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DSLreports - front page

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Published: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:00:03 EDT

Last Build Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:00:03 EDT

Copyright: Copyright 2005-2010,

AT&T Expands Availability of its New Fixed Wireless Service -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:00:03 EDT

AT&T today announced that the company is expanding availability of the company's new fixed wireless broadband service. Announced last April, AT&T's creatively-named "Fixed Wireless Internet" service features a 10 Mbps LTE connection with a 160 GB monthly cap. From there, users pay $10 per each 50GB of additional data consumed -- up to a maximum of $200 per month. The service costs $60 per month with a one-year contract, or $70 per month without a contract (and after the contract period expires).

Users that sign a contract and bundle the service with AT&T wireless or DirecTV will pay $50 per month, or $60 per month without a contract.

Originally only available in Atlanta and select portions of Georgia, the company today announced it's expanding availability of the offering into eight additional states: Alabam; Florida; Kentucky; Mississippi; North Carolina; South Carolina; Tennessee and Louisiana. Like other fixed-wireless efforts, the service requires an outdoor antenna mounted on the consumer or business' roof, and an inside residential gateway.

AT&T says availability will expand to include 67,000 locations by 2020.

The service's primary function? To provide something vaguely-resembling next-generation connectivity to some of the millions of DSL users nobody (including AT&T) wants to upgrade. The company has been lobbying, state by state, to eliminate rules requiring they maintain their older copper network (much of which taxpayers paid for and is still very much in use) so the company can make the transition to more profitable wireless services just like this one.

We re committed to connect hard-to-reach locations to the internet. This changes lives and creates economic growth for these areas," said Cheryl Choy, vice president, wired voice and internet products at AT&T. "We re excited to bring this service to even more underserved locations."

The company's press release has a little more detail on this new fixed wireless offering.
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AT&T Says It May Soon Charge You Extra For Privacy -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 10:00:03 EDT

A top AT&T executive says the company may soon return to charging consumers an additional fee to protect their privacy. Last year, you might recall AT&T quietly started charging between $531 and $800 more each year if customers wanted to opt out of AT&T's Internet Preferences program, which uses deep-packet inspection to track and monetize user behavior around the Internet. AT&T was heavily criticized for the move, and ultimately stopped charging the extra fees -- but only to help secure regulatory approval for its Time Warner merger. But with AT&T getting every indication that its latest massive merger will be approved by Trump (despite a campaign promise to kill the deal), and AT&T having just successfully lobbied to kill consumer broadband privacy rules, the company says the "privacy surcharge" may be returning. In a an interview on C-SPAN, AT&T Senior Vice President Bob Quinn was quick to acknowledge that the idea wasn't popular among consumer advocates and customers. "We got an enormous amount of criticism from privacy advocates when we rolled out, in Austin, Texas, an ad-supported Internet service...Privacy advocates screamed about that," said Quinn. Of course that was then and this is now. After successfully lobbying the GOP to kill consumer privacy protections, AT&T lobbyists have shifted their attention toward killing net neutrality, and ferreting all oversight of broadband ISPs to an over-extended and ill-equipped FTC. As such, there's very little on the horizon stopping AT&T from doing whatever it damn well pleases under the Trump administration. "As the privacy revolution evolves, I think people are going to want more control, and maybe that's the pricing model that's ultimately what consumers want," said Quinn, who repeatedly tried to insist this was simply "ad-supported Internet service" that the company would be revisiting eventually. But "more control" is the opposite of what AT&T offered. The company's U-Verse broadband customers had to navigate a confusing array of options to even find the opt out function, and even then AT&T didn't do a very good job making it clear that protecting your own privacy would be hugely expensive. Also note that while paying this additional money stopped you from seeing targeted ads, it didn't even truly stop AT&T from collecting this data. Other companies like Comcast have stated they'd also like to explore the option. One cable company, CableONE, at one point bragged that it provided worse customer service to bad credit customers. The FCC's privacy rules, which were supposed to take effect in March until being gutted by the GOP and Trump administration, didn't outright ban these practices -- but did let the FCC take action against them on a "case by case basis." AT&T had previously tried to suggest that charging consumers more money to protect their own privacy was somehow a "discount," despite users having to pay up to $800 more every year for the option. While it might be nice to pay less money if you agree to be monetized and tracked, that's never been how AT&T's particular foray into this idea has worked. And with AT&T facing less regulatory oversight than ever, it's extremely unlikely to be how this works moving forward. read comment(s)[...]

