Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cox makes agreement with ABC affiliate in northern VA, releasing consumers caught in middle

Cox Cable, which serves Falls Church and Fairfax County VA, announced an agreement with ABC affiliate WJLA finally, link here For a number of days, WJLA had been warning viewers that Cox customers could have an interruption in access to their station.

When consumers subscribe to cable services, they expect access to all major networks and systems. Consumers should not be caught in the middle of contractual disputes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NTSB wants to ban all commercial electronics use by vehicle drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board wants Congress or other federal regulatory agencies to ban all use of consumer electronics by drivers of motor vehicles, whether personal or commercial. 
The NTSB has no authority to impose such a ban, but its recommendations carry weight. On the other hand, many conservatives are likely to say that such regulations should be left to states. 
To its credit, the NTSB wants cell phones and perhaps iPad- like devices to detect whether being used in motion (over walking speed) and be able to differentiate between passenger and driver use.  It would allow 911 calls and GPS devices.
The NTSB recommendations would not allow exceptions for hands-free or Bluetooth use.  The NTSB says that cognitive distraction is the real problem.  Other devices, like iPads and Kindles, could not be used legally, either. 
Yup, the whole country should follow Oprah’s “no phone zone”.  But this goes further.
Consumer Reports has a good news story here.
I would wonder if this could affect what consumer electronics are allowed in cars, especially rental cars.  There are other kinds of distraction, such as eating, even sipping coffee.  Would CD and DVD players be an issue? 
Anderson Cooper did a report on distracted driving on AC360 last week (see TV blog Dec. 8).
I do not answer cell phone calls when driving unless I can pull over and stop.  If I do not pick up on a call, it is likely that I am driving.   Virginia bans cell phone use only in work zones but does ban texting. Maryland and DC ban all hand-held use. 
We might see more government statements about wireless radiation exposure and health in the future.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Liberal media asks questions about cell phone towers and WiFi and health; same questions about high tension power lines

There has been controversy recently about cell phone use, and people’s (especially children and teens) using them too close to the skull without a Bluetooth earpiece, or keeping them close to the body.  The danger may be greater in areas of weaker coverage.

Christopher Ketcham has a long and blistering but speculative article in Earth Island Journal, reproduced on AlterNet recently, “Radiation from cell phones and WiFi are making people sick—are we all at risk?”  (website url link).  This called the largest human public health experiment ever, 24x7.  Here’s the link.  The story starts with serious problems on a farm in Ohio in 1990 after an early cell phone tower was installed nearby.  I remember some concern over a cell phone tower going up near my apartment in Fairfax County VA in 1995, before there was much reliable information (either way) on any risk. 

But living hear power lines – especially the high voltage transmission lines running cross country, is also said to be risky for some distance near them.  Here’s a typical link,  or another one called “Power Line Fact” (link), and even the EPA admits to some risk (here). 

Can nearby power lines – that is, their induced magnetic fields – harm electronics like laptops or pc’s?  I’ve wondered this when driving with a laptop and stuck on a two-lane road on the same side as a transmission line for miles at a time.  But I’ve never really had a problem.  Does anyone know?

But back in the 1960s, there were complaints that home electronics in the Pittsburgh area were damaged by devices at a nearby military base.  

One would assume local zoning rules would preclude building residences in areas likely to have problems, but do we really have a handle on this? 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Verizon enters cooperative deal to cross-sell with major conventional cable providers

Cecilia Kang is reporting in the Washington Post Saturday morning on a cooperative deal  between Verizon Wireless and conventional cable services Comcast, Bright House and Time Warner, in various cities, to cross-sell each other’s services, in a manner that recalls the insurance market. The story is here

The companies will cooperate to offer package deals that offer Verizon for the wireless portion of their telecommunications. Some feel that this could cause Verizon to put less emphasis on its land-based optical FIOS, which some consumers feel is superior to conventional cable in reliability.  Others feel that cellular wireless, as opposed to cable broadband, should be developed further because it doesn’t depend on a physical infrastructure vulnerable to storms or perhaps sabotage (which would make cellular wireless a preferable link in future home security systems  -- Ackerman Securityt is already mentioning wireless monitoring in its television broadcast ads).   In the workplace, I have personally found cellular wireless to be reliable and effective.  

