“A sensible question is why civilized governments do not seek to deprive terrorists of unfettered access to the Internet…Sadly, here in America, limiting access to the Internet would be illegal under the euphemistic term “network neutrality,” the two-year-old experiment in federal regulation of the Internet…To its supporters, network neutrality is a bulwark of civilization. But network neutrality is also a shield for terrorists who seek to destroy civilization.”
When the executive in charge of your company’s traditional television services publicly admits she’s a cord cutter who no longer watches traditional TV, it might be time to reconsider the future of pay television. By and large most cable and broadcast executives have responded to the cord cutting phenomenon by either denying it exists, claiming it’s the domain of losers, or insisting it’s a fad that will magically evaporate once more Millennials procreate. But at a recent TV industry conference, Verizon’s director of FiOS TV services, admitted she’s been a cord cutter for a while
We’ve noted a few times how Verizon has a rich history of taking taxpayer money, subsidies and tax breaks, then promising fiber deployment that never occurs. When it then comes time for local municipalities to hold the telco’s feet to the fire, campaign contributions ensure any investigation is short lived. It happened in Pennsylvania, it happened in New York City, and it recently happened in New Jersey, when state officials let Verizon off the hook for a 1993 promise to evenly deploy fiber across the state in exchange for billions in benefits.
Shortly after state officials let Verizon walk away from its obligations, they also granted Verizon exemption from regulations requiring it continue servicing DSL customers whose lines were paid for in large part thanks to billions in subsidies. As we’ve noted, companies like AT&T and Verizon are hanging up on customers they don’t want to upgrade, and forcing them instead to notably more expensive and capped wireless services. Many customers would prefer Verizon maintain or upgrade their fixed-line broadband connections, since they’ve paid an arm and a leg for them.
About fifty annoyed municipalities have now formed an alliance aimed at holding Verizon’s feet to the fire. Collectively, they’re trying to explore ways to hold Verizon accountable, require it to deliver promised upgrades, or at the very least maintain existing DSL lines until something better comes along. Verizon’s response? To mock these people as Luddites:
“But Verizon New Jersey spokesman Lee Gierczynski has called this “misplaced fear” resulting from “misinformation and misunderstanding about copper networks, fiber networks and the reliability of those networks.” “This is a classic example of how some people fear new technology so they reactively reject it instead of accepting it, no matter how irrational that fear may be,” Gierczynski said.
If you call Verizon FiOS and try to cancel or downgrade your TV package, you might find that the FiOS rep knows almost as much about your TV viewing habits as you do.
Verizon’s Rep Guidance software tells Verizon representatives what channels you watch to help them make a more effective sales pitch. The system, which also shows them how much Internet data you use and which pieces of TV equipment you use most, was detailed by a Verizon executive in a public presentation hosted by Data Driven NYC. A Quartz reporter wrote about the presentation yesterday.
Verizon “is now closely tracking exactly what you watch, what devices you use, and how much data you consume,” Quartz wrote. “It knows whether your household spars over DVR conflicts and how many hours your kids spend binge-watching shows on HBO. What’s more, the company is listening in on phone calls to customer service in real time, with supervisors poised to jump at the moment they sense a fight brewing or hear trigger words from an unhappy customer, such as ‘switching to Time Warner Cable.'”
Every month Google receives dozens of millions of DMCA takedown requests from copyright holders, most of which are directed at its search engine.
However, with Google Fiber being rolled out in more cities, notices targeting allegedly pirating Internet subscribers are becoming more common as well.
These include regular takedown notices but also the more controversial settlement demands sent by companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK.
Instead of merely alerting subscribers that their connections have been used to share copyright infringing material, these notices serve as automated fines, offering subscribers settlements ranging from $20 to $300.
The scheme uses the standard DMCA takedown process which means that the copyright holder doesn’t have to go to court or even know who the recipient is. In fact, the affected subscriber is often not the person who shared the pirated file.
To protect customers against these practices many ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have chosen not to forward settlement demands. However, information received by TF shows that Google does take part.
Over the past week we have seen settlement demands from Rightscorp and CEG TEK which were sent to Google Fiber customers. In an email, Google forwards the notice with an additional warning that repeated violations may result in a permanent disconnection.
“Repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service,” Google Fiber writes.
The FCC’s net neutrality rules don’t even go into effect until June 12, but they’re already benefiting consumers. You’ll recall that the last year or so has been filled with ugly squabbling over interconnection issues, with Level 3 accusing ISPs like Verizon of letting peering points congest to kill settlement-free peering and drive Netflix toward paying for direct interconnection. But with Level 3 and Cogent hinting they’d be using the FCC’s new complaint process to file grievances about anti-competitive behavior, magically Verizon has now quickly struck deals with Level 3 and Cogent that everybody on board appears to be happy with.
And it’s not just Verizon; Level 3 also quickly managed to strike a new interconnection deal with AT&T, and Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer recently proclaimed Comcast has also become suddenly more amicable of late, turning on ports for capacity quickly and when needed. Comcast, like AT&T and Verizon, has also suddenly announced a new interconnection deal with Level 3 Comcast says it was “delighted” to sign.
