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Comcast Will Sell You Mesh Wi-Fi to Boost Their Inadequate Wireless Gateway

Comcast customers receiving inadequate Wi-Fi coverage while using a company-provided wireless gateway can now buy a mesh-style wireless solution starting at $119.

XFINITY xFi Pods work only with Comcast’s internet service and provide extended Wi-Fi coverage when paired with either the xFi Wireless Gateway or the xFi Advanced Gateway — both available in Comcast store locations.

“Our gateway devices are incredibly powerful, but we know that some homes have a unique layout or are constructed of materials that can disrupt Wi-Fi coverage in some rooms,” said Eric Schaefer, senior vice president and general manager, Broadband, Automation and Communications, Comcast Cable. “Wi-Fi is the oxygen for the digital home and our xFi Pods can blanket a home with great coverage and are simple to install and easy to use.”

Comcast claims its xFi Pods continually evaluate local signal environments to adjust Wi-Fi channels and bands to assure a superior signal. By creating a mesh network, Comcast claims the Pods help eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots in a larger home.

Customers use the xFi mobile app to get new Pods up and running and continually monitor the in-home mesh network. Each individual Pod plugs into a standard home electrical outlet. Customers who do not need to use all of them in a home or apartment setting can share the extras with friends and family, as long as they also have Comcast internet service and the appropriate gateway.

The hexagon-shaped, xFi Pods are sold in three-packs for $119, or in six-packs for $199, plus shipping and handling. They can be purchased online at www.xfinity.com/xfipods, from the xFi app, or from some XFINITY retail stores. Some purchases can be added to the customer’s Comcast bill. Later this year, customers will also be offered a monthly payment plan for the Pods.

SPECS

Color: White
WiFi Capacity: AC1200
Size: D:2.05in./L:2.52in./H:2.227in.
Ethernet: Single GbE Ethernet
Power supply: 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz, 5W Max

Comcast claims xFi Pods are superior to traditional Wi-Fi extenders because they communicate with each other and pass traffic between them, allowing for multiple areas of enhanced Wi-Fi coverage around a home.

But there are some caveats:

  1. The Pods have a maximum throughput of 200 Mbps, and that was in a lab setting. Comcast said its Pods are intended to expand in-home coverage, not deliver speed to every corner of the home. That means while connected to a xFi Pod, expect maximum download speeds between 100-175 Mbps.
  2. The Pods only work with Comcast’s app and gateway. If you own your own modem or router (for Wi-Fi), the Pods will not work. If you switch providers, the xFi Pods will stop working.
  3. Your Wi-Fi network must share a single Wi-Fi network name and password. You cannot have Wi-Fi guest networks or different SSIDs for 2.4 and 5 GHz channels.

Some Optimum Customers Getting Free 400 Mbps Upgrades

Some Altice-Optimum customers in New York and New Jersey are enjoying a free speed upgrade to 400 Mbps, double the speed of the 200 Mbps they used to get.

Max Sharfstein reports his speeds suddenly increased late last week after his modem rebooted. Other customers report similar speed upgrades.

“I was on a promotion for 200 Mbps service but now I am getting 400 Mbps performance, based on speedtest results,” Sharfstein told Stop the Cap! “It’s quite a boost from the 100 Mbps I was originally paying for before Altice started giving out promotional credits to hold onto customers.”

Sharfstein’s bill shows his 200 Mbps tier has been replaced with the 400 Mbps tier, without any action on his part. His current promotion ends in September.

“I’m not sure what I will have then,” Sharfstein admits.

The Optimum website shows the cable operator selling 20, 100, 200, and 400 Mbps tiers. Customers can check with Optimum customer service to see if they qualify for any free speed upgrades.

With a recent rate hike now taking effect, most customers will pay $64.95 for 100 Mbps service starting in June. The company runs free or discounted speed upgrade promotions from time to time, mostly as a customer retention tool and a way to better compete against Verizon FiOS.

If customers balk about the price, Optimum also sells a basic 20 Mbps tier for around $29.99 a month with a $10 modem rental fee (waived if you bring your own modem.) Existing customers report getting downgraded to this tier can be difficult, with representatives claiming it is not available, despite the fact it is as of now. New customers should have no trouble signing up for the $29.99 plan, however.

If you are an Optimum customer, let us know if you see a speed upgrade in your area in the comments.

