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Rough Day for Internet: Fiber Issues, Amazon/AWS Outage, Vandalism Disrupts Service

WaveLogoSmallWest coast Internet users, particularly those around San Francisco and Sacramento, experienced major disruptions to the Internet last evening into this morning, affecting everything from cable television and phone service to popular online destinations including Amazon.com (and websites hosted by its AWS data service), Tinder, and Netflix.

The range of disruptions led to early media speculation a “coordinated attack” on the Internet was underway on the west coast, but a statement from the Sacramento field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation this morning clarified it was investigating only a single case of alleged intentional vandalism in the San Francisco area today.

The FBI suspects someone climbed down a manhole in Livermore early this morning and intentionally cut a high traffic fiber line owned by Level 3 and Zayo. This is not the first case of suspected vandalism. At least 10 other fiber line cuts in Fremont, Berkeley, San Jose, Alamo, and Walnut Creek have occurred in the Bay Area over the last year.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/USA Today FBI investigating 11 attacks on San Francisco-area Internet lines 7-1-15.flv

USA Today reports the FBI is now investigating the 11th intentional fiber cut in the San Francisco Bay area in 12 months. (1:18)

The hardest hit ISP was Wave Broadband in West Sacramento, Calif. The fiber outage wiped out cable, phone and broadband service for customers across Sacramento, Rocklin, and surrounding communities including Dixon.

livermoreA broader issue yesterday evening also affected customers beyond northern California. Amazon.com and websites using its AWS platform suddenly stopped responding between 5:24pm-6:10pm PT last night. But that issue was later determined to be an unrelated “route leak” from Axcelx, a data center provider in Boston.

Thousand Eyes reports that problem “affected a wide range of services including consumer internet sites like Yelp, Netflix and Match; SaaS services such as HipChat and Jobvite; and financial firms such as Experian and Zions Bank.”

Any report of fiber vandalism concerns security experts, who suggest terrorists could target the highly visible data cables and create massive telecommunications disruptions in the United States.

“When it’s situations that are scattered all in one geography, that raises the possibility that they are testing out capabilities, response times and impact,” JJ Thompson, CEO of Rook Security, told USA Today. “That is a security person’s nightmare.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCRA Sacramento Wave Broadband service restored after deliberate act 7-1-15.mp4

KCRA in Sacramento said the telecommunications outages in Sacramento were frustrating for businesses, residents, and local government — all affected by the fiber cut in San Francisco. (2:20)

Fiber cables are also often readily identifiable by their bright orange insulation as well as from warning signs alerting construction crews and others to their presence underground.

downdetect

DownDetector clearly identifies the impact of the fiber outage affecting Wave Broadband in the Sacramento area.

“There are flags and signs indicating to somebody who wants to do damage: This is where it is folks,” said Richard Doherty, research director of The Envisioneering Group, a technology assessment and market research firm. “You often have fiber from several companies sometimes going down the same street or the same trench. One attacker can dig one hole and wipe out service from three companies.”

The FBI is asking for the public’s help in identifying the vandal in the Bay Area. In addition to this morning’s attack, anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in these earlier attacks should contact them at 415-553-7400.

  • July 6, 2014, 9:44 p.m. near 7th and Grayson St. in Berkeley
  • July 6, 2014, 11:39 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont
  • July 7, 2014, 12:24 a.m. near Jones Road and Iron Horse Trail in Walnut Creek
  • July 7, 2014, 12:51 a.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont
  • July 7, 2014, 2:13 a.m. near Stockton Ave. and University Ave. in San Jose
  • February 24, 2014, 11:30 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont
  • February 24, 2014, 11:30 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont
  • June 8, 2015, 11:00 p.m. near Danville Blvd. and Rudgear Road in Alamo
  • June 8, 2015, 11:40 p.m. near Overacker Ave and Mowry Ave in Fremont
  • June 9, 2015, 1:38 p.m. near Jones Road and Parkside Dr. in Walnut Creek
http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KXTV Sacramento FBI Sacramento area internet outage result of vandalism 7-1-15.flv

KXTV in Sacramento reports the fiber cuts have immediate security and public safety implications for public officials. But network planners say no fiber cut should have disrupted so many customers and suggest better planning could have spared many from the service outage. (2:23)

Big City Telecom Infrastructure is Often Ancient: Conduits 70+ Years Old, Wiring from 1960s-1980s

A panel electromechanical switch similar to those in use in New York until the 1970s.

A panel electromechanical switch similar to those in use in New York until the 1970s. They were installed in the 1920s.

As late as the 1970s, New York Telephone (today Verizon) was still maintaining electromechanical panel switches in its telephone exchanges that were developed in the middle of World War I and installed in Manhattan between 1922-1930. Reliance on infrastructure 40-50 years old is nothing new for telephone companies across North America. A Verizon technician in New York City is just as likely to descend into tunnels constructed well before they were born as is a Bell technician in Toronto.

