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DSLreports - front page

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Published: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:46:48 EDT

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:46:48 EDT

Copyright: Copyright 2005-2010,

Weekend Open Thread! -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:46:48 EDT

Dump your deepest thoughts into the repository below.
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AT&T Confident in Merger Chances After Speaking With Trump -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:00:02 EDT

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump not only promised to block AT&T's proposed $100 billion acquisition of Time Warner, but that he would try to find a way to break up the already merged Comcast NBC Universal. There's now dwindling evidence that either of those things will actually be happening. Anonymous sources tell the Financial Times (warning: paywall) that AT&T feels confident that Trump will approve its merger after spending time discussing the deal with the President Elect.

"After talking with the president-elect s team, AT&T executives are confident that their deal has a good chance of passing regulatory scrutiny," insiders told the paper.

AT&T has also been buoyed by the selection of a Verizon consultant (Jeffrey Eisenach) and a former Sprint lobbyist (Mark Jamison) to guide telecom policy and help select the new FCC boss. The Financial Times also states that AT&T is encouraged by Trump's selection when it comes to antitrust enforcement.

"America s largest telecommunications group by market value has been encouraged by Mr Trump s appointments to his transition team of two former competition officials with a hands-off record on antitrust enforcement," the sources said to the paper.

Wall Street has spent much of the last few weeks encouraged by this idea of weaker regulatory enforcement when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. UBS argued in a research note this week that a Sprint/T-Mobile merger -- or even a Comcast/Verizon tie up will be more likely under Trump.

In addition to being merger friendly, most ISPs have been encouraged by the fact that all three of Trump's telecom advisors are on record not only in opposition of net neutrality, but in favor of severely hamstringing the FCC's consumer protection authority. While the trio work on selecting an FCC boss that reflects their positions, the GOP is preparing a rewrite of the Communications Act in 2017 that would significantly weaken and defund the agency.

"In an example of the power structure I m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN a deal we will not approve in my administration because it s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few," Trump had said while campaigning.

"Comcast's purchase of NBC concentrated far too much power in one massive entity that is trying to tell the voters what to think and what to do," Trump also said on the campaign trail. "Deals like this destroy democracy and we'll look at breaking that deal up and other deals like that. That should never, ever have been approved in the first place, they're trying to poison the mind of the American voter."
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Forum Topic: Canada's Attempt to Force A La Carte TV -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:00:02 EDT

Users in our Canadian broadband forum discuss Canada's attempt to force cable providers to provide cheaper, more flexible cable bundles -- and how those providers are tap dancing around the obligations.

FCC Report Highlights Huge Disparity in Cable, DSL Speeds -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:00:02 EDT

An annual FCC study indicates that overall broadband speeds continue to rise and that most broadband providers deliver the speeds they advertise, even though DSL providers continue to dramatically lag behind their cable counterparts. The full study (pdf) notes that the median broadband speed of all ISPs measured by the FCC has almost quadrupled, from approximately 10 Mbps in March 2011, to approximately 39 Mbps in September 2015. The lion's share of those speed increases are thanks to the relatively inexpensive deployment of faster DOCSIS 3.0 (and now 3.1) cable broadband speeds.

We've noted for some time how these FCC reports have nudged ISPs to over-provision their tiers to avoid being named and shamed. The FCC's first such report in 2011 found that just 80% of ISPs delivered advertised speeds; ISPs that were singled out were quick to improve their rankings.

If there's a problem, it's that DSL providers are failing to keep pace with cable provider speeds.

"The report finds a growing disparity in advertised download speeds between many DSL-based broadband services and most cable- and fiber-based broadband services," notes the FCC. "Average DSL speeds have increased only slightly over the past five years and satellite speeds, over a shorter time interval, have remained constant."

That's in part because incumbent phone companies like AT&T and Verizon refuse to upgrade huge swaths of their networks as they instead focus on content and advertising. Smaller telcos, like Windstream, Frontier, or CenturyLink, have only selectively upgraded their networks as well, resulting in a large number of DSL customers that can't even technically get the FCC's 25 Mbps definition of broadband.

