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Comcast Internet-Only Customers Can Now Get XFINITY Flex Streaming Box for Free

Comcast internet-only customers that used to pay $5 a month for an X1-powered streaming video box with an X1 voice remote will now get their first box for free.

The XFINITY Flex Streaming Box, capable of streaming 4K video from Comcast’s own streaming video platform and supported streaming apps from services like Amazon Prime Video, Epix, Hulu, HBO, and Netflix, is Comcast’s solution for cord-cutters that might be thinking about switching internet providers or could be lured back to an inexpensive video package if the price is right.

The platform should be familiar to former Comcast video customers that used to use Comcast’s X1 set-top box, and includes access to Comcast’s large TV Everywhere on-demand content library, which includes over 10,000 free, advertiser-supported movies and TV series.

In fact, the only services not available on the platform are Comcast’s live TV streaming competitors like AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV, and similar services.

The first box is now bundled with internet-only service, with each additional box priced at $5/month.

XFINITY Flex is now bundled with Comcast’s internet-only service, with the first box available for free. (0:37)

Comcast NBC to Launch “Peacock” Streaming Service Next April; Free to Comcast Cable TV Subscribers

Phillip Dampier September 17, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Peacock No Comments

Comcast is planning to debut its new streaming TV platform under the NBC “Peacock” brand next April with a lineup of original shows starring well-known talent including Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, and Ed Helms.

Peacock will most closely resemble the advertiser-supported Hulu platform, with 21 million Comcast cable television customers getting access for free. Comcast is reportedly also negotiating with other cable, satellite, and telco TV providers about bundling free basic Peacock subscriptions for their cable TV customers as well. Those who never subscribed to cable TV or cut the cord will be offered the option of a lower cost, commercial-filled subscription or a more expensive ad-free option, presumably at prices similar to what Hulu charges ($5.99-11.99).

Peacock’s subscription model is designed to protect Comcast’s cable TV revenue. For existing Comcast cable TV customers, giving ad-supported subscriptions away for free may add to the value proposition of keeping a cable TV subscription. By charging subscription fees to everyone else, Comcast is not ‘giving away the store for free.’ If it did, it could upset other pay television companies that are facing ever-rising retransmission consent fees and programming costs for Comcast/NBC-owned TV stations and cable networks including CNBC, MSNBC, and the USA Network.

Comcast is confident its long experience offering streaming TV Everywhere services including live streaming and on demand programming will mean it will not face the kinds of scaling mistakes other streaming services have had. Bonnie Hammer, the NBCUniversal executive appointed to run Peacock, believes the service’s deep content catalog, starting with 15,000 hours of NBC and Universal Studios TV shows and movies complimented with other acquired and original productions will give viewers plenty to watch.

“I’m not sure anybody else out there can do what we can do,” Hammer told the Wall Street Journal. “We expect to have great content and a great product [that] is really easy to use.”

In addition to scripted content, Peacock will also feature live and recorded news and sports programming from NBC.

Among the shows featured on the Peacock platform:

Original Drama Series

ANGELYNE (limited series)
Limited series based on The Hollywood Reporter feature that explored the identity of L.A.’s mysterious billboard bombshell.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Battlestar Galactica reboot.

BRAVE NEW WORLD
Based on Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World. The series envisions life in a utopian society that bans monogamy, privacy, money, and never discusses history.

DR. DEATH
Inspired by a podcast by the same name. Dr. Death follows the true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (played by Jamie Dornan), a rising star in the Dallas medical community who also emerges as a deadly sociopath. Duntsch’s successful neurosurgery practice gradually deteriorates into a horror show of permanently disabled or dead patients. Two fellow doctors, played by Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater, fight an entrenched medical bureaucracy designed to protect money-making doctors to get his practice shut down.

ONE OF US IS LYING (pilot)
Based on the novel One of Us Is Lying, the crime series follows the unfolding of events after five people spend an afternoon in detention, but only four leave alive.

UNTITLED REAL HOUSEWIVES SPINOFF (no details provided)

Original Comedy Series

A.P. BIO (Season 3)
Picks up where the original NBC TV series left off. When disgraced Harvard philosophy professor Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) loses out on his dream job to his rival Miles Leonard (Tom Bennett), he is forced to return to the small town Toledo, Ohio and work as an advanced placement biology teacher at the fictional Whitlock High School. Jack makes it clear to his class that he will not be teaching any biology. Realising he has a room full of honor-roll students at his disposal, Jack decides to use them for his own benefit: getting revenge on Miles. Eager to prove that he is still king of the castle, Principal Durbin (Patton Oswalt) struggles to keep Griffin under control.

