said the rules were working and that reversing them “will result in a worse internet for consumers and less innovation online.”

Pai said his proposal will face an initial vote on May 18 but he would not seek to finalize a reversal of the Obama rules until the FCC takes public comment, which could take several months.

Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said the rules “took internet policy down into a dark and horrible abyss” and said the FCC will “expunge Net Neutrality regulations from the internet.”

Internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon Communications, and Comcast Corp have argued that the Net Neutrality rules have made investment in additional capacity less likely. Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts said Pai’s proposal “creates an environment where we can have a fresh constructive dialogue.”

Democratic Senator Edward Markey predicted Pai’s plan to overturn the rules would face a “tsunami of resistance.”

Democrats and advocates of the rules called for a massive public outcry to preserve them. In 2014, comedian John Oliver in his HBO show owned by Time Warner Inc., helped galvanize support for Net Neutrality.

“I am confident that the millions of Americans who weighed in with the FCC in support of the open internet order will once again make their voices heard to demonstrate how wrongheaded this approach is,” said Senate Democrat Leader Charles Schumer.

Republicans said Democrats should work with them to pass a legislative fix to set internet rules. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised Pai for working to reverse “the Obama Administration’s eight-year regulatory assault on all aspects of our economy.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown, Diane Craft and David Gregorio)

Class Action Lawsuits Hit Cable Modem Manufacturers Over Widely-Reported Defect

Phillip Dampier April 26, 2017 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

The Netgear CM700 is the target of a class action lawsuit filed in California.

As consumers increasingly spend money out-of-pocket to acquire their own cable modems to avoid leasing fees, alleged defects in those modems are spurring class action lawsuits to force manufacturers to fix the problems or issue refunds.

Two separate class action cases have been filed this month in Calfornia courts alleging “serious defects” in the Netgear CM700 and Arris SURFboard SB6190 — both newer DOCSIS 3.0 modems. But those modems are not the only ones affected by a serious firmware bug that can dramatically degrade internet performance.

Both modems rely on a relatively new Intel Puma 6 chipset, which some media outlets have also implicated in similar defects in a variety of cable modems including the Hitron CGNV4, the Compal CH7465-LG, and Puma 6-based modems like Virgin Media’s Hub 3 and Comcast’s top-end Xfinity boxes. Other newer modems branded by Linksys and Cisco also use the same system-on-chip and may also be affected.

The law firm of Schubert, Jonckheer & Kolbe, which is handling the Netgear legal case, says these cable modems may be affected:

  • Arris SB6190
  • Arris TG1672G
  • Arris TM1602
  • Super Hub 3 (Arris TG2492LG)  (commonly, Virgin Media)
  • Hitron CGN3 / CDA / CGNV series modems:
  • Hitron CDA-32372
  • Hitron CDE-32372
  • Hitron CDA3-35
  • Hitron CGNV4
  • Hitron CGNM-3552 (commonly, Rogers)
  • Hitron CGN3 (eg CGN3-ACSMR)
  • Hitron CGNM-2250 (commonly, Shaw)
  • Linksys CM3024
  • Linksys CM3016
  • TP-Link CR7000
  • Netgear AC1750 C6300 AC1900
  • Netgear CM700
  • Telstra Gateway Max (Netgear AC1900 / C6300) (Australia)
  • Cisco DPC3848V
  • Cisco DPC3941B / DPC3941T  (commonly, Comcast Xfinity XB3)
  • Cisco DPC3939
  • Compal CH7465-LG / Arris TG2492LG (commonly, Virgin Media Hub 3)
  • Samsung Home Media Server

Customers of Comcast, Charter, and Cox in the United States are impacted, as well as Rogers and Shaw customers in Canada and Virgin Media in the United Kingdom. The faster your internet connection, the more likely you will notice the defect, which causes dramatic latency spikes and degraded internet performance.

Intel admitted there was a problem back in December, but ISPs have been slow to respond.