Sprint Offers New $60 Unlimited 'Sprint Forward' Prepaid Option -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:00:02 EDT

Sprint has replaced the company's "Sprint Prepaid" brand with a new "Sprint Forward" prepaid option that provides unlimited text, voice and 4 GB of high-speed data for $40 per month, or unlimited data service for $60 per month. Oddly, while the $60 offering doesn't appear on Sprint's website, the company confirmed the changes to Fierce Wireless, who quotes an analyst who claims the launch of this offering has been "underwhelming" for Sprint so far. The outlet notes that the company is also providing a family plan option alongside the $40 single-line offering: two lines of unlimited under Sprint Forward costing $70 per month -- and three lines costing $100.
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Shocker: T-Mobile Competition is Lowering Wireless Prices -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:00:02 EDT

Competition from T-Mobile has resulted in notably lower prices over the last year. Earlier this year, companies like AT&T and Verizon were forced to bring back unlimited wireless data offers after T-Mobile had been hoovering up their frustrated customers at an alarming rate. Overall, the Wall Street Journal notes that Labor Department data indicates that the consumer-price index for wireless phone service -- an indicator of current offers from cellphone service providers -- dropped 12.5% in May from a year ago.

It's a notable reversal from most of the last decade, where wireless providers engaged in more theatrical, non-price competition.

The bump in actual competition this last year hasn't gone unnoticed by Wall Street analysts. Many of them have been engaged in some notable hand-wringing lately over the return to unlimited data, noting that wireless sector revenues dipped slightly in the first quarter for the first time in seventeen years. Verizon, it should be noted, suffered its first-ever quarterly subscriber loss during the first quarter of this year.

That said, all of these companies are certainly still turning a handsome profit, since even with the recent dip in pricing, US cellular data prices are among the highest across all developed nations.

There's also nothing guaranteeing that these price savings stick around.

Sprint and T-Mobile have been talking merger, which would eliminate one of the four major wireless carriers in the nation. While T-Mobile and Sprint insist that eliminating a major competitor will help them compete more intently with Verizon and AT&T -- it usually doesn't work that way. The reduced competition means less pressure to keep prices low, and the consolidation could just-as-quickly erode any wireless market pricing improvements consumers have seen over the last year.
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OneWeb's Low-Latency Satellite Broadband Plan Gets FCC Approval -

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:00:02 EDT

Satellite broadband provider OneWeb has received key FCC approval to begin building out the company's low-orbit satellite broadband service. OneWeb is one of countless companies exploring constellations of lower-orbit satellites capable of delivering broadband at much lower latencies than traditional satellite broadband. While traditional satellite broadband traditionally sees latency of 500 ms or more, OneWeb has stated it hopes to offer satellite broadband connections at speeds of 50 Mbps -- with latency as low as 30 ms.

OneWeb, backed in part by Richard Branson, has contracted Airbus to build the 720 communications satellites at the backbone of the service, which the company has previously stated will come online sometime in 2019.

Yesterday, the FCC approved (pdf) the company's entry into the market, noting OneWeb will use 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency bands, which can collectively "provide ubiquitous low-latency broadband connectivity across the United States, including some of the most remote areas in places like Alaska where broadband access has not been possible before," the FCC says.

"Over a year ago, OneWeb was the first company to seek approval to enter the US market with a system of high-capacity satellites that orbit closer to Earth than any satellite has ever before," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement (pdf) on the approval. "The goal of this non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology is to provide global, high-speed broadband service -- and its use case is particularly compelling in remote and hard-to-serve areas."

Of course approval doesn't mean consumers will ever see an actual product. Or that the end service will be competitively priced. OneWeb is one of countless outfits that have explored the lower-orbit satellite broadband service idea over the years, few of which have actually resulted in any substantive service. Boeing, ViaSat, Telesat, and Elon Musk s SpaceX are all also exploring similar plans as well, so which company will emerge successful -- if any -- is also far from clear. There's also some concerns about managing these low-orbit satellites given the rise in "space junk."

There's a little more detail available on the service over at the OneWeb website.
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Comcast Begins Selling Cell Phones in Stores on East Coast -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 08:30:03 EDT

Comcast has begun selling mobile phones for the company's relatively-new Xfinity Mobile service in its east-coast Xfinity stores. Formally launched back in May, Xfinity Mobile is only available to customers that already subscriber to Comcast Xfinity broadband services. The service, which uses WiFi and Verizon Wireless' network, is being marketed to the company's triple play customers for $45 per line for unlimited (users get throttled to 1.5 Mbps after 20 GB when using cellular connectivity) data, text and voice.

That same service will cost $65 per month if users only subscribe to Comcast broadband service, making it abundantly clear that Comcast's primary thrust here is trying to upsell customers to additional services.

Initially this was all only offered via the internet. But last week Comcast began offering the service in its Xfinity stores. Users can also now buy either Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPhone smartphones on a payment plan, starting at $36.50-a-month (for 24 months) for an iPhone 7 Plus.

"It gives customers a seamless internet and entertainment experience inside and outside the home," a company spokesman says of the offering. "It saves them on data and is very affordable."

In addition to the unlimited data option for $45 (which Comcast says is a limited-time offer), users can also pay $12 per GB of cellular data across all lines on an account. Under this option, Comcast took a page from other providers' play book, and will allow users to only pay for what they use. Comcast says folks in a single home can mix and match unlimited and per gig plans, and switch between the options without penalty.

While Comcast clearly hopes that it can use wireless to upsell users to additional services, the company may need to shore up its traditionally abysmal customer service if it wants these ambitions to reach fruition. Comcast is consistently rated among the worst at customer service in any industry in America, something that could be complicated by adding an additional layer of services and billing.
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Porn Companies Join The Fight For Net Neutrality -

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 07:40:02 EDT

Porn companies like Pornhub, xHamster, Kink, Redtube, and ManyVids have joined the fight for net neutrality. The companies say they will be taking part in the July 12 "Day of Action" protests -- which will be occurring both online and off -- to help communicate the importance of keeping the existing net neutrality rules intact. Numerous porn companies told Motherboard this week that Ajit Pai's plans to dismantle popular net neutrality protections will not only have a disastrous impact on their ability to do business, but free speech in general.

"Without net neutrality , the cable and wireless companies that control internet access will have unfair power to pick winners and losers in the market," Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, recently told Motherboard.

Most people understand that net neutrality is designed to ensure that the internet remains open, and that ISPs can't pick and choose winners depending on how much they're willing to pay entrenched duopolists. But Alex Hawkins, a spokesperson for xHamster, also tells Motherboard that keeping the internet open is also a matter of free speech.

"As an international company, we see every day how restrictive governments use regulatory tools, like traffic throttling, to limit access to not only porn but political speech," Hawkins told me. "What people sometimes miss, especially in the United States and Western Europe, is that sexual speech is political speech. The same governments that severely restrict adult content are also the ones that limit sexual expression, LGBTQ rights, women's rights and access to different ideas."

"Even in the US," he added, "the same politicians who fight against adult content are the ones advocating for a limited, heteronormative version of sexuality. We make them nervous."

The EFF has also argued that net neutrality is, at its core, a free speech issue as well.

The FCC is fielding public comment on its plan to kill net neutrality until August 18.
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Forum Topic: Frontier Boosting Speeds For Fiber Customers -

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:00:02 EDT

Users in our Frontier forum indicate that the company appears to be trying to make up for its bungled Verizon CA, TX and FL acquisitions by roling out a free upgrade from symmetrical 25 Mbps to symmetrical 50 or 100 Mbps -- but only if you're lucky enough to be on their fiber to the home (formerly FiOS) infrastructure.

What to Do When Your Internet Connection Can't Handle Streaming -

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:00:02 EDT

Due to the ever-rising prices of cable subscriptions and the ever-falling rates of customer satisfaction in cable providers, cable cutting is more popular than ever. There are other reasons to ditch cable in favor of streaming services, including access to original and exclusive content, easier access to live broadcasts of popular sporting events like NFL football, the ability to stream on-the-go, or cross-platform compatibility. However, streaming still isn t an option for everyone. Many barriers stand in the way of streaming ranging from the required amount of tech savvy, subscription prices, and insufficient bandwidth. Streaming services like Netflix require at least a 5Mbps connection for standard HD quality and the shortest buffering times; however, some users experience slow connections and insufficient speeds for streaming even when paying for broadband internet (check yours here). The most common culprit: insufficient wi-fi capability. You might be paying your ISP for the fastest connection they offer, but if you re broadcasting that connection throughout your home using a substandard wi-fi setup then, well, you re going to have a bad time. Configuring your wi-fi for optimal streaming performance doesn t have to be difficult or expensive, though, and there are some steps you can take in just a few minutes that could bring you instant results. Sometimes, no matter what you try, you might not be getting the speed promised by your ISP; in 2014, Netflix reportedly paid Comcast and other ISPs for direct interconnection, after numerous allegations that large ISPs were letting their peering points congest to kill settlement-free peering and impose new tolls on content and transit companies. In other cases, many streaming users complaints of poor streaming performance stem from simple wi-fi problems which can be attributed to users outdated or underpowered routers. Like any information technology, routers have come a long way in a short time, and you typically get what you pay for. If you spend as little as you can, you ll get as little performance as you can. Most home wi-fi routers today also require configuration from time to time. Check with your router manufacturer s support or customer help to check if your router is properly configured and up-to-date. If you still need more speed out of your wi-fi setup, additional wi-fi access points or extenders can be purchased, but read reviews carefully and again - you get what you pay for. For the ultimate wi-fi upgrade, you might consider switching from a conventional single-router wi-fi setup to a whole-home wi-fi system which places nodes throughout an entire home to create universal access. If your house typically has multiple people streaming simultaneously on separate devices, a whole-home setup might be for you. Ultimately, one of the most common and easy to fix problems is router placement. Routers should be placed in the center of a home, but most homes are typically built with internet connections built into exterior walls. If possible, try and locate routers in a central area or where wi-fi devices are most often used. Routers should be in the open and not hidden behind walls or doors which can block wi-fi signals. Most routers also feature ports for ethernet jacks; when the most bandwidth is needed, devices can be connected via cable if possible. Try as we might to cut the cable entirely even when it comes to internet, wireless speeds just haven t caught up with wired speeds yet. Sure, it s not as fun as binging Stranger Things on a tablet in the bathtub, but sometimes speed has to take precedence over convenience. This article was contributed by the community. If you'd like to receive payment for writing content like this for our front page, please drop us a comment(s)[...]

AT&T Promises Huge Broadband Investment...If it Gets a Tax Break -

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:00:03 EDT

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week made the media rounds after spending some time with the President. Speaking on CNBC, the CEO proclaimed that AT&T would invest $22 billion this year on broadband infrastructure -- but only if the President engaged in "tax reform" (read: lower AT&T's taxes). AT&T's no stranger to fiddling with its investment numbers to get government to do what it wants, with billions in what are often phantom numbers ebbing and flowing based on how willing government is to do AT&T's bidding.

Stephenson was one of several major telecom CEOs that met with the Trump administration yesterday to demonstrate the potential wonders of fifth generation (5G) wireless.

Wonders, Stephenson hints, that won't fully materialize unless Trump reduces the company's overall tax burden (some of the money for AT&T's tax break will likely come from making cuts to Medicaid and other programs).

Trump lavished praise upon AT&T, insisting the company was "like two companies" -- "you started, then it was made different by government and now here you are again," adding that was "not easy to do."

Stephenson likewise heaped praise upon Trump for his regulatory policies in telecom, which so far have included gutting consumer privacy protections, starting to roll back net neutrality protections for consumers and small businesses, scuttling attempts to bring competition to the cable box, making it easier for prison telco monopolies to rip off inmate families, and gutting programs intended to bring broadband to the poor.

"It's been dizzying the pace that the regulatory playing field has been cleared and been made more clear for companies that invest like ours," proclaimed the CEO.

It's not a coincidence that Stephenson and an army of 100 lobbyists are busy trying to sell the Trump administration on its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner -- a deal Trump promised to block on the campaign trail because of "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few" -- but now shows every indication of approving.
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Weekend Open Thread! -

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:00:02 EDT

Let us know what you're up to this weekend in the comment section below!
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