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Verizon Says Its 5G Home Broadband Will Only Be for Urban Areas

Verizon, the country’s leading provider of millimeter wave 5G wireless broadband, is promising to expand service nationwide, but admits it will only service urban areas where the economics of small cell/fiber network infrastructure makes economic sense.

At the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain, Verizon’s vice president of technology planning told PC that when it launches its mobile 5G network later this spring, home wireless internet service will come along for the ride.

“It is one network, based on 5G, supporting multiple use cases,” Verizon’s Adam Koeppe said. “Enterprise, small/medium business, consumer, mobility, fixed. When the 5G network is built, you have a fixed and mobile play that’s basically native to the deployment you’re doing.”

That means Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G network is designed to be shared by everyone and everything, including businesses, residential customers, cell phone users on the go, Internet of Things applications like smart meters and intelligent traffic systems, and more. But that network will not be everywhere Verizon or Verizon Wireless currently provides service.

“Our deployments of millimeter wave are focused on urban centers. It’s where the people are, where the consumption is,” Koeppe said.

Verizon faces significant costs building out its 5G wireless network in areas where it does not already offer FiOS fiber to the home service. Verizon’s 5G network is dependent on a fiber optic-fed network of small cells placed on top of utility and light poles at least every few city blocks. That means Verizon is most likely to get a reasonable return on its investment placing its 5G network in urban downtown areas and high wireless traffic suburban zones, such as around event venues, large shopping centers and entertainment districts. The company has chosen to deploy 5G in some residential areas, but only within large city limits. So far, it has generally steered clear of residential suburbs in favor of older gentrified city neighborhoods with plenty of closely-spaced multi-dwelling apartments, condos, and homes, as well as in urban centers with converted lofts or apartments.

Koeppe

Rural areas are definitely off Verizon’s list because the millimeter waves Verizon prefers to use do not travel very far, making it very expensive to deploy the technology to serve a relatively small number of customers.

Other carriers are not committing to large scale 5G deployments either.

At a debate held earlier today at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, former FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, now a paid lobbyist for T-Mobile, warned that unless T-Mobile was allowed to merge with Sprint, its deployment of 5G will only happen in “very limited areas.”

Sprint has plans to introduce its own flavor of 5G, which won’t use millimeter wave frequencies, by June in nine U.S. cities. T-Mobile has talked about deploying 5G on existing large cell towers, which means one tower will serve many more customers than Verizon’s small cells. But with more customers sharing that bandwidth, the effective speed customers will see is likely to be only incrementally better than T-Mobile’s existing 4G LTE network. AT&T is initially moving in the same direction as T-Mobile, meaning many customers will be sharing the same bandwidth. That may explain why AT&T’s current 5G hotspot service plan also comes with a 15 GB data cap.

Verizon says its millimeter wave network will, by geography and design, limit the number of people sharing each small cell, making data caps unnecessary for its 5G fixed wireless home broadband replacement, which delivers download speeds of around 300 Mbps on average.

“We engineer the network to give the customer what they need when they need it, and the results speak for themselves,” Koeppe said.

Verizon is already selling its 5G service in limited areas for $50 a month to Verizon Wireless customers, $70 a month for non-customers. There are no data caps or speed throttles.

Based on the plans of all four major U.S. carriers, consumers should only expect scattered rollouts of 5G this year, and only in certain neighborhoods at first. It will take several years to build out the different iterations of 5G technology, with millimeter wave taking the longest to expand because of infrastructure and potential permitting issues.

Comcast Brings Back “Free” Unlimited Data, If You Rent Their $15 Hardware

Phillip Dampier March 4, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Data Caps 1 Comment

Comcast is giving some of its customers a way to get back unlimited data for their home broadband connection without having to spend an extra $50 for an unlimited data add-on.

The cable operator is offering customers in parts of its Central Division its xFi Advanced Gateway — a combination cable modem and router — that comes bundled with unlimited data, xFi Advanced Security, and a Home Wi-Fi Assessment for an extra $15 a month. That amounts to $4 a month more than the cost of renting Comcast’s traditional xFi Gateway buys and also buys you a return ticket to unlimited internet service.

 

Comcast has also offered some new customers unlimited service in time-limited promotions, but this seems to be permanent, assuming Comcast offers it in your area.