Hillsboro, Ore. Rejects Naysayers and Pushing Ahead With $50 Gigabit Public Broadband

Three years after Hillboro’s city council accepted the recommendation of a consultant that warned the city away from running its own residential fiber network, local officials have changed their mind and plan to extend the city’s institutional fiber network to homes and businesses, offering affordable $10 a month internet access, as well as gigabit speed for $50 a month.

The Oregonian reports Hillsboro Mayor Steve Calloway wants to move fiber back on the agenda because recent experiences in other western cities with public broadband networks found a much higher buy-in by local residents, with up to 50% willing to ditch Comcast, CenturyLink, Frontier and other providers in favor of fiber to the home service. A recent “conservative” estimate expected 36% of Hillsboro residents would sign up if given the chance. Ongoing complaints about poor customer service from Frontier Communications, the area’s phone company, only increased support for the public broadband initiative.

In 2015, a consultant hired to study the feasibility of offering public broadband in Hillsboro, the fifth largest city in Oregon, recommended against it, which caused the city council to shelve the project. Uptown Services said Hillsboro would have to spend around $66 million for what it felt would be a “marginally viable” fiber to the home network expected to grab only a 28% share of a market dominated by Comcast.

Despite the cost, more than 77% of respondents to a phone survey held at the time were interested in switching to the city’s municipal fiber network, if it was priced at least 10% less than the competition. Hillsboro’s fiber aspirations face significant cost challenges other communities don’t, because 80% of buildings in Hillsboro are served by buried cables, which cost much more to install over aerial cable strung between utility poles.

 

Hillsboro is a rapidly growing community, with plans to develop 8,000 new homes in South Hillsboro that could eventually house 20,000 people. The new housing construction offers a unique and affordable opportunity to place underground fiber optic cables in the same trenches already dug for electrical, cable, and telephone service.

The city plans to start the project by running fiber into lower-income areas of the Southwest Hillsboro/Shute Par area, to offer affordable access to residents for as little as $10 a month. More affluent customers will be able to select gigabit service for $50 a month — cheaper than what Comcast and Frontier offer.

To keep the impact on the city budget reasonable, Hillsboro city council is being asked to allocate $4 million annually for fiber rollouts starting in 2019, with an equal amount each year through 2024. City engineers estimate it will take a decade to completely wire the community of 92,000, located just west of Portland.

 

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Promises Fake 5G Initially; Only Slightly Better Than 4G LTE

The head of T-Mobile USA claims a merged T-Mobile and Sprint will be the best positioned to quickly deliver 5G wireless service to Americans, despite claims from industry insiders Legere’s claim is little more than vaporware.

“Only the new T-Mobile will have the network and spectrum capacity to quickly create a broad and deep 5G network in the first few years of the 5G innovation cycle, the years that will determine if American firms lead or follow in the 5G digital economy,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere claimed during the April 29th merger announcement.

But the 5G network Legere is referring to is little better than T-Mobile’s existing 4G LTE network, and won’t be capable of delivering gigabit speeds or an in-home broadband replacement.

Broadband expert Dave Burstein characterizes T-Mobile’s audacious 5G claims as part of a campaign to “bamboozle D.C.” to win merger approval.

It turns out T-Mobile is not talking about the same 5G technology under development at AT&T and Verizon, which both use millimeter wave networks and small cell antennas.

T-Mobile’s version of 5G is a already appearing elsewhere around the world — a new definition incremental upgrade for 4G LTE, “70-90 percent slower than the good stuff — millimeter wave,” claims Burstein.

“Folks building LTE-speed networks wanted to be called ‘5G’ and take advantage of the massive hype,” Burstein wrote. “So they made ‘New Definition 5G’ with a PR campaign and a minor software tweak, dubbed ‘NR’ for New Radio. 4G LTE networks [suddenly] became ‘5G.’ Every engineer in the business knows this is a scam.”

T-Mobile’s version of ‘5G’ is likely to appear on its spectrum in the 600 MHz range, easily deployed from existing cell towers and relatively cheap and easy to launch. It won’t deliver anything close to the speed or capacity improvements being claimed by Legere and a few others in the industry.

“Legere is swearing to Washington the T-Mobile 640 MHz 5G NR network will be many times faster than LTE,” Burstein said. “That isn’t true, of course. It’s far more likely to be only 25%-50% faster, or perhaps less. It may even be slower than the 500 MHz LTE/LAA T-Mobile already has in Manhattan.”

