Home » FCC » Recent Articles:

Verizon Wireless to Acquire Central California’s Golden State Cellular

golden_state_cellular_logo_2The cell phone provider serving Yosemite National Park and the surrounding California counties of Tuolumne, Calav­eras, Amador, Alpine and Mari­posa has been acquired by Verizon Wireless.

The independent Golden State Cellular provides cell service in rural areas of the Mother Lode and cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia, largely bypassed by larger carriers since 1989.

Verizon had maintained a minority interest in the cellular company for several years and provided roaming service for the company outside of its home areas.

GSC operates as a partnership between several regional independent telephone companies.

Verizon would provide funding for 4G LTE upgrades and potentially expand coverage in tourist areas around the region.

The acquisition is awaiting FCC approval.

 

 

Share

Surprise: Some Alabama Customers Unhappy About AT&T’s Experiment Ending Landline Service

att-logo-221x300AT&T customers in Carbon Hill, Ala. received an unwelcome surprise in their mailbox recently when AT&T informed them they will be part of an experiment ending traditional landline service in favor of a Voice over IP or wireless alternative.

Affected customers are involuntary participants in what AT&T calls an “exciting opportunity for our customers and for our company,” but many residents want no part of it.

The Wall Street Journal reports Carbon Hill city clerk Janice Pendley says some people in the former mining town are not pleased.

“Some of them like their landline, and they like it just the way it is,” she says.

AT&T’s experiment will force new and existing customers to switch to its more-expensive U-verse broadband platform, use a mobile phone, or a home landline replacement that works over AT&T’s cellular network. The FCC has granted AT&T permission to impose its experimental plan to end traditional landline service in two communities where regulatory protections for landline customers are weak to non-existent — Alabama’s Carbon Hill and Delray Beach, Fla.

Carbon Hill is a small town of around 880 households in extreme western Walker County. It is the kind of rural town AT&T would likely never consider for a U-verse upgrade. AT&T embarked on a second major push to extend U-verse into more communities last year, but also indicated it would strongly advocate for a wireless replacement for its landline network in the rest of its service areas. Because Carbon Hill is an experiment, AT&T will offer U-verse to at least part of the community regardless of the usual financial Return on Investment requirements AT&T usually imposes on its U-verse expansion efforts.

carbon hillAT&T is pushing forward despite the fact it  has no idea how it will offer service to at least 4% of isolated Carbon Hill residents not scheduled to be provided U-verse and not within an AT&T wireless coverage area. There are also no guarantees customers will be able to correctly reach 911, although AT&T says the technology “supports 911 functionality.” Serious questions among consumer advocates remain about whether the replacement technology will support burglar alarms, pacemakers and even systems used by air-traffic controllers.

The difficulties service Carbon Hill relate to its rural makeup and income profile. In Delray Beach, it is all about customer demographics. Half of the city is home to residents over 65 years old — the group most likely to prefer their existing landline service. Many are likely to be unhappy about a transition to new technology that will not work in the event of power interruptions, will require the installation of new equipment, or will be tied to a wireless platform that some say reduces the intelligibility of telephone conversations and often introduces audio artifacts like echo, background noise, and dropouts.

In both cities, customers only offered wireless-based service will no longer have access to DSL or wired broadband service of any kind. The wireless alternative from AT&T comes at a high cost and a low usage allowance.

The benefits to AT&T are unquestionable, however. The company will win almost universal deregulation as a Voice over IP or wireless telephone provider. Legacy regulations on customer service requirements, pricing, and obligations to provide affordable phone service to any customer that requests it are swept away by the new technologies. Competitors are also worried AT&T will be able to walk away from regulations governing open and fair access to AT&T’s network.

ip4carbon hillThe Wall Street Journal reports:

The all-Internet protocol “transition holds many promises for consumers, but losing access to affordable voice and broadband services cannot be part of that bargain,” wrote Angie Kronenberg, general counsel of Comptel, in a letter to the FCC last month on behalf of the small-carrier trade group, several companies and public-interest groups.

AARP said it believes AT&T’s plan has “numerous problems.” The technology might not be reliable enough or fail when calling 911 in an emergency, the advocacy group for seniors told regulators in its comment letter. The FCC is reviewing hundreds of comments received in response to AT&T’s request.

EarthLink piggybacks on the “incumbents as little as economically possible” and has laid nearly 30,000 miles of fiber-optic cables throughout the U.S. to help it reach more than a million customers, says Rolla Huff, a former EarthLink chief executive. Still, the company needs access to the connections built by AT&T and Verizon into buildings.

Telecom carriers such as Windstream in Little Rock, Ark., and sellers of broadband data services like EarthLink and XO Communications LLC, of Herndon, Va., have had the right to buy last-mile access at regulated prices since the last major overhaul of federal telecom laws in 1996.

tw telecomIf AT&T ends its traditional network, those competing service providers will have to negotiate with AT&T for access at whatever price AT&T elects to charge.

A preview of what is likely to happen has already been experienced by TW Telecom, an independent firm selling phone and Internet services to businesses over more than 30,000 miles of fiber lines. But that fiber network means nothing if a customer’s last mile connection is handled by a local phone company no longer subject to regulated pricing and access rules.

In Tampa, where Verizon has deployed FiOS as an unregulated replacement for its older, regulated copper-based network, TW Telecom learned first hand what this could ultimately mean:

Rochester Telephone Corporation was born in 1921 after a merger between the Rochester Telephonic Exchange, a branch of the Bell Company of Buffalo and locally-owned independent Rochester Telephone Company, which was not allowed to use Bell's long distance network.