The xFi Advanced Gateway with unlimited data appears to have quietly launched last fall, but so far it has not expanded to Comcast service areas outside of its Central U.S. division, which includes (Heartland) Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas, (Big South) Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, plus the state of Florida and the greater Chicago area. Comcast says it has 17 states in its Central Division, but we could not find a definitive list that includes the three other states not listed here.

Interested customers will have to contact Comcast to determine if their area qualifies for this offer.

If you are a Comcast customer already paying an extra $50 a month for unlimited data, this could save you a considerable amount of money, assuming you live in a qualified area and don’t mind using their gateway.

Rural New Yorkers Left Behind by Gov. Cuomo’s ‘Broadband for All’ Program

Tens of thousands of rural New York families were hopeful after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in 2015 his intention to bring true broadband to every corner of the state by the year 2018. At the time, it was the largest and most ambitious broadband investment of any state in the country, putting $670 million in lawsuit settlement money and rural broadband funds from the FCC on the table to build out rural broadband service other states only talk about.

But for many rural New Yorkers, Gov. Cuomo’s program was a failure that could lock in substandard internet service (or no service at all) for years. What began as a 100% broadband commitment later evolved into 99.9% (then 98% in another estimate) after state officials learned $670 million was not enough to convince providers to share the cost of extending their networks to the most rural of the rural as well as those unlucky enough to live just a little too far down the road to make extending cable broadband worthwhile. But the governor proclaimed mission accomplished, and as far as the Cuomo Administration is concerned, the rural broadband issue has been resolved.

“There were a lot of tax dollars that were flipped and the governor has said, ‘Internet for everybody. Everybody will have internet.’ Well, that’s not the case. We’re not seeing that and those were his promises, not mine, but I voted for that money. A lot of other members did too,” Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) told WBFO radio last year.

Ortt wants to know where the money is going and who exactly is getting it, and proposed legislation requiring annual reports from the Empire State Development Corporation detailing expenditures and disclosing the formula used to determine who gets true broadband service, and who does not.

For those not getting high-speed wireless or wired connections, the state has either offered nothing or dreaded satellite internet service, paying HughesNet $14,888,249 to supply discounted satellite equipment Hughes itself routinely discounts as a marketing promotion on their own dime.

For rural residents learning HughesNet was their designated future provider, many experienced with satellite internet over the last decade and hating nearly every minute of it, it was “thanks for nothing.”

“The governor pulled the rug right out from under us,” Ann told Stop the Cap! from her home near Middle Granville in Washington County, just minutes away from the Vermont border. “I have kids that require internet access to finish research and send in homework assignments. Internet service is not an option, and my kids’ grades are suffering because they have to complete homework assignments in the car or in a fast food restaurant or coffee shop that has Wi-Fi.”

Ann used HughesNet before, and canceled it because service went out whenever snow arrived in town.

“I thought the governor promised 100 Mbps service and HughesNet can’t even provide 25 Mbps,” she claims. “If you get 5 Mbps on a clear summer’s day, you are doing okay. In winter, reading email is the only thing that won’t frustrate you. It’s slow, slow, slow.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing rural broadband initiatives in New York.

Nick D’Agostino brought his family to a new home an hour northeast of Syracuse when he got a new job. He was counting on the governor’s commitment to bring wired internet access to a home that used to have Verizon DSL, but no longer does after Verizon’s wired infrastructure deteriorated to the point where the company stopped offering the service to new customers like him arriving in the neighborhood. D’Agostino had to spend hours researching the state’s Broadband Program Office website to find out which provider was going to be supplying his census block (neighborhood) with 100 Mbps internet. He found HughesNet instead.

“It’s a kick in the pants because we have a lot of experience with HughesNet and Exede and neither came close to meeting their advertising claims,” he told Stop the Cap! “Exede was often unusable and a horrible company to deal with. HughesNet has a new ‘Gen 5’ service that is capable of DSL speeds, but comes with a low data cap and speed throttling.”

D’Agostino warns that New York made a terrible choice relying on satellite internet, even though HughesNet’s latest fleet of satellites has offered improvement over HughesNet a decade ago.

“The problem is HughesNet customers in a geographic area all share the same spot beam — a regionally targeted satellite signal that serves a specific state or region,” D’Agostino said. “When we lived in North Carolina, the population growth in rural areas meant a lot more satellite customers were sharing the same spot beam, and speeds plummeted, especially after Netflix, Hulu, and cord cutting took off. Nothing eats bandwidth like streaming video, which is why you can subscribe to their 50 GB allowance package and be over that limit after a single week.”

D’Agostino fears that tens of thousands of additional satellite users will dramatically slow down HughesNet across upstate New York unless the company finds a way to get more shared bandwidth to serve the state’s rural broadband leftovers.

“That usually means, ‘wait until the next generation of satellites are launched,’ something nobody should have to wait for,” D’Agostino said.

The obvious solution for D’Agostino is to convince Charter Spectrum, the nearest cable provider, to extend its lines down his street. The cable company agreed, if he paid an $88,000 engineering, pole, and installation fee.

“That is not going to happen, even if we got the dozen or so neighbors in our position to split the cost,” he said. “This is why Cuomo’s program is a flop. It turns out close to $700 million is not enough, and they probably always knew there would be people they could never economically serve because they are miles and miles from the nearest DSL or cable connection. But if the electric and phone companies are compelled to offer service, the same should be true for internet access.”

D’Agostino believes rural New Yorkers left behind need to organize and make their voices heard.

“They keep saying we are .1% of New York, but I’ve seen plenty of rural town supervisors and other local officials across upstate New York complain they have all been left behind, and that decision will cost their towns good education, jobs, competitive agribusiness, and services online that everyone assumes people can easily access,” he said. “Clearly the state is not telling the truth about how many are being internet-orphaned. There have been three rounds of broadband funding in New York. It is time for a fourth round, finding either tax breaks or funding to get existing providers to reach more areas like mine that are less than a mile from a Spectrum customer.”

Ann shares that sentiment, and adds that Vermont is looking for ways to get internet to its rural residents as well.

“We’re at the point where companies or co-ops already offering service are probably the quickest and easiest option to solve the rural internet crisis, but they are not going to pay to do it if they are not required to,” she said. “We have taxes and surcharges on our phone bill now that are supposed to pay for internet expansion, but the amounts are too small to get the job done I guess. Perhaps it is time to revisit this, because 99.995% is better than 99.9% and satellite internet should be the last resort for people living in a cottage miles from anyone else, not for people who can be in town in less than a five-minute drive.”

A familiar story for any rural resident trying to get internet access to their rural home. But there is a small silver lining. HughesNet’s newest generation of satellites has provided a modest improvement that is often better than rural DSL. (10:19)

Conservative Business Group Sues to Toss Pro-Consumer Time Warner/Charter Merger Conditions

A corporate-funded business advocacy group backed by the telecom industry and the Koch Brothers is pursuing a lawsuit asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to toss pro-consumer deal conditions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission in return for granting its 2016 approval of the acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks by Charter Communications.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed an initial petition with the FCC asking the agency to rescind its own deal conditions shortly after the merger was completed. CEI argued the agency imposed “harmful merger conditions on Charter that had nothing to do with the merger itself,” and that the FCC did not have the authority to put corporate merger deal conditions in place.

CEI specifically targeted its objections to the FCC’s seven-year ban on Charter Spectrum data caps and consumption billing, arguing the ban raised broadband pricing for all Spectrum customers and prevented the cable company from offering discounts to low usage customers. It also claimed that Charter had to increase pricing for all customers because the FCC required Spectrum to raise broadband speeds, introduce a discounted internet program for low-income customers, and expand service to at least two million new households not presently served by Spectrum.

The FCC ultimately rejected CEI’s petition in 2018, claiming the group had no standing to challenge the merger transaction or deal conditions. The group called the FCC’s decision wrong, claiming consumers will “have to foot the bill for an overreaching federal agency” and that “the FCC has no authority to micromanage the internet at the public’s expense.”

This week, it filed an opening brief appealing the FCC’s decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which oversees the legality of the FCC’s regulatory decisions.

The 101-page filing maintains the FCC overreached by imposing any deal conditions on the 2016 multi-billion dollar merger deal, especially those that might require the merged company to spend money to improve service to customers. CEI argued such conditions were “arbitrary and capricious” and had no place as part of approving a business merger transaction.

The group submitted evidence from four individuals who attested to their belief that the deal conditions “probably contributed” to price increases after customers abandoned their legacy Bright House and Time Warner Cable plans in favor of Spectrum plans and pricing. The customers reported rate hikes ranging from $4 a month to $20 a month “for the same services,” but did not attach copies of their bills allowing a court to ascertain whether those rate increases involved cable television or broadband service or both.

No evidence was provided to prove CEI’s assertion that rate increases were directly tied to merger conditions other than a declaration from Robert W. Crandall, an economist and nonresident senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Crandall argued any deal conditions requiring a cable company to spend money to expand, improve, or discount services would likely impact subscriber rates.

No disclosure was made regarding any fees paid to Crandall to conduct research on behalf of CEI. The Technology Policy Institute is financially backed almost entirely by the Koch Brothers and corporate interests including AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, and Verizon.

CEI’s legal brief depends on assertions made by then-minority Republican members of the FCC, notably then-Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, who objected to the FCC’s merger conditions. CEI ignored the views of the then-Democratic majority on the Commission, who voted to approve the merger with deal conditions. Then Chairman Thomas Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel were not mentioned anywhere in CEI’s brief. Today the Commission has a Republican majority, with Pai now serving as chairman.

The FCC in 2016 (from left to right): Commissioners Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly

CEI’s argument follows a similar pattern to arguments made against net neutrality — namely, the FCC has no authority to regulate broadband services or the pricing and policies of the companies providing it. Charter Communications has occasionally argued the same point with the New York State Public Service Commission, which imposed deal conditions of its own in return for approval of the merger.

Charter has consistently reserved the right to object to deal conditions requiring it to build out service to rural areas, as well as any deal conditions that go beyond the authority of state regulators to oversee broadband service. In Charter’s view, state regulators have no such authority. In the state’s view, the PSC has the right to consider a myriad of factors because its regulatory mandate  requires approving or rejecting a merger based on the public interest. Its 2016 merger order found the transaction was not in the public interest unless the parties agreed to certain deal conditions, which closely resembled those required by the FCC. When Charter allegedly failed to meet the conditions it agreed to, the New York regulator could not directly compel Charter Spectrum into compliance, but it could and did decertify the merger itself.

Should the D.C. Court of Appeals find in favor of CEI, the deal conditions imposed by the FCC would be revoked, although Charter could continue to honor those conditions voluntarily. Separate legal cases would have to be brought in state courts to invalidate deal conditions imposed by state regulators.

AT&T Drops Data Caps for Free if You Subscribe to DirecTV Now

Phillip Dampier December 19, 2018 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, Data Caps, Net Neutrality 2 Comments

AT&T customers are telling Stop the Cap! the company is emailing their broadband customers to alert them they now qualify for unlimited internet access because they also happen to subscribe to DirecTV Now, AT&T’s streaming service targeting cord cutters.

“Good news about your internet service! Because you also added DIRECTV NOW℠ to your internet service, we’re giving you unlimited home internet data at no additional cost.”

AT&T normally charges customers an extra $30 a month to remove their 1,000 GB data cap.

The move has some net neutrality implications, because AT&T is favoring its own streaming service over the competition, which includes Sling TV, Hulu TV, PlayStation Vue, and other similar services. If a customer subscribes to Hulu TV, the 1 TB cap remains in force. If they switch to DirecTV Now, the cap is gone completely.

AT&T has undoubtedly heard from customers concerned about streaming video chewing up their data allowance. With AT&T’s DirecTV on the verge of launching a streaming equivalent of its satellite TV service, data caps are probably bad for business and could deter customers from switching.

It is yet the latest evidence that data caps are more about marketing and revenue than technical necessity.

Updated 1:15pm EST 12/20: Hat tip to Karl Bode, who got AT&T’s official confirmation the unlimited internet offer that formerly applied to DirecTV satellite customers has now quietly been extended to DirecTV Now streaming customers as well. We are still looking for a screen cap of anyone who received an e-mail from AT&T about unlimited service for streaming customers. If you have one, drop me a line at phil (at) stopthecap.com

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  • Lon F: Scammed by Live Wave, ordered 23 Feb 19... have nothing yet and after reading, I don't expect much....
  • Phillip Dampier: Do you have a link or any other information about this we can take a look at? This is news to us and I have not seen it referenced before....
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