Thursday, February 27, 2014

Comcast-Netflix deal will not adversely affect newbies

My mother used to use a phrase, “It wasn’t meant to be”, but Wednesday, in the Wall Street Journal, Business World, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. has a piece on p, A15, “How the Internet was meant to be, link here

Comcast and Netflix made a deal because they had to.  Netflix customers’ use had grown so much that their video streaming could affect other customers.  So Netflix paid for its own custom infrastructure upgrade. 

Yes, in time, some consumers could notice some subscription price increases to pay for it.
  
And Netflix right now seems to be the most reliable source of streamed video.
  
Jenkins makes the valuable point that a separate peace between Netflix and Comcast does not affect smaller companies offering content through ordinary Comcast services.  It does not keep the newbies out.  They need to act only when their customers use enough bandwidth that they have a problem



Monday, February 24, 2014

DOD will compete with telecommunications companies for broadband chunks

Despite announcing plans for a much smaller military in terms of personnel counts, the Pentagon wants to reserve a larger chunk of the elctromagnetic spectrum for strategic weapons.  This national security need could compete with plans by telecommunications companies to use more frequencies, possibly for superfast broadband chunks for paying customers, or possibly, on the other hand, to expand broadband in less populated areas or to lower income people.  The Washington Times has the story by Maggie Ybarra here.
 
It's possible that larger broadband chunks could be advantageous in protecting the country from nuclear or EMP terror attacks.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Netflix-Comcast "deal" seen as marking the end of net neutrality

Today, I got a tweet about a Wall Street Journal article reporting on a deal between Comcast and Netflix. The poster said, “The Internet was nice while it lasted,” story on The Verge, link here.  The discussion gets into the operation of what sounds like a secondary reseller, Cogent, which could get squeezed out.       

Timothy B. Lee, on his Switch Blog for the Washington Post, explains the significance of the Comcast-Netflix deal as it’s creating almost a separate Internet.  With a few big companies controlling everything, that’s what you’ll get, a few big setups.  There is no practical way for the FCC to stop it; only the SEC and DOJ can apply anti-trust laws in regulating mergers, which might work against the proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast.  Tim’s article is called “Comcast’s deal with Netflix makes network neutrality obsolete”, link (website url) here

Remember the dot-com bubble and crash?  (It was silly that in 1999 ReliaStar CEO John Turner told employers, before the ING acquisition, that it was too bad that the company wasn't a "Dot Com".   It was only the big and powerful that emerged as real players.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FCC gets ready for its new round of pseudo-rules

Major media sources that the FCC is preparing to issue "Open Internet" rules under Section 706, despite the recent federal circuit appeals court ruling that said that it could not reclassify telecomm companies to regulate them.  Edward Wyatt has a typical article in the New York Times here.

Apparently the FCC might have residual ability to reclassify telecommunications companies if they do not comply pseudo-voluntarily.

The FCC does not want companies like Verizon to give big companies like Amazon or Netflix faster bandwidth when they pay more if it slows smaller companies down.  However, larger companies have been quite aggressive in encouraging independent media producers to develop cbannels or groups on their sites, effectively giving them the same access to high speed for their customers as established media companies.  At least, that what the telecomm companies argue.

The FCC also wants to stop states from preventing communities from developing their own broadband companies or operations.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Netflix experiencing slowdowns over paying Verizon for more infrastructure bandwidth

The Wall Street Journal is reporting, in a story by Drew Fitzgerald and Shalani Ramachandrin, that Netflix is experiencing slowdowns (that must mean, Netflix users are experiencing them), particularly when connection through Verizon, because Netflix doesn’t want to pay for its use of infrastructure upgrades/ The story is here.

The problem as crept up as the volume of online viewing of films replaces handling DVD’s.
   
I use Comcast Xfinity.  I last used Netflix Monday night for an 82-minute film and did not notice any issues. 
But I have also used YouTube rentals, private Vimeo, and Amazon.  I’m a little more likekly to experience stalls with YouTube in my own experience.  Sometimes major film festivals (Tribeca) set up channels to rent viewings of festival films on YouTube.  Most film distributors use private Vimeo for private screeners now, rather than sending DVD’s. 
  
Picture: Landmark Theaters, Harbor East in Baltimore.  


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner Cable likely to face a lot of opposition

Jeffrey Toobin outlined the arguments regarding Comcast’s proposal to purchase Time-Warner Cable.  The two companies don’t compete in any one market, and people no longer have to use cable for media: they can choose wireless, “telephony”, Direct TV, or cable.  CNN Money has a story by Dave Goldman here
  
Well, for one thing, Direct TV lost the Weather Channel. 
  