We've noted how as a result, cable providers are adding about 99% of the net broadband subscriber additions each quarter as users flock to faster cable options. Because many of these users find that bundling TV and broadband is often cheaper than broadband alone, this is also helping traditional cable operators weather cord cutting better than their telco competitors.

"We find that, over the course of our reports, the average annual increase in median download speeds by technology (is) 47% for cable, and 14% for fiber, while popular DSL speeds have remained largely the same," notes the agency.

All told, the FCC notes that two-thirds of American homes still don't have the option of more than one broadband provider at speeds greater than 25 Mbps. As these telcos fail to provide adequate competition cable providers are effectively building a stronger broadband monopoly than ever before. With less competitive pressure, they're less likely to offer better rates (the FCC generally turns a blind eye to pricing in these reports) or improve poor customer service.

If you're interested, you can find the FCC's full report here.
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Canadian Cable Companies Make Mockery of A La Carte TV Rules -

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:41:48 EDT

Last year the Canadian government demanded that Canadian TV providers begin offering cheaper "skinny" bundles of channels starting in March, and the option for consumers to buy individual channels starting December 1 (aka today). But cable companies like Rogers, Bell and Shaw unsurprisingly tap danced around the new requirements by either refusing to advertise the options, or by saddling them with so many surcharges and rental fees as to make them as unappealing as possible to potential "cord trimmers." Users in our Rogers forum for example lamented the fact that the company's new government-mandated "skinny" service simply isn't worth it once you do the math. "If you want the basic + just sports, it'll cost you $61 + taxes + equipment fees," notes member uid://1657229. "Add on top of that the 3 or 4 channels on top that I am interested in, that bumps me up to $86 + tax + equipment fees. At those rates, what is the point?" Well, the point is to give the illusion of offering a better and more flexible and innovative deal, even if you're really just getting the same old deal with a fresh coat of paint. There are similar theatrics currently occurring in the States, where companies like Verizon are offering skinny bundles layered in numerous restrictions and fees designed to upsell you to the company's more expensive options. And while today was supposed to be the day that Canadian cable operators truly began offering a la carte (individually picked) cable channels, that effort has been comically underwhelming as well. Users in our Canadian broadband forum note that Canada's cable giants either haven't bothered to advertise the options, or they're offering channels at such high price points as to ensure consumers would never take the option. "Of course Bell has made a mockery of Pick 'n Pay. $4 to $7 per channel like anyone is going to shell out $7/month plus tax to watch CNN or the CBC News Network," notes uid://1940645. "I don't even mind spending $4 for a channel, but anything worthwhile is $7 and even then the best channels are not even offered," notes uid://1800328. "They're sending another middle finger to the CRTC." Users talking to the CBC shared similar sentiments. In response to the complaints, Rogers informs the CBC that its these intentionally-underwhelming offerings are "reasonable and competitive" while insisting that the traditional, bloated bundles of largely unwatched channels "offer great value." The CRTC, meanwhile, tells the news outlet that uptake of the new options sat at around 1.7% in June, notably less than the 5% the CRTC expected. The CRTC's plan to bring cheaper and more flexible pricing to Canadian cable TV customers may have been flawed from the start, but it's certainly never going to work if Canadian cable companies are allowed to tap dance around the requirements. Like their FCC regulatory neighbor to the south, the CRTC appears utterly terrified of actual rate regulation, so what you usually wind up getting is partially cooked efforts like this one without any real follow through. Hopefully the CRTC toughens up as the new mandatory a la carte TV efforts comment(s)[...]

Verizon Laughs Off Altice Fiber to the Home Announcement -

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:14:42 EDT

Earlier this week Suddenlink and Cablevision owner Altice surprised many by announcing plans to skip DOCSIS 3.1 cable upgrades, and instead deploy a territory-wide 10 Gbps-capable fiber to the home network. It was surprising in large part because the company has a bit of a reputation for skimping on necessary upgrades overseas, and Suddenlink employees had been complaining the company was creating a "culture of fear" with layoffs and nitpicked expenditures.