Kang said that some hope that the deal will mean that cable companies will not keep charging for unused extra channels.  

Some have questioned the possibility of anti-trust issues. 

I recall that in New York City, during the Verizon strike, people had trouble scheduling work or going to the major competitor, Time Warner, which news reports said could not keep up.

The New York Times has a story ("Media Decoder") about the deal by Brian Stelter, which characterizes the deal as acquisition of more wireless "spectrum" by Verizon.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

FCC Announces "Connect2Compete" program of low-cost broadband access for low-income families

The Federal Communications Commission has implemented a plan to offer low-cost broadband service ($10 a month) to families whose kids qualify for free lunches.

Tim Devaney has a story in the Washington Times Nov. 10, p. A6, (website url) here

The program is called “Connect2Compete” (or “Connect to Compete”).

Here is an earlier story from October, link

Connect2Compete has a website here and describes itself as a private-non profit partnership. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Apple's iTV could "revolutionize" the cable TV industry with new competition

The morning after PBS aired its biography of Steve Jobs (see Movies blog today), the Washington Post published an article by Joshua Topolsky, in “The Verge” series, “How iTV, Jobs’s last project, could transform home entertainment”, link here

Curiously, the article appeared on Google before Washington Post’s own search engine could find it.  This may be related to Google’s recent effort to bring new “quality content” to the top of search engine results quickly.

The “Integrated Television Set” would access television content through apps rather than conventional channels, and of course would depend on efficient broadband (which could be wireless or depend on a home wireless router).  But it would possibly make the use of broadband capacity more efficient, and force cable companies (whether xFinity, TW, or the newer Verizon FIOS) into more flexible pricing plans and to offer better customer service, especially in areas where they have monopolies.
Was iTV to become Jobs’s “one last thing”?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Broadband infrastructure needs to be able to withstand storm; not everyone has "business class" service

The recent October snows in the Northeast call attention to another important, if tangential, aspect of the net neutrality debate.

The biggest concern is that large areas of mostly older or suburban neighborhoods stay without electricity and other utilities like cable broadband for days. 

Older neighborhoods, with older, weaker and denser trees and weaker structures, are quite vulnerable.  Newer developments usually have utilities more carefully installed. As far back as 1970, however, a “New Age” group insisted on underground utilities when building a closed community called Stelle, outside Kankakee, IL (south of Chicago).

Cable and phone companies are often not able to restore service quickly.  When I lost phone service in 2005 to a fallen tree limb (from a neighborhood) after an early morning winter thunderstorm (yes, they happen), Verizon took three days to restring the line.

The problem with slow restoration is that more and more people telecommute and work from home. This is good for the environment, but not sustainable in areas with an unstable or excessively vulnerable infrastructure.  People who own their own businesses in remote areas or at home in older neighborhoods can be put out of business by lack of ability of utilities to respond quickly enough.  Of course, you can say, that’s partly what zoning is all about. Utilities do sometimes offer “business class service” guaranteeing quicker response (especially for broadband Internet) but one needs real profit margins and volume (a real business) to afford it. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wireless customers will be warned about potential overages

The FCC and the CTIA are reaching agreement that wireless carriers will notify consumers when they are nearing overages in voice, text, data, and international use, all separately, since major carriers no longer offer unlimited plans.

Many people are finding that work-related communications on their cell phones are causing complications, creating situations where work-related use may not always be reimbursed.  This has certainly happened to me.  I was not going to increase my minutes allowance just for an employer.

Verizon did warn me of a potential overage when this happened, by free text. 

The guidelines would be in effect by early 2013. 

Cecilia Kang ran the story in the Washington Post Saturday Oct. 15, link here

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Publication of FCC Net Neutrality rules in Federal Register will lead to flurry of court challenges, on both sides

Abigail Phillips of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article Oct. 3 about the flurry of legal challenges following the publication of the FCC’s new “Network Neutrality” rules in the Federal Register, with EFF (website url) here.

