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Time Warner Cable Admits Usage-Based Pricing is a Big Failure; Only Thousands Enrolled

Phillip Dampier March 13, 2014 Audio, Internet Overcharging, Time Warner Cable No Comments
internet limit

Time Warner Cable customer hate usage caps and usage-based pricing.

Time Warner Cable admits customers don’t want usage-based pricing of their broadband service, with only a fraction of one percent of their nationwide customer base choosing to enroll in usage-limited plans in return for a discount.

Time Warner began offering customers a usage-based plan more than two years ago, with discounts starting at $5 a month for light users. Sources at the cable company have repeatedly told Stop the Cap! usage-based pricing has never been popular with customers with only a handful enrolling every month. That was confirmed this week by Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, noting despite offers of discounts for 5GB and 30GB usage-allowance plans, neither are popular. In fact, Marcus admitted customers strongly want to keep their unlimited use plans.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet, and Telecom Conference, Marcus added that regardless of the plans’ unpopularity, he intends to keep them around to sell the idea that customers should get acquainted with paying based on usage.

twc logo“If you take the 30GB a month and compare it to what median usage is, let’s say high 20s — 27GB a month, that would suggest a whole lot of customers would do well by taking the 30GB service,” Marcus said. “Notwithstanding that, very few customers — in the thousands — have taken the usage based tiers and I think that speaks to the value they place on unlimited — not bad because we plan to continue to offer unlimited for as far out as we can possibly see.”

Despite the low enrollment, Marcus has no plans to jettison usage pricing anytime soon.

“I think that the concept of ‘use more-pay more – use less-pay less’ is an important principle to have established, so notwithstanding the low uptake of the usage-based tiers I think it is a very important component of our overall pricing philosophy.”

Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus admits usage based pricing plans for broadband are exceptionally unpopular with customers, with only a few thousand enrolled. Mar. 12, 2014 (2:03)
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Sen. Al Franken vs. Time Warner Cable/Comcast Merger

Franken

Franken

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has turned over much of his campaign website to expressing concern about the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

Franken has maintained a comparatively low profile since arriving in the U.S. Senate and rarely grants interviews to reporters outside of Minnesota, but after the announced $45 billion merger deal between the two largest cable companies in the country, he started making exceptions.

Franken has repeatedly tangled with Comcast, the dominant cable operator in his home state, since being elected. He favors Net Neutrality/Open Internet policies, strongly opposed Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, and believes cable rates are too high and service quality is too low.

Although the senator claims he remains undecided about the merger, his public comments suggest he is likely going to oppose the deal.

“We need more competition, not less,” said Franken, who mocked Comcast’s claim that the two cable companies never compete with each other. “This is going exactly in the wrong direction. Consumers, I am very concerned, are going to pay higher bills and get even worse service and less choice.”

Although the merger will leave the combined company serving nearly one in three households, Comcast says it plans to keep its total nationwide broadband market share under 30%. But Franken points out Comcast isn’t just a cable company. It also owns a major television network and has ownership interests in nearly three dozen cable networks and television stations around the country — many in America’s largest cities.

Franken mass e-mailed his campaign supporters to express concern about the current state of the cable and broadband business and asked consumers what they thought about their cable company. More than 60,000 have shared their mostly negative views so far.

Minnesota Public Radio takes a closer look at why Sen. Al Franken is interested in the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Feb. 24, 2014 (4:32)
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competitionThat may prove to be smart politics for Franken, seen as a polarizing figure in the left-right divide. The near-universal loathing among consumers for both Comcast and Time Warner Cable threaten to rise above traditional partisan politics. Republican lawmakers have kept largely quiet about the merger deal, and some are even openly questioning it. Franken may tapped into a re-election issue that voters across Minnesota are likely to support — especially older Republican-leaning independents.

Franken claims his survey is trying to level the playing field by getting consumers involved in the issue. For Washington regulators accustomed to only hearing from company lobbyists and various third party groups often financially tied to merger advocates, it could be a game-changer.

Comcast’s connections in Washington are legendary. Former Republican FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker wasted no time taking a job as a senior Comcast lobbyist shortly after voting in favor of Comcast’s buyout of NBCUniversal. Former Republican FCC chairman Michael Powell today heads the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the cable industry’s largest lobbying group and supporter of the merger.

The merger deal’s regulatory review will be conducted by current FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler, a past president of the NCTA and former cable and wireless industry lobbyist. Bill Baer is in charge of the Antitrust Division that will examine the merger at the U.S. Department of Justice. His last job was leading the law firm that represented NBC in support of the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNN Al Franken Talks With CNN About TWC-Comcast Merger 2-13-14.flv

Sen. Al Franken spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this month about the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger. Tapper admitted he dropped Comcast because he was dissatisfied with their service. (7:45)

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US & Canada Agree: Our Internet Providers Are Bad for Us and We’re Falling Behind

Phillip "Free Trade in Bad Broadband" Dampier

Phillip “Free Trade in Bad Broadband” Dampier

Sure we’ve had our cultural skirmishes in the past,  but on one thing we can all mostly agree: our largest cable, phone, and broadband providers generally suck.

Outside of hockey season, Canada’s national pastime is hating Bell, Rogers, Vidéotron, Telus, and Shaw. The chorus of complaints is unending on overbilling, bundling of dozens of channels almost nobody watches but everybody pays for, outrageous long-term contracts, and bloodsucking Internet overlimit fees. In fact, dissatisfaction is so pervasive, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper spent this past summer waving shiny keys of distraction promising Canadians telecom relief while hoping voters didn’t notice their tax dollars were being spent by the country’s national security apparatus to spy on Brazil for big energy companies.

The Montreal Gazette is now collecting horror stories about dreadful service, mysterious price hikes, and promised credits gone missing on behalf of readers fed up with Bell and Vidéotron.

Rogers Cable, always thoughtful and pleasant, punished a Ottawa man coping with multiple sclerosis and cancer with a $1,288 bill, quickly turned over to a collection agency after his home burned to the ground. It took headlines spread across Ontario newspapers to get the cable company to relent.

Things are no better in the United States where the American Customer Satisfaction Index rates telecom companies worse than the post office, health insurers airlines, and the bird flu. National Public Radio opened the floodgates when it asked listeners to rate their personal satisfaction with their Internet Service Provider — almost always the local cable or telephone company.

The phone company Canadians love to hate.

The phone company Canadians love to hate.

Many responded their Internet access is horribly slow, often goes out, and is hugely overpriced. In response, the cable industry’s hack-in-chief did little more than shrug his shoulders — knowing full well American broadband exists in a cozy monopoly or duopoly in most American cities.

Breann Neal of Hudson, Ill., told NPR she has one choice — DSL, which is much slower than advertised. Hudson is Frontier Communications country, and it is a comfortable area to serve because local cable competition from Mediacom, America’s worst cable company, is miles away from Neal’s home.

“There’s no incentive for them to make it better for us because we’re still paying them every month … and there’s no competition,” Neal says.