With the company now promising fiber to the home across its entire footprint, one of the biggest impacts will be on Verizon -- a company that has frozen most of its fixed-line upgrades to focus on wireless and getting into the ad industry (its acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo).

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon tried to downplay the impact Altice's plans will have on the company's bottom line.

A fiber-to-the-home network? What a novel idea. I guess that s why we started building ours back in 2003 and it s now available to nearly 14 million homes and businesses, a Verizon spokesman said.

Again, though, Verizon has made it clear that the lion's share of its attention is fixed on either content or advertising, or 5G wireless. But Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei tells the Journal he doesn't believe that even 5G wireless will be able to match the speed and reliability of fiber optic broadband.

We know that there will be applications and demand for further bandwidth going forward, whether that is in two, three, four or five years, Mr. Goei said.

The Altice announcement will hopefully be good news for Verizon, Suddenlink and Cablevision customers alike, as it may force Verizon to compete more seriously on price -- while prodding Verizon to bump its top available FiOS speeds from 500 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
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Arris Tells us It's Working With Intel on SB6190, Puma6 Problems -

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:17:04 EDT

Arris tells DSLreports the company is working closely with Intel on a problem in their SB6190 modem (more specifically the Intel Puma 6 Chipset) that causes owners to suffer significant jitter and latency on their connections. As we noted earlier this week the problem results in users seeing significant (250ms+) latency spikes and troubling DNS lookup delays when browsing the internet or gaming. The problem was examined in great detail in our forums by DSLReports regular uid://1552966.

Arris' statement makes it clear that Intel's Puma 6 chipset does appear to be the culprit in the jitter and latency problem.

"ARRIS has been working actively with Intel to address the issue, which resulted in some SURFboard SB6190 users reporting latency while running high-performance apps," a company spokesperson tells me.

"Intel is providing a firmware fix to correct the condition, and we will issue it as soon as it is available," the company added. "We remain committed to providing the best broadband experience for all users of ARRIS devices and regret any inconvenience this issue caused."

Granted the Puma 6 chipset isn't just embedded in the Arris SB6190, but a wide variety of modems from an assortment of different vendors. Our forums are filled with complaints from users on various ISPs all with one thing in common: they're using a modem with the Intel Puma 6 chipset as its CPU. For example users in our Cox forum note the same problem is impacting users that bought the Netgear CM700 cable modem as well.

How this large of a problem escaped multiple vendors and CableLabs for so long remains unclear. In a statement to DSLReports, CableLabs indicated that the performance issues inherent in the Puma 6 chipset effectively falls outside of its jurisdiction.

"Products submitted for CableLabs certification are tested for compliance with the DOCSIS specifications, which define the interface requirements that allow devices from different manufacturers to interoperate with each other," the organization said. "The specifications specifically do not address performance requirements, so that manufacturers can differentiate their products through performance and additional features. As a result, CableLabs certification does not include performance testing."

Intel has yet to respond to our request for comment.
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Comcast Loses Just $5.50 Per Month When You Cut the Cord -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 10:00:02 EDT

Comcast loses just $5.50 per month when users cut the TV cord and switch to a streaming alternative, but retain the company's broadband services according to one Wall Street analyst. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett crunched the numbers and found that because Comcast often charges significantly more money for standalone broadband than they do a cable and broadband bundle, their losses are minimized once the higher broadband rates take effect.

When a Comcast customer drops video, the cable giant loses roughly $38 in contribution margin, Moffett estimates. But that same customer winds up paying $25 a month more for broadband each month when their bundling discount goes away.

"Now, further suppose that half of those customers opt to upgrade to a higher speed tier at an average premium of $15 per month (implying a probability-weighted $7.50 benefit per cord-cutter)," Moffett posits.