Slightly marring last week’s ambitious announcement Bell (Canada) was going to commence an upgrade to fiber to the home service across the Greater Toronto Area came word from a frank Bell technician in attendance who predicted Bell’s plans were likely to run into problems as workers deal with aging copper infrastructure originally installed by their fathers and grandfathers decades earlier.

The technician said some of the underground conduits he was working in just weeks earlier in Toronto’s downtown core were “easily 60-70 years old” and the existing optical fiber cables running through some of them were installed in the mid-1980s.

At least that conduit contained fiber. In many other cities, copper infrastructure from the 1960s-1980s is still in service, performing unevenly in some cases and not much at all in others.

Earlier this year, several hundred Verizon customers were without telephone service for weeks because of water intrusion into copper telephone cables, possibly amplified by the corrosive road salt dumped on New York streets to combat a severe winter. Verizon’s copper was down and out while its fiber optic network was unaffected. On the west coast, AT&T deals with similar outages caused by flooding. If that doesn’t affect service, copper theft might.

munifiber

Fiber optic cable

Telephone companies fight to get their money’s worth from infrastructure, no matter how old it is. Western Electric first envisioned the panel switches used in New York City telephone exchanges until the end of the Carter Administration back in 1916. It was all a part of AT&T’s revolutionary plan to move to subscriber-dialed calls, ending an era of asking an operator to connect you to another customer.

AT&T engineer W.G. Blauvelt wrote the plan that moved New York to fully automatic dialing. By 1930, every telephone exchange in Manhattan was served by a panel switch that allowed customers to dial numbers by themselves. But Blauvelt could not have envisioned that equipment would still be in use fifty years later.

As demand for telephones grew, the phone company did not expand its network of panel switches, which were huge – occupying entire buildings – loud, and very costly to maintain. It did not replace them either. Instead, newer exchanges got the latest equipment, starting with more modern Crossbar #1 switches in 1938. In the 1950s, Crossbar #5 arrived and it became a hit worldwide. Crossbar #5 switches usually stood alone or worked alongside older switching equipment in fast growing exchanges. It occupied less space, worked well without obsessive maintenance, and was reliable.

It was not until the 1970s that the Bell System decided to completely scrap their electromechanical switches in favor of newer electronic technology. The advantages were obvious — the newer equipment occupied a fraction of the space and had considerably more capacity than older switches. That became critical in New York starting in the late 1960s when customer demand for additional phone lines exploded. New York Telephone simply could not keep up with and waiting lists often grew to weeks as technicians looked for spare capacity. The Bell System’s answer to this growth was a new generation of electronic switches.

The #1 ESS was an analog electronic switch first introduced in New Jersey in 1965. Although it worked fine in smaller and medium-sized communities, the switch’s software bugs were notorious when traffic on the exchange reached peak loads. It was clear to New York Telephone the #1 ESS was not ready for Manhattan until the bugs were squashed.

Bell companies, along with some independent phone companies that depended on the same equipment, moved cautiously to begin upgrades. It would take North American phone companies until August 2001 to retire what was reportedly the last electromechanical switch, serving the small community of Nantes, Quebec.

ATT-New-York-central-office-fire-300x349

A notorious 1975 fire destroyed a phone exchange serving lower Manhattan. That was one way to guarantee an upgrade from New York Telephone.

On rare occasions, phone companies didn’t have much of a choice. The most notorious example of this was the Feb. 27, 1975 fire in the telephone exchange located at 204 Second Avenue and East 13th Street in New York. The five alarm fire destroyed the switching equipment and knocked out telephone service for 173,000 customers before 700 firefighters from 72 fire units managed to put the fire out more than 16 hours later. That fire is still memorialized today by New York firefighters because it injured nearly 300 of them. But the fire’s legacy continued for decades as long-term health effects, including cancer, from the toxic smoke would haunt those who fought it.

The New York Telephone building still stands and today also houses a street level Verizon Wireless retail store.

New York Telephone engineers initially rescued a decommissioned #1 Crossbar switch waiting to be melted down for scrap. It came from the West 18th Street office and was cleaned and repaired and put into emergency service until a #1 ESS switch originally destined for another central office was diverted. This part of Manhattan got its upgrade earlier for all the wrong reasons.

Throughout the Bell System in the 1970s and 80s, older switches were gradually replaced in favor of all electronic switches, especially the #5 ESS, introduced in 1982 and still widely in service today, serving about 50% of all landlines in the United States. Canadian telephone companies often favored telephone switches manufactured by Northern Telecom (Nortel), based in Mississauga, Ontario. They generally worked equally well as the American counterpart and are also in service in parts of the United States.