Samantha Laws, who gets her Internet through her cable provider, says she also only has one option.

“It goes out at least once a day, and it’s been getting worse the last few months,” Laws says. She works with a pet-sitting company that handles all of its scheduling through email and the company website. At times she can’t do her job because of the unreliable connection.

Chicago is in Comcast’s territory and the company is quite comfortable cashing your check while AT&T takes its sweet time launching U-verse in the Windy City. AT&T isn’t about to throw money at improving DSL while local residents wait for U-verse and Comcast doesn’t need to spend a lot in Chicago when the alternative is AT&T.

comcast sucksWhere there is no disruptive new player in town to shake things up, there is little incentive to speed broadband service up. But there is plenty of room to keep increasing prices for a service that is becoming as important as a working telephone. Companies are using broadband profits to cover increasing losses from pay television service, investing in stock buybacks, paying dividends to shareholders, or just putting the money in a bank, often offshore.

NPR’s All Things Considered:

“[For] at least 77 percent of the country, your only choice for a high-capacity, high-speed Internet connection is your local cable monopoly,” says Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. She is also the author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.

Crawford says that today’s high-speed Internet infrastructure is equivalent to when the railroad lines were controlled by a very few moguls who divided up the country between themselves and gouged everybody on prices.

She says the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in providing broadband. At best, Crawford says, the U.S. is at the middle of the pack and is far below many countries when it comes to fiber optic penetration. Given that the Internet was developed in the U.S., she says the gap is a result of failures in policy.

“These major infrastructure businesses aren’t like other market businesses,” Crawford says. “It is very expensive to install them in the first place, and then they build up enormous barriers of entry around them. It really doesn’t make sense to try to compete with a player like Comcast or Time Warner Cable.”

So Crawford is calling for is a major public works projects to install fiber optic infrastructure — a public grid that private companies could then use to deliver Internet service.

Powell

Powell

That’s an idea met with hand-wringing and concern-trolling Revolving Door Olympian Michael Powell, who made his way from former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the first term of George W. Bush’s administration straight into the arms of Big Cable as president of their national trade association, the NCTA.

Powell, well compensated in his new role representing the cable industry, wants Americans to consider wireless 3G and 4G broadband (with usage caps as low as a few hundred megabytes per month) equivalent competitors to the local cable and phone company.

“I think to exclude [wireless] as a substitutable, competitive alternative is an error that leads you to believe the market is substantially more concentrated that it actually is,” Powell says.

Of course, Powell’s new career includes a paycheck large enough to afford the wireless data bills that would shock the rest of us. All that money also apparently blinds him to the reality the two largest wireless providers in America are AT&T and Verizon — the same two companies that are part of the duopoly in wired broadband. It’s even worse in Canada, where Rogers, Bell, and Telus dominate wired and wireless broadband.

Although America isn’t even close to having the fastest broadband speeds, Powell wants you to know the speeds you do get are good enough.

“I think taking a snapshot and declaring us as somehow dangerously falling behind is just not substantiated by the data,” he says. He says it is like taking a snapshot of speed skaters, where there might be a few seconds separating the leaders, but no one is “meaningfully out of the race.”

last placeThat is why we still celebrate and honor Svetlana Radkevich from Belarus who competed in the speed skating competition at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. She made it to the finish line and ranked 33rd. Ironically, South Korea ranked fastest overall that year, taking home three gold and two silver medals. In Powell’s world, that’s a distinction without much difference. You don’t need South Korean speed and gold medals when Belarus is enough. That argument always plays well in the United States, where Americans can choose between Amtrak or an airline for a long distance trip. Who needs a non-stop flight when a leisurely train ride will get you there… eventually.

There are a handful of providers uncomfortable with the mediocre broadband slow lane. Google is among them. So are community broadband providers installing fiber broadband and delivering gigabit Internet speeds. EPB in Chattanooga is among them, and it has already made a difference for that city’s digital economy neither AT&T or Comcast could deliver.

Unsurprisingly, Powell thinks community broadband is a really bad idea because private companies are already delivering broadband service — while laughing all the way to the bank.

If a community really wants gold medal broadband, Powell says, they should be able to have it. But Powell conveniently forgets to mention NCTA’s largest members, including Comcast and Time Warner Cable, spend millions lobbying federal and state governments to make publicly owned broadband illegal. After all, cable companies know what is best.

All Things Considered recently asked its fans on Facebook, “How satisfied are you with your Internet service provider?” Many responded that they didn’t like their Internet service, that it often goes out and that their connection was often “painfully slow.” Listen to the full report first aired Jan. 11, 2014. (11:30)
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Australia’s Move to Fiber-to-the-Neighborhood Service Provokes Defense of Copper Network

NBNCo is responsible for the deployment and installation of Australia's fiber to the home network.

The Australian government’s proposal to launch a nationwide fiber to the home National Broadband Network (NBN) has been scrapped by the more conservative Liberal-National Coalition that replaced the Labor government in a recent election.

As a result, the Coalition has announced initial plans to revise the NBN with a mixture of cheaper technology that can result in faster deployment of lower speed broadband at a lower cost. If implemented, fiber to the home service will only reach a minority of homes. In its place,  cable broadband may be the dominant technology where cable companies already operate. For almost everyone else, technology comparable to AT&T U-verse is the favored choice of the new government, mixing fiber-to-the-neighborhood with existing copper wires into homes..

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ABC Malcolm Turnbull moves to put Coalitions stamp on NBN Co 9-24-13.mp4

Australia’s new Communications Minister moves to put the Coalition government’s stamp on the National Broadband Network, replacing most of the promised fiber-to-the-home technology with a service comparable to AT&T U-verse. From ABC-TV (6:32)

telstraJust a year earlier Telstra, Australia’s largest phone company, was planning to decommission and scrap its copper landline network, considered “five minutes to midnight” back in 2003 by Telstra’s head of government and corporate affairs, Tony Warren. Now the country will effectively embrace copper technology once more with an incremental DSL upgrade, forfeiting speeds of up to 1,000Mbps over fiber in return for a minimum speed guarantee from the government of 24Mbps over VDSL.

The turnabout has massive implications for current providers. Telstra, which expected to see its prominence in Australian broadband diminished under Labor’s NBN is once again a rising star. The Liberal-National Coalition government appointed Telstra’s former CEO Ziggy Switkowski to run a “rebooted” Coalition NBN that critics are now calling Telstra 3.0. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also installed three new members of the NBN’s governing board consisting of a Telstra executive, a founder of a commercial Internet Service Provider, and an ex-construction boss who left the NBN in 2011.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ABC Malcolm Turnbull Outlines NBN Review 9-24-13.mp4

ABC reports Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked for the resignations of the entire NBN board, one of the first steps to re-envision the NBN under the Liberal-National Coalition’s party platform. Turnbull accused the former government of setting political targets for fiber broadband and was never forthcoming about the true cost and complexity of the ambitious fiber project. (8:50)

Turnbull

Turnbull

Some Australians complain that NBN’s proposed reliance on Telstra copper is a mistake. Telstra has allowed its landline infrastructure to decline over the years and many are skeptical they will ever see faster speeds promised over wiring put in place decades earlier.