That's where Moffett gets the $5.50 figure. That number's probably higher for Comcast most of the time, given that users don't really need to upgrade to a faster tier just because they subscribe to streaming video services. It's also not clear if Moffett is including the high costs users pay to rent multiple set top boxes, or the hidden fees companies like Comcast like to bury below the line to falsely advertise a lower rate (Comcast is currently being sued for just this reason).

On the other hand, Moffett doesn't even touch on the benefit Comcast gets from usage caps (which the analyst once championed as "the next generation of communications"), or the fact that competing streaming services count against these caps while Comcast's own streaming service does not. Despite the industry's rotating crop of justifications, usage caps on fixed-line networks are about one thing: protecting TV revenues from users looking to cut the cord. Between caps and higher standalone broadband pricing Comcast can clearly mitigate a significant chunk of the damage, even if Moffett's $5.50 estimate is probably too low.

"The protection that these mechanisms provide against cord-cutting are dramatic," Moffett concluded.

We've noted how the relatively inexpensive cost of DOCSIS upgrades, combined with telcos like AT&T and Verizon being unwilling to upgrade millions of unwanted DSL customers as they shift to content and advertising, has been a huge boon to companies like Comcast. Annoyed customers fleeing lagging DSL speeds usually sign up for cable TV because cable TV and broadband bundles are cheaper than broadband alone, cushioning cable providers (for now) from the full brunt of cord cutting.
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Nashville Moves to Dismiss Comcast's Lawsuit Over Google Fiber -

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 08:30:02 EDT

This city of Nashville is trying to have Comcast's Google-Fiber thwarting lawsuit against the city dismissed. Like AT&T, Comcast sued the city back in October for passage of "one touch make ready" rules that streamline utility pole attachment rules in an attempt to help speed up deployment of Google Fiber in the city. Given this would increase competition (ISPs often rely on pole attachment bureaucracy to slow competitors), AT&T and Comcast have sued both Louisville and Nashville in an attempt to scuttle the reform.

AT&T and Comcast tried to argue these city councils lacked the authority to make these changes, something the FCC has disagreed with in its own supporting filings.

In its motion, Nashville Metro said it has the authority to regulate public rights of way and that the new policy does not bring "substantial impairment" to contracts with utility pole operator NES. Even if it did harm the contracts, the law serves a "significant and legitimate" public purpose, argues the city, making it reasonable legislation.

Under the current system, each individual ISP has to move its own gear once a request by a competitor is submitted. ISPs have long been accused of using this process to dramatically slow competitor builds, and the issue can be compounded if a competitor like Google Fiber needs multiple ISPs to move their gear. Google Fiber has noted this has created a massive work backlog in places like Nashville as ISPs intentionally stall on compliance.

For example, of the 88,000 poles that Google needs to attach fiber to in Nashville, the company notes that around 44,000 require "make ready" work. But as it stands, only 33 posts have been adequately prepared. Google Fiber has all but explicitly stated that companies like AT&T do this intentionally to slow the arrival of a competitor that will force it to compete on speed, and price.
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AT&T's DirecTV Now has Some Hiccups on First Night -

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:10:03 EDT

Streaming live TV isn't easy, and AT&T's DirecTV Now was no exception as users say the new streaming service suffered through a few hiccups in its first full day and evening of operation. To be clear, I've seen more than a few customers say they had no problems with AT&T's new service, and that it has performed consistently for them throughout the evening. But Philip Swann over at TV Predictions called DirecTV Now's first night a "total nightmare," noting that numerous users received false warnings that they had bypassed the service's two-concurrent live stream limit.

Swann also indicated that a number of users couldn't log in to the service throughout the evening.

"Subscribers also complained that channels wouldn't load when clicked on, that their screen would sometimes go blank while watching, and that they would get error messages saying their device wasn't compatible although it was on the list of compatible devices," notes Swan.

"If AT&T can't get these DirecTV Now sign up errors fixed, it's going to kill the service from the start," complained streaming video analyst Dan Rayburn on Twitter.