Intel acquired the Puma family of chips from Texas Instruments in 2010, and the latest — the DOCSIS 3.0-compatible Puma 6 – uses an Atom x86 processor designed to handle up to 1.6Gbps connections. Unfortunately, the engineers who developed the firmware have tasked the Atom CPU with too much work while it also copes with processing network packets on a high-speed internet connection.

As The Register reported back in December:

Every couple of seconds or so, a high-priority maintenance task runs and it winds up momentarily hogging the processor, causing latency to increase by at least 200ms and, over time, about six per cent of packets to be dropped. It affects IPv4 and IPv6 – and it spoils internet gaming and other online real-time interaction that need fast response times.

This problem is easily seen in two graphs provided to the Register by a reader in Phoenix who plugged in two different modems to his Cox Cable internet connection. The blue lines represent latency and the red lines are packet loss. The test was performed with an ICMP ping running 33 times a second to his ISP’s DNS server over a 30 minute period.

An Arris SB6183 cable modem using an older Broadcom-based chipset exhibits no problems. (Image: The Register)

The Arris SB6190 running the new Intel Puma 6 chipset shows significant and readily identifiable problems. (Image: The Register)

Online gamers are among the most likely to be affected by latency problems.

“I excitedly swapped out my Arris SB1683 Broadcom modem for the new SB6190 Intel one expecting gigabit performance and immediately noticed slower webpage loads,” one gamer told The Register. “During first-person gaming, I was getting killed way more often for no apparent reason. I looked at an eight-year graph of latency from my home logs, and was horrified. Swapping back to my SB6183 solved all the issues.”

Arris also confirmed the problem.

“Arris has been working actively with Intel to address the issue, which resulted in some SURFboard SB6190 users reporting latency concerns,” a spokeswoman for Arris said. “We plan to quickly issue Intel’s firmware updates to resolve any latency. We remain committed to providing the best broadband experience for all users of Arris devices and regret any inconvenience this issue caused.”

Unfortunately, regardless of how fast modem manufacturers issue updated firmware to resolve the problem, end users will not notice a difference until their cable operator pushes that firmware update to customers. You cannot update cable modem firmware on your own, and any effort to do so would be futile because your provider would automatically replace it with an older “approved” version as soon as the unauthorized firmware change was identified.

The lawsuits seek a jury trial and damages forcing the manufacturers to recall the modems and either replace them or issue refunds to all affected customers. Customers who own an affected modem who want to participate in the class action case can fill out this form for more information.

California Legislature Wants to Give $300 Million of Your Money Away to AT&T, Frontier, and Big Cable

Delivering 21st century broadband speeds to rural Californians just doesn’t interest incumbent phone companies like AT&T and Frontier Communications, so the California legislature has been hard at work trying to entice upgrades on the taxpayer’s dime while reassuring ISPs they won’t have to break a sweat doing it.

Steve Blum from Telus Venture Associates reports the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), California’s equivalent of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) – is about to get a makeover sure to delight the two phone companies while throwing some cash at cable operators like Comcast, Cox and Charter to keep them happy as well.

The changes are encompassed in Assembly Bill 1665, sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D–Riverside County), who counts AT&T as his sixth biggest contributor. The phone company has cut checks to the former mayor of Coachella not less than a dozen times amounting to $16,700. Garcia has also received special attention from AT&T’s lobbyists, who invited him to appear side-by-side with AT&T officials at press-friendly events where the phone company donated $10,000 to an abused women’s shelter and $25,000 to the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Imperial County.

Blum reports that the bill has been largely a placeholder until now as negotiations and dealmaking happened behind the scenes. The result is a corporate welfare bonanza that will raise $330 million for the CASF by reinstating a telephone tax on consumers and businesses than ended last year. Of that, $300 million will end up in the pockets of phone and cable companies, $10 million will go to regional broadband efforts, and the remaining $20 million will be designated for schools, libraries, and non-profit groups to promote broadband use, but only where providers already offer service or will shortly. In effect, that $20 million will turn public institutions into sales agents for ISPs.