The NBN under the Liberal-National Coalition will depend heavily on two copper-based technologies to deliver speed enhancements: VDSL and vectoring. Both require short runs of well-maintained copper wiring to deliver peak performance. The longer the copper line, the worse it will perform. If that line is compromised, VDSL and vectoring are unlikely to make much difference, as AT&T has discovered in its effort to roll out faster U-verse speeds, much to the frustration of customers that cannot upgrade until AT&T invests in cleaning up its troubled copper network.

Coalition critics also warn the new government will foolishly spend less on a fiber-copper network today that will need expensive fiber upgrades tomorrow.

Turnbull isn’t happy with Australia’s mainstream media for lazy reporting on the issues.

ABC Radio reports that the Coalition’s approach to the NBN may be penny-wise, pound foolish. By the time the NBN rolls out fiber to the neighborhood and Telstra is required to invest in upgrades to its copper network to make it work, fiber to the home service could turn out to have been cheaper all along. (5:11)
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“I have to say that by and large the standard of reporting of technology and broadband by the mainstream media has been woeful,” Turnbull said. ”If the Australian public are misinformed about these issues, it was in large part a consequence of the unwillingness of the mainstream media to pay any attention to what is really going on in the industry.”

The promise of giber optic broadband may prove elsuive under the new giovernment.

The promise of fiber optic broadband may prove elusive under the new government.

With much of the new NBN dependent on Telstra’s copper telephone network, Stuart Lee, Telstra’s managing director of its wholesale division, rushed to defend the suitability of the same copper network Telstra was prepared to scrap under the last government.

Lee said he was especially annoyed with critics that call Telstra’s copper networking “aging.”

“The other thing that makes me cross when I hear it, and I see it a lot in the press is the talk of the aging copper network. It’s not. It’s not an aging copper network. It’s like grandfather’s axe; it’s had five new handles and three new heads. When it breaks, we replace the broken bit. So it’s much the same as it always has been and always will be,” Lee said. ”It’s just an older technology, it’s not that the asset itself has deteriorated.”

When questioned about several recent high-profile mass service disruptions Australians experienced on Telstra’s landline copper network, Lee blamed the weather, not the network.

“They correlate to weather events, and the weather events we’ve had in the last [few years] is about five to six times the previous ones, so surprise surprise there is a lot more damage,” said Lee.

The new government has charged the Labor-run NBN with inefficiency, taxpayer-funded waste, and playing politics with broadband by giving high priority to fiber upgrades in constituencies served by threatened Labor MPs. Lee added NBN Co has played loose with the facts, declaring premises “passed” by the new fiber network without allowing customers to order service on the new network. That can become a serious problem, because the NBN plan calls for customers’ existing copper phone and DSL service to be decommissioned soon after the fiber network becomes available.

The Sydney Morning Herald  compares the last Labor government's broadband policy with the new Coalition government policy.

The Sydney Morning Herald compared the last Labor government’s broadband policy with the new Coalition government policy.

iiNet’s chief technology officer, John Lindsay said that the potential for disconnecting customers from the ADSL network while they still can’t order NBN service was “madness.”

The Labor government’s NBN has also been under fire for a pricing formula that includes a usage component when setting prices. Impenetrably named the “connectivity virtual circuit” charge, or CVC, the NBN charges retail providers a monthly connection fee for each customer and a usage charge that includes a virtual data allowance originally set at 30GB. Retail providers are billed extra when customers exceed the informal allowance. Although the government promised to reduce the charges, they effectively haven’t and likely won’t until 2017.

Lindsay called the CVC an artificial tax comparable to the Labor government’s carbon tax, and represents a digital barrier to limit customer usage.

“It’s a tax on packets,” Lindsay said.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ABC NBN Copper 11-19-13.mp4

Tasmanian residents complain NBN Co’s new fiber network is claimed to be available, but actually isn’t in many neighborhoods now scheduled for disconnection from Telstra’s copper landline and DSL network. (2:17)

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Cable ONE Drops TruTV, CNN, TCM in Contract Renewal, Turner Networks Drops Cable ONE

Phillip Dampier October 3, 2013 Audio, Cable One, Consumer News No Comments

cableone_tdc2Cable ONE customers nationwide lost eight Turner Networks channels yesterday, despite the fact the cable company has a signed contract with Turner to pay for some of the networks that have gone dark.

“In an extraordinary act of retaliation and bullying, Turner Networks removed TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network from all Cable ONE systems without warning, when our prior Turner contract expired on October 1,” said Cable ONE CEO Tom Might. “This happened despite the fact that Cable ONE had signed new contracts and already agreed to pay an enormous nearly 50% rate increase for these three networks.”

Cable ONE was under pressure to carry all eight Turner-owned networks (in turn owned by Time Warner Entertainment) during contract renewal negotiations that included substantial fee increases. The cable company independently decided to boot five “less popular” networks from lineups nationwide: Boomerang, TruTV, TCM, CNN and CNN Headline News. It agreed to keep buying TBS, TNT, and Cartoon.

turner“We signed contracts for TBS, TNT and the Cartoon Network through the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), which allows for the purchase of individual channels rather than the entire bundle of eight,” said Might. “In a disgraceful punitive reaction, Turner Networks refused to recognize the NCTC contracts and immediately de-authorized all Cable ONE systems in order to ‘teach’ Cable ONE a lesson about the power of cable programmers to tie and bundle channels together and force carriage of unwanted bundles.  They refuse to give cable operators or their customers any choice about what they can or cannot buy.”

Turner Networks claims Cable ONE has no authority to buy a slimmed-down package of channels through the NCTC and must negotiate with Turner directly.

Cable ONE will automatically credit its customers for the missing channels. The cable company is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company and serves 730,000 customers in 19 states.

Cable ONE explains to its customers why eight Turner Network-owned channels are now missing from the channel lineup. (2 minutes)
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Canadian Wireless Carriers Freak Out Over Rumored Verizon Entry; Panic Buttons Pressed

upsetcableguyThe three companies that control 90 percent of Canada’s cell phone marketplace have set what they argue is ‘cut-throat’ competition aside to team up in a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to discourage Verizon Wireless from entering the country.

Bell, Rogers, and Telus have maintained what critics charge is a “three-headed oligopoly” in the wireless business for years, leading to findings from the OECD that Canada is among the ten most expensive countries in the world for wireless service in almost every category and has among the highest roaming rates in the world.

Americans also pay high cell phone prices, and customers of both countries will find somewhat comparable pricing when comparing prices north or south of Lake Ontario. A shopper in Niagara Falls, N.Y. can find the Samsung Galaxy S4 from a Verizon reseller for $120 with a two-year contract. A shared data service plan runs as little as $80 a month for 500MB of data and unlimited domestic calling and global texting. Travel across the Rainbow Bridge to Niagara Falls, Ontario, walk into a Rogers store and the same phone runs $199 with a two-year contract (most Canadian carriers used to offer three-year special reportcontracts until the government banned them earlier this year) and a service plan running $80 a month offering the same 500MB of data and unlimited domestic calling and texting. Rogers charges extra if customers want to text a customer outside of Canada, however.

Verizon is no discount carrier. Verizon management has repeatedly stressed it offers premium service and coverage and can charge commensurately higher prices for access to that network. So the idea that Verizon’s interest in entering Canada is to launch a vicious price war is suspect, according to many telecommunications analysts.

Keep Verizon out of Canada at all costs!

They are coming.

They are coming.

In June, the Globe and Mail reported Verizon had shown serious interest in acquiring Canadian cellular upstart Wind Mobile with an early bid of $700 million. Wind Mobile, one of the three significant new “no-contract” entrants vying for a piece of the country’s cell phone market, has limped along since opening for business in 2009, unable to attract much interest from customers concerned about coverage gaps and the poor choice of mobile devices.

More recently, Wind Mobile’s new owner — the Russian mobile giant Vimpelcom — has expressed an interest in selling off the carrier because it cannot gain traction against the biggest three, which also control 85 percent of mobile wireless spectrum.

News that Verizon had taken an interest in the carrier leveled shock waves across the Canadian financial markets. Shares in the three largest telecom giants fell sharply on the news. Earlier this month, Bell CEO George Cope reported that Bell, Telus and Rogers have taken a $15-billion cumulative hit on the capital markets since Verizon hinted interest in Wind Mobile.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Verizon takes aim at telecom Big 3 with possible Wind Mobile bid 8-19-13.flv

The CBC reported earlier this summer that Verizon Wireless was interested in acquiring the 600,000 customers of independent wireless provider Wind Mobile, which has an insignificant share of the Canadian wireless market. (2 minutes)

Spending a few million, or even a billion dollars, to keep Verizon south of the Canadian-U.S. border is well worth it to the three big players who have launched an expensive campaign to block the proposed transaction and are willing to pay premium prices to keep struggling carriers from being sold to deep-pocketed American telecom companies.

bribesTelus had already done its part, attempting to scoop up another scrappy upstart carrier that wanted out of the wireless business. But the Canadian government rejected Telus’ proposed acquisition of Mobilicity, claiming it would harm efforts to expand Canadian wireless competition. Not to be deterred, Rogers is now attempting a cleverly structured deal to acquire Wind Mobile out from under Verizon with a proposed buyout worth more than $1 billion.

To avoid the anticipated rejection of the deal by Canadian regulators on competition grounds, Rogers has reportedly joined forces with Toronto-based private equity firm Birch Hill Partners that would make that firm the owners-in-name. Although Rogers wouldn’t get a direct equity stake in Wind, it would finance a good part of the deal and win access and control of Wind’s mobile spectrum for its own network. More importantly, it could keep Verizon out of Canada.

“The government is handing out loopholes to Verizon to beg them into Canada”

Cell phone companies in Canada are particularly angry that the government has set aside certain spectrum and guaranteed access for upstart providers to successfully establish themselves without having to outbid the cash-rich big three for wireless frequencies or have to build a nationwide network from scratch. Bell, Rogers and Telus have consistently opposed spectrum set-asides for small carriers, deeming them “unfair.” They argue Canadians’ voracious needs for more wireless service are unending, and it would be unfair not to sell the spectrum to benefit their larger customer bases. But hearing that Verizon, a company larger than Bell, Rogers, and Telus combined, could get preferential treatment and spectrum to enter the country has them boiling mad.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Telecom debate 8-19-13.flv

Bell’s CEO George Cope appeared on “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange” to debate the fairness of Verizon’s possible entry into Canada’s wireless market. Cope argues Verizon is getting special favors. (9 minutes)

Cope

Cope

The idea of luring a company to move or begin offering service in a barely competitive marketplace is hardly new. Cities have offered preferential policies to airlines to fly in and out of particular cities, local governments have offered tax abatements to get companies to set up shop, and providing exemptions for zoning and infrastructure have been familiar to telecommunications companies for decades.

In 1880, the National Bell Telephone Company had incorporated, through an Act of Parliament, the Bell Telephone Company of Canada (today also known as BCE), which was given the right to build telephone lines over and along all public property and rights-of-way without compensation to the public or former owners. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Bell would later become the dominant monopoly provider of telephone service across much of eastern Canada.

When the phone companies were handed wireless spectrum to launch their wireless businesses in the 1980s, they didn’t have anything to complain about either.

None of that history impressed Bell’s current CEO George Cope, who took to the airwaves to complain Verizon was being given preferential treatment:

  • Verizon could bid on two blocks of Canadian spectrum set aside for new entrants to the market in auction later this year. Because the big three Canadian firms are not permitted to bid on these blocks, they are likely to be sold at a lower price.
  • Verizon would not have to build its own networks to remote or rural communities, but would be able to piggyback on existing networks.
  • Verizon can bid to acquire small Canadian companies such as Mobilicity or Wind, but Bell, Telus and Rogers are forbidden from bidding on them.

“A company of this size certainly doesn’t need handouts from Canadians or special regulatory advantages over Canadian companies,” Bell said in a full-page newspaper ad. “But that is exactly what they get in the new federal wireless regulations. We’re ready to compete head to head, but it has to be a level playing field,” Cope said in a TV interview, echoing Rogers CEO who also called for a “level playing field.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Is Verizon really the bogeyman Canada's telecom giants claim 8-19-13.flv

Bell, Telus, and Rogers have launched a lobbying campaign designed to make life difficult for Verizon Wireless if it chooses to enter Canada. The CBC reports Verizon will be able to bid on more spectrum than Canadian carriers and will have the right to roam on Canada’s incumbent wireless networks. (2 minutes)

Industry Minister Moore

Industry Minister Moore

Telus went further, claiming Verizon’s entry into Canada would result in a “bloodbath” for Canadian workers, laid off by the three largest Canadian providers to cut costs to better compete with Verizon.

But Cope said at least one Canadian carrier won’t be able to compete at all, because preferential treatment for wireless spectrum will result in at least one of the big three to lose at a forthcoming spectrum auction, guaranteeing degraded wireless broadband speeds and worse service.

The three companies have found little sympathy in Ottawa, particularly from Industry Minister James Moore, now on a road tour across Canada to promote the government’s wireless competition policies. He called the big three’s loud campaign self-serving and announced a new website sponsored by the Conservative Party of Canada to prove it.

“I think that the public instinctively knows that when they have more choices that prices go down and more competition they’re well served by that,” he told CBC News in Vancouver on Monday. “The noise that we’re hearing is about you know companies trying to protect their company’s interest. Our job as a government is larger than that, our job is to serve the public interest and make sure that the public is served in this so that’s one of the reasons why I’m pushing back a little bit.”

Industry Minister James Moore appeared on CBC Radio this morning to contest the wireless industry’s claims that Verizon is getting special treatment and will bring unfair competition to the Canadian wireless market. (7 minutes)
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Oppose Verizon Wireless. Do it for Canada!

But the wireless companies show no signs of backing down and have turned towards appealing to Canadian nationalism and fairness.

fair for canada“The U.S. government is not giving Canadian wireless carriers any special access to the U.S. market,” says a website launched by the big three cell providers to drum up support for a “level playing field.” “Then why is it that our own government is giving American companies preferential treatment over our own companies?”

This week, a Reuters report citing unnamed sources suggests Bell, Telus, and Rogers are about to target Verizon directly with a new campaign warning Canadians the American giant has been implicated in allowing the U.S. government open access to network and customer data, which would represent a profound privacy threat to Canadian customers.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bell Rogers Telus Ad 8-13.flv

Bell, Telus, and Rogers paid to produce this ad calling on Canadians to protest unfair competition from an American wireless company.  (1 minute)

So far, Canadians’ hatred of their telecommunications providers has trumped the companies’ public relations and scare tactics. The Conservative government in Ottawa is winning support for its wireless competition war, even from unlikely places.

tweet“Someone mark the date,” Tweeted one Halifax woman not inclined to vote Conservative. “Stephen Harper has done something I mostly support.”

“Eat it Telus/Bell/Rogers,” wrote a Calgary man fed up with the lack of competition in Canadian wireless.

John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, says opposition from the big three telecom companies is obvious because they don’t want to face a fourth, powerful competitor.

“They should be scared because chances are they’re going to have more competition in the Canadian market if Verizon comes in and they are going to have to lower their prices and compete harder,” Lawford told CBC News. “It’s pretty rich of them to be talking about unfairness” when they already control 90 per cent of Canadian spectrum, he added.

Iain Grant of the SeaBoard Group, a telecommunications consultancy, said government policies to open up more competition are designed to shake things up.

“[The new rules weren't] meant to be a level playing field,” said Grant. “[They were] meant to give a leg up [to new competitors].”

“To talk of loopholes, as some do, is to not understand that the same companies who complain most loudly about loopholes in 2013 were the recipients of even greater public largesse in 1985 when the government gifted their initial spectrum as an incentive to build a wireless business in Canada,” said Grant.

wireless north america

Few companies have taken on the Canadian big three telecom providers because of their enormous market share, at least inside Canada.

Nine out of ten Canadian wireless users are subscribed to Bell, Telus or Rogers. Trying to convince a banker to extend capital loans to effectively confront a wireless oligopoly in a country with an enormous expanse of land but not people and find enough airwaves among the 15% not controlled by the big three is an uphill battle.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Wireless war heats up 8-19-13.flv

CBC reports Industry Minister Moore believes increasing competition is the best way to cut Canadian cell phone bills. Regardless of whether Verizon enters Canada, the current government will continue to push for more competition. Even the threat of Verizon coming to Canada has already reduced prices. (2 minutes)

Why does Verizon want to enter Canada?

roamingAnalysts suspect Verizon’s interest in Canada has little to do with wooing Canadians to Big Red. Many suspect Verizon’s true interest is to make life easier for its traveling American customers who head north for business or pleasure.

Chief among the possible benefits is the elimination of roaming charges for Verizon customers.

“Verizon’s customers come into the country every day through all the bridges and ports of entries and they want to roam where they want to roam, whether that’s fishing in Saskatchewan or hunting in northern Ontario or wherever,” said Grant.

There are other apparent impediments that could limit the usefulness of Wind’s mobile network to Verizon. In addition to only operating in the largest Canadian cities, Wind’s infrastructure is built by Chinese firm Huawei and is not compatible with Verizon’s technology.

Huawei has been the subject of significant controversy because of its reported ties to the Chinese military. Fears that data could be intercepted by the Chinese government have kept many North American firms from doing business with the company.

Verizon also lacks bundling options for Canadian customers. The biggest three Canadian providers can offer telephone, television, and wired broadband service to their customers. Verizon can only offer wireless service.

Verizon has second thoughts

Perhaps most remarkable are late reports that Verizon may be having second thoughts about jumping into Canada’s wireless market.

Desjardins analyst Maher Yaghi said Verizon may have delayed its plans until after Ottawa’s auction of 700MHz spectrum planned for January to better understand the potential spectrum costs it will incur entering Canada.

Others speculate incumbent providers may be attempting to end the rationale for Verizon to enter Canada in the first place. One major development includes a much more favorable roaming deal for Verizon that could dramatically cut the costs for Verizon customers to roam on Canadian networks.

Regardless of what Verizon does, Industry Minister Moore says Canada’s goal of getting increased competition will continue.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Verizon doubts 8-15-13.flv

CBC reports Verizon may be having second thoughts about entering Canada. Verizon may not be interested in entering a political battle to win licenses to provide service and may want to acquire its own spectrum before considering buying either Wind Mobile or another competitor like Mobilicity. (2 minutes)

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Verizon Voice Link Wireless Landline Replacement: “Everyone Who Has It Hates It”

Verizon Voice Link

Verizon Voice Link

special reportThe New York State Public Service Commission has announced it will hold public hearings in Ocean Beach in Suffolk County, N.Y. to hear from angry Fire Island residents and others about their evaluation of Verizon’s controversial wireless landline replacement Voice Link, which Verizon hopes to eventually install in rural areas across its operating territories.

“Verizon needs to stop lying,” said Fire Island resident Debi May who lost phone service last fall after Hurricane Sandy damaged the local network. “Don’t tell me you can’t fix my landline service. Tell me you won’t.”

She is one of hundreds of Fire Island residents spending the summer without landline service, relying on spotty cellular service, or using Verizon’s wireless landline alternative Voice Link, which many say simply does not work as advertised. In July, the CWA asserted Verizon is trying to introduce Voice Link in upstate New York, including in the Catskills and in and around Watertown and Buffalo.

“I’ve been on the phone with Verizon all day,” Jason Little, owner of the popular Fire Island haunt Bocce Beach tells The Village Voice. The restaurant’s phone line and DSL service is down again. Just like last week. And three weeks before that. Like always, Verizon’s customer service representatives engage in the futility of scheduling a service call that will never actually happen. Verizon doesn’t bother to show up in this section of Fire Island anymore, reports Little.

“They never come,” he says. So he sits and waits for the service to work its way back on its own — the result of damaged infrastructure Verizon refuses to repair any longer. Until it does, accepting credit cards is a big problem for Little.

It’s the same story down the street at the beachwear boutique A Summer Place. Instead of showing customers the latest summer fashions, owner Roberta Smith struggles her away around Verizon’s abandonment of landline service. She even purchased the recommended wireless credit card machine to process transactions, but that only works as well as Verizon Wireless’ service on the island, which can vary depending on location and traffic demands.

Smith tells the newspaper at least half the time, Verizon’s wireless network is so slow the machine stops working. If she can’t reach the credit card authorization center over a crackly, zero bar Verizon Wireless cell phone, the customer might walk, abandoning the sale.

National Public Radio reports Verizon’s efforts to abandon landline service on Fire Island and in certain New Jersey communities is just the first step towards retiring rural landline service in high cost areas. But does Verizon Voice Link actually work? Local residents say it doesn’t work well enough. NPR allows listeners to hear the sound quality of Voice Link for themselves. (5 minutes)
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Verizon's decision is making life hard for Fire Island's small businesses.

Verizon’s decision is making life hard for Fire Island’s small businesses.

The Village Voice notes Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam didn’t make the decision to scrap rural copper wire landline service to improve things for customers. He did it for the company.

“The decision wasn’t motivated by customer demand so much as McAdam’s interest in increasing Verizon’s profit margins,” the Voice writes.

Tom Maguire, Verizon’s point man for Voice Link, has not endeared himself with local residents by suggesting Fire Island shoppers should get around the credit card problem by bringing cash.

“Remember what happened to Marie Antoinette when she said ‘let them eat cake’,” suggested one.

For some customers who appreciate the phone company’s cost arguments, Verizon’s wireless alternative wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t work so bad.

“It has all the problems of a cellphone system, but none of the advantages,” Pat Briody, a homeowner on Fire Island for 40 years told NPR News.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who will tell you Voice Link is better than the copper wire,” says Steve Kunreuther, treasurer of the Saltaire Yacht Club.

Jean Ufer says her husbands' pacemaker depends on landline service to report in on his medical condition.

Jean Ufer says her husbands’ pacemaker depends on landline service to report in on his medical condition.

“Voice Link doesn’t work here,” reports resident Jean Ufer, whose husband depends on a pacemaker that must “check in” with medical staff over a landline the Ufer family no longer has. “It constantly breaks down. Everybody who has it hates it. You can’t do faxes. You can’t do the medical stuff you need. We need what we had back.”

Residents who depended on unlimited broadband access from Verizon’s DSL service are being bill-shocked by Verizon’s only broadband replacement option – expensive 4G wireless hotspot service from Verizon Wireless.

Small business owner Alessandro Anderes-Bologna used to have DSL service from Verizon until Hurricane Sandy obliterated Verizon’s infrastructure across parts of the western half of Fire Island. Today he relies on what he calls poor service from Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network, which he claims is hopelessly overloaded because of tourist traffic and insufficient capacity. But more impressive are Anderes-Bologna’s estimates of what Verizon Wireless wants to charge him for substandard wireless broadband.

“My bill with Verizon Wireless would probably be in the range of $700-800 a month,” Anderes-Bologna said. That is considerably higher than the $29.99 a month Verizon typically charges for its fastest unlimited DSL option on Fire Island.

Despite the enormous difference in price, Verizon’s Maguire has no problems with Verizon Wireless’ prices for its virtual broadband monopoly on the landline-less sections of the island.

“It’s a closed community,” he says. “It’s the quintessential marketplace where you get to charge what the market will bear, so all the shops get to charge whatever they want.” And that’s exactly what Verizon is doing.

WCBS Radio reports Verizon is introducing Voice Link in certain barrier island communities in New Jersey. But the service lacks important features landline users have been long accustomed to having. (1 minute)
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In nearby New Jersey, Verizon’s efforts to introduce Voice Link has met with resistance from consumer groups, the state’s utility regulator, and the Rate Counsel. Over 1,400 customers on barrier island communities like Bay Head, Brick, and Mantoloking cannot get Verizon DSL or landline service any longer because Verizon refuses to repair damaged landlines.

Tom Maguire

Tom Maguire

“The New Jersey coast has been battered enough,” said Douglas Johnston, AARP New Jersey’s manager of advocacy. “The last thing we need is second-class phone service at the Shore. We are concerned that approval of Verizon’s plans could further the gap between the telecommunications ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and could create an incentive for Verizon to neglect the maintenance and repair of its landline phone network in New Jersey.”

In some cases, Verizon has told customers they can get landline phone service from Comcast, a competitor, instead.

State consumer advocates note that other utilities including cable operators have undertaken repair, replacement, and restoration of facilities in both New York and New Jersey without the challenges Verizon claims it has.

“Only Verizon, without evidentiary support, is seeking to jettison its obligations to provide safe, proper and adequate service to the public,” wrote the New Jersey Rate Counsel in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

New York Senator Phil Boyle, who represents Fire Island residents, is hosting a town hall meeting tonight to discuss the move by Verizon to replace copper-wire phone lines on Fire Island with Voice Link. The meeting will be held at the Ocean Beach Community House in Ocean Beach from 5-7pm.

The New York State Public Service Commission will be at the same location Saturday, Aug. 24 starting at noon for a public statement hearing to hear from customers about how Verizon Voice Link is working for them.

It is not necessary to make an appointment in advance or to present written material to speak at the public statement hearing. Anyone with a view about Voice Link, whether they live on the island or not are welcome to attend. Speakers will be called after completing a card requesting time to speak. Disabled persons requiring special accommodations may place a collect call to the Department of Public Service’s Human Resources Management Office at (518) 474-2520 as soon as possible. TDD users may request a sign language interpreter by placing a call through the New York Relay Service at 711 to reach the Department of Public Service’s Human Resource Office at the previously mentioned number.

Fire Island

Fire Island

Those who cannot attend in person at the Community House, 157-164 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach can send comments about Voice Link to the PSC online, by phone, or through the mail.

  • E:Mail[email protected]
  • U.S. Mail: Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350
  • 24 Hour Toll-Free Opinion Line (N.Y. residents only): 1-800-335-2120

Your comments should refer to “Case 13-C-0197 – Voice Link on Fire Island.” All comments are requested by Sept. 13, 2013. Comments will become part of the record considered by the Commission and will be published online and accessible by clicking on the “Public Comments” tab.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Al Jazeera US islanders battle telecom giant 8-13-13.flv

Al Jazeera reports Fire Island residents are fighting to keep their landlines, especially after having bad experiences with Verizon Voice Link. (3 minutes)

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Six Months Later, Still No Verizon Phone Service in the Rockaways

Phillip Dampier April 8, 2013 Audio, Consumer News, Verizon No Comments

sandyMore than six months after Hurricane Sandy did her handiwork on coastal New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, hundreds of residents are still getting phone bills from Verizon for phone and Internet service they have been without since Halloween.

Most of the outages are around the Ocean Bay development in Far Rockaway, south of Brooklyn.

For thousands of residents, the only regular communication from Verizon every month arrives in the form of a bill.

“I need that phone to make phone calls for an ambulance or long distance or the police department,” Geraldine Jones, president of the development’s tenant association, told the Daily News. “We’re tired of being without our landlines. It’s terrible. They’ve got the nerve to send me a bill every month. I’m frustrated and angry. It’s not fair. It’s not right.”

WNYC Radio reports local politicians are now getting involved in Verizon’s half-year landline outages on Far Rockaway. (1 minute)
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Verizon-logoVerizon’s response has mostly been shrugged shoulders and no firm estimate of when service will be repaired.

“Verizon is working closely with the New York City Housing Authority and together we have made good progress in restoring service to residents to of the Ocean Bay apartment complex,” company spokesman Phil Santoro retorted in a statement. “By the end of this month, we will begin restoring service to all those who live in the complex from 54th to 59th streets on our brand new state-of-the-art fiber optic network.”

But that means some of Verizon’s customers will have been without phone service for more than half a year.

“It shouldn’t take six months,” said City Councilman Donovan Richards. “Some of these people don’t have cell phones. They’re elderly. It’s a public safety issue.”

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show takes a close look at telecom outages after Hurricane Sandy. (17 minutes)
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New York Grants $25 Million for Broadband Expansion, Mostly for Last-Mile Projects

nysbroadbandofficeNew York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced this week New York State will award $25 million in funding to expand high-speed Internet access in rural upstate and underserved urban areas of New York through the Connect NY Broadband Grant Program. This award brings the total amount of funding awarded for broadband projects during Governor Cuomo’s administration to more than $56 million, the largest statewide broadband funding commitment in the nation.

Unlike many broadband grant programs, New York is primarily targeting last-mile projects that make all the difference for New Yorkers that cannot get broadband service at any price. The federal government and some states have focused instead on funding institutional or “middle-mile” networks that ordinary consumers and businesses cannot access. The Connect NY Broadband Project specifically sought projects that will get residents broadband service as quickly as possible.

Pat Pryor is chair of the Tompkins County Legislature’s Special Committee on Broadband, which is fighting for better service in the Southern Tier of New York. Pryor says the grant will make a real difference because Verizon and Time Warner Cable have refused to expand service where they consider it unprofitable. She told the Innovation Trail the funding will help a wireless ISP in her county that specializes in serving rural areas bypassed by cable and DSL.  (1 minute)
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“Through the Connect NY program, we are bringing high-speed Internet access to all corners of New York State,” Cuomo said. “The projects receiving these grants represent the very best proposals with the most potential to benefit statewide economic and community development efforts. These funds will strengthen New York’s broadband capacity and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service in unserved and underserved communities, counties and regions across the state.”

Cuomo

Cuomo

Altogether, about 6,000 square miles of new infrastructure will offer high-speed Internet service to 153,000 New York households, 8,000 businesses, and 400 community anchor institutions – many without any means to access the Internet. The projects will also create 1,400 new jobs.

The funding comes as a relief to New York residents who have gone without service for years, denied access to earlier grants in part because incumbent providers inaccurately claimed, through national broadband maps, they already offered full broadband coverage in many New York counties that actually don’t have service.

Tompkins County is a case in point. Verizon and Time Warner Cable, the dominant providers, volunteered incorrectly that almost the entire county was well-served with broadband. That proved frustrating to county legislator Pat Pryor.

“It matters, because a lot of times [the maps are] what grant funding is predicated on,” Pryor told the Innovation Trail. “[Funders say] If you don’t have any unserved areas, why would you need a grant? We’re almost 100 percent covered, why would we need any money?”

Claire Perez has spent more than a year fighting for broadband for her neighborhood in West Dryden, which is just over 1/2-mile from the nearest Time Warner Cable customer. She talked with the Innovation Trail last March about her plight. Despite endless rounds of petitioning the cable operator to extend service, the company would only quote “go-away” prices ranging from $23,000-54,000 to wire her neighborhood and home. Perez, and others like her, may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the broadband expansion program if they are near a Time Warner Cable service area. (3 minutes)
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The specifics:

$24,010 The Smithville Project
This project with Haefele TV Inc. will serve the Southern Tier region. The Smithville project will build fiber optic cable utilizing existing infrastructure. The network will pass 350 homes and provide broadband service with speeds of 7 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload to approximately 100 new subscribers.

$114,015 Ovid and Romulus Broadband Project
This project with Trumansburg Telephone Company will serve the Finger Lakes region. The Ovid and Romulus Broadband Project will provide broadband to unserved areas in company territory in the towns of Ovid and Romulus. This project will enable 110 customers in this area that have no availability to any type of broadband services to obtain high-speed Internet service. The project will also offer discounts on subscription fees, free training and email addresses.

$200,000 Connect Thurman White Space Project
This project with Warren County Economic Development Corporation will serve the Capital District region. Through a public/private partnership, the Thurman White Space project will provide broadband access to 89 households in the northeast area of the Town of Thurman. The Town of Thurman will also offer economically disadvantaged residents access to public computers and enhanced digital literacy training.

$557,000 Essex County Broadband Service Expansion
This project will serve the North Country region. The Essex County Broadband Service Expansion project will provide high-speed broadband service to households that do not have access within the Towns of Jay and Wilmington, passing 1,900 households. The project will also provide digital video services and potentially a competitive telephone service.

$558,940 Otsego County Wireless Network
This project with the County of Otsego IDA will serve the Mohawk Valley region. The Otsego County Wireless Network will partner with a last-mile provider to leverage a county-wide, open access fiber backbone to deploy last-mile, wireless broadband to 24 towns, 9 villages and 1 city in Otsego County, serving approximately 28,000 households, 4,500 businesses and 300 community anchor institution locations. The wireless network will also be made available to any viable organization or service provider that wishes to use it.

$572,000 Hamilton and Herkimer Counties Broadband
The Broadband 1 project with Newport Telephone Company is a multi-region project serving the North Country and Mohawk Valley regions. The project will leverage existing infrastructure to provide broadband service to 230 residents, businesses and community anchor institutions in Hamilton and Herkimer Counties. The project will also enhance emergency services for both counties.

$672,452 Southern Tier Broadband
This project with the Southern Tier West Development Foundation will serve the Western region. The project will expand access to broadband service and increase broadband speeds through a WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) system to towns and villages in the counties of Chautauqua, Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Erie County, passing more than 41,000 households. The project will also partner with local medical clinics to enhance electronic medical records and upgrade hardware and software at libraries in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, and Chemung Counties.

$800,000 Allegany County Broadband
This project with Allegany County will serve the Western New York region. The Allegany County Broadband project will create a county-wide platform for providing access to an existing network, delivering broadband to 28 local communities and 17,440 households in Allegany County that are currently without broadband service.

$976,426 Lyon Mountain Broadband
This project with Slic Network Solutions will serve the North Country region. The Lyon Mountain Broadband Project will provide high-speed, low-cost broadband service in the Community of Lyon Mountain to 527 households, utilizing fiber-to-the-home technology. In addition this network will also deliver telephone service, IPTV service, and advance business services over the fiber.

$1,012,366 Bellmont North Next Generation Broadband
This project with Slic Network Solutions will serve the North Country region. The Bellmont North Next Generation Broadband project will provide high-speed, low-cost broadband service in the Adirondack Park to the northern end of the Town of Bellmont. This service will be delivered utilizing 25.3 miles of fiber to the home and wireless technology to connect 124 households. The network will also allow for the delivery of telephone service, IPTV service, and advance business services over the fiber.