The Government Printing Office link for the new rules (simple text) is (website url) here

The rules are criticized for their exceptions (allowing telecommunications carriers to intervene prospectively to stop putative copyright infringement).

The National Journal has a discussion of the various legal challenges from telecommunications carreirs, who say that the law unconstitutionally differentiates wireless carriers from traditional wired services, (website url) link for the story (Josh Smith).

The Media Access Project, like EFF, maintains that the neutrality rules could turn out to be spineless, and has a large page on the issue (website url) here

There is a lot to sort through here.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Broadcasters feel that FCC preference for broadband will squeeze out "free" old-fashioned network service

Tom Devaney has an important and detailed story on p A7 of the Sept. 30 Washington Times, “Fighting for spectrum space; Broadcasters ‘extremely nervous’ FCC will favor broadband”, main link (website url)  here

The FCC and telecommunications companies presumably want to reach rural areas with broadband that is as efficient as possible, even in out-of-the-way mountain areas on remote dirt roads.  But the “side effect” in some areas could be loss of broadcast channels, or inability of new conventional or even cable channels to enter the market.

Devaney has a sidebar story on that page on how the Detroit area could lose all three of its “free” broadcast channels (not dependent on cable) that depend entirely on commercial advertising spots.

Back in the 50s and 60s the government made a big push to promote UHF access for everyone. I recall that some smaller cities (like Huntsville, AL) had more UHF channels than Washington then, when I grew up, from comments made by family visitors to our home. 

Maybe those old antennae and rabbit ears will indeed become obsolete, even with digital tuners.  The Dish doesn't sound like fun, either. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cell phone contracts leave consumers committed to inferior service, and some price hikes

The Red Tape Chronicles on MSNBC are reporting the latest incident of telecommunications “gouging”, in a story by Bob Sullivan, “Sprint raises fee, but won’t free users from two-year contracts”, link here. There is a good question as to whether carriers can legally raise incidental fees in the middle of contracts.

Verizon offered me a new “Obamaphone” – a “new” Blackberry in mid 2010, but it has turned out to be inferior -- and will remain so for me until mid 2012. The batteries wear out, and Internet drops off and has to be reset (you turn off all your connections and turn them back on), and is generally slower than “other people’s” at discos. And it doesn’t always display Mobile sites properly. For example, it doesn’t recognize Blogger sites converted for optional mobile display (Androids do recognize it).  It does recognize MLB (baseball),  CNN and most newspapers in mobile mode.  Verizon will let you raise your minutes allowance – that doesn’t depend on your equipment contract.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lightsquared says it has a revolutionary approach to cutting cellular wireless costs; talks with Time Warner

Here’s a Washington Times story today about LightSquared  (you know, E=MC-squared), which says it is close on a global wireless network which it says would be at least 30% cheaper for cell phone and Internet users, and supply Internet (through a kind of cellular wireless already popular with business) everywhere.  It claims that the network will not interfere with GPS and military devices, but that has been a major stumbling block so far.

The technology is based on an unused portion of the frequency spectrum. 

The company is located in Reston VA, near Dulles Airport.

The link for TWT story is here

There is also a story that Time Warner Cable is interested in acquiring Lightsquare.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Idaho, in mountain states, is the slowest in catching up on Internet connectivity

Rural mountain areas may still be lagging behind in efficient, stable Internet access, according to a story today in the New York Times by Katherine Q. Seeyle, “For Idaho and the Internet, Life in the Slow Lane”, link here.

It’s hard for telecomm companies to invest as much in providing speed and especially reliability in areas with such low population density and natural barriers.  There was a time when people in remote parts of the country experienced local self-sufficiency, with less expectation of contact from the outside world.  In mountainous or other remote areas, the Internet towers or cables are subject to the elements and to large wild animals.

So, do we have “My Own Private Idaho?”