The corporate giveaway bill will also sell Californian consumers down the river:

  • The bill effectively replaces the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband (25/3Mbps) with California’s own minimum: 6/1Mbps — conveniently about the same speed telephone company DSL provides. As Blum writes, the language “makes 1990s legacy DSL technology the new 21st century standard.”
  • AT&T and Frontier Communications get monopoly protection with exclusive CASF rights in areas where they currently receive federal CAF funding. This means both companies will get to double-dip federal and state money to expand inferior DSL or fixed wireless service and never have to worry about taxpayer funding going to their competitors or communities that might choose to build their own superior broadband networks. It virtually guarantees rural California will be stuck with sub-standard internet access indefinitely, and at the taxpayer’s expense.
  • CASF funding has always been exclusively for infrastructure construction — building out the last mile to deliver internet access to consumers and businesses. But the new bill now allows the money to also be spent on “operating costs,” a rat hole where millions can quickly disappear with little improvement in broadband expansion or service.
  • The new bill suggests that provider contributions — where providers agree to kick in a percentage (usually 30-40%) of their own money on expansion projects in return for getting taxpayer subsidies, is just too hard on struggling phone companies like AT&T and Frontier. Under the new proposal, this requirement should be eliminated.
  • Individual homeowners would be able to apply for grants to get broadband connections, a direct nod to the state’s cable companies that routinely ask would-be customers just out of reach of the nearest cable line to pay tens of thousands of dollars to build a line extension. If approved, cable companies could set the installation price as high as the sky and get taxpayers to foot the bill, enriching themselves while avoiding any regulatory scrutiny.

Cable companies also get another wish granted — keeping subsidized broadband out the hands of many poor Californians that need connections for education, job-seeking, and training. The bill proposes to ban funding for broadband facilities in public housing. Cable companies have been irritated spending capital on broadband expansion to public housing only to find many of its customers would likely to qualify for their “internet for the poor” programs that cost as little as $10 a month.

Blum reports the language isn’t final and is likely to be amended as negotiations continue. A hearing of the Communications and Conveyance Committee at the State Capitol, Room 437 is scheduled for 1:30pm PDT today on the bill. You can listen to the hearing when in session here.

AT&T Uses Tax Dollars to Subsidize Expensive, Capped, and Slow Wireless Rural Broadband Solution

AT&T Fiber isn’t coming to rural communities and farms in the phone company’s service area anytime soon. Instead, AT&T grudgingly accepted $428 million in ratepayer-subsidized Connect America funds to build fixed wireless networks that do not meet the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband, come usage-capped, and will offer a price break only to customers who sign up for AT&T’s other services.

AT&T’s Fixed Wireless Internet service begins this week in Georgia, offering up to 10/1Mbps service with a monthly data cap of 160GB (additional 50GB increments cost $10 each). The monthly price is $70, or $60 with a one-year contract, or $50 if a customer has AT&T wireless phone service or DirecTV. The installation fee is $99, waived if you bundle with DirecTV. The fee covers the installation of an outdoor antenna and indoor residential gateway, which remains the property of AT&T. The service works over AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Credit approval is required, and those not approved may have to pay a refundable deposit to start service. These prices do not include taxes, federal and state universal service charges, regulatory cost recovery charges (up to $1.25), gross receipts surcharge, administrative fees and other assessments which are not government-required charges. See att.com/additionalcharges for details on fees & restrictions.

AT&T is using ratepayer funds to construct a sub-standard fixed wireless network that it will use to cross-sell its own products and services by offering customers a discount. The minimum speed to be considered “broadband” according to the FCC is not less than 25Mbps. But AT&T would have to spend considerably more to equip its wireless solution to work at those speeds, and the company has already admitted fixed wireless will be available in areas where it is “uneconomical to build wireline” networks, according to AT&T president of technology operations Bill Smith.

The new wireless network will be in service for 400,000 locations in Georgia by the end of this year, with 1.1 million locations up and running across 17 other states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin) by 2020.

The buildout is required to meet the terms of the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which AT&T committed to in 2015.

Fixed wireless fits nicely with AT&T’s long-term strategy of mothballing its wireline networks in rural service areas, in favor of wireless alternatives. The company has been behind bills in more than a dozen state legislatures where it offers landline service to permanently disconnect rural customers from wired landline and broadband services.

