Recent Articles:

Verizon’s “Unlimited” Confusion Plus Plan Now Really Means 30 GB Data Cap, Except When Its 50 GB

Verizon wireless plans: now more confusing than ever.

The concept of “unlimited data” rarely means unlimited on mobile plans and it can get very confusing for consumers trying to figure out what each carrier defines as “unlimited.”

Verizon has announced some plan changes that are not helping resolve this confusion.

As of late last week, Verizon introduced a new version of its “Unlimited Plus” plan, which attaches to existing wireless plans for an extra $30 a month. Then, if you would like to connect more devices to your plan beyond your phone, you can sign up for an unlimited connected device plan and upgrade to Unlimited Plus for another $10 a month. If you have a tablet or hotspot, Verizon will sell you another unlimited plan for those for an extra $20 a month.

What? Confusing!

Customers enrolled in the older standard “Unlimited Plus” plan received unlimited data up to 15 GB before a speed throttle kicked in. The new “Unlimited Plus” offers unlimited-unlimited 5G and up to 30 GB of “premium” 4G LTE data. So it appears you get double the unlimited data as well as an infinite amount of 5G service which is probably not provided in your area (or if you turn the corner, or go indoors in an area that has the service). But if you are connecting a hotspot, laptop, or tablet to your plan, then Verizon redefines unlimited again, this time to mean up to 50 GB of 5G data (almost not available anywhere) and then you get speed throttled to 3 Mbps for the rest of the billing cycle, but just on those devices.

Oh by the way, if you have an Apple Watch, Verizon has a plan for that as well, now priced at $10 a month, which gets you 15 GB of premium data, presumably on the watch.

U.S. Justice Department Proposes Major Changes to Social Media and Content Providers’ Immunity

Phillip Dampier September 23, 2020 Public Policy & Gov't, Reuters 1 Comment

Barr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump met with nine Republican attorneys general on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for internet companies after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law.

Trump met with state attorneys general from Texas, Arizona, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia.

The White House said they discussed how the attorneys general can utilize existing legal recourses at the state level – in an effort to weaken the law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users.

After the meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the issue of technology platforms within a short period. It was not immediately clear what conclusion he was referring to.

He also said his administration is watching the performance of tech platforms in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America,” Trump said. “Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules,” he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal that seeks to reform Section 230. It followed through on Trump’s bid earlier this year to crack down on tech giants after Twitter Inc placed warning labels on Trump tweets, saying they have included potentially misleading information about mail-in voting.

The Justice Department’s bill would need congressional approval and is not likely to see action until next year at the earliest. There are several pieces of legislation doing the rounds in Congress that seek to curb the same immunity. It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department will support any single piece of legislation that has already been proposed.

Any such bill would have to win the support of the Republicans who control the Senate and the Democrats who control the House of Representatives in order to become law. Such legislation’s future would be further complicated if the Democrats regain control of the Senate or win the White House.

The Justice Department proposal primarily states that when internet companies “willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.”

It proposes a series of reforms to ensure internet companies are transparent about their decisions when removing content and when they should be held responsible for speech they modify. It also revises existing definitions of Section 230 with more concrete language that offers more guidance to users and courts.

It also incentivizes online platforms to address illicit content and pushes for more clarity on federal civil enforcement actions.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement the administration was urging “Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate egregious criminal activity online.”

In June, the Justice Department proposed that Congress take up legislation to curb this immunity. This was after Trump in May signed an executive order that seeks new regulatory oversight of tech firms’ content moderation decisions and backed legislation to scrap or weaken Section 230.

Trump in May also directed the Commerce Department to file a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to limit protections under Section 230. The petition is still pending.

The Internet Association – a group representing major internet companies including Facebook, Amazon.com, and Google, said the Justice Department’s proposal would severely limit people’s ability to express themselves and have a safe experience online.

The group’s deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Banker, said moderation efforts that remove misinformation, platform manipulation and cyberbullying would all result in lawsuits under this proposal.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Diane Bartz and Eric Beech in Washington and Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

Windstream Emerges from Bankruptcy, Promises More Fiber Broadband

Phillip Dampier September 22, 2020 Consumer News, Rural Broadband, Windstream No Comments

Windstream’s new logo

Windstream has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a new privately held company controlled by Elliott Management Corporation, an activist hedge fund known for squeezing expenses out of companies and eventually selling its stake and exiting the business.

As a restructured company, Windstream shed almost two-thirds of its debt, amounting to more than $4 billion. The company will almost immediately tap $2 billion in new capital, targeting more spending on shedding copper wiring in several of its service areas, replaced by gigabit fiber that will primarily target its business customers. Windstream’s budget to upgrade residential customers is reportedly considerably less, but some customers will see upgrades in the future.

“Today marks the start of a new era for Windstream as an even stronger, more competitive company,” Windstream president & CEO Tony Thomas said in a statement released late Monday. “With the support of our new owners and current operational momentum, Windstream will continue advancing our long-term growth objectives while providing our customers with quality and reliable services.”

Thomas

The most immediate change most customers will notice is a new logo, which the company says aligns with the three segments of the business: consumer broadband, business customers, and wholesale/reseller clients.

Paul Sunu, who used to serve as the CEO of FairPoint Communications before it was sold to Consolidated Communications, is Windstream’s new chairman of the board.

“Tony and the Windstream team have made significant strides in the last 18 months to better position the company to compete for the long term,” Sunu said Monday. “The new board and I are confident that we have the right management team and right strategy to accelerate Windstream’s transformation, return to growth and drive sustainable value creation.”

Windstream was a publicly traded company since its 2006 spinoff from Alltel Corporation. As a private company, it will now answer primarily to its debt holders who acquired the company’s old debt in its bankruptcy.

Peacock Launches on Roku After NBCUniversal Reaches Agreement

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2020 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Peacock No Comments

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service app is now finally available on Roku devices and Roku-enabled televisions, almost 10 weeks after the new streaming service launched.

Peacock’s appearance on Roku came after NBCUniversal and Roku reached a deal guaranteeing NBCU’s networks (and corresponding apps for 11 NBCU networks, 12 NBCU-owned local stations, and 23 Telemundo-owned local stations) will remain available on the Roku platform and in return, Roku will support Peacock. The deal was seen as crucial by analysts, because Roku has an installed user base of over 43 million accounts, with an estimated 100 million viewers in households across the country.

“We are pleased that NBC agreed to a very positive and mutually beneficial partnership to bring Peacock to America’s No. 1 streaming platform,” said Tedd Cittadine, Roku’s vice president of content acquisition. “We are excited by the opportunities to integrate NBC content within the Roku Channel while we also work together with Peacock on the development of a significant and meaningful advertising and ad tech partnership. This is a great outcome for consumers and we look forward to growing together with Peacock as they bring their incredible content to the Roku platform.”

Roku is also pleased whenever a significant content provider signs a deal with the company. Roku traditionally takes a 20% cut of all subscription revenue when a customer signs up for a service on the Roku platform. It receives at least 30% of the advertising time on free streaming services, allowing Roku to sell advertising and keep the money. NBCU appeared to be reluctant to accept those terms, and that is likely what caused the delay in debuting Peacock on Roku. Neither party would disclose the terms in the contract. Comcast is the parent company of NBCU.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said last week Peacock had signed up at least 15 million new users over the last two months. But Roberts would not disclose how many were actually paying for the service. Peacock’s free, ad-supported tier offers over 13,000 hours of classic and current NBC programs, including entertainment, news, and sports. A small catalog of original series and other premium content is also available for $4.99 a month (or $49.99/yr), and users who want it all — without ads — can pay $9.99 a month (or $99.99/yr). Roberts likely needs a much larger subscriber base to make Peacock a viable proposition, making its availability on the Roku platform crucial.

Some analysts fear carriage disputes like this could open a new front in the “retransmission consent” wars, where national and local networks are blacked out when cable or satellite providers refuse to pay their asking prices. If Roku insists on being compensated in return for making services available in its app store and if content providers cannot reach an agreement, services could suddenly disappear, or never appear at all. HBO Max is still unavailable on Roku because parent company AT&T has yet to sign a contract with Roku, and Peacock remains unavailable on Amazon’s Fire TV platform and Samsung’s Smart TVs.

Trump Nominates Ally to Push FCC Towards Social Media Regulation

Phillip Dampier September 16, 2020 Public Policy & Gov't, Reuters No Comments

Simington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, pressing for new social media regulations, plans to nominate a senior administration official to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the White House said on Tuesday.

The nomination of Nathan Simington, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), comes after the White House abruptly announced in early August it was withdrawing the nomination of Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly to serve another term.

Trump issued an executive order in May requiring the NTIA to petition the FCC asking the commission to impose new regulations on social media moderation practices after Twitter Inc warned readers to fact-check his posts about unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in mail-in voting.

Simington helped draft the May executive order, the Washington Post reported.

By contrast, O’Rielly expressed skepticism about whether the FCC had authority to issue new regulations covering social media companies. In July, he said the “the First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government – not private actors – and we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way.”

O’Rielly, who has not commented on the White House withdrawal of his name, congratulated Simington Tuesday in a Twitter post on his nomination “and offer best wishes for a smooth confirmation process and successful term.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai opened NTIA’s petition to public comment. The comment period expires this week. He has declined to comment on its merits.

A group representing major internet companies including Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc urged the FCC to reject the petition, saying the effort “is misguided, lacks grounding in law, and poses serious public policy concerns.”

NTIA asked the FCC to limit protections for social media companies under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney and Christopher Cushing

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

Your Account:

Stop the Cap!