Here’s a YouTube video by Save Rural Broadband, Montana:

Wikipedia attribution link for Idaho topographical map   (68 meg, very big file).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do major service provides use "too much" electricity?

James Glanz has a provocative story in the New York Times Business Day, Sept. 3, “Google details, and defends its use of electricity”, link (website url) here

The story had a picture of a server farm in Finland (a country on my own shortlist for destinations).  The company has enormous redundancy in its operations, which enable it to keep up its services even when there are local infrastructure disruptions (storms, earthquakes, etc), an important concept in efficient broadband – but here tackled at the content delivery level than the transmission itself.  (We could get into an elaborate discussion of all the OSI layers that they used to teach in telecommunications courses back in the 90s.) Other large providers, like Facebook, have similar redundancies, with emphasis on expansion in areas away from susceptibility to major disasters, and low cost  (maybe like interior North Carolina). 

There were some rather lame rationalizations in the article: it uses less energy to do a search online than go to the library to look things up, like I used to do in the 80s (I remember desperately looking through medical journals at the Texas Health Science in Dallas back then as the AIDS epidemic unfolded; how it has changed.) 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Verizon landlines strike said not to affect customers: wait and see

Major media outlets report a strike by Verizon Communications, which runs the landlines, cable and FIOS Internet services, but not the cellular services. Verizon says management employees and “retirees” will fill in (as “scabs”) and that customer service will not be significantly affected, but some landline installations could be delayed. 

The New York Times story by Steven Greenhouse is here

The service area affected runs from Massachusetts to Washington DC.

Wireless (and cellular wireless) will not be affected.

Last week, I suddenly had to replace a Blackberry battery after about a year (convenient for Verizon, just out of warranty, when it wouldn’t charge) for $40 and had to visit two stores to find one in stock. 

Monday, August 01, 2011

AT&T lowers access speeds to some heavy users; Fox charges for some Internet re-airing; Internet TV will cause cable rates to rise

Ceclia Kang and Hayley Tsukayama wrote in the Washington Post today that AT&T will lower access speeds to the top 5 percent of its users who stay on unlimited plans, that are no longer available to new subscribers. The link to the story is here

The story seems commensurate with recent decision by Verizon to no longer offer unlimited data to new customers.

All of this contradicts the rapid growth of the use of Internet TV and streaming, popular with younger customers, as reported in another story today in the “Metro” Post Express, p 12, which may cause cable rates to raise and for networks to charge for rewatching episodes of shows, which Fox already does within one week of broadcast for non subscribers of Hulu or Dish Network. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Third party "companies" get themselves onto your phone bill, probably illegally

Several media outlets today reported on telephone “cramming” (or “scramming”), where cell and land providers allow third party “companies” to access your records (perhaps by hacking) and put fraudulent charges for “services” that you don’t use.  So you have to go online and look at your bill every month. It gets even more complicated as cable, Internet, and digital phone get combined.

Here is NBC’s report today.

Remember, if you ditch your old landline (even if you leave the physical line in place) for digital phone, you are responsible for keeping your cable modem powered at all times, even when you’re away.  And cable service is still usually not quite as reliable as old land telephone service – something to think about in conjunction with home security systems, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Verizon will end unlimited data plans for new customers

The Huffington Post and AOL have run a detailed story today that Verizon will be ending unlimited data plans for new customers (beginning July 7, Mahler’s Birthday).  Apparently existing customers are not affected – much.  Usage over about 2G a month will start to get costlier.

But Verizon may also slow down or reduce image quality for very heavy users, even now.  The main Huffington link is here

There’s another account of the story on “All Things Digital” here, which tells customers to hurry.

I mainly use the MiFi secure card, particularly on the road. The main thing that can eat up data quotas is automatic updates. 

It's a little hard to see how this would affect browsing on cell phones when out and about, or even mobile blogging, or the importance of making blogs mobile-friendly.

I have not been able to get my Blackberry to show some mobile blogs and sites in proper mobile format, when these work on more modern phones.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

GOP would forbid FCC from using funds to enforce net neutrality

The GOP-controlled House is trying to push through a bill barring the Federal Communications Commission from using any of its funding to enforce rather weak network neutrality rules. Juliana Gruenwald reports this in the National Journal June 15, link here.