The legacy of more than 100 years of telephone service has made running old and new technology side by side nothing unusual for telephone companies. It has worked for them before, as has their belief in incremental upgrades. So Bell’s announcement it would completely blanket Toronto with all-fiber service is a departure from standard practice.

For Bell in Toronto, the gigabit upgrade will begin by pushing fiber cables through existing conduits that are also home to copper and fiber wiring still in service. If a conduit is blocked or lacks enough room to get new fiber cables through, the Bell technician predicted delays. It is very likely that sometime after fiber service is up and running, copper wire decommissioning will begin in Toronto. Whether those cables remain dormant underground and on phone poles for cost reasons or torn out and sold for scrap will largely depend on scrap copper prices, Bell’s budget, and possible regulator intervention.

But Bell’s upgrade will clearly be as important, if not more so, than the retirement of mechanical phone switches a few decades earlier. For the same reasons — decreased maintenance costs, increased capacity, better reliability, and the possibility to market new services for revenue generation make fiber just as good of an investment for Bell as electronic switches were in the 1970s and 1980s.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ATT Reconnecting 170000 Phone Customers in NYC After a Major Fire 1975.mp4

AT&T produced this documentary in the mid-1970s about how New York Telephone recovered from a fire that destroyed a phone exchange in lower Manhattan and wiped out service for 173,000 customers in 1975. The phone company managed to get service restored after an unprecedented three weeks. It gives viewers a look at the enormous size of old electromechanical switching equipment and masses of phone wiring. (22:40) 

Shameless Morning Joe/MSNBC Puff Piece on Comcast Founder Ralph Roberts

Phillip Dampier June 25, 2015 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Video 3 Comments
Roberts

Roberts

Although perhaps understandable that MSNBC (owned by Comcast) would report on the death Ralph Roberts, the founder of America’s largest cable operator, some thought Joe Scarborough went too far in a nearly seven minute puff piece about Roberts on Morning Joe, recounting the history of Comcast and its founder.

“Tupelo, Mississippi. That was our introduction to the cable business,” Roberts said. “I didn’t pay too much attention to Tupelo because I didn’t know anything about cable — I didn’t even know what it was. And Tupelo, nobody ever heard of that except I later found out it was the birthplace of Elvis Presley.”

Scarborough was very friendly about Comcast, calling it “a family” he was proud to work for.

Roberts went on to say he raised his kids to go forth and do whatever gives them the greatest happiness and don’t worry about what anyone says about it.

“I wanted to throw up,” said Stop the Cap! reader Joe Weigel. “Comcast is a family, but so are the ‎Gambinos, the ‎Bonannos and the ‎Luccheses. Maybe that goes a little far and I feel bad when anyone passes away and hold nothing against the patriarch of the Roberts family on this sad occasion. But what the hell is NBC News thinking running a seven minute puff piece about the founder of the most-hated corporation in America without bothering to mention that fact? I’m more angry about that than anything.”

“They have all that airtime and tell a very one-sided tale about a family whose ethics in the cable business is frankly to do whatever gives them the greatest happiness and not worry about what anyone says about it,” Weigel adds. “That isn’t news and it’s shameful for a news channel to discard any standards in journalism and produce a story that doesn’t even try to tell the whole story. Viewers deserved better.”

Roberts died June 18th. He was 95.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/MSNBC Comcast Lovefest 6-25-15.mp4

Morning Joe aired a very gracious piece about the founder of the most-hated corporation in America. Ralph Roberts founded Comcast in 1963. He died last week at the age of 95. MSNBC is wholly owned by Comcast. (6:49)

Gigabit Fever Hits Toronto: Bell Introducing Gigabit Fiber Internet Across Entire GTA

bellBell Canada will invest $1.14 billion to bring gigabit fiber to the home service to more than one million homes and apartments in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) over the next three years.

It will be the largest fiber build ever attempted in North America, and will serve every home and business in the GTA, beginning with 50,000 homes and businesses that will be upgraded to all-fiber service this summer.

“This is something that quite frankly none of us could have imagined just a few years ago,” Bell Canada president and CEO George Cope said at a press conference this morning. “This will be 20 times faster (than average Internet speeds) and it really is building for the consumer what large, large enterprise would have had just a few years ago for their corporations.”

gtaToronto will be the fastest broadband city in North, Central, and South America when Bell is finished laying 9,000 kilometers of fiber underground and on 80,000 Bell and Toronto Hydro utility poles. At least 27 Bell telephone exchanges will be fully upgraded to 100% fiber service, eliminating huge swaths of older copper wiring. At least 2,400 new jobs will be created, but Bell and Toronto city officials are convinced an all-fiber optic network will attract even more jobs and help broaden Toronto’s digital economy.