PUNKY BREWSTER (pilot)
This continues of the iconic 80s sitcom about a bright young girl raised by a foster dad features Punky as a now single mother of three trying to get her life back on track when she meets a young girl who reminds her a lot of her younger self.

RUTHERFORD FALLS
A small town in upstate New York is turned upside down when local legend and town namesake, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) fights the moving of a historical statue.

SAVED BY THE BELL (reboot)
When California governor Zack Morris gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the highest performing schools in the state – including Bayside High. The influx of new students gives the over-privileged Bayside kids a reality check.

STRAIGHT TALK
Straight Talk examines what happens when two opposing ideologies are forced into an odd coupling. The main characters will be challenged by one another, making the moral lines at which they once stood harder to define.

Original Unscripted Shows 

THE AMBER RUFFIN SHOW
A weekly show featuring Amber’s “signature smart-and-silly take on the week.” The show will de-emphasize talking with guests and spend more time on comedy routines.

WHO WROTE THAT
A docuseries designed to showcase Saturday Night Live’s comedy writers.

Original Made-for-Peacock TV Movie

PSYCH 2: LASSIE COME HOME
Based on the USA Network show Psych, Santa Barbara Police Chief Carlton Lassiter is ambushed on the job and left for dead. In a vintage Psych-style Hitchcockian nod, he begins to see impossible happenings around his recovery clinic. Shawn and Gus return to Lassie’s side in Santa Barbara and are forced to navigate the personal, the professional, and possibly the supernatural. Separated from their new lives in San Francisco, our heroes find themselves unwelcome in their old stomping grounds as they secretly untangle a twisted case without the benefit of the police, their loved ones, or the quality sourdough bakeries of the Bay Area. What they uncover will change the course of their relationships forever.

Legacy Shows in the Peacock Catalog

Bates Motel
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Cheers
Chrisley Knows Best
Covert Affairs
Downton Abbey
Everybody Loves Raymond
Frasier
Friday Night Lights
House
Keeping Up with the Kardashians
The King of Queens
Married … with Children
Monk
Parks and Recreation (exclusive, available Oct. 2020)
Parenthood
The Office (exclusive, available Jan. 2021)
Psych
The Real Housewives
Royal Pains
Saturday Night Live
Superstore
30 Rock
Top Chef
Will & Grace
100 Dias Para Volver (Spanish-language)
Betty in NY (Spanish-language)
El Barón (Spanish-language)
Preso No. 1 (Spanish-language)

Peacock’s Legacy Movies Catalog

American Pie
Back to the Future
A Beautiful Mind
Bourne franchise
The Breakfast Club
Bridesmaids
Brokeback Mountain
Casino
Dallas Buyers Club
Despicable Me franchise
Do the Right Thing
Erin Brockovich
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Fast & Furious
Field of Dreams
Jaws
Knocked Up
Mamma Mia!
Meet the Fockers
Meet the Parents
Shrek

“Refreshed” Verizon Home 5G Will Launch In 30 Cities This Year; Improved Reception Promised

After learning from the experiences of providing a wireless 5G home broadband alternative in a handful of U.S. cities, Verizon is preparing to launch a refreshed 5G Home fixed wireless product in all 30 cities where it intends to provide mobile 5G service this year.

The biggest change will be a new emphasis on self-installs. Verizon estimates about 80% of customers pre-screened online as qualified for the service can install it themselves with an indoor antenna. That is a big change for Verizon, which used to rely on technicians installing a fixed antenna on the side of a customer’s home. A new receiver expected to be introduced in 2020 is also expected to boost reception through the use of a new high-powered chipset, likely including Qualcomm’s new QTM527 mmWave antenna module that was custom designed to enhance and extend the range of 5G fixed wireless services. Verizon’s current 5G Home equipment uses a chipset originally designed for 5G smartphones.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, said Verizon Home 5G will be sold as a companion product wherever Verizon’s 5G millimeter wave network debuts.

“We’re now ready to go mass market,” Dunne told a group of investors.

U.S. cities with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston*
  • Indianapolis*
  • Los Angeles*
  • Minneapolis
  • Providence
  • Sacramento*
  • St. Paul
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Phoenix

(*-These cities, except for Indianapolis, only have fixed wireless 5G Home broadband at this time.)

U.S. cities planned for Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband deployment in 2019

  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Des Moines
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Kansas City
  • Little Rock
  • Memphis
  • San Diego
  • Salt Lake City

But where that market will exactly be is hard to tell. Verizon relies heavily on its service address qualification tool, which shows if a prospective customer can obtain the service. That tool is refined enough to ensure that over 90% of Verizon’s fixed wireless traffic stays on its 5G network, with only around 10% falling back to Verizon’s existing 4G LTE network.

Verizon uses its tool to assure “qualified” customers are well inside the radius of its 5G coverage area. An analysis found Verizon’s millimeter wave network, which operates in the 28 GHz band, has a limited range. Although Verizon predicted its network could reach 1,000 feet from each small cell location, the website only qualified those in Sacramento living within around 500 feet of each small cell. Verizon is also heavily reliant on using light poles for smart cells, and these were not always suitable for the widest coverage.

Earl Lum of EJL Wireless Research explored Verizon’s 5G network in Sacramento and found it primarily targeting 5G Home customers. If Verizon is intending to cover entire cities with millimeter wave 5G, Lum said “you’re talking about a crapload of poles.” Some analysts expect Verizon will introduce lower band 5G service to increase and compliment its millimeter wave coverage areas. The impact traffic from Verizon’s 5G Home service will have on lower band 5G networks is not known. The home broadband replacement currently markets speeds of around 300 Mbps with no monthly data cap for as low as $50, if one also subscribes to Verizon Wireless mobile service. Any low band 5G service running from traditional macro cell towers will be shared with a much larger number of customers than those sharing a small cell, potentially creating capacity problems down the road.

One other change to report: Verizon’s newest 5G Home cities will launch using the official 5G NR standard, not the unofficial 5G TF standard Verizon used in the four early launch cities.

It is too early to tell whether incumbent phone and cable companies will perceive a significant competitive threat from Verizon’s high speed fixed wireless proposition. Early reports of the service’s limited coverage in the four launch cities and fears about the high cost of expanding 5G service seemed to calm operator fears of a new competitor. But Verizon has also said for months that it purposely limited its 5G Home network rollout until the official 5G standard emerged. The wireless operator has also used this past spring and summer to learn from its early experiences with fixed 5G service and cut expenses like required truck rolls for installation out of the business. The money saved could be plowed into a more robust network of 5G small cells covering larger areas.

Charter Urges Streaming Services to Crack Down on Password Sharing

Phillip Dampier September 16, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video 3 Comments

Charter Communications is contemplating tying piracy mitigation to renewed contracts with movie studios, cable networks, and other programmers in an effort to enforce a new authentication standard to stop password sharing on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and CBS All Access.

The cable company is trying to build an alliance that will enforce authentication principles on subscribers that share passwords to streaming services. Walt Disney is the only programmer to sign on thus far, agreeing to Charter’s piracy mitigation strategies for its Disney+ service in return for a renewed contract to distribute Disney programming on Spectrum cable systems.

Thomas Rutledge, Charter’s CEO, has spoken frequently about revenue erosion caused when consumers share their streaming accounts with friends and extended family members. Spectrum enforces geofencing on its subscribers, prohibiting access to certain streamed content outside of the home. Rutledge has not been specific about exactly what types of limitations would be imposed under the new strategy, but examples could include geofencing, periodic location checks, and limits on the number of devices authorized to view content.

“Ultimately our goal is that we can get an alliance of a large enough group of programmers and operators to protect the value of the content that people produce and the content that we distribute and we pay for,” Chris Winfrey, Charter’s chief financial officer, said last week at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills.

Winfrey severely criticized programmers that turn a blind eye to the practice of password sharing, claiming such practices are “insane.”

“To think that it doesn’t impact the way we get paid, it does,” Winfrey said. “And it conditions the entire marketplace to think that content should be devalued, it should be free, and that’s the way it is and I shouldn’t have to pay for it. It’s our firm belief that we’d be growing and growing significantly [if it wasn’t for password sharing].”

Californians Complained More About Telecom Companies Than Wildfire Outages Caused by PG&E

More Californians are complaining to state officials about their cable television, internet, and phone service than the energy utilities implicated in causing deadly wildfires that left customers without power for days or weeks.

California’s Office of Senate Floor Analyses prepared a report for elected officials contemplating extending deregulation of the state’s top telecommunications companies. It found deregulation has not always benefited California consumers, noting that several companies have been fined for allowing traditional phone service to fall below required service quality standards. As service deteriorates, lawmakers have tied the hands of state officials trying to enforce what service standards still exist. The report found that the telecom industry has been especially good at covering itself through lobbying and litigation to isolate and disempower consumers seeking redress.

“Many companies, including telecommunications providers, include arbitration clauses in their contracts that limit a consumer’s ability to form a class with other consumers to seek remedies for unfair business practices related to contracts,” the report notes. “These clauses frequently limit consumers to a specified arbitration process that limits the types of remedies consumers can obtain for unfair business practices.”

Customers with unreliable phone service pursuing complaints on the federal level with the Federal Communications Commission have also been dealt a blow by the Trump Administration and its Republican majority control of the FCC.

“It is unclear what kind of remedies consumers can obtain since the FCC has adopted an order limiting its own ability to establish requirements for these services,” the report found.

Deregulation has not stopped Californians from trying to get help from the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), however. The CPUC’s Customer Affairs Branch recorded 1,087 complaints about the state’s phone and cable companies in January 2019, compared with 677 complaints against the state’s energy utilities and 53 lodged against water utilities.

The CPUC’s Customer Affairs Branch reported communications-related complaints were significantly higher than other utilities. (Image: California Office of Senate Floor Analyses)

“Despite the occurrence of wildfires in which utility infrastructure was implicated, complaints regarding energy utilities remained largely consistent between November 2018 and January 2019,” the report found. “The data indicates that the communications sector generates a greater number of complaints to the CPUC than other utility sectors on average, and a much greater percentage of those complaints are for customer issues over which the CPUC has no regulatory jurisdiction.”

Earlier this year, California’s largest investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), filed for bankruptcy protection after estimating it was liable for more than $30 billion in damages from recent wildfires. An investigation found equipment owned by PG&E was responsible for starting the worst wildfire in California history. The November 2018 Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise. Yet the Customer Affairs Branch received fewer complaints about PG&E than it received regarding AT&T, Charter Spectrum, Frontier, Cox, and Comcast XFINITY.

Unintended consequences of deregulation have also caused several high profile scandals among telecom companies in the state. Some of the worst offenses were committed by cable and phone companies that further traumatized victims of catastrophic wildfires. An effort to implement new consumer protections for fire victims forced to relocate met fierce resistance from cable and telephone industry lobbyists. Some of those same telecom companies continued to bill wildfire victims for months for service at addresses that no longer existed. AT&T even billed customers that died in the fires.

A recent San Francisco Superior Court decision (Gruber v. Yelp) also found another consequence of deregulation. A judge ruled The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) does not apply to calls made or received on “digital” phone lines better known as Voice over IP (VoIP). The judge found that since the CPUC does not regulate VoIP calls, and such calls are not legally defined as a traditional phone call, CIPA cannot apply.

More than six months after devastating wildfires swept across the North Bay in 2017, AT&T was still billing customers that died in that fire. KGO-TV reports. (3:31)

After promising to never again erroneously bill wildfire victims, AT&T did it again to those traumatized by the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and wiped the town of Paradise off the map. KOVR in Sacramento reports on one family pleading with AT&T to stop billing them for landline service at an address that no longer exists. (2:15)

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  • Stacy Wagner: You can add cinemax to your Hulu subscription for $10 which is $2 cheaper than xfinitys add on rate and even if it cost more I would pay it just as a ...
  • Stacy Wagner: This is absolute nonsense. Things like this make it worth the time and effort to figure out which streaming sites I'll need in order to finally cancel...
  • Debbie Lippitt: To bad about Verison as I have lived 2 places now where Verison is the only one that can get you service. All the others fail. I have also been liter...
  • Andy: Well that's cause you're in New York State. Those much higher than average taxes you New Yorkers pay is being used to fund high dollar legal suits aga...
  • Paul Houle: Elliot Management recently wrote an Urkase against the management of AT&T and I don't blame them. AT&T prices DirectTV as if it was a premium...
  • Dyl: (Small type) You must lease their new xFi gateways to receive a Flex box....
  • Roy: As of September 2019, my legacy EDLP in NYC is still $14.99 (no fees no taxes, my own modem/router). This is even after an in-home service call last m...
  • LG: 300Mbps with no bandwidth cap for $50 / month? I'll believe that when I see it. Likely $50 only if you have some grotesque TV package....
  • Phillip Dampier: The problem with all of these kinds of schemes is that they usually irritate legal subscribers, while pirates and password sharing alternatives flouri...
  • Doug: I would imagine they'd tie a MAC Address to a username/password, for starters. They'd also only allow a fixed amount of MAC addresses to be tied to a...
  • Josh: Yikes. All of those “strategies” sound like they would interfere with legitimate users all the time. Only watch stuff at home?!? Gigantic numbers of...
  • Michaela Houston: The CW station JUST NOW got a station black out around 2pm Central time when Judge Mathis JUST started. Now it's taking up "People's Court " time slot...

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