Rochester Telephone Corporation was born in 1921 after a merger between the Rochester Telephonic Exchange, a branch of the Bell Company of Buffalo and locally owned independent Rochester Telephone Company, which was not allowed to use Bell’s long distance network.

TW Telecom approached Verizon in 2012 to seek last-mile access to a Tampa, Fla., building being converted into a bank from a restaurant. Verizon had installed only FiOS at the building.

Verizon said no, telling TW Telecom to build its own connection or pay Verizon thousands of dollars to do the job. TW Telecom declined to pay and lost the customer’s business.

“When it happens, it’s devastating,” says Kristie Ince, who oversees regulatory policy at TW Telecom. Similar snarls have cost the company at least six customers since then. Other carriers say they have had similar clashes.

In Illinois, Sprint’s business phone network has run into a barricade manned by AT&T. Sprint needs AT&T to interconnect calls placed on Sprint’s network intended for AT&T’s customers. The two companies cannot agree on an asking price under the deregulation scheme so Sprint converts its Voice over IP calls to older technology still subject to regulation just so calls will successfully reach AT&T’s customers. AT&T promptly converts those calls back to Voice over IP technology as it completes them.

AT&T said it has “no duty” to connect its Internet protocol traffic with Sprint’s.

If the FCC keeps IP-based traffic deregulated, if and when the old landline network is decommissioned, AT&T will have the last word on access, potentially putting competitors out of business.

Our great-great grandparents experienced similar problems in the early days of telephone service, when high rates from the local Bell telephone subsidiary provoked local competition. But Bell companies routinely refused to handle calls placed on competitors’ networks, forcing customers to maintain a telephone line with both companies to reach every subscriber. Additionally, only Bell-owned providers had access to the long distance network – a competitive disadvantage to competing startups.

Regulatory changes, a handful of mergers and the eventual establishment of the well-regulated Bell System eventually solved problems which threaten to return if AT&T has its way.

Share

Comcast Gobbledygook: “We Don’t Have Data Caps, We Have Data Thresholds”

The Plain English Campaign's Golden Bull Award is given to companies that prefer gobbledygook over plain English.

The Plain English Campaign’s Golden Bull Award is given to companies that prefer gobbledygook over plain English.

Comcast is outraged by slanderous suggestions it has data caps on its broadband service.

In response to the scathing report from the Writers Guild of America that pleads for the FCC to block the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Comcast has accused to WGA of getting its facts wrong and being nothing more than a meddling union.

The WGA writes in their filing with the FCC:

The WGAW has also joined Public Knowledge in asking the FCC to enforce the condition that Comcast not use “caps, tiers, metering, or other usage-based pricing” to treat affiliated network traffic differently from unaffiliated traffic. Comcast has violated this condition by exempting its online video service, Xfinity Streampix, from its own data caps, while the viewing of content by other, unaffiliated video services such as Netflix or YouTube would count against a user’s data cap. The violation of this merger condition is a clear threat to competition from online video distributors, and the FCC should respond by requiring Comcast to stop exempting its Streampix service from data caps.

Comcast pounced on the WGA filing, calling it inaccurate.

Comcast-Logo“We don’t have data caps — and haven’t for about two years,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government communications. “We have tested data thresholds where very heavy customers can buy more if they want more — but that only affects a very small percentage of our customers in a few markets.”

Until 2012, Comcast had a uniform usage cap of 250GB a month, above which a customer risked having their broadband service suspended. In 2013, the usage allowances were back, reset at 300GB a month and rolled out to a series of expanding “test markets” that today include Huntsville and Mobile, Ala., Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Ga., Central Kentucky, Maine, Jackson, Miss., Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C.

nonsenseCustomers who exceed this allowance won’t have their broadband service suspended, they will just get a higher bill, as Comcast charges $10 for each additional 50GB of usage.

In contrast, Time Warner Cable neither has a data cap or a data threshold. Stop the Cap! made sure that didn’t happen when Time Warner attempted to impose its own usage limits back in 2009. We successfully organized protests sufficient to get Time Warner executives to back off and shelve the idea. If Comcast takes over, Time Warner Cable customers will likely eventually face Comcast’s “data thresholds,” which are a distinction without much difference. Whatever you call it, it’s a limit on how much a customer can use Comcast’s already-expensive broadband service before bad things happen.

The WGA and Comcast get along about as well as oil and water, so the back and forth is to be expected. The Writer’s Guild also fiercely opposed Comcast’s merger with NBCUniversal. But when it comes to who is playing fast and loose with the truth, it isn’t the group that writes for a living. Comcast’s doublespeak about data caps is no better than calling The Great Recession a periodic equity retreat. It isn’t fooling anyone.

Share

Media Concentration: FCC Closes Competing Local TV Station ‘Partnership’ Loopholes

Phillip Dampier April 2, 2014 Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 2 Comments
WHAM and WUHF are now both located at WHAM's facilities in Henrietta, N.Y.

WHAM and WUHF are now both located at WHAM’s facilities in suburban Rochester, N.Y. WHAM now produces WUHF’s newscasts.

Ever wonder why some local television stations air newscasts produced by another competing station?

When your local ABC station’s evening news ends up on a local FOX station, it is usually because the two have signed a joint agreement to let one station represent the other in making programming decisions and selling advertising.

FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler believes this growing trend represents an end run around the agency’s rules limiting how much control a single major media company may have in any particular community. On Monday Wheeler joined two Democratic commissioners and voted to ban the practice.

Wheeler said the vote against joint agreements represented “a win for common sense,” and preserved the FCC’s intent to make sure viewers have a diverse mix of news, information and programming. In several small and medium cities, viewers were instead getting the same newscast on competing stations and just one or two media companies made all the programming decisions for local viewers.