The Consumerist also points out that some customers are surprised to find out that licensing restrictions apparently imposed by Comcast NBC Universal means that DirecTV Now users can only access NBC content from mobile devices, despite claims by AT&T to the contrary. Others point out that Verizon's exclusive agreement with the NFL means DirecTV Now can't stream many live NFL games, despite AT&T's NFL Sunday Ticket rights. Stalled negotiations have also resulted in AT&T being unable to provide any access to CBS or Showtime content at launch.

AT&T's DirecTV Now Help Twitter handle confirmed last night that the service was experiencing technical issues and that the company was receiving a high volume of complaints. That said, many users point out that the service's Twitter support appears to be highly responsive -- unlike many operations.

Such complaints aren't unique, as live streaming TV remains a notable technical challenge. Sling TV had several major outages during its first year of operation, and AT&T certainly has plenty of time to iron out the kinks in the service. Let us know if you've given the service a try (and your impressions) in the comment section below.

» ··· rc%5Etfw

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Charter's Mega Merger Support is a Comedy of Errors -

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 08:19:17 EDT

While Charter promised incredible synergies and improvements if it was allowed to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House, we've noted how the tangible results of the merger have been incredibly underwhelming. So far the company has scaled back online support across social media, frozen ongoing broadband upgrades at Time Warner Cable, and socked customers of acquired companies with major, often non-negotiable rate hikes as soon as they exit their existing contracts. That's when it's not busy socking customers with strange and unnecessary new fees. Wander into our forums and you'll begin to notice that integrating Time Warner Cable, Bright House and Charter customers under the company's new "Spectrum" branding has a decidedly Keystone cops vibe to it. Charter's utterly inconsistent dedication to promotional rates has many users frustrated and looking to change providers. A large number of these users are being hit with a new $200 "activation fee" for switching services that never existed previously. Many of these users say they'll receive completely different information on pricing nearly every time they reach out to the company. "You CAN'T get something coherent from the website, and if you call, you will get different information EVERYTIME you call," complains one customer in our forums. "Try it. Ask the same thing, call again 10 minutes, you will not get the same answer." "I expect some things to be a little out of whack but every representative I spoke to sounded like it was their first day on the job and they had no clue what was going on,"complained another customer. "It seems like training employees was not a priority for Charter in this transition." Some users are sharing their support chat transcripts highlighting how they're asking the same question multiple times, but getting completely different answers. Here, for example, a user asks how much it will cost him to upgrade from 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps service and is told he'll pay $298.80. The user asked the same exact question to Charter support the next day and was told the cost would be $186.65 plus a $50 installation fee. That user appears fortunate, since other users in our forums have tried three times to have that same question answered but are repeatedly told they need to call Charter (an experience that may or may not offer a different outcome). And even if you are actually able to order, many wind up with the sort of experience had by this Bright House Networks customer:quote:I called earlier in the week to upgrade from 200 to 300. At first I was told I needed to pay the $199 activation fee & it was $79 a month. I called back & spoke to someone else & they waived the fee and I was still going to be $79 a month. I have my own modem & they had to send someone here. They came & tried to swap the modem, but I wouldn't let them. (I have a Netgear CM600 which can handle 300mbps.) I had to call them back because I still wasn't getting 300mbps. They told me they had to come out again & all the guy had to do was close the order & then the 300 would work. So they came out the next morning & he said that my modem should work & he closed the order. He came back on his own a few hours later to tell me that Spectrum emailed him to say my modem wouldn't work with 300 and he had to swap the modem. He did the swap & I still wasn't getting the 300. I called them & they never had me in for 300 in the computer. The tech I spoke to put the 300 on my account & I asked him how much it would be & he said $99. I told him I was told it was going to be $79. Then I spoke to the retention dept and they gave me a credit for $20 a month for the next year. After all of this my speed hasn't changed from before.On a positive note, many users say that perseverance [...]