“We’re committed to utilizing available technologies to connect hard-to-reach locations,” said Eric Boyer, senior vice president, wireless and wired product marketing at AT&T. Just as long as that technology isn’t fiber optics.

Questions and Answers About AT&T’s Fixed Wireless Internet

What is AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet?

AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet provides qualified households and small businesses with high-speed internet service via an outdoor antenna and indoor Wi-Fi Gateway router. AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet includes:

  • High-speed internet with download speeds of at least 10Mbps.
  • 160GB of internet usage per month. If you exceed the amount of data in your plan, additional data will automatically be provided in increments of 50GB for $10, up to a maximum of 20 such increments or $200
  • Wi-Fi connections for multiple devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, etc.).
  • Wired Ethernet connections for up to 4 devices.

What speed does AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet provide?

AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet will provide speeds of at least 10Mbps for downloading and at least 1Mbps for uploading. However, data speeds can vary depending upon various factors:

  • Wi-Fi isn’t as fast as a wired connection. You get the best Wi-Fi signal closest to your gateway without obstructions. Use a wired (Ethernet) connection for the best results.
  • Devices have a maximum internet speed they can reach, and might not be as fast as your possible internet service level (especially older devices).
  • Multiple devices sharing your internet connection at the same time, whether wired or Wi-Fi, can reduce your internet speed.
  • Learn more at att.com/speed101 and att.com/broadbandinfo.

Can I add AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet to my AT&T Mobile Share Plan and is Rollover Data included?

No, AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet cannot be added to a Mobile Share plan, and Rollover Data is not included in the AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet data plan.

Is Wi-Fi included with AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet?

Yes, you can connect multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets to the AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet Wi-Fi Gateway, and up to 4 Ethernet-connected devices. When you access your AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet over your Wi-Fi home network using any type of device (including smartphones and some home automation equipment), that counts as AT&T internet data usage. However, if you access the internet via a public or commercial Wi-Fi hotspot, that access does not count as usage.

How far does the AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet Wi-Fi signal reach?

The AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet Wi-Fi Gateway router enables wireless networking capabilities throughout your home or business and helps to minimize wireless dead spots. This smart technology allows you to:

  • Provide high-speed internet connections to multiple devices
  • Create safe and secure wireless networking

Does weather affect service?

AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet relies on a LTE signal from a cell tower. Many things can affect the availability and quality of your service, including network capacity, terrain, buildings, foliage, and weather. A professional installer will confirm sufficient signal strength at your location before installation.

What type of support is available for AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet service?

For AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet Customer Care, call 1-855-483-3063, available 6AM to midnight Central Time 7-days a week.

How long does it take to get AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet service?

AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet service is available for installation within 10 business days of ordering. Professional installation (required) usually takes about 3 hours.

If I move, can I take AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet with me?

If you are moving, please contact AT&T to find out if AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet or other AT&T services are available at your new address. Please do not attempt to move the AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet outdoor antenna.

Can I take AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet to my cottage or second home?

No, AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet is not movable or mobile. Please do not attempt to move the AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet outdoor antenna.  Please contact AT&T to find out if AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet or other AT&T services are available at your cottage or second home.

How is AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet different from AT&T Wireless Home Phone & Internet?

Both AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet and AT&T Wireless Home Phone & Internet provide internet access. AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet includes an outdoor antenna that is professionally mounted on or near the exterior of your home or business to provide a strong signal for better connectivity, while Wireless Home Phone & Internet uses a small desktop device that you can install yourself since there is no outdoor antenna. Stated another way, Wireless Home Phone & Internet is a mobile service, whereas AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet is not. AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet is only available in select (typically rural) areas, while Wireless Home Phone & Internet is available throughout the AT&T wireless footprint.  AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet provides internet download speeds of 10Mbps or over, while Wireless Home Phone & Internet provides the highest speed available to it, typically in the range of 5-12Mbps.

What service limitations apply to AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet?

Services like web hosting or hosted services such as camera, gaming server, peer-to-peer, etc., that require static IP address are not supported by AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet. AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet may not be compatible with DVR/Satellite systems; please check with your provider.