FCC media ownership rules prevent TV station owners from owning stations reaching more than 39 percent of the national TV audience, owning more than a single top-four network station in a market and owning more than two TV stations in a market. They also prevent a local newspaper from buying a local TV station.

But station owners found they could evade those rules and save money by turning over the production of costly locally produced programming like news and community affairs to another station, and in some cases even moving operations into another station’s building, while still holding the station’s license. In some markets, one company like Sinclair or Nexstar can end up owning a local network affiliate, a CW or MyNetworkTV station, and have a joint agreement to sell advertising and program another network affiliate.

Sinclair Exploits Loophole to Build a Media Empire

Owned by Sinclair

Owned by Sinclair

One good example of this practice can be found in the 78th largest television market in the United States — Rochester, N.Y.

Ten years ago, WROC (CBS), WHEC (NBC), WOKR (now WHAM) (ABC), and WUHF (FOX) each maintained their own news teams and ad sales departments. The first station to drop its own news was WUHF. Station owner Sinclair fired the news staff and signed an agreement with Nexstar’s WROC to produce a newscast for the station instead. WROC’s reporters could now be seen on two different stations.

In early 2013, WHAM was acquired by Deerfield Media, which has a whisker-thin separation between itself and Sinclair. The Wall Street Journal reported that Deerfield’s owner, Stephen Mumblow, was Sinclair CEO David Smith’s former personal banker. All of its stations are operated by Sinclair, despite being licensed to Deerfield.

Operated by Sinclair

Operated by Sinclair

Media consolidation critics say that is a blatant end run around the FCC’s ownership rules and violates local station limits.

Rochester viewers noticed a change on Jan. 1 of this year, when WUHF dropped WROC’s newscasts and began airing WHAM news instead. WUHF is now co-located in WHAM’s offices and despite the fact WHAM is owned by Deerfield, all of WHAM’s news and sales team are Sinclair employees. Sinclair now owns or controls Rochester’s CW, ABC, and FOX affiliates. Nexstar still owns WROC and Hubbard Broadcasting owns WHEC.

Nationwide, Sinclair owns, programs, or provides sales services to 167 television stations in 77 markets. In 2011, it owned 58 stations.

Smith

Smith

Sinclair is not a “hands-off” media player either. Sinclair’s CEO David Smith has regularly forced his conservative political views into his station’s newscasts.

Smith calls himself a family values man, but his 1996 arrest and conviction in a prostitution sting suggests otherwise. Smith was arrested for picking up a prostitute who performed what police called an “unnatural and perverted sex act” on him as he drove down the highway in a company-owned Mercedes.

As part of his plea agreement, Smith had to perform court-ordered community service. Smith subcontracted that out to his Baltimore station’s newsroom employees, ordered to produce a series of reports on a local drug counseling program, which Smith used to satisfy his sentence. That did not go over well with local reporters and at least one judge.

“I really hated the way he handled our newsroom and what he expected his reporters to do after his arrest,” LuAnne Canipe, a reporter who worked on air at Sinclair’s flagship station, WBFF in Baltimore, from 1994 to 1998, told Salon. “A Baltimore judge called me up,” she recalls. “He wasn’t handling the case, but he called to tell me about the arrangement and asked me if I knew about it. The judge was outraged. He said, ‘How can employees do community service for their boss?’”

Canipe left as the work atmosphere at Sinclair rapidly deteriorated.

Hyman

Hyman

“Let’s just say the arrest of the CEO was part of a sexual atmosphere that trickled down to different levels in the company,” Canipe told Salon. “There was an improper work environment. I think that because of what he did there was a feeling that everything was fair game,” says Canipe, who says she chose to leave Sinclair in 1998. She says that she once complained to management about another Sinclair employee, who had engaged in audible phone sex inside a station conference room, but that no action was taken against the employee.

How Sinclair Uses Its Stations to Push a Political Agenda

But Sinclair’s most controversial interference in local news operations came days before the 2004 presidential election, when Sinclair ordered its stations to air a highly charged documentary critics called a propaganda hit piece against Democratic candidate John Kerry.

“Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,” was the brainchild of Carlton Sherwood, a disgraced former reporter for a Washington, D.C. station that was later forced to donate $50,000 and air a lengthy retraction after Sherwood falsely claimed that the veterans responsible for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall were misappropriating contributions. The charges proved baseless and at least one veteran signed a sworn statement claiming Sherwood had a political ax to grind, calling the project that “liberal memorial” and a “black gash.” Sherwood reportedly wanted the memorial to speak to the righteousness of the Vietnam War and focused most of his reporting on critics who felt the memorial looked like “a wailing wall.”

Sinclair owned/operated stations now carry news from conservative Newsmax and the Washington Times on their websites.

Sinclair owned/operated stations now carry news from conservative Newsmax and the Washington Times on their websites.

Sherwood’s one-sided anti-Kerry documentary created a firestorm of criticism that reached all the way to Wall Street. Sinclair faced advertiser boycotts, petitions to yank its stations’ licenses, and angry investors who wanted Sinclair to steer clear of controversy that was bad for business.

Since then, Sinclair’s conservative credentials are still apparent, although more subtle. Top-rated WHAM’s local news now features headlines from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and the fiercely conservative Newsmax. Many Sinclair stations are also still required to air conservative political commentaries featuring Sinclair’s Mark Hyman during their newscasts.