Bell’s project in Toronto will be vastly larger than AT&T U-verse with GigaPower, Comcast’s 2Gbps fiber service, and Google Fiber because:

  • It will actually exist, unlike fiber to the press release announcements of phantom fiber upgrades from Comcast and AT&T that serve only a miniscule number of customers;
  • Will not rely on “fiberhoods” and will deliver fiber service to every home and business and every neighborhood across the entire GTA.

No pricing has yet been announced but Bell promised it would be competitive with other gigabit broadband projects in North America. That likely means Toronto residents will pay between $70-100 a month for gigabit service. No details about usage caps or allowances were included in the announcement.

Bell is already upgrading some of its existing Fibe network in other cities to deliver gigabit speeds on a more limited basis in Atlantic Canada (Bell Aliant) and in select cities in Ontario and Quebec as part of a $20 billion network upgrade.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CP24 Bell Gigabit Announcement 6-25-15.flv

CP24 carried this morning’s press conference introducing Bell Gigabit Internet across Toronto. (19:51)

Premium Hulu Customers Can Buy Showtime at a Discount: $8.99/Month

Phillip Dampier June 24, 2015 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Video 1 Comment

showtimeCustomers paying $7.99 a month for what used to be called Hulu Plus will be able to add Showtime to their Hulu subscription for an extra $8.99 a month — two dollars less than what Showtime will charge Apple TV and other online video customers.

Showtime Networks’ online streaming service will launch in early July for $10.99 a month, $4 less than HBO Now, which charges $14.99. But Hulu customers will get an extra 18 percent discount if they bundle Showtime with Hulu’s premium option.

huluTM_355Hulu customers who subscribe to Showtime will have access to every Showtime original series ever produced along with Showtime’s full catalog of the same movies, documentaries, specials and sports programming available to cable television customers. Hulu will also carry the east and west coast feeds of Showtime’s primary channel for those who want to watch live events.

The partnership is designed to strengthen Hulu’s competitive position against Netflix and Amazon’s video services.

Showtime CEO Matt Blank doubts Showtime’s online streaming service will cannibalize its existing subscriber base, although most satellite and cable providers charge at least $5 more per month for the premium movie channel ($13.99-16.99 through most cable/telco/satellite providers).

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Showtime CEO Broadband-Only Customers Are an Opportunity 6-4-15.flv

Showtime CEO Matt Blank explains to Bloomberg News why selling Showtime online for $10.99 a month ($8.99 for premium Hulu customers) will not hurt existing distributors like cable and satellite providers. (4:22)

So Much for Competition: Rogers to Buy Independent Mobilicity to Use in Tax Savings Scheme

mobilicityMobilicity, a struggling independent wireless carrier serving some of Canada’s largest cities, will end its efforts to compete with larger wireless companies if a court approves its sale to Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest mobile operator.

Late this afternoon, sources told The Globe and Mail Mobilicity accepted an offer from Rogers in excess of $400 million to acquire the wireless company’s assets and transfer some of its wireless spectrum to Wind Mobile Corp., one of the last remaining Canadian independent carriers, to appease regulators, who could still block a deal with Rogers.

The federal government’s wireless telecom policy has stressed the importance of having at least four wireless providers competing in every region. Wind has managed to achieve that in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, but lacks enough coverage elsewhere. Mobilicity landed itself in financial trouble soon after launch, finding the costs of network construction high for a company with below-expected customer numbers.

rogers logoMobilicity has been under creditor protection since September 2013 and has only managed to keep 157,000 active customers on its discount cellular network. Rogers is said to be interested in Mobilicity primarily as part of a tax write-off strategy. Mobilicity had non-capital loss carry forwards of $567-million by the end of 2013, which offers Rogers a reduction in its tax bill of about 25 to 30% of that amount.

Observers predict Mobilicity could continue for a time, if in name only, as part of Rogers’ larger portfolio of wireless brands. Rogers already controls two other Canadian wireless brands: Fido and Chatr.

As late as yesterday, Rogers and Telus were both fighting to acquire Mobilicity after it became clear there would be no “white knight” for Mobilicity that would satisfy competition regulators or creditors. Telus attempted an acquisition twice, only to be rebuffed by the Competition Bureau. A last-ditch effort by Wind Mobile to acquire its comparatively sized competitor was a flop with creditors who expected a higher bid.

Mobilicity’s network coverage was always one of its biggest challenges. The company only managed to offer direct coverage in parts of the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa/Gatineau, Calgary, Edmonton, and Greater Vancouver. Mobilicity’s network also relied on very high frequencies that had a challenging time penetrating buildings, and its lack of network densification led to complaints about dropped calls and poor coverage overall.