$1,636,346 Connect NYC
This project with the New York City Economic Development Corporation will serve the New York City region. By conducting a competition to fund fiber build out to small and medium businesses and in collaboration with private sector Internet Service Providers, the Connect NYC Project will be used to extend the fiber infrastructure available to commercial and industrial businesses in New York City.

$1,800,000 MTC Broadband Buildout
The MARK Project Inc. will serve municipalities in the Capital District, Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier. The project will deliver telecommunications services, including broadband, voice and video services, to 900 residents, businesses, and anchor institutions within the unserved areas of the towns of Conesville, Gilboa, Halcott, Middletown, and Roxbury. The project will also offer broadband connectivity to community anchor institutions within the service area free of charge.

$1,999,584 Parish Broadband
This project with New Visions Communications will serve the Central New York region. The project will utilize existing infrastructure to provide high-speed internet, VoIP and cable television to the Town of Parish, where 72% of the population does not have access to broadband, VoIP or landline cable television. The project will also create 20 construction jobs and 6 permanent jobs.

$2,042,177 Connecting the Capital Region
Hudson Valley Wireless will provide high-speed fixed wireless broadband access to nearly 40,000 households and 2,000 businesses that currently do not have access in Washington and Rensselaer Counties. In addition, the network will enhance public safety operations in the region by enabling redundancy of public safety communications and by allowing municipalities to use a portion of the bandwidth at no cost.

$2,162,656 Schroon Lake Next Generation Broadband
This project with Slic Network Solutions will serve the North Country region. Slic Networks Solutions will provide high-speed, low-cost broadband service to 457 households in the unserved areas of the Town of Schroon and the Town of North Hudson. This service will be delivered utilizing fiber to the home technology. Slic will also provide wireless hot spots for frequently visited public locations including the public beach in Schroon Lake.

$2,216,000 Tompkins and Cayuga Counties Last Mile Coverage
This project with Clarity Connect Inc. is a multi-region project serving the Central New York and Southern Tier regions. This project leverages existing tower infrastructure to provide broadband services to the unserved portions of the Towns of Ulysses, Enfield, Newfield, Danby, Groton, Lansing, Ledyard, Genoa, Venice, Scipio, Niles, Sempronius, and Summerhill in Cayuga and Tompkins County. The project will also upgrade DSL services increasing existing speeds.

$2,407,049 Yates County Open Access Fiber Network
This project with Yates County will serve the Finger Lakes region. The Open Access Fiber Network will build and operate a fiber-optic ring with spurs to remote areas within the County of Yates. This network will serve as a backbone foundation for the development of community-based broadband initiatives. The open access fiber network will be 68 miles long, passing 10,400 households and available for use within each town it routes through.

$5,266,979 Statewide Broadband Expansion
The Statewide Broadband Expansion Project is a statewide project serving 9 regions. Time Warner Cable will deploy robust high-speed Internet service to 4,114 households in the Capital, Central, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, NYC, North Country, Southern Tier and Western regions of New York State. The project will also provide residents with access to digital TV, telephone services and security services.

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Windstream’s Lousy Performance in Georgia Sparks Facebook Protest Group, Media Scrutiny

windstream-logoWhile Windstream continues to heavily lobby the Georgia legislature for a bill that would ban competition from publicly owned broadband providers, the company is doing little to address the growing concerns of its own broadband customers getting poor service.

Mark Wyatt, a Windstream customer fed up with not getting the broadband speeds he pays for, launched a Facebook group in January to collect evidence and attempt to leverage the company to fix its problems. Wyatt, like many other customers in rural Georgia, has only one option for broadband service — Windstream.

Now the growing Facebook group has gotten attention from an Atlanta reporter who wants customers to record videos detailing their broadband problems with Windstream for an upcoming news report.

Jeff Chirico at WGCL-TV, the Atlanta CBS affiliate, has a call out for videos due by March 6:

I’m a reporter for CBS Atlanta News. I want to hear from Windstream customers in Georgia about their experiences with the company’s Internet service. Please shoot a video (30 seconds or less) explaining the speed of Windstream’s service and how it impacts you, your family or your business. Please include your name and city and download it to our dropbox account. http://dropbox.yousendit.com/JamesEstes539379

Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @CBSATLChirico or find me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/JeffChiricoCbsAtlanta

windstream speedtestThe horror stories are already clear all over Windstream’s service areas:

Don Jackson, who lives outside Milledgeville pays Windstream for 6/1Mbps service. On a good day, he gets 750kbps after 4pm every day, and speeds do not improve until the early morning hours.

“I talked with a local manager and he said that there is no solution anytime soon,” Jackson reported. “I have screen shots of speed tests from different sites for months to demonstrate that this is not a fluke but a fact. I have complaints on file with the FCC and BBB of Arkansas, [which handles complaints regarding Windstream].”

Adam Ridley qualified and pays for 3Mbps broadband service from Windstream, but that is not the speed he actually receives.

“It’s 9:40pm and I’m rocking my 210kbps connection — 7% of the speed I pay for,” he reported last night.

Rodney Gray pays Windstream a premium for 12Mbps service, but the phone company does not come close to delivering those speeds. His service actually ranges from 580kbps-1.4Mbps.

“My upload speed is faster than my download,” Gray complains.

A representative answering Windstream’s Complaint Line threatens a customer in Odum,. Ga. with legal action for “harassment” in June, 2012 after he complaints about Windstream’s mailers advertising DSL Internet service that is actually “not available to him this year.” (2 minutes)
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Kimberly Brown’s broadband problems with Windstream are so pervasive, even the company admits there is a problem, and they have given her service credits.

“Our primary problem is dropped connections — constantly,” Brown says. “They sent a technician out because surely it must be in our lines. He told us that there is something going on in one of the main hubs or whatever, and that it should be months (if ever) that it’s fixed. Then, customer service was suddenly able to look into our account and see that we had hundreds of dropped connections in just a few days. Hundreds. To their credit, they did give us a smallish break on our monthly bill because of the aggravation.”

broke windstreamA typical day for the Brown family is to wake up, reset the modem, send an e-mail or two, reset the modem, try to go to a web page, reset the modem.

“It’s crazy and extremely frustrating,” says Brown. “I work from home and rely heavily on the Internet to get my job done, so this problem affects us in many ways, not just casual web surfing.”

Things are worse for Mark B. Watson, who lost his service entirely for two days.

“The bad thing is that mine and my wife’s business is located in our house,” says Watson. “Being without Internet means we are not making an income for two days. It is getting old.”

While Windstream’s broadband service is suffering, company executives are celebrating a planned major reduction in extra investment in its broadband service, telling Wall Street its broadband expansion and fiber-for-cell-tower projects are nearing completion. That could leave rural Georgia broadband customers without improved service indefinitely.

At the same time, Windstream is reportedly the primary proponent of legislation that would make sure rural Georgians have no alternatives to choose from. The company’s support for HB 282, now working through the Georgia legislature, would prohibit communities from launching their own broadband services to improve connectivity and speeds.

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