Sinclair’s “government is bad” philosophy is found in its franchised “Waste Watch” series, which also airs during station newscasts. Sinclair claims the feature investigates and exposes how viewers’ local tax dollars are spent. But news staff at several Sinclair stations find the series distasteful because it frames its reporting around the idea that local government is generally incompetent and wasteful. Media critics suggest that kind of framed reporting does not belong in a straightforward newscast.

Underlining Sinclair’s Waste Watch conservative bona fides is the prominent presence of conservative political groups including the CATO Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) on Sinclair station websites. CAGW has historically maintained ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council and was a former member of ALEC. NTU President Duane Parde is the former executive director of ALEC, and NTU remains an ALEC member.

Wheeler

Wheeler

Despite the meddling from Sinclair’s headquarters, many Sinclair stations’ news teams try to maintain balance around Sinclair’s political agenda. WHAM, for example, buries Hyman’s commentaries on its extended morning news aired on WUHF instead of airing them in its primary newscast on WHAM. In Rochester, “Waste Watch” has also had some unintended consequences. WHAM has used the franchise to extensively report on various scandals surrounding county contracts involving the highest levels of Monroe County government, long dominated by the Republican party.

With more than 100 “joint agreements” in place at stations around the country — primarily in news-scarce medium and smaller television markets, the declining number of people making decisions about what is newsworthy and how it is reported has become increasingly worrisome for media consolidation critics. Television news dominates audiences as newspaper readership continues to decline. Critics suggest the impact of media consolidation can already be seen at companies like Sinclair.

FCC Gives Stations Two Years to Unwind Agreements; Republican Commissioners Upset

Under the new rules, a broadcaster that accounts for more than 15% of another station’s advertising sales would be seen by the FCC as the de-facto licensee of that station. In dozens of markets, this new rule will put companies like Sinclair and Nexstar in violation of the FCC’s ownership limits. The FCC is giving stations two years to disconnect their joint agreements or apply for a waiver if they can prove the partnership serves the public interest.

Deerfield Media is likely to be one of the hardest hit media groups, although critics contend the partnership with Sinclair was created primarily to evade the rules.

Although the rules change received support from all three Democrats, the commission’s two Republicans voiced strong opposition and claimed that the FCC was regulating a solution for a non-problem.

Commissioner Ajit Pai didn’t seem interested in the views of media consolidation critics. Instead, he looked for complaints from advertisers forced to buy ad time through the joint sales agreements. Finding none, he declared the case to end the joint agreements “embarrassingly weak.”

“This is the dog that didn’t bark,” Pai said.

Pai recommended station owners sue in federal court to overturn the FCC’s new rules. Pai is on the record opposing most ownership limits of any kind.

Share

FCC Expands 5GHz Wi-Fi Band, Allows Higher Powered, Faster Wireless Service

Phillip Dampier April 1, 2014 Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband No Comments
The 5GHz spectrum at issue used to require limited transmitting power and indoor-use only.

The 5GHz spectrum at issue used to require limited transmitting power and indoor-use only.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to expand the 5GHz unlicensed Wi-Fi band with an extra 100MHz of spectrum that will open the door to faster connections with less interference.

Manufacturers will also be permitted to raise the transmitting power wireless devices can use in the 5.15-5.25GHz band, lifting restrictions that were in place to protect mobile and fixed satellite services that occupy nearby frequencies. The relaxed rules also now permit outdoor use of 5GHz spectrum. Previously only indoor devices were allowed to occupy those frequencies.

“This change will have real impact, because we are doubling the unlicensed bandwidth in the 5 GHz band overnight,” FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. “The power of unlicensed goes beyond on-ramps to the Internet and off-loading for licensed [mobile] services,” she said. “It is the power of setting aside more of our airwaves for experiment and innovation without license. It is bound to yield new and exciting developments. It is also bound to be an economic boon.”

Manufacturers are expected to support the extra frequencies and increase transmitting power on the next generation of Wi-Fi equipment likely to be on sale by the end of the year, including more 1Gbps Wi-Fi routers.

Wireless ISPs will also be permitted to use the 5GHz spectrum to expand available bandwidth for customers as use of the Internet continues to grow. Congestion from shared Wi-Fi connections can present problems for small wireless providers because connection speeds will slow for customers.

The FCC also opened up an extra 65MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband and other licensed wireless users. The expanded AWS band between 1695-2180MHz will be shared with federal agency users that now occupy some of the frequencies.

Share

Tricky TV Antics: Wyoming, Nevada TV Stations Moving to Delaware, New Jersey

Phillip Dampier March 31, 2014 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments
KJWY-TV was a station in Jackson, Wyo. But now it serves Philadelphia, Pa.

KJWY-TV was a station in Jackson, Wyo. But now it serves Philadelphia, Pa.

Two small television stations in Wyoming and Nevada with audiences in the thousands have packed up and are moving to bigger cities after exploiting a loophole in FCC rules.

KJWY, Channel 2 in Jackson, Wyo. used to relay television programs from a Casper station for the benefit of the 9,500 people living in the Teton County community. The station operated with just 178 watts — the lowest powered digital VHF station in the country. KVNV, Channel 3 in Ely, Nev., originally relayed Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate for the benefit of 4,200 locals. Both stations were purchased at a very low-cost by a mysterious partnership of buyers back east.

Today, KJWY has a new call sign – KJWP. It’s still on Channel 2, but the station is now licensed to operate from Wilmington, Del, with its transmitter located just across the border in Philadelphia. It’s one of the rare few television stations in the eastern half of the country that have “K” call letters usually assigned to stations west of the Mississippi River. KVNV is expected to follow to its new home in Middletown Township, Monmouth County, N.J., later this year. Its transmitter will have nothing but open water between northern New Jersey and nearby New York City — its intended target.