It’s not too likely the measure would get past the Senate.  But if it did, it could be a big problem for companies that are “subsidized” by neutrality. We need not mention any names. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

E-Commerce Times presents new Net Neutrality overview

There is a recent article, dated May 11, 2011, “Net Neutrality in a Nutshell”, in the E-Commerce Times, by Peter S. Vogel, link here.

The biggest legitimate concern is that a broadband provider could allow one major content service (as in movie streaming) lower rates than another, resulting in the favoring of some content over others. On the other hand, broadband providers may need to take action against individual users who abuse the system (as with massive P2P downloads). Electronic Frontier Foundation rightfully shows concern that neutrality could be violated in trying to prevent supposed copyright infringement.

I looked at a posting on Google’s public policy blog from back in 2007 that does given an overview of the network neutrality debate – with emphasis on the fact that being a communications connection provider is a very different beast from being a content provider or moderator (or searcher).  Since this three part article was written, wireless has become much more important as a player that can provide practically everything. The link is here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

FCC might play "eminent domain" with traditional broadcasters, for wireless growth

Edward Wyatt has an important story in the Friday, April 22 New York Times Business Day, “A Clash Over the Airwaves: Broadcast Spectrum Is Coveted for New Wireless Use”, link here.

There’s a quasi-eminent-domain exercise going on, as the FCC approaches broadcasters to sell or auction off parts of their spectrums, unused or designed to keep interfering frequencies apart, to wireless companies to help more rural areas get effective broadband.

There are still 11 million households that use only conventional antennae for broadcast reception.  There was a time when universal UHF was actually an issue, and became available earlier in some less urban communities  (like Huntsville AL in the 1950s) than in major cities. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ordinary people ditch land lines

Mike Snider, of USA Today, reports that over one in four US homes, 26.6%, have only wireless or cell phones now, in a story, “More people ditching home phone for mobile”, link here.   

Lower income households are more likely to do this.

This may present a problem for people who want “work from home” or telecommuting jobs, many of which require a landline.

The other trend is to use digital voice landline, with a cordless phone (from Verizon or Xfinity) with many cell-like capabilities.

But older analog phone service may gradually go away. 

As the story indicates, this trend could complicate access to 911 services. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are there good reasons to use dial-up? Is it still around?

Someone sent me a link to a piece “10 Good Reasons to Use Dial-Up Internet”.

Back around the time of Y2K, I used AOL dialup at 56K and for most business surfing and Web1.0 it worked fine. I used it until about 2005.

But I wonder how you would handle automated Microsoft operating system updates or big anti-virus updates. McAfee updates back in 2001 could take about 8 hours in dialup, which required a second land line.

What happens when people convert to digital voice land service? Will dial-up work with Comcast XFinity or Verizon FIOS?  (Actually, Comcast says that XFINITY should work; here is the link.)

I still think that people without reasonable broadband, at least as good as MiFi or cellular wireless, are at serious disadvantage.

Here’s the link.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

GOP tries to vote away FCC net neutrality rules on red herrings

At the “Public Knowledge” website, Art Brodsky has an article about a GOP-controlled House vote recently to repeal FCC “network neutrality” rules, link here. The vote was 240-179.

Apparently the GOP tried to make hay out of a red herring, claiming that faith-based sites like Koshernet wouldn’t be allowed to exist (they provide filters for religiously objectionable content).  Actually, that would be like saying that the FCC rules would prohibit parental controls for child filtering (the alternative to COPA), which is ridiculous.

The article also reviews the wireless issue, saying that the telecommunications companies agreed with the FCC because the FCC agreed to leave them alone, essentially, with wireless.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rural areas using creative wireless to catch up; wealthy exburban homeowners suddenly find out they have no Internet otherwise

Washington DC local state WJLA presented the disappointing slowness of rural broadband tonight. People sign contracts for homes in exurban Loudoun County communities to find no cable broadband yet. Small companies are mounting stationary devices at high points to feed off of major cellular wireless and provide reasonable connections (otherwise direct Blackberry or cell device hookup). 

