Businesses

How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers (backchannel.com) 89

"New York subscribers have had to overpay month after month for services that Spectrum deliberately didn't provide," reports Backchannel -- noting these practices are significant because together Comcast and Charter (formerly Time Warner Cable) account for half of America's 92 million high-speed internet connections. An anonymous reader quotes Backchannel: Based on the company's own documents and statements, it appears that just about everything it has been saying since 2012 to New York State residents about their internet access and data services is untrue...because of business decisions the company deliberately made in order to keep its capital expenditures as low as possible... Its marketing department kept sending out advertising claims to the public that didn't match the reality of what consumers were experiencing or square with what company engineers were telling Spectrum executives. That gives the AG's office its legal hook: Spectrum's actions in knowingly saying one thing but doing another amount to fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive behavior under New York law...

The branding people went nuts, using adjectives like Turbo, Extreme, and Ultimate for the company's highest-speed 200 or 300 Mbps download offerings. But no one, or very few people, could actually experience those speeds...because, according to the complaint, the company deliberately required that internet data connections be shared among a gazillion people in each neighborhood... [T]he lawsuit won't by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general's assault -- charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct -- will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves. If that happened, retail competition would bloom. We'd get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we're stuck with today.

The article says Spectrum charged 800,000 New Yorkers $10 a month for outdated cable boxes that "weren't even capable of transmitting and receiving wifi at the speeds the company advertised customers would be getting," then promised the FCC in 2013 that they'd replace them, and then didn't. "With no competition, it had no reason to upgrade its services. Indeed, the company's incentives went exactly in the other direction."
Verizon

Comcast Will Launch a Wireless Service Next Year (businessinsider.com) 50

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:Comcast plans to launch its own wireless service in 2017, CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Tuesday. Since Comcast doesn't have its own cell towers, it'll rely on WiFi networks for connectivity. The user will be switched to Verizon's network when they're away from WiFi. There are already a few smaller carriers that offer services like this, like Google's Project Fi and Republic Wireless. Those companies work as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and pay major wireless carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile to use their cell towers when users aren't connected to WiFi. MVNOs tend to be cheaper than traditional wireless carriers, offering benefits like the option to only pay for the data you use. The move will also help Comcast and Verizon compete with AT&T, which merged with DirecTV and is able to offer combined wireless, home broadband, and TV packages.
The Internet

Engineer Gets Tired Of Waiting For Telecom Companies To Wire His town -- So He Does It Himself (backchannel.com) 106

Gurb, 75 kilometers north of Barcelona, is a quiet farming community of 2,500. It has suddenly become a popular place, thanks to being the birthplace of Guifi.net, one of the world's "most important experiments in telecommunications." It was built by an engineer who got tired of waiting for Telefonica, the Spanish telecom giant, to provide internet access to the people of his community. At first he wanted an internet access for himself, but it soon became clear that he also wanted to help his neighbors. Guifi has grown from a single wifi node in 2004, to 30,000 working nodes today, including some fiber connections, with thousands more in the planning stages. An article on Backchannel today documents the tale of Guifi. From the article: The project is a testament to tireless efforts -- in governance, not just in adding hardware and software -- by Ramon Roca (the engineer who started it) and his colleagues. They've been unwavering in their commitment to open access, community control, network neutrality, and sustainability. In 2004, he bought some Linksys WiFI hackable routers with a mission to get himself and his neighbors connected to the Internet. This is how he did it: Roca turned on a router with a directional antenna he'd installed at the top of a tall building near the local government headquarters, the only place in town with Internet access -- a DSL line Telefonica had run to municipal governments throughout the region. The antenna was aimed, line of sight, toward Roca's home about six kilometers away. Soon, neighbors started asking for connections, and neighbors of neighbors, and so on. Beyond the cost of the router, access was free. Some nodes were turned into "supernodes" -- banks of routers in certain locations, or dedicated gear that accomplishes the same thing -- that could handle much more traffic in more robust ways. The network connected to high-capacity fiber optic lines, to handle the growing demand, and later connected to a major "peering" connection to the global Internet backbone that provides massive bandwidth. Guifi grew, and grew, and grew. But soon it became clear that connecting more and more nodes wasn't enough, so he created a not-for-profit entity, the Guifi.net Foundation. The foundation, thanks to its cause and a cheerful community, has received over a million Euros to date -- from various sources including several levels of government. But as the article notes, a million Euros is a drop in the bucket next to the lavish subsidies and favors that state-approved monopolies such as Telefonica have enjoyed for decades. The article adds: The Guifi Foundation isn't the paid provider of most Internet service to end-user (home and business) customers. That role falls to more than 20 for-profit internet service providers that operate on the overall platform. The ISPs share infrastructure costs according to how much demand they put on the overall system. They pay fees to the foundation for its services -- a key source of funding for the overall project. Then they offer various kinds of services to end users, such as installing connections -- lately they've been install fiber-optic access in some communities -- managing traffic flows, offering email, handling customer and technical support, and so on. The prices these ISPs charge are, to this American (Editor's note: the author is referring to himself) who's accustomed to broadband-cartel greed, staggeringly inexpensive: 18 to 35 Euros (currently about $26-$37) a month for gigabit fiber, and much less for slower WiFi. Community ownership and ISP competition does wonders for affordability. Contrast this with the U.S. broadband system, where competitive dial-up phone access -- phone companies were obliged to let all ISPs use the lines as the early commercial Internet flourished in the 1990s -- gave way to a cartel of DSL and cable providers. Except in a few places where there's actual competition, we pay way more for much less.Read the story in its entirety here.
Wireless Networking

Americans Abandoning Wired Home Internet, Shows Study (seattletimes.com) 352

An anonymous reader writes: Americans as a whole are growing less likely than before to have residential broadband, according to new data on a sample of 53,000 Americans. In plain English, they're abandoning their wired Internet for a mobile-data-only diet -- and if the trend continues, it could reflect a huge shift in the way we experience the Web. The study, conducted for the Commerce Department by the U.S. Census Bureau, partly upholds what we already knew. Low-income Americans are still one of the biggest demographics to rely solely on their phones to get online. Today nearly a third of households earning less than $25,000 a year exclusively use mobile Internet to browse the Web. That's up from 16 percent in 2013. They're often cited as evidence of a digital divide; families with little money to afford a home Internet subscription must resort to free Wi-Fi at libraries and even McDonald's to do homework, look for jobs and find information. But people with higher incomes are ditching their wired Internet access at similar or even faster rates. In 2013, 8 percent of households making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year were mobile-only. Fast-forward a couple of years, and that figure is 18 percent. Seventeen percent of households making between $75,000 and $100,000 are mobile-only now, compared with 8 percent two years ago. And 15âpercent of households earning more than $100,000 are mobile-only, versus 6 percent in 2013.
Communications

Why Won't T-Mobile Let Us Binge On All Of It? 181

Bennett Haselton writes: T-Mobile has been accused of violating Net Neutrality by providing "Binge On" plans that come with unlimited data, but only from select streaming websites such as Hulu and Netflix streamed at low-quality speeds (while excluding Youtube and Google Play). Why not just duck the whole net neutrality debate by providing Binge On as a medium-bandwidth pipe, which has a limited data streaming speed, but can stream at that speed from any website? Read on for more on this question, and T-Mobile's stilted rationale for its provider-specific system.
The Internet

Comcast Sued For Turning Home Wi-Fi Routers Into Public Hotspots 291

HughPickens.com writes: Benny Evangelista reports at the San Francisco Chronicle that a class-action suit has been filed in District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Toyer Grear and daughter Joycelyn Harris, claiming that Comcast is "exploiting them for profit" by using their home router as part of a nationwide network of public hotspots. Comcast is trying to compete with major cell phone carriers by creating a public Xfinity WiFi Hotspot network in 19 of the country's largest cities by activating a second high-speed Internet channel broadcast from newer-model wireless gateway modems that residential customers lease from the company.

Although Comcast has said its subscribers have the right to disable the secondary signal, the suit claims the company turns the service on without permission. It also places "the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers" and quotes a test conducted by Philadelphia networking technology company Speedify that concluded the secondary Internet channel will eventually push "tens of millions of dollars per month of the electricity bills needed to run their nationwide public Wi-Fi network onto consumers." The suit also says "the data and information on a Comcast customer's network is at greater risk" because the hotspot network "allows strangers to connect to the Internet through the same wireless router used by Comcast customers."
Advertising

Comcast Using JavaScript Injection To Serve Ads On Public Wi-Fi Hotspots 230

An anonymous reader writes: For some time now, Comcast has setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots, some of which are run on the routers of paying subscribers. The public hotspots are free, but not without cost: Comcast uses JavaScript to inject self-promotional ads into the pages served to users. "Security implications of the use of JavaScript can be debated endlessly, but it is capable of performing all manner of malicious actions, including controlling authentication cookies and redirecting where user data is submitted. ... Even if Comcast doesn't have any malicious intent, and even if hackers don't access the JavaScript, the interaction of the JavaScript with websites could "create" security vulnerabilities in websites, [EFF technologist Seth Schoen] said. "Their code, or the interaction of code with other things, could potentially create new security vulnerabilities in sites that didn't have them," Schoen said."
Piracy

Rightscorp's New Plan: Hijack Browsers Until Infingers Pay Up 376

A few weeks ago, Rightscorp announced plans to have ISPs disconnect repeat copyright infringers. mpicpp (3454017) wrote in with news that Rightscorp announced during their latest earnings call further plans to require ISPs to block all web access (using a proxy system similar to hotel / college campus wifi logins) until users admit guilt and pay a settlement fine (replacing the current system of ISPs merely forwarding notices to users). Quoting TorrentFreak: [Rightscorp] says 75,000 cases have been settled so far with copyright holders picking up $10 from each. ... What is clear is that Rightscorp is determined to go after "Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Cable Vision and one more" in order to "get all of them compliant" (i.e forwarding settlement demands). The company predicts that more details on the strategy will develop in the fall, but comments from COO & CTO Robert Steele hint on how that might be achieved. ... "[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what's called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web." The idea that mere allegations from an anti-piracy company could bring a complete halt to an entire household or business Internet connection until a fine is paid is less like a "piracy speeding ticket" and more like a "piracy wheel clamp", one that costs $20 to have removed.
Wireless Networking

The Hidden Cost of Your New Xfinity Router 224

An anonymous reader writes "The battle over Comcast's public WiFi network that is hosted on your cable modem continues. Comcast responded to Speedify's earlier power measurements by rushing them a new Cisco cable modem. The new modem proved to be more power hungry than the last, and also introduced some tricky IPv6 problems that caused major headaches for the team."
Wireless Networking

Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots 474

New submitter green453 writes: 'As a Houston resident with limited home broadband options, I found the following interesting: Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle reports (warning: paywalled) that Comcast plans to turn 50,000 home routers into public Wi-Fi hotspots without their users providing consent. Comcast plans to eventually convert 150,000 home routers into a city-wide WiFi network. A similar post (with no paywall) by the same author on the SeattlePI Tech Blog explains the change. From the post on SeattlePI: "What's interesting about this move is that, by default, the feature is being turned on without its subscribers' prior consent. It's an opt-out system – you have to take action to not participate. Comcast spokesman Michael Bybee said on Monday that notices about the hotspot feature were mailed to customers a few weeks ago, and email notifications will go out after it's turned on. But it's a good bet that this will take many Comcast customers by surprise."' This follows similar efforts in Chicago and the Twin Cities.
Networking

Comcast Turning Chicago Homes Into Xfinity Hotspots 253

BUL2294 writes "The Chicago Tribune is reporting that, over the next few months in Chicago, Comcast is turning on a feature that turns customer networks into public Wi-Fi hotspots. After a firmware upgrade is installed, 'visitors will use their own Xfinity credentials to sign on, and will not need the homeowner's permission or password to tap into their Wi-Fi signal. The homegrown network will also be available to non-subscribers free for several hours each month, or on a pay-per-use basis. Any outside usage should not affect the speed or security of the home subscriber's private network. [...] Home internet subscribers will automatically participate in the network's growing infrastructure, although a small number have chosen to opt out in other test markets.' The article specifically mentions that this capability is opt-out, so Comcast is relying on home users' property, electricity, and lack of tech-savvy to increase their network footprint." Comcast tried this in the Twin Cities area, and was apparently satisfied with the results, though subscribers are starting to notice.
Networking

Comcast May Put Wi-Fi Transceivers On Cars, Buses, Humans 85

An anonymous reader writes "Comcast engineers want to put WiFi transceivers in rental cars, taxis, buses and even on humans to extend reach of its Xfinity WiFi network. They also detail an idea for offering incentives to drivers to move WiFi-enabled cars to areas where it needs WiFi coverage. The plan was detailed in a patent application published today by the USPTO (I wrote a story about it for FierceCable)." Speaking of extension, this sounds like a logical outgrowth of using wireless routers to grow the network. (I hope they choose their humans carefully, if this plan bears fruit.)
The Internet

Comcast To Expand Public WiFi Using Home Internet Connections 203

Bob the Super Hamste writes "The St. Paul Pioneer press is reporting that Comcast is planning on expanding its network of public WiFi hot spots in the Twin Cities area by using home internet connections and user's WiFi routers. Customers will be upgraded to new wireless routers that will have 2 wireless networks, one for the home users and one for the general public. Subscribers to Comcast's Xfinity service and customers that participate in the public WiFi program will be allowed free access to the public WiFi offered by this service. Non Comcast customers get 2 free sessions a month each lasting 1 hour with additional sessions costing money. The article mentions that a similar service already exists and is provided by the Spain-based company Fon."
Television

Netflix CEO Accuses Comcast of Not Practicing Net Neutrality 272

braindrainbahrain writes "Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has a Facebook page in which he posts a short gripe about Comcast. It seems watching video through the Xfinity app on an Xbox does not counting towards your cap on your Comcast data plan. All other services, Netflix included, do. To quote Hastings: 'For example, if I watch last night's SNL episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn't use up my cap at all. The same device, the same IP address, the same wifi, the same internet connection, but totally different cap treatment. In what way is this neutral?'" The difference, of course, is that you need a Comcast cable TV subscription in order to have the Xfinity app not count toward your monthly data usage allowance. Then again, you can't exactly sign up for a similar plan through Netflix or Hulu.
XBox (Games)

XBox 360 Redefining the Console? 115

Game Girl Advance has up an editorial arguing that, in effect, Microsoft has already won the next round in the console wars by shifting the battlefield. Looking at Gamasutra's rundown on the 360's multimedia and Live components, its easy to see why jane says that the 360 isn't really a console anymore. From the article: "Xbox 360 does not compete with Sony or Nintendo. It is not a gaming console. It is a powerful device to deliver content online and over WiFi. Microsoft's real competition is Apple, Yahoo, and Google. Apple's movie-download service. Yahoo's retail channels. Google's - well, everything. Heck, throw Comcast and TiVo in there for good measure. The games are merely a means to an end - an 'instant-on revenue to support an exponential expansion into the living room,' as Eric put it over an IM chat we had."
Television

Comcast Plans Cable Boxes with Integrated Wi-Fi and Snooping 427

Kaa writes "Short version: Comcast's cable modem/802.11g base station that is made by Linksys has capabilities to 'phone home' to Comcast and tell them how many devices are connected to your WiFi base station, how much bandwidth they are using, etc. It also has the capability to 'disable LAN segments' which, I assume, means they can kick your devices off your home network if they choose to do so. Something tells me this particular device won't make it into my house..."
Wireless Networking

The Wifi Slugfest Over Portland's PGE Park 310

tomwhore writes "Portland's community wireless networking group, Personal Telco Project (PTP), recently knocked one into the ball park with a new WiFi node. The new node covers the area around and inside of Portland's PGE Ballpark. While free internet access would be welcome by most, PGE Park managers are not happy. They recently cut a deal giving Comcast exclusive rights to do up their networking. 'This is our stadium, and we run the communications for it,' said Chris Metz, a PGE Park spokesman. To find out more about the impact of the PTPs latest home run check out this article in the Oregonian and over at the PTP's website." Let's hope the park also puts a Faraday cage around the whole park to ensure radio silence.

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