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AT&T Replacing Storm/Wildfire Damaged Copper Wiring With Fiber Optics

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 AT&T, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Verizon 1 Comment

AT&T is staying committed to its wireline network in the face of two significant natural disasters by replacing beyond-repair copper wiring with fiber optics.

The phone company has recently notified the Federal Communications Commission its existing facilities in parts of California that were damaged by last year’s wildfires will be replaced by fiber optic infrastructure.

Fierce Telecom notes customers affected by the Nuns, Tubbs, Redwood and Sulphur fires will be served by a new optical fiber network in portions of Sonoma, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, and Lower Lake.

“The circuits will be transferred to fiber based NGDLC systems,” AT&T said in a FCC filing. “The transfer of these circuits does not compromise the capacity of the cabinets.”

In Florida, as a result of last September’s Hurricane Irma, AT&T will migrate its irreparably damaged copper wire network that strings throughout the Florida Keys to a new fiber to the home network.

AT&T’s decision to maintain its wired networks comes in contrast to Verizon’s 2013 attempt to scrap its copper facilities on Fire Island, N.Y. and certain New Jersey barrier islands left devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Verizon hoped to replace traditional landline service with a wireless alternative known as VoiceLink. A firestorm of protests over the service’s limitations, sound quality, and reliability forced Verizon to scrap the plan in New York and install its FiOS fiber-to-the-home network instead.

New Verizon FiOS Triple Play Customers Get Free Netflix for a Year

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Verizon No Comments

To celebrate the addition of Netflix to Verizon FiOS’ set top boxes, Verizon is giving new customers signing up online a free year of Netflix.

The lowest priced promotional package that includes the Netflix offer combines Verizon’s Custom TV package, 150/150 Mbps broadband, and Unlimited Nationwide Calling phone service for $79.99 a month. The free Netflix offer still applies if a customer chooses to upgrade certain elements of their package at a higher price. A 2-year contact applies with an early termination fee. Consult the Verizon website for more details.

Verizon FiOS TV customers can watch Netflix by tuning to channel 838 and authenticating their Netflix subscription by logging in. Once signed in, FiOS customers can access Netflix without having to use a streaming device or Smart TV.

The deal is valid for both new and existing Netflix customers, and is a savings of $10.99 a month for 12 months.

Verizon does offer some fine print, however:

Offer avail. 1/18 – 4/18. Valid for 12 mos. of Netflix service on the $10.99/mo. “2 Screen Streaming Plan” (total value of $131.88). New or existing Netflix subscription & compatible device req’d. and must maintain qualifying FiOS services for 60 days after installation, with no past-due balance. A one-time bill credit of $131.88 will be applied directly to customer’s Netflix account. Must be redeemed by 8/31/18. Not redeemable or refundable for cash. Value may be applied to a different Netflix streaming plan; exchanges in this manner may alter the duration of the offer. Netflix Service price plans subject to change. Not available to subscribers billed through iTunes or Google play unless subscriber begins a new subscription billed via alternate payment provider or via Netflix.com.

 

YouTube TV Gets Turner Networks and More Sports Channels… and a $5 Price Hike

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, YouTube TV No Comments

YouTube TV is adding seven new basic cable networks owned by Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting to its lineup along with NBA TV and the MLB Network.

The new TW/Turner Network channels — TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies, along with more sports programming, will also mean a $5 a month rate hike for the streaming service, effective March 13.

Existing YouTube TV customers and those signing up before the rate increase takes effect will be spared the price increase, paying $35 a month for the service instead of the $40 rate charged new customers next month.

YouTube TV has focused much of its attention in the last year on getting local broadcast stations on its lineup, and now has a complete assortment of NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX affiliates in dozens of TV markets. One of the reasons cord-cutters are reluctant to cancel their cable subscription is the loss of local stations, but YouTube TV has managed to overcome that roadblock for many subscribers.

The service has spent much of its annual budget on sports channels, which are usually the most costly basic cable networks. The addition of Time Warner, Inc./Turner Broadcasting cable networks came as a result of subscriber demand. Time Warner, fighting the Department of Justice over its proposed acquisition by AT&T, will likely use the new agreement as additional evidence the company is not withholding popular cable programming from AT&T’s competitors.

YouTube TV offers a 7-day free trial, after which subscribers are charged $35 a month. If interested in the service, now is the time to subscribe before it costs $60 more a year.

Verizon Thumbs Its Nose at FCC: Will Lock Smartphones Despite Agreement Prohibiting It

Verizon Wireless, ignoring its agreement with the Federal Communications Commission not to lock handsets, will soon stop selling unlocked phones, at least temporarily preventing customers from taking their phones to another carrier or overseas without Verizon’s consent.

Verizon’s ‘SIM Lockdown’ is expected to begin later this year in a move Verizon is calling a “theft control measure.”

Verizon Wireless is the only major carrier that does not lock its smartphones, but that policy was agreed to as a condition of its acquisition of 700 MHz spectrum licenses in 2008, which included a prohibition on phone locking. But Verizon seems to think its new locking policy doesn’t break any rules or that nobody will care.

“We’re taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud. These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals,” Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, said in a statement to CNET.

After the change takes effect, Verizon Wireless customers will find their new handsets locked and unable to be used with other carriers until activated on a new or existing Verizon Wireless account. After that, Verizon says it will still keep the phone locked for an unspecified waiting period to prevent cell phone thieves from stealing a phone, activating it with a stolen identity, and then selling it for profit. Verizon won’t say exactly when customers will be able to get their devices unlocked.

With an industry friendly Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon may be attempting to test the waters to see if it can successfully walk away from its agreement with the FCC without penalty or even win itself a waiver. But FCC rules don’t appear to give Verizon the leeway it needs to unilaterally act:

§ 27.16 Network access requirements for Block C in the 746-757 and 776-787 MHz bands.

(a)Applicability. This section shall apply only to the authorizations for Block C in the 746-757 and 776-787 MHz bands assigned and only if the results of the first auction in which licenses for such authorizations are offered satisfied the applicable reserve price.

(b)Use of devices and applications. Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, except:

(1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the management or protection of the licensee’s network, or

(2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

(c)Technical standards. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1) of this section:

(1) Standards shall include technical requirements reasonably necessary for third parties to access a licensee’s network via devices or applications without causing objectionable interference to other spectrum users or jeopardizing network security. The potential for excessive bandwidth demand alone shall not constitute grounds for denying, limiting or restricting access to the network.

(2) To the extent a licensee relies on standards established by an independent standards-setting body which is open to participation by representatives of service providers, equipment manufacturers, application developers, consumer organizations, and other interested parties, the standards will carry a presumption of reasonableness.

(3) A licensee shall publish its technical standards, which shall be non-proprietary, no later than the time at which it makes such standards available to any preferred vendors, so that the standards are readily available to customers, equipment manufacturers, application developers, and other parties interested in using or developing products for use on a licensee’s networks.

(d)Access requests.

(1) Licensees shall establish and publish clear and reasonable procedures for parties to seek approval to use devices or applications on the licensees’ networks. A licensee must also provide to potential customers notice of the customers’ rights to request the attachment of a device or application to the licensee’s network, and notice of the licensee’s process for customers to make such requests, including the relevant network criteria.

(2) If a licensee determines that a request for access would violate its technical standards or regulatory requirements, the licensee shall expeditiously provide a written response to the requester specifying the basis for denying access and providing an opportunity for the requester to modify its request to satisfy the licensee’s concerns.

(e)Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers, to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee’s standards pursuant to paragraph (b)of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers’ networks.

(f)Burden of proof. Once a complainant sets forth a prima facie case that the C Block licensee has refused to attach a device or application in violation of the requirements adopted in this section, the licensee shall have the burden of proof to demonstrate that it has adopted reasonable network standards and reasonably applied those standards in the complainant’s case. Where the licensee bases its network restrictions on industry-wide consensus standards, such restrictions would be presumed reasonable.

Verizon’s old unlocking policy.

Verizon does not need to lock phones to control stolen device trafficking. An earlier initiative by the wireless industry tracks stolen phone IMEI and other identification numbers that are needed to activate service. If a carrier gets a request to activate service on a phone or device with a suspect IMEI number, the carrier can refuse service, rendering the phone useless on the stolen goods market. But Verizon may have other motives in mind.

“This is going to make it harder for rivals to poach subscribers from Verizon,” Avi Greengart, an analyst at Global Data, told CNET, because customers bringing their Verizon smartphones to other carriers may find they cannot use them on the competitor’s network. The phones also won’t work if a customer travels abroad and uses a SIM card purchased in the destination country, which could offer substantially lower rates than Verizon’s international calling and data plans or roaming.

Few consumers would be willing to buy new phones for $600+ just to switch carriers, a fact Verizon is likely well aware will keep customers loyal to them.

C Spire Partners With Entergy to Bring Fiber Service, Smart Grid to Rural Mississippi

Phillip Dampier February 13, 2018 Broadband Speed, C Spire, Consumer News, Rural Broadband No Comments

C Spire, an independent wireless company providing service in the southern United States is partnering with electric utility Entergy to jointly construct a new fiber optic network in remote sections of Mississippi to manage an electric smart grid and fiber broadband service.

C Spire will own and build the network, with Entergy contributing construction costs, according to C Spire vice president of government relations Ben Moncrief. The partnership grants Entergy leasing rights to use the fiber optic network to develop smart grid technology for rural Mississippi electric customers. Five individual fiber routes will be build, each with a capacity of 144 or more strands of fiber. Entergy will have exclusive use of its own fiber strands, but C Spire will get most of the capacity to power its backhaul facilities, including its network of cell towers, and eventually deploy the network for commercial and institutional users, with the possibility of expanding service to home and small businesses customers if there is adequate demand.

The fiber network will be uncharacteristically placed in some of the most rural parts of the state’s push to redevelop its rural economy to support digital businesses. C Spire itself has been in transition over the last five years, diversifying its core cellular business into fiber to the home broadband, phone, and television service targeting underserved, smaller communities across the state.

“A robust broadband infrastructure is critical to the success of our efforts to move Mississippi forward by growing the economy, fostering innovation, creating job opportunities and improving the quality of life for all our residents,” said Hu Meena, CEO of C Spire.

C Spire/Entergy Mississippi’s new fiber project

The construction project will involve placing fiber optic cable along five separate routes:

  • Delta: 92 miles of fiber through Sunflower, Humphreys, Madison and Hinds counties and near the cities of Indianola, Inverness, Isola, Belzoni, Silver City, Yazoo City, Bentonia, Flora and Jackson.
  • North: 51 miles in Attala, Leake and Madison counties, including the communities of McAdams, Kosciusko and Canton.
  • Central: 33 miles in Madison, Rankin and Scott counties and near the towns of Canton, Sand Hill and Morton.
  • South: 77 miles passing through Simpson, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Walthall counties and near the towns of Magee, Prentiss, Silver Creek, Monticello and Tylertown.
  • Southwest: 49 miles in Franklin and Adams counties near Bude, Meadville, Roxie, Natchez and Eddiceton.

C Spire got the idea to collaborate with the electric utility after the Mississippi Public Service Commission inquired if Entergy’s plans to build a fiber optic smart grid network could also be used to develop improved broadband service for rural Mississippi. Entergy and C Spire decided to collaborate on the project to deliver both services over the same network.

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