My own experience with cellular wireless on the job (government) is very good. For ordinary home or small business or publishing use, it’s adequate.  For streaming video, you still seem to need land-based (cable or FIOS) broadband.  The other night, Netflix had to reset it’s send once during a 96 minute film when Comcast slowed down a bit as more users climbed on. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

GPS company, airlines concerned about the effects of LightSquare's aggressive wireless broadband

Will wireless services start to threaten to disrupt other uses, or vice versa? Alan Levin has a story in USA Today, March 10, “High Speed Wireless vs. GPS; new network could disrupt car, jet navigation, trade groups say”, link here

The high speed service would come from LightSquared, here   The name of the company corresponds to Einstein’s formula for energy.

GPS companies like Gamin have said that the FCC has moved too fast.  

But I can remember that back in the 1960s, people in some cities (as around Pittbsurgh) complained that signals from military bases interfered with home electronics. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

NY Times clarifies the logic of Verizon's suit, and the weakness of FCC's position

On March 7, the New York Times ran an editorial that explains the issue of the FCC’s “jurisdiction”: very limited over  “information services” (that is, the media, whether professional or “amateur”), but considerable over telecommunications, which are seen as utilities.  The link is here
The Bush administration had regarded the Internet as a form of “media” rather than a service (and I have to admit, that is how I used it for self-publication in the early years).  It’s not necessarily so much in Obama’s political interest, ultimately, to change that.
So Verizon sues the FCC, and it may well have a case. 

Friday, March 04, 2011

Telecomm companies play the lobbying field heavily, in both parties

Libertarians (and anti-neutrality forces) will enjoy the column by Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner Friday, p. 13, Regulatory warfare ensnares the wireless world,” link here

Carney talks about regs that kept some players up in the air, in outer space; but hedge funds dealt some deals that got around all this, something like a forerunner of “The Event”.  Carney mentions Falcone, SkyTerra, and Harbringer  Capital Partners. These names call to mind the mysterious cell towers in Somalia in “FlashForward”, as if the telecomm companies know “there’s going to be another blackout.”

Seriously, the point of Carney’s piece is that telecomm companies paid lobbyists to play both sides of the partisan spectrum.  It doesn’t sound like the telecomm industry is a place for “intellectual honesty” about public broadband policy. 

Picture: Lookout Mountain, TN

Friday, February 18, 2011

Commerce study says that rural broadband access is still lacking

The New York Times has a major front page story Friday, Feb. 18, by Kim Severson, “For much of rural America, broadband is a dividing line”, link here

The Department of Commerce released a study recently showing that only 60% of households use broadband service.  Adequate broadband is a transmission rate of greater than 3 megabits per second. More of the country is covered by wireless broadband that cable, since it is easier to build but slightly less effective (but it’s far more immune to disruption from severe weather).  In my own experience, Verizon MiFi is about 40% as fast as Comcast cable.  The lack of rural broadband may affect jobs and economic competitiveness, especially in southern and western states. 

The National Telecommunications and Information Association has the press release, dated 2/17, online here.  The visitor can study the broadband availability map here. It could be a useful resource before deciding to buy a home in a rural or remote area. (I’ve never heard real estate experts like Barbara Cochrane mention this issue on television when presenting homes.)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Next Digital Decade event interviews FCC Commissioner on net neutrality

The “Next Digital Decade and Tech Freedom Launch Event” in Washington DC Hyatt Regency Hotel Jan. 25 is available online, here.  The first interview (28 minutes) is a “Fireside Chat” with FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, interviewed by Declan McCullagh of CNET.

McDowell was asked why the FCC rules from December 2010 aren’t yet in the Federal Register. McDowell actually came out against much federal regulation, but was not specific as to the criticisms of the recent rules or of FCC’s legal authority.  Andrew Keen from the audience played some devil’s advocate.