The disposition of an earlier plan submitted by employees and Mobilicity’s founder to transform the company into an MVNO — providing independent wireless service using its acquirer’s network, isn’t known at press time.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/BNN Clock ticking on Rogers and Telus to conclude Mobilicity takeover 6-22-15.flv

As late as yesterday, BNN was reporting Telus and Rogers were both competing to acquire Mobilicity. It appears Rogers has won. (2:23)

Switzerland Moving Into World’s Top 10: Competition Forces Major Broadband Upgrades

upc_cablecom_logoJohn Malone’s cable systems in Europe share little in common with what Americans get from their local cable company. In Switzerland, Liberty-owned UPC Cablecom charges $95 a month for 250/15Mbps service — a speed Charter Communications customers cannot buy at any price. Liberty is Charter’s biggest investor/partner. Later this month, Swiss cable customers will be able to buy 500Mbps from UPC. When implemented, that is expected to push Switzerland’s broadband speed rankings into the global top-10. Currently Switzerland is rated #11. The United States is #28 and Canada is ranked #34.

UPC’s primary competitor  — telephone company Swisscom — is aggressively upgrading its facilities with its eye on offering G.fast, the latest version of DSL capable of delivering up to 500Mbps across 200-300 meters of old copper phone wiring, making it suitable for fiber to the neighborhood deployments similar to AT&T U-verse or Bell’s Fibe. Swisscom is also expanding fiber to the home service on a more limited basis, offering customers 1,000/1,000Mbps service on that network.

Tveter

Tveter

Why all the upgrades? Competition in the Swiss broadband marketplace.

If Swisscom can offer gigabit broadband speeds, then so can UPC Cablecom, claims its CEO Eric Tveter.

“We can offer every customer across the country the same speeds,” Tveter told the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper. “At the end of June, we will introduce new Internet speeds of 500Mbps. Demand for [fiber’s] symmetrical speeds is still very low among residential customers, but if demand increases we will offer them.”

Customers looking for gigabit speed would likely have to sign up as a commercial customer of UPC for now. But the company is preparing to introduce DOCSIS 3.1 which will allow the existing cable network to easily deliver gigabit speeds to residential customers. In fact, Tveter is looking at introducing 10Gbps speeds in Switzerland in the coming years.

Tveter aggressively criticized some of his biggest competitors for using marketing-speak to promote “new” products UPC already offers.

swisscom_logo_detailSome providers have promoted “cloud-based” on-demand access to video that Tveter says has been available from the cable company for several years.

This year, UPC Swisscom has been reassuring customers it does not allow America’s National Security Agency to spy on its customers and has taken measures to keep Chinese intelligence agents and hackers out of its network. The Swiss courts have made it clear they want nothing to do with NSA spying and permit operators to take any and all steps to keep unauthorized American and Chinese agencies from penetrating Swiss telecommunications.

Tveter points out all Swiss networks use equipment manufactured by U.S. and Chinese companies, but there are no indications either government has forced manufacturers to give back-door access to that equipment for surveillance or espionage purposes.

UPC Cablecom also voluntarily adheres to Net Neutrality principles for its Swiss customers.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Swisscom fibre optic network 2014.mp4

Swisscom shows the advantages of its fiber to the home network. (1:54)

French Economic Minister to Patrick “The Slasher” Drahi: No “Too Big to Fail” Telecoms Here

logo-bouygues-telecomToday’s offer by Altice SA to spent $11 billion to acquire France’s Bouygues Telecom and combine it with Altice-owned Numericable-SFR to create France’s largest wireless operator is not playing well in some quarters of the French government.

Patrick Drahi’s announcement he was borrowing the money to finance the deal worried France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who felt Drahi’s leverage game in the mergers and acquisitions business came with a massive debt load that could have major implications on French taxpayers.

“I don’t want to create a too-big-to-fail player with such a leverage and it’s my role to … deliver such a message,” Macron said. ”If the biggest telecom operator blows up, guess what, who will pay for that? The government, which means the citizens.”

Macron is partly referring to the upcoming French wireless spectrum auction that will make more wireless frequencies available to the wireless industry. The proceeds will be paid to the French government and a default by Altice could have major implications.

Macron

Macron

Macron, himself a one-time investment banker at the Rothschild Group, said he was not fooled for a moment by Drahi’s claims the merger would benefit French consumers, especially at the overvalued price Drahi was willing to pay. Macron estimates Drahi has offered almost double the total market value of Bouygues Telecom, a conglomerate that also includes road construction and maintenance, commercial construction and television businesses — all elements Drahi would likely discard after the merger.

“All the synergies which could justify such a price are in fact about killing jobs,” Mr. Macron said. “At the end of the day, is it good for the economy? The answer is ‘no’.”

The merger deal is probably not good news for consumers either. France’s ongoing wireless price war among the four current competitors has reduced the cost of wireless service to as little as $3 a month since low-cost player Iliad broke into the French mobile market three years ago.

