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DSLreports - front page

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Published: Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:00:02 EDT

Last Build Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:00:02 EDT

Copyright: Copyright 2005-2010,

Forum Topic: Canada Considering a Netflix Tax -

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:00:02 EDT

Users in our Canadian Broadband forum note that Canada is considering a so-called "Netflix tax," mirroring similar efforts to tax streaming services here in the States.

FTC Lawsuit Accuses Qualcomm of Anti-Competitive Monopoly -

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 10:00:03 EDT

A new FTC lawsuit accuses Qualcomm of operating an anti-competitive monopoly over baseband processors used in most modern smartphones. According to the FTC's lawsuits, Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain baseband processors to impose "onerous and anticompetitive supply and licensing terms" on cell phone manufacturers to help weaken competitors. The report specifically notes that Qualcomm forced Apple to use its chips exclusively in exchange for reduced licensing fees, hamstringing competitors and harming overall competition.

Qualcomm holds numerous patents on the common protocols and technologies used for networking in many devices, and the FTC says Qualcomm abused that power to harm the overall market.

"According to the complaint, by threatening to disrupt cell phone manufacturers supply of baseband processors, Qualcomm obtains elevated royalties and other license terms for its standard-essential patents that manufacturers would otherwise reject," notes the FTC.

"These royalties amount to a tax on the manufacturers use of baseband processors manufactured by Qualcomm s competitors, a tax that excludes these competitors and harms competition. Increased costs imposed by this tax are passed on to consumers, the complaint alleges."

In other words, phone makers were offered a discount if they just used Qualcomm's modems, effectively forcing them to pay extra if they want to use a rival's chipset.

"By excluding competitors, Qualcomm impedes innovation that would offer significant consumer benefits, including those that foster the increased interconnectivity of consumer products, vehicles, buildings, and other items commonly referred to as the Internet of Things," the agency states.

Interested readers can find the full complaint here (pdf), and the FTC's announcement of the Qualcomm suit here. Qualcomm has issued a statement on the lawsuit here.
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Report: Verizon Looking to Buy Comcast or Charter -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 11:14:54 EDT

Verizon may be looking to acquire a cable company in the hopes of pursuing additional growth, anonymous sources tell the New York Post. The paper claims that Verizon is "weighing the acquisition of a cable company to help grow demand for its wireless data products," according to two anonymous sources. Any such deal wouldn't be small; the report claims that Altice wouldn't give Verizon the kind of scope they're looking for, so the company is most interested in acquiring Comcast or Charter in a mega-merger of the ages.

The report suggests such a union could fuel Verizon's 5G ambitions, but technically such a deal doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Comcast, Charter and Verizon's fixed-line networks are all technologically very different and integration would be a nightmare. And while Verizon could use cable's core capacity and WiFi hotspots to help fuel 5G, Verizon has no shortage of its own core bandwidth, and has actually been looking to get out of the fixed-line broadband business and pivot to marketing to Millennials.

As such, suddenly saddling itself with tens of millions of new fixed-line residential connections would be notably out of character. The debt load created from a Comcast NBC Universal buy would also be monumental. A far more likely deal for Verizon would be some kind of "smaller," pure media company acquisition (CBS), to keep pace with AT&T's looming $100 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Much of this hysteria appears to be originating with Wall Street analysts, who are bullish about the expected rise in mega-mergers under a more industry-friendly Trump administration. UBS analyst John Hodulik recently highlighted most of the potential mergers in 2017, including a Comcast acquisition of T-Mobile, a Sprint T-Mobile merger, and even a Verizon acquisition of Comcast NBC Universal.

All told, these rumors may be more about Wall Street firms cashing in on rumor-triggered stock movement than anything resembling actual reality. Still, it's abundantly clear that Wall Street believes the Trump administration is going to allow a number of megamergers that had previously been seen as unthinkable.
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Altice Urges Users to Stream CBS All Access in Carriage Feud -

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:30:02 EDT

Altice-owned Cablevision customers are facing yet another carriage fee dispute in Connecticut, where their access to the local CBS affiliate is being blocked. Urging users to get antennas has become common practice for some cable companies. But in a new wrinkle Altice is urging those users to sign up for CBS's streaming video service CBS All Access, which will cost them an additional $6 to $10 more, per month. CBS has yet to block these IP addresses from accessing the content, something that broadcasters have done several times over the years.

2017 has seen a notable spike in these annoying disputes between companies that can't seem to strike new business arrangements without annoying the hell out of paying customers (who never get refunds for missing content).