The two stations’ original combined audiences likely never exceeded 10,000, because both stations had very limited range for their transmitters which served two very small communities. But in the big cities of New York and Philadelphia, the stations can now reach a potential audience north of ten million and collect advertising revenue the stations in Wyoming and Nevada could only dream about.

PMCM, LLC., obviously had this in mind when it acquired the two stations in 2009. The principals behind PMCM already own six Jersey Shore radio stations in Monmouth and Ocean County under the name Press Communications, LLC.

How Congress and the FCC Opened the Door

wor PMCM discovered a little-known law that was originally introduced to help spur the launch of VHF television stations serving small Mid-Atlantic states shadowed by nearby large cities. In 1982, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley attached an amendment to an unrelated tax bill that required the FCC to automatically renew the license of any commercial VHF station that agrees to move to a state without one. The new law superseded nearly all the FCC’s other licensing regulations. At the time the law was passed, the only two states that were without any commercial VHF stations were Delaware and New Jersey.

That summer, RKO General, embroiled in a major scandal over illegal billing irregularities and deceiving regulators, thought it could save its New York station – WOR-TV – from threatened license revocation by agreeing to move from New York City to Secaucus, N.J. In agreeing to move the station, WOR would also expand much-needed coverage of New Jersey news and current affairs. But viewers barely noticed and by 1987 RKO General’s bad behavior got them booted out of the broadcasting business altogether after what FCC administrative law judge Edward Kuhlmann called a pattern of the worst case of dishonesty in FCC history. WOR’s new owners changed the call sign to WWOR-TV and the station’s home remains in Secaucus.

Two things happened after the mess with WOR. Bradley’s law remained on the books and America’s adoption of digital over the air television for full power stations meant channel number changes for many stations by the time the transition was complete in 2009. WWOR-TV relocated to UHF channel 38 (while still promoting itself as Channel 9) and Delaware’s only remaining VHF station is non-commercial WHYY Channel 12, a PBS station better known as hailing from Philadelphia. Once again, New Jersey and Delaware were without commercial VHF stations, a fact that did not escape the notice of PMCM.

Me-TV Launches in Philadelphia and New York

KJWP_LogoAfter a lengthy court battle with the FCC, PMCM successfully moved and relaunched KJWP, Channel 2, on March 1 as Philadelphia’s Me-TV affiliate. Although the transmitter power was raised, the station’s digital VHF signal still doesn’t reach very far, so its owners invoked “must-carry” with area cable systems, which means cable systems must carry the channel so long as the station does not ask for any payment.

The station’s reach is defined by the FCC far beyond its actual broadcast signal. Officially, the station can demand cable carriage as far south as Dover, Del., as far west as Lancaster, Pa., almost all of southern New Jersey and into northern New Jersey. Today, Comcast and other cable systems carry KJWP across Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. Verizon FiOS is adding the station by this weekend and it is also available via satellite TV local station packages. Unlike larger stations fighting to be paid by cable systems, KJWP is happy to be carried by all without charge because it can sell advertising to a much larger potential audience. It plans to produce local programming, including news, which opens up even more advertising opportunities.

KVNV remains on the air in Ely for now as a My Family TV affiliate, showing a mix of family friendly and religious programs. But its days as a Nevada broadcast station are numbered. KVNV will officially sign-off in Ely for good in a few months and relaunch operations across the New York City market as New York’s official Me-TV affiliate. Like with KJWP, KVNV will keep its original call letters and invoke must-carry, which means the station is likely to appear on northern New Jersey Comcast systems, Time Warner Cable in Manhattan and other boroughs, as well as Cablevision on Long Island and across parts of Brooklyn.

Share

Wireless ISP Fends Off Frontier’s DSL Expansion in Indiana; Telco Denied Expansion Money

onlyinternetA wireless Internet Service Provider serving rural northeastern Indiana has successfully challenged Frontier Communications’ application for federal funds to introduce DSL service in the region.

Great American Broadband (GAB) challenged Frontier’s request for funds from the Connect America Fund to wire homes in the Wells County community of Uniondale. It turns out the Bluffton-based wireless ISP already provides service to the community, making Frontier’s request redundant.

uniondaleGAB’s OnlyInternet serves around 3,000 customers in Adams, Allen, Blackford, Delaware, Elkhart, Grant, Howard, Huntington, Jay, LaGrange, Madison, Randolph, Tipton, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties. Founded in 1995, the wireless ISP uses a network of towers to offer a high-speed service comparable to Wi-Fi to residents who generally cannot get broadband from any cable or telephone company.

The FCC found Uniondale was already sufficiently served by OnlyInternet and denied funds earmarked for Frontier’s proposed expansion into the community of about 300. Wireless ISPs have had a hard time successfully defending their turf from phone companies that can subsidize expansion of their DSL service with federal tax money or funds provided by other telephone ratepayers. Many wireless ISPs are family owned and financed by private bank loans and small investors. They do not appreciate subsidized competition, particularly from the Connect America Fund, which is generally only available to telephone companies.

Frontier“We have to look out for the interests of our members,” Rick Harnish, executive director of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association in Ossian, told the Journal Gazette. The group alerted OnlyInternet of Frontier’s FCC filing for rural dollars. “The Connect America Fund is a subsidy program set up for phone companies, which is why wireless providers are left out. We continue lobbying for equitable treatment, but we’re a small voice compared to the bigger companies.”

Rural ISPs have taken about a $10 million chunk out of Frontier’s application for $71.5 million in Connect America Funds by successfully challenging the phone company’s applications around the country. In general, Connect America Funding for broadband expansion is available only to unserved areas where customers cannot get broadband service.