The link is here, and the relevant video (not embeddable) is the first one. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do FCC rules apply business-to-business; Metro PCS joins Verizon in suing FCC; Cable companies fight streaming video

Ceclia Kang writes in the Washington Post Tuesday that Metro PCS is following Verizon in suing the FCC over net neutrality rules. In a slightly earlier article Kang described how Metro PCS was blocking access to “freight lines” like Skype, Level 3 and Voxel, and testing the FCC as to whether its rules affected “business to business” relationships. The longer article appeared in print today in the Post on p A14, “Net-neutrality complaints pile up;  ‘ Noise around the issue’ led Verizon to sue to halt FCC rules”, link here. Level 3 has complained also about Comcast after Level 3 struck a deal with Netflix, which Comcast says is now taking 20% of bandwidth during peak hours.

PC World had an article in Dec. 2010 called “Kill Your Cable, If You Dare” by Jeff Bertolucci, which is hard to find online, but is on Scribd (website url) here  (you have to scroll to it). In the February 2011 print issue, James Keck has a letter (p. 9) to the effect that cable companies are already monitoring excessive bandwidth use, a trend which would reverse the convenience of Internet to watch streamed movies and most episode-based network  television shows.  It seems that the telecomm industry is fighting within itself, trying to keep the older model (hardwired cable) profitable as long as possible, but it may be a doomed effort. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Verizon draws criticism for "silly" suit against FCC

Rob Pegoraro has a pointed blog entry today, criticizing Verizon’s lawsuit to have the FCC net neutrality rules overturned.  The link for the column (Washington Post) is here

True, the FCC might have exceeded its congressionally authorized authority to call telecomm companies “utilities” to issue ambiguous regulations.

But the columnist objects to Verizon’s using his monthly fees to file questionable suits.

Telecomm companies say that they need to keep a handle on the explosive growth in broadband use, especially through home wireless networks connected to cable.  However, the telecomm companies have pushed this arrangement, rather than continuing to use hardwired multiple connections.  Increased use included streaming video (as from Netflix) and increased use of “cloud” backup services from Carbonite and web security companies.

Companies could also face issues as some people mix uses, including using their own connections to work from home, which can cause provisioning issues. It’s better for employers to use cellular wireless for homework. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Economist: Real competition would promote neutrality; FCC has contest on developing apps to monitor ISPs

The Economist has a major article on net neutrality which maintains that the basic problem in the US is not enough telecomm companies compete in any one market to get consumers the choice that in practice would guarantee content neutrality. The link to an abridged version online is here; the full version ("A Tangled Web" may be seen in print Dec. 29, 2010.

The Economist also is critical of the FCC’s waffling on what is unreasonable discrimination.

Readers will want to check out an Electronic Frontier Foundation by Richard Esguerra, “FCC Contest Seeks Better Data for Net Neutrality” (website url) here. EFF provides an anecdote from 2007 of the original difficulty in verifying claims of Comcast’s supposed mediation of BitTorrent traffic.

 The FCC link is here and it encourages contestants to develop applications that enable consumers to monitor Internet access and effectiveness.   They call it the “Open Internet Challenge”. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Consumer use of Web for conventional TV and movie streaming could affect FCC neutrality implementation, and challenge conventional cable TV business model

On January 4, USA Today ran a story by David Lieberman on how the Internet is cutting into traditional cable TV. “Is it time to cut the cord on cable TV? Web, other options begin to shake up home viewing” is the front page print title, and online, “Web and other options are shaking up how we watch TV”, link here.

More networks offer most episodes of all major series “free” with Internet commercials interrupting occasionally, much as in broadcast. That will also increase broadband use and challenge the limits of wireless, especially in rural areas. It will also raise questions about how the FCC interprets its new controversial “neutrality” policy with consumers watching so much more “conventional” film and television on the Web (even 3D; “amateur” 3D video cameras are available now for about $1200!).

One thing annoying about cable companies is not always carrying important channels (the LGBT-oriented Logo had trouble getting on in some cities), or having different channel lineups, which will sometimes be different again even in motel chains.