China claims to be ahead of the United States — another issue being pushed by T-Mobile merger supporters to “regain” America’s “lead” on 5G — by deploying its own version of 5G similar to the ‘new definition’ version of 5G Burstein talks about. The Trump Administration has even contemplated nationalizing America’s 5G network infrastructure to share benefits among all leading wireless carriers, if only to speed deployment and generate new demand for network equipment produced in the United States — not China.

But a closer look at China Mobile’s version of 5G finds the company installing approximately two million “mid-band” 5G cellular antennas that will work at 3.7 GHz. It isn’t the millimeter wave 5G technology contemplated by AT&T and Verizon, and won’t deliver much faster speeds than China Mobile’s existing 4G LTE infrastructure. Instead, it will help China Mobile better manage its bandwidth demand with a network at least twice as large as that of AT&T or Verizon.

Critics of ‘new definition 5G’ call the technology “evolutionary, not revolutionary.”

What makes millimeter wave 5G technology superior is the wide swath of dedicated spectrum typically available for wireless broadband. Some companies will have 400 to 800 MHz of frequencies available to support millimeter wave 5G, while the maximum spectrum for LTE is around 100 MHz. That extra millimeter wave spectrum has delivered up to 20 Gbps speeds in the lab, and Verizon is contemplating selling gigabit speed service to its fixed wireless customers using the technology sometime this year.

Despite Legere’s boastful claims, Burstein warns politicians and regulators they need to learn that T-Mobile’s type of “5G” is no longer “a big thing in most cases.” Even seasoned regulators like Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai at the FCC have incorrectly confused new definition 5G with millimeter wave 5G. Others, including Andrus Ansip at the EU and several Chinese leaders, have made similar mistakes as part of boastful claims about future network performance.

Burstein says it is a case of not listening to network engineers, who know the difference.

“They have engineers at the FCC,” Burstein said. “If they listen to the engineers, they will know the [merger] deal is not in the public interest.”

As N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Resigns, Telecom-Related Cases Could Stall

Schneiderman

New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned late Monday after four women accused him of physical abuse, causing a political earthquake in Albany and potentially stalling several important telecommunications-related cases that were championed by the Democrat.

The New Yorker magazine published an article late Monday with the accounts of the four women who said Schneiderman subjected them to non-consensual physical violence during romantic encounters.

Schneiderman issued several statements denying he assaulted anyone or took part in non-consensual sex. His resignation announcement said the allegations will effectively prevent him from carrying out his office’s work.

He had been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, including filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, one of the many high-profile men in politics, entertainment and business accused of assaulting women.

Schneiderman was also one of the country’s strongest advocates of holding telecom companies to their agreements. He was actively involved in pursuing the state’s dominant cable company, Charter Communications, for allegedly selling internet speeds his office claimed the company knew it could not deliver, and was more recently investigating Charter for its failure to adequately expand its rural service area to comply with the 2016 merger agreement between Charter, Time Warner Cable and the state’s Public Service Commission.

Schneiderman was elected in 2010 on a platform of pursuing equal justice for all New Yorkers. His website noted, “As the highest ranking law enforcement officer for the State, Schneiderman believes there has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful.”

On Tuesday, the governor announced New York Solicitor Barbara Underwood, also a Democrat, has stepped in to serve as acting attorney general.

Underwood, 73, has been the state Solicitor General since 2007 when she was appointed by then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Schneiderman left her in place after he won election to the attorney general position in 2010. Underwood has no record of being a political advocate and has no intention to run for the position in the fall elections, making her largely a caretaker of the office. Her role has traditionally been to represent the state in appeals cases.

Underwood

Her lack of political intention was cited by Gov. Cuomo in his remarks introducing her as Schneiderman’s replacement.

“She’s an extraordinarily competent woman, so I have no fear in the immediate she will provide good stewardship in the office,” Cuomo said. “She’s a total professional” and the fact she is not running for office means “she will not be playing politics. She’ll just be doing the job.”

“I am honored to serve the people of New York as acting attorney general,” Underwood said in a statement. “The work of this office is critically important. Our office has never been stronger, and this extraordinarily talented, dedicated, and tireless team of public servants will ensure that our work continues without interruption.”