In northern Indiana, Frontier can use the federal money to offer services in parts of Huntington, Jay and Wells counties.

Frontier is still free to use its own funds to wire Uniondale for DSL service, and customers might welcome the competition.

OnlyInternet currently provides wireless service at speeds ranging from 512/128kbps ($24.95) to 3Mbps/768kbps ($64.95). Until last year, Frontier generally provided most rural communities with up to 3Mbps broadband, but has upgraded service to speeds ranging from 6-40Mbps. Most of the higher speeds are available only in urban areas.

Share

Verizon: Prioritization and Compensation for Certain Traffic is the Future of the Internet

McAdam

McAdam

The head of Verizon believes two concepts will become Internet reality in the short-term future:

  1. Those that use a lot of Internet bandwidth should pay more to transport that content;
  2. The “intelligent” Internet should prioritize the delivery of certain traffic over other traffic.

Welcome to a country without the benefit of Net Neutrality/Open Internet protection. A successful lawsuit brought by Verizon to toss out the Federal Communications Commission’s somewhat informal protections has given Verizon carte blanche to go ahead with its vision of your Internet future.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s CEO, answered questions on Tuesday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, attended by Wall Street investors and analysts.

McAdam believes groups trying to whip Net Neutrality into a major issue are misguided and uninformed about how companies manage their online networks.

“The carriers make money by transporting a lot of data,” McAdam said. “And spending a lot of time manipulating this, that accusation is by people that don’t really know how you manage a network like this. You don’t want to get into that sort of ‘gameplaying.’”

netneutralityMcAdam believes there is nothing wrong with prioritizing some Internet traffic over others, and he believes that future is already becoming a reality.

“If you have got an intelligent transportation system, or you have got an intelligent healthcare system, you are going to need to prioritize traffic,” said McAdam. “You want to make sure that if somebody is going to have a heart attack, that gets to the head of the line, ahead of a grade schooler that is coming home to do their homework in the afternoon or watch TV. So I think that is coming to realization.”

But McAdam also spoke about the need for those generating heavy Internet traffic to financially compensate Internet Service Providers, resulting in better service for content producers like Netflix — not considered ‘priority traffic’ otherwise.

“You saw the Netflix-Comcast deal this week which I think — or a couple weeks ago — which is smart because it positions them farther out into the network, so they are not congesting the core of the Internet,” said McAdam. “And there is some compensation going back and forth, so they recognize those that use a lot of bandwidth should contribute to that.”

McAdam reported to investors he had spoken personally with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who seems to be taking an even more informal approach to Net Neutrality than his predecessor Julius Genachowski did.

Verizon's machine-to-machine program is likely to be a major earner for the company.

Verizon’s machine-to-machine program is likely to be a major earner for the company.

“In my discussions with Tom Wheeler, the Chairman, he has made it very clear that he will take decisive action if he sees bad behavior,” McAdam said, without elaborating on what might constitute ‘bad behavior.’ “I think that is great; great for everybody to see that. And I think that is what we would like to see him do, is have a general set of rules that covers all the players: the Netflixes, the Microsofts, the Apples, the Googles, and certainly the Comcasts and the Verizons. But the only thing to do is not — you can’t just regulate the carriers. They’re not the only players in making sure the net is healthy. And I think we all want to make sure that investment continues in the Internet and that customers get great service.”

Verizon has already reported success monetizing wireless broadband usage that has helped deliver growing revenue and profits at the country’s largest carrier. Now McAdam intends to monetize machine-to-machine communications that exchange information over Verizon’s network.

McAdam believes within 3-4 years Americans will have between five and ten different devices enabled on wireless networks like Verizon’s in their cars, homes, and personal electronics. For that, McAdam expects Verizon will earn between $0.25 a month for the average home medical monitor up to $50 a month for the car. Verizon is even testing wireless-enabled parking lots that can direct cars to empty parking spaces.

For those applications, McAdam expects to charge enough to guarantee a 50% profit margin.

“These can be very nice margin products,” McAdam told the audience of investors. “So even at $0.25 if you are doing 10 million of them and it’s 50% or better margins, those are attractive businesses for us to get into.”

Share

Ex-Congressman Klink’s Relationship With Comcast: I See Nothing, I Hear Nothing, I Know Nothing

Klink

Klink

Rep. Ron Klink represented the citizens of Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District for most of the 1990s, but today he represents the interests of Comcast — but one would never know it from his website’s client list.

Klink was a popular moderate Democrat in his far western-central district north of Pittsburgh. But that was not enough to challenge then-Sen. Rick Santorum in 2000 for a Senate seat. Klink was a virtual unknown in the heavily populated eastern part of the state and lost the race by five points.

Klink did not stay disappointed for long after the election, following many other ex-members of Congress through Washington’s revolving door, coming out on the other side as a professional lobbyist.

Ron Klink & Associates tells its clients, “the key to success… is access.

“At Ron Klink and Associates, we pride ourselves on having the expertise and experience to navigate our clients through the political and bureaucratic mazes of government at the federal, state and local levels,” says Klink’s website. “It is often the case that organizations involved in issues of the day have the most difficulty reaching the branches of government needed to state their case. Whether on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at federal agencies, or at any State Capitol, we guide our clients to interact effectively with decision makers in order to advance each client’s agenda.”