Comcast owns so many content companies:  NBC, Universal, and that means some other movie companies like Focus, Rogue, Relativity.  Could that affect which movies (and that means which filmmakers) are most likely to be seen on their networks?  Could they really give faster download speeds for content associated with one of their companies? 
   
Tim Lee, of the Washington Post, makes an interesting argument harking back to the days that AT&T was split up in 1984, on The Switch, here
  
As far as monopoly goes, my experience is that I had Time-Warner in Minneapolis until 2003, and Comcast and XFinity after I moved back to Arlington VA.  Stability of broadband was very good from 2003-2004 (even being restored quickly after Hurricane Isabel in 2003), but became more sporadic from 2005-2008, often slowing down and having intermittent stops during the weekday.  Once, we replaced all splitters.  Since 2009, stability seems to have improved considerably, as has robustness when there are severe thunderstorms or ice and snow. 
   

Comcast is also entering the home security and smart appliance market, as well as arrangement to integrate land and mobile phone service in order to implement “smart home” technology and improve the ability of property owners to monitor homes when traveling (making it hacker-proof is still an issue).  There is a complicated procedure for stopping robo calls, which I have yet to install.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Appeal of net neutrality ruling unlikely; Section 706 powers are too much at risk

The Supreme Court is unlikely to take an appeal of the Federal circuit’s ruling on the “network neutrality” issue, according to a column by Brian Fung. And the FCC may not even appeal it, for doing so could entail loss of regulatory authority that it already has under Section 706.  Brian Fung has a short piece in the Switch Blog in the Washington Post here
   
 Section 706 would still give the FCC the power to go after specific telecomm companies for narrowly construed anti-competitive behaviors or anti-consumer behaviors, especially if they affect deployment of newer forms of broadband.  But it would not give the authority to pass blanket regulations preventing content-related or brand-related discrimination.
   
Maybe it’s a distinction without a difference.

So far, I haven’t personally noticed any differences from the ruling in what happens in my world.  But it’s early.  The more significant changes in traffic occur mainly because social media (especially timelines) makes news-following much easier for people (without blogs like mine) than it was five years ago.  

Friday, February 07, 2014

The case for simple landlines for phone service (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal has a couple of LTE's arguing that consumers should keep their old landlines, authors are Socha and Vraniak, link (possible paywall) here.
   
The point that landlines stayed up in the Northeast during the August 2003 power outage is well taken.  And it's true that with digital voice, you depend on the cable of FIOS line to stay up, and it is more vulnerable to failure than simple phone service.  On the other hand, totally digital phone, when it works right, can give enormous advantages in areas like home security.
   
But landlines don't stay up during ice storms or tornadoes, either.

I do remember the days of having two land phone numbers, one for the computer and one for voice.
   
Furthermore, when I lived in New York City in the Village in the 1970's, we lost phone service for six weeks, I think in 1977, because of a fire at the phone center.  Imagine if I had depended on dialup for Internet and email then, but that was in the days before the "Liberation".
 
Of course, residents of lower Manhattan lost power for up to a week during Sandy just because ConEd left a lot of its infrastructure at too low an elevation.
 
Note also some LTE's in the WSJ about broadcast spectrum, and its decreasing relevance to most consumers. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Major Internet companies spend $750 million to help middle schools have broadband

Today President Obama visited a middle school, Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, to announce a government-private partnership to provide $750 million for high-speed broadband Internet to middle schools across the country.  The companies are Apple, Verizon, Sprint and Microsoft.  The Washington Post story Tuesday by Ovetta Wiggins and David Nakamura is here.

At this particular school, every student has a tablet computer.

Broadband interest in school and in lower income homes is very critical to students being able to keep up academically now.

Maybe the cooperation of companies will spill over and reduce the effect of the loosening of net neutrality rules. Call this part of the "Solution Economy" (Books, Feb. 3).  

Monday, February 03, 2014

Maintenance accident in W Va can raise questions about stability of cell service, infrastructure

A cell phone tower near Clarksburg, W Va collapsed during maintenance, its toppling causing a smaller tower to fall.  Three fatalities resorted.

But I wondered how long residents in the area could be without cell phone or hot spot service.  This could be a serious matter for people or small businesses in the area. 
  
The New York Daily News has an AP story here.
   
That begs the question of how quickly cell service could come back in coastal New Jersey and Long Island after Hurricane Sandy.
  
Cell towers are normally very resilient to storms, even though they are on wind-exposed ridgetops.  But a power line tower near Mt. Storm West Virginia fell during the 2012 derecho on June 30.