Virtually every French telecom analyst predicted the merger would be the beginning of the end of France’s cheap wireless service. Investors cheered the news, predicting higher priced wireless service would boost the value of their stock and increase profitability, while reducing costs. The deal’s defenders said ending the price war would attract necessary investments to upgrade French wireless networks and limit the impact of a bidding war for new wireless spectrum.

Drahi's style of indebting Altice while slashing expenses at acquired companies has earned him suspicion from French officials.

Drahi’s style of indebting Altice while slashing expenses at acquired companies has earned him suspicion from French officials.

Drahi’s style of doing business again raised concerns among several members of the French government. Drahi is notorious for severely slashing expenses at the companies he acquires, usually firing large numbers of middle managers and “redundant employees” and alienating those that remain.

But vendors complain they are treated even worse than Drahi’s employees. Electricity has been cut at Drahi-owned facilities for non-payment, employees have been expected to bring their own toilet paper to the office, and copying machines have been known to run out of toner and paper after office supply firms went unpaid for months.

After his $23 billion acquisition of SFR, the country’s second largest mobile operator, Drahi ordered SFR to stop paying suppliers’ outstanding invoices until vendors and suppliers agreed to massive discounts of as much as 80% on current and future invoices. A government mediator was forced to intervene.

Macron doubts Drahi has the interest or the financial resources to invest in Bouygues’ telecom business. Drahi has already indebted Altice with a spending spree of more than $40 billion over the last year acquiring Suddenlink Communications, SFR, and Portugal Telecom.

Drahi’s acquisition machine is fueled by “cheap debt” available from investment bankers looking for deals to meet investors’ demands for better yields from corporate bonds. Safer investments have faltered as interest rates have fallen into negative territory in parts of Europe.

alticeFrench lawmakers, particularly those aligned with France’s labor unions, accuse Drahi of acting like a bulimic debtor and feared his splurge would eventually lead to a banker-forced purge and government bailout if he cannot meet his debt obligations in the future.

“If I stop my so-called bulimic development, I won’t have any debt five years from now. That’s idiotic, I won’t have any growth for five years,” Drahi curtly replied. “I think it’s better to continue to produce growth all while keeping a foot close to the brakes and looking in the rear-view mirror.”

Finance Minister Michel Sapin scoffed at the apparent recklessness of America’s J.P. Morgan and France’s BNP Paribas investment banks who readily agreed to offer financing for the deal, despite Drahi’s existing debt.

“We must be careful not to base an empire on the sands of debt,” he warned.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Reuters French government hardens stance on Altice bid for Bouygues Telecom 6-22-15.flv

Reuters reports Altice may be vastly overpaying for Bouygues Telecom and that has the French government concerned about creating a “too big to fail” telecom operator in France. (2:04)

Got a Call from 866-694-8573? Don’t Fall for the “Comcast Loyalty Rewards” Scam

scamA group misrepresenting itself as part of Comcast is offering customers substantial discounts on cable and broadband service, if they agree to pay in advance. Customers accepting the offer don’t get any upgrades and lose their money.

Stop the Cap! reader Don Nelson alerted us that a group calling itself the “Loyalty Rewards Department of Comcast” has called residents in Comcast service areas offering huge discounts and upgrades on cable and Internet service for as little as $80 a month.

Nelson was offered Extreme 105 Internet, HD Premier with an X1 set-top box, Unlimited Phone, and HBO, Starz, Showtime & Cinemax for $79.99 for 24 months if he agreed to pay $239.97 to cover the first three months of the promotion in advance. If he was willing to prepay for six months, Nelson would also receive a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet as a gift. It sounded like a great deal. Comcast’s own website sells the same package for $159.99 a month for 24 months with a two-year contract.

“It’s a very slick operation and they have your personal information and exactly what services you receive from Comcast, so I strongly suspect Comcast’s systems have been breached or some of their employees are involved in the scam,” Nelson said.

When he told the representative it sounded like a deal too good to be true, Nelson was reassured he was speaking with Comcast by telling him his account number and current level of service, including the number and types of set-top boxes already in his home. They knew his street address and had two phone numbers on file, a fact that now bothers Nelson because one of them was an old throwaway prepaid cell phone number he gave Comcast five years ago when he signed up to avoid future telemarketing calls.

“Only four companies had that phone number, including Comcast, and now so do these guys,” Nelson told us. “Something is wrong at Comcast for these scammers to have this information.”

Comcast-LogoAs an extra assurance of good faith, the Indian-accented representative invited Nelson to call him back at 866-694-8573 — the same number displayed on Nelson’s Caller ID.

“Most of these scammers go fishing for your personal information, but the person I talked to didn’t ask me any personal details at all because he already had them,” Nelson said. “When I called back, the interactive system that answered sounded professional and authentic, with options to make a payment and report service problems.”

What started to raise Nelson’s suspicion was exactly how the “Loyalty Rewards Department of Comcast” expected to be paid.

Nelson was told he shouldn’t visit Comcast to make a payment, read his credit card number over the phone, or send a check in the mail. Instead, he was asked to acquire a Green Dot MoneyPak “Scratchable Prepaid Card” at his local CVS, Walgreens, or Kmart and load it with the expected pre-payment. Instead of mailing that card to the “Loyalty Department,” he was supposed to call back and read the numbers off the back of the Green Dot card.

“I was assured everything was okay and this was a co-promotion between Green Dot and Comcast that covered part of the cost of the cable deal I was getting,” Nelson said. “But that sounded strange and I requested an email confirmation to make sure I understood the offer.”

The “Loyalty Department” did, in fact, send an email “verification,” which only further raised suspicion because of its word choices and lack of familiarity with common colloquial expressions. The grammatical errors did not inspire confidence either:

No legitimate company will advise you to buy a prepaid card to make a payment.

No legitimate company will tell you to buy a prepaid card to make a payment. Scammers cannot afford to accept standard credit cards that can and will be traced back to them eventually.

Dear Customer,

Good Day!

This email refers to the promotion on your current/new services with Comcast Xfinity, this promotion offers you free upgrades in your existing (new services)services of Comcast.

With this up gradation you will be having i.e.

i) Up to 105Mbps download speed. This package gives you liberty to enjoy unlimited uploading and downloading with no fair usage policy applicable.

ii) The upgraded cable package will be Digital HD Premier Package with 260 digital channels with 40 premium movies and 25 sports packages.

iii) The upgraded Comcast voice package will give you unlimited Nationwide and North American talk and text.

A quick review of the available programming is mentioned below:

FAMILY CHANNEL:
ABC Family, Bloomberg TV, A&E, Cartoon network, Disney, Bravo, E!  etc.
MOVIE CHANNEL:
Action Max, AMC, HBO, CINEMAX, STARZ, SHOWTIME, HALLMARK, ENCORE etc.
SPORT CHANNEL:
Big Ten Network, CBS College Sports, ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, NFL, NHL, NBA etc
NEWS CHANNEL:
ABC News, Weather, BBC, C SPAN, CNBC, FOX NEWS etc.

fraud

Green Dot offers this fraud advisory.

Payment Procedure:

This promotion is applicable once you prepay your account for $239.97 (good for 03 months).

As this promotion is brought to you with the Co-operation of Green Dot Inc.

So you have to pay Comcast for the promotion with Money Pak billing card by following 3 simple steps:

i) Go to any of your favorite leading chain store’s checkout counter e.g. CVS Pharmacy, Kroger, Walgreens’ 7/11, Kmart, Circle K, Rite Aid, RadioShack etc, and get Green Dot Money Pak Scratch-able prepaid card (This is a hard paper twofold card without any plastic wrapping in the color green)
ii) Carry enough cash. You can’t use your debit or credit card to buy this Card. ($4.95 Service fee applicable on top of your billing)
iii) Call back the Billing department of Comcast Xfinity at 1-866-694-8573 and pay your bill using that card.

This is a contract free offer for 24 months, with a fix monthly bill of $79.99 after the first three months of Subscription.

Bonus offer: If you are able to clear your billings within 24 hours,  you will automatically will be qualified to earn 100 Loyalty Reward points as good as cash from Comcast Xfinity that can be redeemed by you any time to get one month of extra services.

Bonus offer: If you are able to pay for 06 months of service up front, you will be qualified to receive a Samsung Galaxy Tab® 4 tablet free.

Please feel free to contact for further queries from 8am till 6:30pm PST (Operational timings) at 1-866-694-8573.

Regards,
David Clarke
Employee ID LHM
Loyalty Rewards Department
Comcast Xfinity

*  30 Days money back guarantee. No cancellation or recurring fee applied.

This is a service-related email. Comcast will occasionally send you service-related emails to inform you of service changes, upgrades or new benefits. Services and features are subject to Comcast’s standard terms and conditions of service and are subject to change. Copyright 2015 Comcast. All other trademarks are properties of their respective owners. Comcast respects your privacy.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Green Dot BBB MoneyPak Scams What You Need to Know 6-2015.mp4

The Better Business Bureau offers its advice about how to avoid Green Dot MoneyPak schemes, which are increasingly common online. (:55)

“That email message convinced me it was all a scam,” Nelson said. “No cable company would write something like this and send it out to customers. They also don’t apparently realize Walgreens and 7-11 have nothing to do with each other. Can you imagine Comcast telling a customer they have to get the ‘green’ prepaid card -without- the plastic wrapping. Most of their customers cannot understand their monthly bill. They are not going to understand the confusing world of prepaid credit cards. It made no sense.”