Klink specializes in getting clients face time with elected officials — access ordinary citizens are unlikely to have. When members of Congress ponder policy changes, many rely heavily on the advice that reaches them during these meetings. Knowing how to get a personal sit down with a member of Congress or senator can make all the difference. Fact-finding hearings are also critical in the persuasion game, and Klink’s firm makes sure clients win access to the precious few seats at the testimony table:

klinkassocRon Klink and Associates provides clients with the opportunity to influence the decisions made in the halls of Congress, federal agencies and the White House. We have extensive experience in issues analysis that can be helpful to a client trying to anticipate policy changes in the government. Ron Klink and Associates will work with the client to develop and then successfully implement a strategy that yields desired results. Our extensive contacts on Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch, allow our clients’ issues, whether legislative or regulatory, to be heard by key decision makers, thus giving a competitive advantage to the client.

Direct lobbying is only part of our government relations service. With more that 2,500 pieces of legislation being considered annually by the Congress, it is difficult for companies to follow legislation important to their industries. Ron Klink and Associates provides daily monitoring of all legislation, committee hearings, proposed rules, media events, news reports and behind the scenes discussions pertinent to the client’s success. Ron Klink and Associates will report daily if necessary on any events of importance to the client.

We also arrange for our clients to testify before Congress or a federal agency hearing when deemed helpful. We draft the testimony for the client, the media advisory and eventual press release explaining the significance of the event. We provide the panel Members with information about the clients and their interests, as well as conduct all follow up that may be needed to obtain a successful result.

We have arranged seminars and briefings for Members of Congress and Executive Branch employees in order to educate them on the importance of client issues. From these seminars, we are able to build strong, bipartisan coalitions of support to assist us in advancing the client’s goals.

Comcast-LogoWith thousands of lobbyists providing services similar to ex-Congressman Klink, it should not be surprising ordinary constituents without a team to go to bat on their behalf have a hard time getting a word in.

Most lobbying firms brag about their client list to attract more business. But not Ron Klink. He likes to keep his biggest clients a secret. Among them is a little cable company called Comcast, based in Philadelphia.

Klink doesn’t mention the company at all and does not admit he works on their behalf.

That rubbed the Tribune-Review the wrong way, and the newspaper slapped a “Loser Label” on the ex-politician:

Money-Stuffed-Into-PocketThe former congressman seems reluctant to admit he works for a communications conglomerate known for its constantly rising cable rates and less-than-stellar customer service.

The Murrysville Democrat was one of five former congressional members recently identified by The New York Times as being registered Comcast lobbyists. There likely is considerable work ahead for that group, as Comcast seeks federal approval to swallow competitor Time Warner Cable.

Klink’s website, ronklink.com, doesn’t identify Comcast as one of his lobbying clients. But Klink does own up to working for lesser-known entities such as Beaver County and the Findlay Township Municipal Authority.

For being so secretive about his Comcast connection, Klink gets the loser label.

Klink isn’t even close to being the only ex-member of Congress or public official now on Comcast’s payroll. Our favorite at Stop the Cap! remains the completely shameless and transparent Meredith Attwell-Baker, ex-commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. Just months after voting in favor of the merger of Comcast and NBC, she hurried her resignation letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and took a lucrative job at Comcast’s “government relations” department — a nice turn of phrase that really means “lobbyist.”

Comcast’s team includes six former government officials. From left, former Senator Don Nickles, former Representative Robert Walker, former Senator Blanche Lincoln, former Representative Ron Klink, David Cohen of Comcast and former F.C.C. member Meredith Attwell Baker.

Comcast’s lobbying team includes six former government officials. From left, former Senator Don Nickles, former Representative Robert Walker, former Senator Blanche Lincoln, former Representative Ron Klink, David Cohen of Comcast and former F.C.C. member Meredith Attwell Baker.

 

Share

AT&T Proposes Pulling the Plug on Landline Service in Alabama and Florida

carbon hill

Carbon Hill, Ala.

AT&T is seeking permission to disconnect traditional landline service in Alabama and Florida as it plans to abandon its copper wire network and move towards Voice Over IP in urban areas and force customers to use wireless in suburbs and rural communities.

AT&T’s BellSouth holding company has asked the Federal Communications Commission to approve what it calls “an experiment,” beginning in the communities of West Delray Beach, Fla., and Carbon Hill, Ala.

The first phase of the plan would start by asking residents to voluntarily disconnect existing landline service in favor of either U-verse VoIP service or a wireless landline replacement that works with AT&T’s cellular network. In the next phase of the experiment, traditional copper-based landline service would be dropped altogether as AT&T and the FCC study the impact.

“We have proposed conducting the trials in Carbon Hill, Ala., and in West Delray Beach, Fla.,” AT&T writes on the company’s blog. “We chose these locations in an effort to gain insights into some of the more difficult issues that likely will be presented as we transition from legacy networks. For example, the rural and sparsely populated wire center of Carbon Hill poses particularly challenging economic and geographic characteristics.  While Kings Point’s suburban location and large population of older Americans poses different but significant challenges as well.  The lessons we learn from these trials will play a critical role as we begin this transition in our approximately 4700 wire centers across the country to meet our goal of completing the IP transition by the end of 2020.”

Delray-Beach-CrossFit1The transition may prove more controversial than AT&T is willing to admit. A similar effort to move landline customers to wireless service was met with strong resistance when Verizon announced it would not repair wired infrastructure on Fire Island, N.Y., damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of complaints were registered with the New York Public Service Commission over the poor quality of service residents received with Verizon’s wireless landline replacement. The company eventually abandoned the wireless-only transition and announced it would also offer FiOS fiber optic service to customers seeking a better alternative.