This latest outage in Connecticut appears to have gotten the attention of Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, who sent a letter urging Altice and local CBS affiliate-owner Meredith Corp. to settle their differences without impacting consumers.

"While we respect the private negotiations being conducted by Optimum and WFSB and make no representations as to the merits of either side s position, we believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families and we urge you to negotiate in good faith to bring an end to this blackout," the Senators said.

Altice said it's working to resolve the standoff.

"We have been negotiating in good faith for weeks and made multiple offers to Meredith even though their initial request was for more than 800% over what we currently pay," says the company.
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When Getting Broadband Costs You $15,000 -

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 07:40:03 EDT

For more than a decade we've explored how homeowners are forced to shell out $10,000, $20,000 or sometimes more to convince ISPs to deliver broadband to their homes. Ars Technica notes that this hasn't really changed much, telling the stories of numerous people -- some in urban and suburban areas -- that have to shell out significant cash just to get fiber or coaxial extended a few hundred or thousand feet. Our forums are packed to the brim with stories from users having to beg their ISP to extend their network, usually for a small fortune.
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New T-Mobile Ads Mock Verizon Network As 'Older, Slower' -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 08:24:49 EDT

T-Mobile has launched a new advertising campaign that focuses on making fun of Verizon's network. The ads, which feature talking dogs, claim that Verizon's "six year old network" is not only "older" and "slower," but limits customers via usage caps. T-Mobile of course offers users "unlimited" data via its T-Mobile One plans, but throttles all video on its network to 1.5 Mbps (or 480p) by default. Verizon, in contrast continues to wage quiet war against the company's remaining unlimited users, grandfathered after Verizon shifted to metered usage plans back in 2011.

Verizon has long used its network performance to justify the company's higher wireless data pricing. But as T-Mobile's network coverage and performance improves, Verizon's running out of excuses for its higher price points.

As such, Verizon has shifted to heavily marketing its advancements in fifth generation (5G) wireless, even though the industry won't see any notable deployment of the technology until 2020.

Obviously T-Mobile's choice to throttle all video by default (criticized by net neutrality advocates) obviously doesn't mean T-Mobile's network is necessarily better. In fact, while T-Mobile has made incredible strides in many studies, Verizon pretty consistently wins top honors for network performance, reliability, and most notably customer service.

As such Verizon, unsurprisingly, isn't amused by T-Mobile's latest ads.

"The word for the day is 'logic," a Verizon spokesman told CNET. "No matter how you spin it, our six-year lead in providing 4G LTE is a huge advantage to consumers, and strengthening our network with LTE-Advanced in 450 cities pulled Verizon further ahead."

"You remain a discount network by investing in cute ads rather than improving your spotty network," Verizon proclaimed.

T-Mobile appears to be doing both. And "spotty network" or no, T-Mobile and it's brash CEO continue to add more new subscribers each quarter than any other wireless carrier.

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Forum Topic: Microsoft Finally Makes Windows 10 Privacy Tweaks -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:00:02 EDT

Users in our Microsoft forum debate and discuss Microsoft's recent privacy tweaks to Windows 10, and whether the change go far enough to ease concerns about the...chatty nature of the operating system and the lack of end user control.

DirecTV Now Users Have to Beg FCC to Get Refunds From AT&T -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 18:00:02 EDT

AT&T continues to take heat over its DirecTV Now service, with numerous users complaining they were unable to obtain refunds after numerous service glitches and outages. The service suffered its third major outage over the weekend, and users continue to complain about numerous other errors, blackouts, and other issues with the service. AT&T's DirecTV Now forums are packed to the brim with frustration. Many users say they're unhappy they even gave the new service a spin.

But when these users turn to AT&T to refunds, Techcrunch says these users are being told that's simply not possible.

DirecTV Now customers say the only way to get decent help from AT&T was through "a hard-to-find chat feature," but when they asked the AT&T reps about refunds, the customers were told they were not offered.

"We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds," DirecTV Now reps tell annoyed users.

But at least one user says they were able to force AT&T to provide them with a refund after they complained to the FCC. Many of these users complain that the service feels like a public beta -- that they get the honor of paying for.

AT&T, for what it's worth, says it's working on improving the service's issues.

"With any new technology there are going to be fixes that need to be made," AT&T says. "While we understand we still have work to do, overall feedback on DIRECTV NOW has been very positive. We re continuously updating the app to provide a better experience for customers. We encourage customer to keep the app updated."
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Trump Plan Will Strip FCC of Consumer Protection Powers -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:00:03 EDT

The incoming Trump administration is preparing to gut the FCC as a broadband and consumer watchdog. Telecom trade magazine Multichannel News says it has obtained a Trump team blueprint for the Trump FCC agenda, and it includes largely defanging and defunding the FCC as a consumer protection agency. The efforts square with the agenda already made abundantly clear by the GOP and the agency's two remaining Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai and Mike O'Rielly. Rielly, Pai, and three of Trump's telecom advisors (four, if you include Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn) have made no secret of their plan to defund and defund the agency, strip back net net neutrality and eliminate the agency's new broadband privacy rules for consumers. Republic wireless founder David Morken recently joined the Trump transition team, appearing to be one of the only advisors that actually supports retaining net neutrality rules and increasing funding for the agency. It's far from clear if he'll have much impact on the blindly deregulatory majority, however. The plan itself claims the goal is to pare down the FCC to "better reflect the convergence of the digital age" to create a "a more coherent and streamlined" agency that "would more effectively serve the goals of consumers, competitors, and Congress." But consumer advocates say that's a smokescreen for the real agenda: weaken regulatory oversight of some of the least competitive -- and least liked -- companies in America. The goal? One thing and one thing only: protect duopoly revenues. Harold Feld, lawyer for consumer advocacy firm Public Knowledge, tells Ars Technica that the plan is "a declaration of war on the most basic principles of universal service, consumer protection, competition, and public safety that have been the bipartisan core of the Communications Act for the last 80+ years." Feld goes on to state the plan will "poison the well for any serious effort to update the Communications Act." The GOP has long made it clear it intends to rewrite the Communications Act with an eye on weakening the FCC as consumer watchdog as well. Said rewrite will also likely attempt to eliminate the current FCC rules, but putting rules in place that will likely be notably weaker than even the existing, flawed rules. "This level of radical restructuring makes the 1996 Communications Act update look trivial," Feld says of Trump and the GOP's plan. While the gutting of regulatory oversight of companies like Comcast is sure to be dressed up as "populist reform" (and met by thunderous applause by the violently misinformed) the end result isn't going to be pretty. While deregulation works in more competitive sectors, historically it only makes problems worse for consumers in the broken, non competitive telecom market. Just ask former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Mike Powell, whose blindly-deregulating tenure helped create the Comcast most customers currently know and love. As prices soar, service gets even worse, and net neutrality rules are gutted misdirection and disinformation may work for a while, but ultimately most consumers will realize precisely who will be to blame for this new, industry-friendly comment(s)[...]

Charter Urges Fire Victims to 'Dig Through Rubble' For Cable Box -

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:00:03 EDT

Over the years ISPs and cable companies have developed a bad reputation for pushing disaster victims a little too hard to return destroyed cable or broadband hardware, when the victims' very last thoughts are on the replacement costs of a DVR. AT&T took some years ago for demanding forest fire victims immediately pony up $300 for a lost cable box. CableOne also found little sympathy when they informed apartment fire victims "they'd been hurt too." It's not really surprising for the industry with statistically the worst customer service in America.

Cue Charter Communications, who this month is taking heat for billing victims of the wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee after their homes were destroyed by a forest fire in the region.

Victims say they're being billed for services they didn't have, billed for service that was never delivered due to the fire, and are being cajoled to return cable hardware that's long-since gone to cable box heaven.

They sent us a bill for the next billing period after I called to cancel, and they say if we re going to cancel, we owe the box or they re going to charge us for the equipment, one customer tells the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "We were told that if we dig through the rubble and found parts of the equipment, we could bring it in as proof. Otherwise, we couldn t prove that the equipment was in the cabin at the time of the fire, and would be charged 100 percent for all Charter equipment."

"I said, Have you heard about the wildfires?'" another victim is quoted as saying in a different report on Charter's insenitivity, And (the manager) said, 'Yes I have.' I said, 'You re harassing me and other people here about the equipment. I would love to give you the 52-inch TV and the house it was attached to, but I can t. I m fine, but there are people who are not fine, and you are adding to the stress.

In most of these cases it's usually a lower-level support rep or executive going off script (or adhering a little too vehemently to the script), and usually the company in question backs off after the media highlights their insensitivity. That appears to be happening here as well, with many of the impacted customers only getting refunds and help -- after critical stories began surfacing in the media.
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