Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fox, Time Warner Cable dispute could pull plug on some bowl games New Years Day

So, Fox and Time Warner Cable are in a dispute that, if not settled by midnight New Years Eve, could lead to TW customers not getting Fox programming, including many bowl games and American Idol, New Years Day and into 2010.

Fox wants Time Warner to pay (more) for programming. Where have we heard that before. And it will be passed on to consumers. The FCC is jawboning the two parties into trying to settle before midnight.

The AP story is by Ryan Nakashima, with link here. It was also run on Yahoo!

So some customers who went out and converted old rabbit ears boxes, or who use "The Dish", may be better off.

I had Time Warner in Minneapolis.

Time Warner Cable was spun off from Time Warner holding company earlier in 2009.

Update: Jan. 1 2010

The negotiations continue, but TW is allowing Fox to be broadcast New Years Day.

Update: Jan 5

There is a similar dispute between Scripps and Cablevision over Food Network and HGTV taht may not get resolved at all. AOL covered the story here.

Here are the remarks by Guy Fieri from "I Love Food Network" on YouTube.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

AT&T finds it hard to keep up with iPhone demands in Manhattan

AT&T stopped selling Apple’s iPhone to Manhattan residents over the weekend, directing to pick another phone, because of difficulties in satisfying the data volume demands of typical urban iPhone customers, whose behavior on popular shows like CWTV’s “Gossip Girl” probably exaggerates the problem at bit. Niraj Sheth has a subscription article on the Wall Street Journal here; the article appears in print on p B1, Marketplace, on Tuesday December 29.

Cell phone companies in some large cities have difficulties supplying good service everywhere when there are many skyscrapers over a large area, as in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or many Asian cities in China, Japan, Malaysia, etc. In other cities, like Washington DC (or many European cities) where there are many fewer tall buildings their task is much easier. It is probably easier in cities where downtowns are relatively concentrated. In some cities like Dallas there are many tall buildings but they tend to be spread out in urban development centers in various areas of the city. These cities are easier to design service for.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FCC wants to guarantee every home broadband, use other rural telephone resources if necessary

The Federal Communications Commission says it is dead serious about the aim of making high speed broadband utility available to every household in the United States, no matter how rural or poor. The Washington Post story Thursday Dec. 17 is “FCC issues proposals to met national broadband plan”, link here.

One proposal is to use money from the Universal Service Fund, normally used now to subsidize rural phone service, an idea that sounds like playing Robin Hood to some. The agency is also considering jawboning cable operators into supplying everyone with set-top devices (similar to stripped-down PC’s, usually running on proprietary, Linux-like operating systems) to integrate cable and video services. Of course, there would have to be attention to security for these devices.

Gigi Sohn, director of Public Knowledge, has suggested that smaller telecomm companies should have access to lines owned by bigger companies.

Public Knowledge has a page on Network Neutrality, here. The page includes a quote of a Network Neutrality provision required of AT&T by the FCC when AT&T bought back Bell South at the end of 2006.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Would net neutrality violate "corporate" free speech?

Randolph J. May has an op-ed on p A15 of the Dec. 15 Washington Times, “Voiding the Constitution: FCC Rules Could Counter Freedom of Speech”, link here.

The argument more or less makes ISP’s into virtual people and asserts their First Amendment rights to discriminate, in various “innocent” hypothetical situations (content involving gay marriage, etc). But ISP’s are not content producers or publishers; they are more like utilities or perhaps distributors. (Okay, you could say that a motion picture distributor is engaging in speech in practice.)

But this is one more piece on the “con side” of the network neutrality debate.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Small-town Vermont struggles to get broadband during credit crisis

Tunbridge, Vermont struggles to find funding for high speed Internet service, with the latest proposal a $100 million fiber-optic project. Ordinary cable companies find land lines too costly to build in this mountainous, less populated area, and some politicians look at broadband as a “luxury”. But small businesses say that broadband is now an essential utility for survival, and the question becomes existential. One of the small businesses in the report is a sheep farm.

Funding for the fiber-optic project would have been a cinch two years ago, before the credit crisis that unraveled in 2008. How’s that for social justice, Suze Orman?

The report is in a WSJ video link here.

Wikipedia link for Vermont Population density. Tunbridge is half way up, near the NH border.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

NBC-Comcast proposed merger; Comcast and TW plans to increase PC subscriptions present an interesting horizon

Cecilia Kang has several recent stories in The Washington Post about the cable television industry, mainly about the move of Comcast and Time-Warner both to offer most major television series to subscribers on their PC’s (using a license or access code), and, as we heard today, plans for Comcast to buy a majority stake in NBC, taking it away from GE (at one time, NBC was a subsidiary of RCA).

The most important story probably occurred Dec 3, “Cable giants to put shows online
Time Warner, Comcast launch service in hopes of retaining customers”, link here.

The major networks (including CWTV as well as NBC, CBS and ABC) already offer many episodes of many of their shows for re-viewing free on PC’s. Some offer embed code for news shows (like 60 Minutes on CBS). Some cable networks (ABC Family) also offer episodes on video. Gay network LOGO offers many shows and movies, but then takes some of them down.

Of course, regulators will be concerned about anti-competitive potentials of the Comcast-NBC merger. I have Comcast at home, and I worked for both RCA (my first “professional” job in 1970) and later NBC (1974-1977) in applications programming. NBC is combined with Universal Pictures and Focus Features. For future filmmakers, this could make things interesting. I still remember some of the people at NBC then.

Actually, the tall building in Rockefeller Center was called the RCA Building then, and on the second day of work in February 1970 I did meet the top executives of RCA then before starting at what was called then the David Sarnoff Research Center (or Princeton Labs) at Princeton NJ, about two miles from the University campus. Memories are long.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ATT: Only 3% of customers had broadband in 2000; Black Monday problems; some personal experience

Well, last night Webroot Spyweeper ran a backup while I watched a half-hour short film on Logo on Comcast broadband.

I did have a lot of trouble connecting with the movie server, which may have been due to packet contention over the fact that my PC was transmitting data out through the cable to a remote server. Eventually the movie ran, but it stalled several times. James Martin’s textbook on telecommunications back in the mid 1990s would explain how this works.

Does Comcast regulate the rate at which data can come in to and leave my machine? Probably, to protect other customers. I can’t say that this is objectionable.

Also, AT&T has been pointing out that in 2000 only 3% of computer email users had broadband. It claims that the industry, including itself, has provided “neutral” service with little oversight of consumers (of the type above). The ad doesn’t say what percent of customers have broadband today.

Monday night, Nov. 30, I had trouble getting "server busy" messages when FTP-ing to my doaskdotell domain with WS-FTP (Ipswitch). I don't know if this was a broadband problem, or it had to do with some end-of-month cleanup at the ISP. A number of sites were slow, on both comcast and even Verizon wireless this time; maybe there was a central routing problem (Mae East). Broadband technology will have to deal with peak usage, as on "Black Monday" when people are climbing online to make cyber purchases.