“Be ready, beware,” Jim Rosenthal, a seasonal Fire Island resident, told Bloomberg News when asked what communities need to know about the changes. “Get your ducks in order. Make the alliances. Speak loudly, make sure you’re not roadkill.”

Customers that have already dropped landline service in favor of wireless and do not depend on AT&T for broadband will not notice any changes. Neither will customers  subscribed to U-verse phone and broadband service. But those who rely on AT&T DSL are likely to lose their wired broadband service and asked to switch to a very expensive wireless broadband alternative sold by AT&T. That alternative may be their only broadband option if the neighborhood is not serviced by a cable competitor.

The biggest impact will be in rural Carbon Hill, where 55% of AT&T customers will only be able to get wireless phone and broadband service, according to AT&T documents. At least 4% of local residents will get no service at all from AT&T, because they are outside of AT&T’s wireless coverage area. The phone company has no plans to expand its U-verse deployment in the rural community northwest of Birmingham. In contrast, every customer in West Delray Beach will be offered U-verse service. That means AT&T’s DSL customers will eventually be forced to switch to either U-verse for broadband or a wireless broadband plan that costs $50 a month, limited to 5GB of usage.

AT&T promises the transition will be an upgrade for customers, but that isn't always the case.

AT&T promises the transition will be an upgrade for customers, but that isn’t always true.

AT&T’s wireless home phone replacement is not compatible with fax machines, home or medical monitoring services, credit card machines, IP/PBX phone systems, dial-up Internet, and other data services. AT&T also disclaims any responsibility for mishandled 911 emergency calls that lack accurate location information about a customer in distress. The company also does not guarantee uninterrupted service or coverage.

AT&T chose Carbon Hill, which was originally a coal mining town, because it represents the classic poor, rural community common across AT&T’s service area. At least 21 percent of customers live below the poverty line. Many cannot afford cable service (if available). AT&T selected Alabama and Florida because both states have been friendly to its political agenda, adopting AT&T-sponsored deregulation measures statewide. AT&T was not required to seek permission from either state to begin its transition, and it is unlikely there will be any strong oversight on the state level.

“We looked for places where state law wasn’t going to be an issue, where the regulatory and legal environment in the state was conducive to the transition,” admitted Christopher Heimann, an AT&T attorney, at a briefing announcing the experiment.

Verizon faced a very different regulatory environment in New York, where unhappy Fire Island customers dissatisfied with Verizon’s wireless landline replacement Voice Link found sympathy from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who appealed to the state PSC to block the service. Sources told Stop the Cap! the oversight agency was planning to declare the service inadequate, just as Verizon announced it would offer its fiber optic service FiOS as an alternative option on the island.

Voice Link sparked complaints over dropped calls, poor sound quality, inadequate reception, and inadequacy for use with data services of all kinds. Customers were also upset Verizon’s service would not work as well in the event of a power interruption and the company disclaimed responsibility for assured access to 911.

carbon hill

Carbon Hill, Ala.

Although millions of Americans have disconnected landline telephone service in favor of wireless alternatives, traditional landlines are still commonly used in businesses and by poor and elderly customers. Many medical and security monitoring services also require landlines.

The loss of AT&T’s wired network could also mean no affordable broadband future for rural residents — wireless broadband is typically much more expensive. AT&T admits it will not guarantee DSL customers they will be able to keep wired broadband after the transition.

AT&T will “do our very best” to provide Internet-based services in trial areas, Bob Quinn, senior vice president for federal regulatory matters, said in a 2012 blog post proposing the trials.

“For those few we cannot reach with a broadband service, whether wireline or wireless, they will still be able to keep voice service,” Quinn said. “We are very cognizant that no one should be left behind in this transition.”

AT&T is likely to be the biggest winner if it successfully scraps its copper network. The company wants to drop landline service completely by 2020, saving the company millions while ending government oversight and eliminating service obligations.

“It’s a big darn deal,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. “The amount of cost that it removes from our legacy businesses is dramatic and it’s significant.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ATT The Next Generation IP Network 2-21-14.mp4

An AT&T-produced video showing a sunny future with IP-based phone service. But the future may not be so great for AT&T’s rural DSL customers. (1:31)

Share

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Randy Knospe: I live in Wisconsin and I can see how many jobs Walker is creating. Funny how these Republicans say government doesn't create jobs (the private secto...
  • Tom Tanner: I have switched to ACS because of paying close to $300 dollars one month because everyone in my household at the time streamed music and movies, used ...
  • txpatriot: You're right Phillip, my bad....
  • Paul Houle: Well, the lifeline program dates back to before cell service existed. The new cell phone lifeline programs have the legitimate purpose of extendin...
  • Phillip Dampier: The Lifeline program is a regulated program, regardless of the technology, because it provides a government subsidy. You are correct the wireless serv...
  • txpatriot: Phillip, you blame this mess on deregulation, but deregulation actually has very little to do with it. First of all, the primary vehicle for this fra...
  • paul houle: If you go to nyc you see there are four starbucks on every block south of central park and that is a plot to fool the decision making class. Investor...
  • txpatriot: At this stage, participation for current customers is voluntary; see page 88 of the FCC Order authorizing the IP Transition trial: http://transitio...
  • txpatriot: What exactly does AT&T (or google, for that matter) hope to accomplish with these pre-launch press releases? I assume they are meant to build a...
  • Chuck Willy: What does the service agreement say? I can charge any amount rent I want on something on my property. I'll send them a bill for $1mil if my box isn't...
  • B: RST is deploying fiber across NC, and Wake Forest was promised to become the first town in the county for beta testing gigabit internet service....
  • Kerry: I actually asked that question directly to my Comcast account rep yesterday....

Your Account: