Saturday, March 26, 2016

Netflix takes steps to deal with Verizon, ATT data limits, creating controversy

Netflix admits that it is slowing down speeds for some customers of Verizon and ATT, to help them deal with data limits.  Brian Fung has the story with video in the Washington Post, p A12, Saturday March 26, 2016.  Ironically, Netlifx has already pressured Verizon to do something about this.  Fung’s video explains that your connection needs a minimum speed for Netlfix to work at all.  Netflix will add some new tools in May for consumers to manage data use.

The most generous data plan offered by Verizon is just 8 GB a month.  That would probably allow the viewing about ten typical films in SD.  

I’m not much for watching movies on cell phones, but it is a problem that land-based hard-wired cable connections go down more often than wireless, and are harder to repair after damage (storms).  It would be great if unlimited data were more widely available without physical connections  I can’t speak to FIOS or to the Dish, but in general with Xfinity there are some problems with maintaining quality connections all the time, even though there are effectively almost no limits.

Others have reported problems with accessing Netflix on Verizon FIOS.

Recently, I’ve had a problem with Google products on Xfininty, stalling out wit Protocol (checksum) errors.  That seems to have been resolved now.  To measure Xfinity connection speed , it seems that you need the latest version of Flash, and that works better for me on the Mac (Safari) than on Windows;  I don’t know why.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

FCC stays the course on regulating telecomm providers and their use of consumer PII

The New York Times has summarized the latest FCC actions with respect to consumer privacy from snooping by telecomm companies in an editorial Sunday here.

The comment period runs through March 31, for rules that should go into effect before the election.

Telecomm companies would be allowed to collect information from subscribers to offer deals only with permission.  The companies say the rules are unnecessary because critical consumer communications are encrypted.  The FCC says that the regulations would be the same as they have been for phone companies in the past.
Service providers are not held to this requirement because they are in the business of actually managing content.  Telecomms could enjoy the same privileges (including Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor) only by forming independent subsidiaries to manage content.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

FCC wants to resurrect Lifeline to help low-income consumers get minimal broadband

Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post, Wednesday March 9, 2016,  p. A15, that the FCC wants to offer low-income consumers a discount or subsidy of $9.25 a month to get broadband Internet.

 This could be accomplished with land connections (download speeds of at least 10 Bpps and upload of 1) or Cellular (at least 3G).  The idea is to reissue a program called Lifeline.

FCC has an old link on the matter back in 2015.

Here is a depiction of Lifeline by Century Link.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Verizon fined for misuse of "super-cookies" that violate net neutrality transparency rules

The FCC has fined Verizon $1.35 for implementing “super cookie” tracking outside of the legal practice of “opt-in”.  The Verge has a story by Jacob Kastrenakes.

The super-cookie could supersede normal cookie deletion and “do not track” settings.  An advertising company called “Turn”  had developed a way to “repawn” traditional cookies.

Jon Brodkin writes in Ars Technica that the super-cookies violated net neutrality transparency rules  . Andrea Peterson has a story in the Washington Post, p. A15, here.

The technology could conceivably create a security hazard and allow people to be stalked.

The issue is a bit disturbing because Verizon hotspots are particularly useful when traveling, or when normal cable is down.  I have been having some trouble accessing Google products efficiently with Xfinity lately and sometimes use the Verizon hotspot on my iPhone instead.  It seems that the connection is better when logged on to Xfinity for streaming services, and I’m not sure if this finding would be completely compliant with net neutrality rules now.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

FCC wants to force cable industry to reduce anti-competition clauses with content providers, before approving merger of Time Warner and Charter

The Wall Street Journal, in a Business and Tech page lead story Monday, February 29, reports that “FCC probes Cable’s influence on Web TV” in a story by John D. McKinnon.

At issue is the practice that when telecommunications  cable or FIOS companies like Comcast and Time Warner develop contracts with programming channels offering content, they insist on clauses that minit the content providers from offering programming on the Internet directly (outside of cable) except under certain conditions, such as a requirement that the program has already aired on cable and that the home user has to be logged on to a paid subscription cable account to view the program.
That is why some companies like Netflix that offer content offer streaming only and don’t have cable channels at all.  This may be another reason (indirectly) why there seem to be data limits on true wireless (making it relatively expensive although very reliable), when compared to land-based high-speed Internet access sold with cable or fios packages (which are more prone to service disruptions).  The FCC may insist on a loosening of the rules to approve a merger between Time Warner and Charter, maybe a big deal in the NYC area especially.  This could benefit some consumers.