Traditionally, caretaker heads of the Attorney General’s office continue existing cases and rely heavily on staff attorneys and their supervisors to continue litigation. But few observers expect Underwood will break ground on new cases or attempt to shift priorities in the office. Because the next scheduled election for New York’s attorney general is this year, most anticipate Underwood will keep a low profile until the election or the legislature replaces her. Had the governor appointed an acting attorney general with political ambitions, most would have expected an active summer and fall of high profile cases to build a list of accomplishments to promote in the fall campaign.

The last Republican to hold the position, Dennis Vacco (1995-1998), told the press the sudden opening of the office could spark considerable interest among Democrats and Republicans. The Attorney General slot has recently proved to be an important position for anyone considering a run for governor in New York. Both Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo served in this position before being elected to the governor’s office.

Vacco told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle he expects few changes in the office if Underwood remains a caretaker until the next election.

James

“If she is not a candidate for election, I think that she will be much more status quo-oriented,” he said.

But if the state legislature moves to appoint an interim replacement, the individual chosen will very likely have a political interest in winning the office at the next election opportunity. Vacco said that individual may want to put her or his own imprimatur on the office operations, which means the cases pursued in the future will not likely be the same as those chased by Schneiderman. The idea is “put[ting] distance between yourself and Schneiderman.”

There are multiple Democrats actively considering or who have been mentioned as possible candidates for the position this week:

NY City Public Advocate Letitia James: Favored by Gov. Cuomo, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, James is no pushover for cable companies. James has led the charge against Charter Communications’ performance in Manhattan and has held Verizon’s feet to the fire over their slow deployment of FiOS in New York’s largest city.

Former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara: Has the support of several prominent admirers in New York and Washington, D.C. His indefatigable prosecution of public corruption cases has him feared in some circles and admired in others. He is also a fierce critic of the president. Consumer groups are uncertain what types of cases would get his attention if he were to win the position.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, the former Nassau County district attorney is actively mentioned as a candidate, as is Queens state Sen. Michael Gianaris, and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout. Teachout has been actively involved in promoting broadband issues including net neutrality. Another person who has been approached by Democratic officials to weigh a possible run is Ben Lawsky, the former superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services and a former federal prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.

Among members of the state legislature, who could quickly appoint a replacement until the fall election, James appears to be the current leading candidate. James would be New York’s first African-American attorney general, and would represent another instance of a female replacing a disgraced male official. She declined comment about her interest in the position.

On the Republican side, lawyer Manny Alicandro is running for the nomination for attorney general. His candidacy is likely to be challenging, given the Democratic enrollment advantage in New York and a mid-term election likely to drive more Democrats to the polls.

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  • LG: Truly disgusting. Every time something like this happens, it further erodes trust and belief in our government. At this point, I think 3/4 of this c...
  • George: 802.11ax with 8x8:8 MIMO streams are hitting the market, and Comcast is stuck in the past with 2 stream MIMO on 802.11ac, playing ping-pong with high ...
  • K Richner: These apparently are just Plume Pods with custom Firmware I own 12 Plume Pods! That are not locked to a isp this is a rip off since they cost about th...
  • Paul Houle: There is hope for fixed wireless, at least for me, since I have no hope for Frontier. I have investigated some wireless offerings from MVNOs and si...
  • Ian Littman: Counterpoint: mmWave based 5G is going to be a bear to deploy, to the point that 5G NR from T-Mo et al will likely have nationwide coverage before mmW...
  • Butch Kara: We still have Centurylink DSL (or should I say, we have it when it works) supposedly 1.5Mbps, but usually 0.6 or slower (right now around 0.2). and ha...
  • Lee: Seems I need to amend my post about the closed fiber optic loop system. Frontier Communications is not installing it. It is an expansion of the Elkhar...
  • James: In the beginning I was hopeful of Frontier a good review but I just zcan't do it.. we switched from comcrooks recently oct. '17, the phone reps screwe...
  • Lee: Change the name from Spectrum to Speculum....
  • Lee: I am in Indiana. I used my Street Atlas program to figure they are installing 6.5 miles of underground fiber optic along the roads between the two sch...
  • Bob: I have Mohu Leaf antennas on both TV's and I get the locals that way also. All I know is that as a former regular DirecTV customer, they are trying v...
  • Phillip Dampier: Institutional broadband. Frontier owns the network that taxpayers subsidize and Frontier gets to charge whatever it wants for service on that network....

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