Big Gets Bigger: Sinclair Acquires 14 TV Stations from Bonten Media

Phillip Dampier April 24, 2017 Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Sinclair Broadcast Group is getting 14 stations larger with the announced $240 million acquisition of TV stations in small markets owned and operated by Bonten Media.

  • WCYB (NBC) and WEMT (Fox) serving eastern Tennessee and western Virginia
  • WCTI (ABC) and WYDO (Fox) in North Carolina
  • KCVU (Fox), KRCR (ABC), KRVU (MNT), KUCO (UNI), KAEF (ABC), KBVU (Fox), KECA (CW) and KEUV (UNI) in California
  • KECI (NBC), KCFW (NBC) and KTVM (NBC) in Montana
  • KTXS (ABC), KTES (Me-TV) and KTXE (ABC) in Texas

The station acquisitions will increase Sinclair’s presence in states where it already operates, and could directly affect cable and satellite TV customers because of Sinclair’s usual practice of demanding high compensation fees for permission to carry its stations on the pay TV dial.

WCTI-TV New Bern/Greenville/Washington/
Jacksonville, N.C. is just one of the stations being acquired by Sinclair.

The acquisition allows Sinclair to make advertising opportunities available on a larger number of stations and will help Sinclair expand the number of stations that carry its digital subchannel networks including Comet, a sci-fi channel, Charge!, which airs action-oriented programming, and TBD, a short-form programming network that relies heavily on online media productions.

“We look forward to welcoming the Bonten employees into the Sinclair family and are pleased to be growing our regional presence in several states where we already operate,” said Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in a statement. “We believe our economies of scale help us bring improvements to small market stations, including investments in news, other quality local programming, and multicast opportunities with our emerging networks.”

The current deal is only a preview of the kind of TV station consolidation expected with Sinclair’s anticipated acquisition of Tribune Media, which owns familiar large market stations like WPIX-New York, KTLA-Los Angeles and WGN-Chicago.

Last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai led the Commission to make it easier for large station owner groups to acquire more stations. Sinclair is currently the second-largest TV station owner in the U.S. (behind Nexstar Media Group) with 165 stations if its deal with Bonten is approved by regulators. Should it acquire Tribune, it would become the nation’s largest TV station operator by far.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Bobbie Jo: What about being billed for a service you don't even have?? Then they report it to your credit.. 6 months of Frontier-communications-corp hanging up...
  • Bill: I've had it with Time Warner and now Spectrum. Just purchased an amplified antenna and hooked it up. I get over 15 local channels in true HD (1080p vs...
  • LG: "simplified pricing" ..yes, it means they're "simply" raising the price. "It's actually less money when you factor in there is no modem fee. No d...
  • LG: Every time I hear this guys name I get sick. He's an enemy of the United States as far as I'm concerned. First he sells the most private areas of ou...
  • LG: Thankfully I went with the 6183. Nearly bought this one instead....
  • HIllary clinton: obamacares deductibles are like 7000 dollars. Basically no healthcare...
  • Jorgie: It's not just net neutrality they want to eliminate, they also want to eliminate Obamacare. Trump will not give up. He will continue the fight to repe...
  • Milan Gohil: Phillip, I trust that you will let us know what we can do to fight this assault on our freedom! Ajit PAID is a slimy POS! Trump is well on his way to...
  • Tammy Nelson: This is crap! Why are the customers always losing and they always win? I pay quite a bit for cable and internet. If you are cutting channels, at le...
  • Mike Colceri: THIS TOTALY SUCKS!!! I LOVE CHILLER , AND NOW YOU'VE GONE AND GOTTEN RID OF IT!!!!😠 BUT MY BILL STAYS THE SAME.....MINUS MY CHILLER!!! WHOEVER IS THE ...
  • BobInIllinois: Jo, FYI on this. YouTube wanted to get this streaming service up fast. The 5 big US cities that you listed all have network tv stations owned and ...
  • Dave Burstein: Phil Good work on this. Nearly no one has reported that the FCC is paying AT&T for an offering they would have anyway....

Your Account: