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Published: Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:00:03 EDT

Last Build Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:00:03 EDT

Copyright: Copyright 2005-2010, dslreports.com
 



AT&T's $85 Billion Time Warner Merger is Going to be Approved -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:00:03 EDT

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Despite Donald Trump's breathless promise to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner during the Presidential campaign, the companies and DOJ are moving into the "advanced stages" of the approval process, notes The Wall Street Journal. The two sides were already busy talking conditions as of last month, according to numerous reports. Traditionally, conditions affixed to such deals have been proposed by the companies' themselves, and tend to be little more than theatrical in benefit.

AT&T's streaming competitors are pushing for meaningful conditions, however, since they worry AT&T will use its size to prevent competitors from getting reasonable access to content licensing (like HBO) they'll need to compete with AT&T's own DirecTV Now streaming service.

AT&T has also repeatedly come under fire for using usage caps to penalize competitors, but not AT&T's own content (aka zero rating), while consistently working to undermine net neutrality (an open, competitive internet).

AT&T and Time Warner already managed to eliminate the need for FCC review by selling an Atlanta TV station and avoiding any spectrum license transfers, which would have triggered FCC involvement. That means the deal only needs approval by the DOJ, where Trump appointed a new antitrust boss that has publicly stated he doesn't see any problem with the megamerger -- but hasn't seen Senate approval yet.

Trump repeatedly promised to block the merger on the campaign trail.

"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 said last fall.

That was then, this is now. Most analysts expect the deal to be approved with relatively modest conditions, which would be in line with the Trump administration's rather cozy treatment of incumbent ISPs like AT&T (see the killing of consumer privacy rules and net neutrality). Additional reports indicated that post-merger, AT&T is planning to kill off the Time Warner brand completely, and current Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes will be moving on once the deal is completed.
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Cable Providers Continue to Dominate the Broadband Industry -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:00:03 EDT

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Cable operators continue to absolutely dominate the US broadband industry, adding 84% of all net new subscribers during the second quarter. According to Analysis by Leichtman Research, the industry as a whole only added around 230,000 net new subscribers last quarter, thanks in large part to a saturated market. During that period cable providers added 460,000 subscribers, while telcos saw a net loss of around 230,000 during the quarter. In short: cable providers continue to absolutely dominate the industry.

"Cable companies added about 3.1 million broadband subscribers over the past year, while Telcos had net losses of about 550,000 broadband subscribers," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

"At the end 2Q 2017, cable had a 64% market share vs. 36% for Telcos. The broadband market share for cable is now at the highest level it has been since the first quarter of 2004."

The firm is quick to point out that every single major telco saw net broadband losses last quarter, but it doesn't bother to explain why. Some telcos (Verizon) have all but given up on next-generation broadband upgrades as they shift they forus toward wireless and advertising. Other telcos (Windstream, Frontier, CenturyLink) are either incapable or unwilling to upgrade their lagging DSL customers at any real scale, or have prioritized focusing on enterprise revenues.

The result? There's tens of millions of frustrated DSL customers paying a significant amount of money for sub 6 Mbps DSL connections. Connections that don't even technically meet the FCC's now standard definition of broadband (25 Mbps down, 4 Mbps up). Those customers are all fleeing to cable, which is now starting to deliver speeds up to 1 Gbps via relatively inexpensive DOCSIS 3.1 cable upgrades.

And while this is all great news for cable providers, it's not such great news for the American consumer. As competitive pressure diminishes, these cable giants are starting to enjoy a bigger broadband monopoly than ever before in many markets, since they technically have few if any competitors at speeds of 25 Mbps or above. That means less incentive to lower rates and improve customer service, and more incentive to engage in consumer annoyances like usage caps and overage fees, or privacy and net neutrality violations.

Combine that with the current government's plan to effectively gut all meaningful oversight of these uncompetitive giants, and you've got a real recipe for trouble.
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YouTube TV Now Available to 50% of US Homes -

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:00:02 EDT

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Google's live TV streaming service, YouTube TV, is now available to roughly half of the nation's homes the company announced today. YouTube TV offers users access to a lineup of 40 different networks and channels across six active accounts for $35 per month. That total also includes access to YouTube Red Originals, the company's lineup of original programming (normally $10 per month). YouTube TV includes an unlimited cloud DVR with support for up to six accounts per household, each with their own recommendations and storage allotment.

At launch, the service was only made available in key top markets including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area.

Last July, availability was expanded to include Washington, DC; Houston; Atlanta; Phoenix; Detroit; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Miami-Ft. Lauderdale; Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne; Dallas/Fort Worth and Charlotte.

Today, YouTube TV announced that the service has been launched in another fourteen markets, bringinging the service to around half of all potential homes. Today's new markets include: Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus, OH, Jacksonville-Brunswick, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce.

The company announced that the service will launch in an additional seventeen markets soon: Austin, Birmingham, Cleveland-Akron, Denver, Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Hartford-New Haven, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Oklahoma City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Diego and St. Louis.

If you're a cord cutter wondering if the service is a good option for you, check out our recent review of YouTube TV by a community member.
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Comcast Fails To Kill Lawsuit Over Sneaky Fees...For Now -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 10:00:03 EDT

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Comcast has been unsuccessful in killing a lawsuit against the company for its long-standing practice of using bogus, often hidden fees to jack up the advertised cost of broadband and TV service. The company was sued late last year for using both "Broadcast TV fees" and regional sports surcharges to drive up service costs. The broadcast TV fee in particular takes a part of the cost of programming and buries in below the line. Comcast then jacks up this fee consistently, while falsely claiming that their advertised rates have remained the same.

"Comcast not only charged the fee to new customers, but also added the charge to the bills of existing customers in violation of their contracts which had promised a flat monthly rate for the term of the contract," the lawsuit originally complained.

Comcast tried to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming customers agreed to the sneaky fees via their "Subscriber Agreement" and "Minimum Term Agreement." But US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria has denied Comcast's request, and disputed Comcast's claims.

"The plaintiffs have alleged the existence of a valid contract, which was created when Comcast customers Dan Adkins and Christopher Robertson submitted their order for Comcast services through Comcast's website," the Judge wrote. "It is plausible to infer from the complaint that, by clicking "Submit Your Order," Adkins and Robertson agreed to pay Comcast's advertised price, plus taxes and government-related fees, in exchange for the services Comcast offered them."

Comcast, for its part, has consistently tried to downplay its use of misleading fees. At one point, the company tried to claim that using the fees to hide the real price of service from customers in advertisements was just the company's attempt to be "transparent" with consumers. The company again this week downplayed the complaints in a statement.

Comcast has always listed the broadcast TV and regional sports fees separately on the bill and included clear disclosures about them in our advertising," claims a company spokesperson.

"It s also worth noting that because this case is in the early stages, the court was required to accept the plaintiffs allegations as true, and that the complaint itself demonstrates that these fees were disclosed and were not part of promotional pricing," Comcast added. "Also, prior to the most recent hearings, and as part of our ongoing efforts to improve the customer experience, we updated the online buying process at issue in this case.

Except this "improvement to the customer experience" does not involve doing anything about the misleading fees in question, which still exist on subscriber bills. Comcast isn't alone; most ISPs now use a wide variety of below the line fees to advertise one rate -- then sock customers with another -- something regulators from both parties don't seem to care much about. But this practice not only allows ISPs to engage in false advertising, but also makes direct shopping comparisons more difficult for the consumer.
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Forum Topic: China, Russia Crack Down on VPN Use -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:00:02 EDT

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Users in our security forum discuss the global attempts by many governments (especially Russia and China) to crack down on and even outlaw VPN use, usually under the claim that this sort of restriction of useful privacy tools somehow helps keep the public safer. More often, the bans are about making it easier to filter the internet and expand domestic surveillance.





Lawmakers Want FCC's Shaky DDoS Claims Investigated -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 08:30:02 EDT

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Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the FCC's increasingly shaky claim that it was a DDoS attack -- not people outraged by the agency's plan to kill net neutrality -- that was to blame for an outage of the FCC's public comment system. You'll recall that shortly after HBO Comedian John Oliver's most recent video on net neutrality, the FCC's website comment system collapsed under the load of annoyed viewers, leading to numerous reports on how net neutrality's popularity had once again crippled the FCC's systems.

But the FCC shortly thereafter came out with a statement claiming that it wasn't a massive backlash to the agency's actions that crippled the website, but a DDoS attack coincidentally conducted at the exact same time Oliver's program aired.

The problem? Security experts doubted the claim, stating they'd seen none of the usual botnet or other online activity that traditionally precedes such attacks.

Similarly skeptical reporters reached out to the FCC for further details, but the agency refused to comment or provide hard detail. That led many to wonder if the agency was simply lying in a rather silly effort to create a bogus counter-narrative to the obvious, overwhelming support for net neutrality highlighted by Oliver's latest segment.

Smelling blood, several lawmakers are now pushing for an investigation into the FCC's DDoS claims, Senator Brian Schatz and Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. urging the General Accounting Office to do a full assessment of the attack and the FCC's cybersecurity defense practices.

While the FCC and the FBI have responded to Congressional inquiries into these DDoS attacks, they have not released any records or documentation that would allow for confirmation that an attack occurred, that it was effectively dealt with, and that the FCC has begun to institute measures to thwart future attacks and ensure the security of its systems, the duo said

As a result, the pair stated, questions remain about the attack itself and more generally about the state of cybersecurity at the FCC -- questions that warrant an independent review.

The claim of the DDoS attack was made by former FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray, who claimed the FCC reached that conclusion after thorough "analysis." But subsequent FOIA requests have indicated that no such analysis happened. Subsequent reports have since highlighted that Bray falsely claimed the FCC website suffered from a DDOS attack back when the system failed back in 2014, again due to angry John Oliver viewers interested in protecting net neutrality.

All told, it's not that likely that these lawmakers care all that much about the integrity of the FCC comment system, and are more interested in catching Ajit Pai and his team in what appears to be a rather ham-fisted lie; one apparently designed to downplay backlash to their frontal assault on popular net neutrality rules.
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Weekend Open thread! -

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:00:02 EDT

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Let us know what you're up to this weekend in the comment section below!
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Another Million People Cut the TV Cord Last Quarter -

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:00:03 EDT

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Traditional pay TV providers lost a record 976,000 video customers in the second quarter according to SNL Kagan. While that wasn't quite as bad as many analysts had predicted, the rate of cord cutting still indicates the cable industry is in for "unprecedented annual decline during 2017. According to the firm, the total number of traditional cable subscribers dipped to 96.1 million in the second quarter, down 1.8 million since last year. Dish, DirecTV and AT&T were hit particularly hard last quarter in particular.

Dish for example lost another 196,000 subscribers on the quarter, and that tally includes the additions seen to the company's Sling TV streaming video services (which Dish refuses to break out specifically to lesson the apparent impact).

AT&T was also pummeled by defections, despite the company's apparent hopes of getting ahead of the trend via its DirecTV Now streaming video platform. The company lost 156,000 DirecTV satellite TV customers and 195,000 IPTV (formerly known as U-Verse) customers for a net loss of 351,000 traditional video subscribers. And while AT&T did manage to add 152,000 DirecTV Now streaming video customers, the additions weren't enough to counter the overall losses.

Y es, things are getting worse, Wall Street analysts at MoffettNathanson recently stated. But at least in Q2 they got worse more slowly. Less worse. Or, not as worse. Or, well, you get the idea.

The biggest reason for these ongoing defections? Customers are tired of paying an arm and a leg for bloated cable TV bundles and historically-atrocious customer service, and despite a lot of lip service toward competing more seriously on channel flexibility and price, most cable operators continue to think that raising rates anyway is the best path forward. .
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Comcast's Wireless Phone Service Now Available Nationwide -

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:00:03 EDT

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Comcast this week announced that the company's Xfinity Mobile wireless phone service is now available nationwide. Launched back in May, Comcast's service offers existing triple play customers wireless phone service for $45 per line for unlimited (users get throttled to 1.5 Mbps after 20 GB) data, text and voice. This same service is $65 per month if users only subscribe to Comcast broadband service, making it abundantly clear that Comcast's primary goal with the effort is to upsell users to additional services.

Comcast is also offering an option where users can 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.

A company announcement indicates that after a limited market launch, the service is now available everywhere.

"We created a unique mobile experience that s simple and saves customers money by connecting to our nationwide Wi-Fi network, and allows them to only pay for the data they use, said Greg Butz, president of Xfinity Mobile. Now that we re available across all of our distribution platforms, including our retail locations in all of our markets, we look forward to introducing even more customers to Xfinity Mobile.

That said, you'd hope that Comcast's traditionally poor customer service can handle the influx of additional customers. It's also worth noting that Comcast has confirmed there will be no seamless WiFi to LTE handoff at launch, and you can't bring your own handset to the party.
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Judge Kills AT&T's Attempt to Slow Google Fiber in Louisville -

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:00:03 EDT

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A Federal Judge has shot down an AT&T lawsuit against the city of Louisville, one of several company bids to slow down Google Fiber's arrival to the region. AT&T sued the city back in February of last year after Louisville streamlined its utility pole attachment rules to speed up the arrival of competing broadband services to the city. Incumbent ISPs have long abused the absurdly bureaucratic pole attachment process to slow competitors, and Louisville's "one touch make ready" reforms streamlined the process significantly.

A Federal Judge threw out AT&T's suit this week, arguing that it was well within Louisville Metro s authority to manage its public rights-of-way.

Google Fiber had pushed for the rules, which let a licensed, insured contractor move any ISP's gear provided they get prior approval, and pay for any potential damage.

Previously, if a competitor wanted access to the pole, they needed to wait for each individual ISP to sign off on -- them move -- their own gear. That process already took numerous additional months, and large incumbent ISPs had a reputation for dragging their heels on the equipment moves to make life as difficult as possible for competitors.

AT&T sued the city under the pretense that it was worried about additional outages, but if you've spent any time watching the way AT&T does business, it becomes quickly clear the lawsuit was just another effort to hamstring competitors in the telecom space. Verizon, which not-coincidentally doesn't compete with Google Fiber in any of its east coast markets, has supported the rule changes as necessary and helpful in expediting broadband deployments.

AT&T is expected to appeal the ruling.
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