Stop the Cap! called the “Loyalty Rewards Department of Comcast” and we were disconnected each time we asked a question that did not involve taking advantage of their offer. We called back, trying different departments, and each time we were connected to the same Indian-accented man who had hung up on us before. After the fifth call, they blocked our phone number from reaching them.

We next called Comcast’s security department and got nowhere. They were not interested because we were not Comcast customers inside a Comcast service area and invited us to have our reader call them directly. When Nelson tried, he was left on hold for over 45 minutes and when he finally spoke to someone, they couldn’t be bothered.

“It amazed me how little interest they showed in this operation, which has apparently suckered customers all over the country,” Nelson said. “I asked them to call the number and hear how these people are directly misrepresenting themselves as Comcast, right down to repeating their Xfinity slogans. The representative seemed to have heard the same story before and seemed mostly concerned about telling me Comcast was not responsible for any money paid to the scam artists. They did not even seem to care when I told them they had my personal Comcast account information and suggested the scammers got it off Facebook. Yeah, because I always put my Comcast account number on Facebook, if I used Facebook.”

With further investigation, Stop the Cap! identified several numbers (as well as currently active 866-694-8573) associated with this operation. If any of these numbers call you, hang up: 855-328-7913, 855-859-6946, 800-526-1037, and 800-399-5791.

If you were scammed by these people or have other useful information to share about your experiences with them, please share in the comment section.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WWMT Kalamazoo Scam targeting Comcast customers makes appearance in Michigan 6-18-15.flv

WWMT in Kalamazoo, Mich. reports the Comcast Loyalty Rewards scam has affected customers across Michigan through aggressive telemarketing campaigns. (2:01)

What Happens When a Verizon Wireless Dealer Forgets to Hang Up: “Selling Lies!”

Wireless World of Emerson

Wireless World of Emerson

A Verizon Wireless salesman that left a voicemail message offering a customer a new service plan that could save her money forgot to hang up the phone when he finished his message and broke into song singing, “Lies, lies, lies, selling lies” while criticizing his co-workers for reneging on the savings he promises.

“David” from the “Verizon Wireless Store” called Kristin Capone because she had evidently bought a phone from him last year.

“I’m just calling my customers letting them know that earlier this month there were changes in the price plan and there is a chance I can save you money,” David offered.

After thanking her for her time, the employee at Wireless World of Emerson, a “Premium Verizon Dealer” in Emerson, N.J., did not bother to hang up, and had some choice words for Capone and his co-workers that Capone shared on YouTube.

“Lies! Lies! Lies!,” David sang. “Selling lies. Can’t save her a f@@@ing dime. Come in, we’ll save you some money. Just like that. She comes in, sees to one of you guys. You guys look in and say, oh no, there’s nothing we can do and then I end up looking like a dou@@e and then she won’t want to buy.”

“David” seems to acknowledge his bad attitude at the end of the message.

“I’m being a crabby car salesman.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Crabby Verizon Salesman Forgets to Hang Up.mp4

A public relations headache for Verizon Wireless as one of its “premium dealers” decides to dismiss promises of savings as “selling lies.” (Warning: Contains profanity.) (1:42)

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  • Nick: TWC increased their overprovisioning once again. They increased it from 15% to 25%. So 30/5 tier which had been running at 34.5/5.75 is now 37.5...
  • Phillip Dampier: Thanks for the suggestion. I will begin doing some research and see what I can find out and post an article with findings....
  • txpatriot: When you have a soda straw (Windstream) competing against a firehose (TWC), the conclusion is pre-ordained....
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  • Amilayah: Totally depends on your devices and needs. Older devices need b/g/n network compatibility. Newer ones are best on 5ghz a/c bandwidths. (A/c should be ...
  • Amilayah: Hey dummie! Because what ppl are referring to is an ADD ON service we PAY FOR so that they will be responsible for worry free wifi. Which is what I to...
  • Amilayah: That's false. Wifi scanners/ structural or frequency interference checks / speed tests etc proved that 1. The "echo" that was $65 more than they said ...
  • Greg Noblin: My family has an iMac, I use a 5K iMac for my business, we have two girls, 4 iPhones, 2 iPod touches, and 4 iPads and an Apple TV. Today is July 4,...
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  • Matt: In Hawaii, meaning there is no real competition. Had the (15/1) plan, and the Standard HD TV all after taxes $142. They were also charging me for the...
  • dawsonfiberhood: Uh, the culprit has been committing dozens of acts, across many states, and nearly simultaneously in widely separated areas. The culprit has been exca...
  • Roy: I'm a Dish subscriber. As best as I could tell, your Dish page covered only corporate issues. Do you have a page that discusses how to score deals f...

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