That players in the transit and ISP space are suddenly getting along so wonderfully when ISPs insisted net neutrality rules would result in the destruction of the Internet is nothing short of miraculous. It’s almost as if the FCC’s new net neutrality rules are already benefiting consumers, companies and a healthy internet alike!
Netflix performance on FiOS Internet service has been solid ever since Netflix paid Verizon for a direct connection to its network.
Even Verizon’s basic 25Mbps fiber service should be plenty for Netflix, which streams in standard quality at 3Mbps and HD at 5Mbps. But Verizon sales reps told one customer that his 50Mbps service won’t provide the smoothest Netflix experience available. For that, he needs to upgrade to 75Mbps.
In a blog post titled “Verizon Falsely Promising Better Quality Netflix Streaming With Faster, More Expensive Internet Tier,” streaming video industry analyst Day Rayburn wrote yesterday that multiple Verizon sales reps gave him this pitch.
Got a data cap on your smartphone? You should be grateful, according to an opinion piece that Verizon Wireless published on Friday.
“Let’s face it, if everyone had unlimited data and used it fully, the performance of the networks would suffer because of bandwidth restrictions and the ‘shared resource’ nature of wireless,” industry analyst Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates, wrote in an article titled “The Lure of Unlimited Wireless Data—Is It Necessary?”
Gold went on to write that customers have shifted high-bandwidth activities to Wi-Fi networks, where usage doesn’t count against cellular data caps, and that “users are very well served by current wireless data plans, and really don’t require more. So, while unlimited data may sound attractive, there is no practical effect of data limits on the majority of users.”
As part of a last ditch effort to derail the FCC’s net neutrality rules, you might recall that Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton earlier this year pushed an amendment to the Communications Act that they professed would codify net neutrality into law as part of a “bipartisan” proposal crafted after a painstaking public conversation. What the ISP-dictated amendment actually did was effectively gut FCC authority, pushing forth net neutrality rules significantly weaker than the already-flimsy 2010 rules Verizon sued to overturn.
Thune, Upton and the mega ISPs hoped their effort would go something like this: table some incredibly weak net neutrality rules under the pretense of consumer welfare, make a few minor concessions, then pass a still-flimsy amendment that would have killed the Title II push in the cradle. The problem is that most neutrality supporters in Congress saw this fairly-shallow ploy for what it was (or at the very least feared the wrath of a SOPA-fueled internet grassroots community). As such, Thune and Upton have had trouble getting neutrality supporters to sign off on the idea — especially without the help of fellow Senate Commerce Committee member Bill Nelson:
“On Wednesday, (Nelson) reiterated what he’s been saying for weeks: That he’s open to working with Republicans on a “truly bipartisan” bill aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking Web sites. But he’ll only cooperate, he said, “provided such action fully protects consumers, does not undercut the FCC’s role and leaves the agency with flexible, forward-looking authority to respond to the changes in this dynamic broadband marketplace.”
Except that’s not happening, because that’s precisely what Thune and friends don’t want. Enter Verizon, who like AT&T and Comcast, has been desperately trying to gut FCC authority for years (and had been succeeding until recently). While Verizon did sue to overturn the 2010 rules, it wasn’t the rules themselves the telco was taking aim at (after all, it co-wrote them, and the rules had the full support of companies like AT&T and Comcast). Verizon hoped a legal win would not only gut the rules, but also FCC authority moving forward. That backfired spectacularly, given the FCC only shifted to Title II after Verizon’s lawsuits repeatedly showed you can’t regulate ISPs like common carriers — without first declaring they’re common carriers. The entire shift to title II is, quite literally, thanks to Verizon.
Fast forward to this week, and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam fired off a letter to Thune, Upton and the other leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees (pdf), urging Congress to take the reins and
punish the FCC for standing up to wealthy broadband companiesbegin updating “outdated and broken” telecom law. To hear Verizon’s version of history, everything was going great until the FCC came along and decided to destroy the Internet:
“The broadband and mobile markets are America’s greatest ongoing success stories: 20 years of bipartisan light-touch policy consensus has led to more than $1.2 trillion in private investment, resulting in a transition from 128 kilobit dial-up connections and analog wireless voice networks in the late 1990’s to today’s near-ubiquitous 4G mobile data coverage and fixed broadband networks capable of streaming simultaneous HD movies. The FCC claimed it was addressing concerns about an open Internet, something that Congress could and can – address with clarity and finality in a two-page bipartisan bill. Instead, the FCC went far beyond open Internet rules, engaging in a radical and risky experiment to change the very policy that resulted in the United States leading the world in the Internet economy.”
Like Thune and Upton, McAdam continues to bandy around the word “bipartisan” when what they’re actually pushing is anything but. In short, Verizon wants the FCC’s authority gutted and all policy making moving forward under the authority of a Congress slathered in telco lobbying cash. Not only does McAdam want Congress to push flimsy net neutrality rules, Verizon is pushing hard for a total rewrite of the 1996 Telecom Act — because the Title II rules Verizon’s successfully used to build a massive wireless empire are “outdated and broken”:
“At its root, these are all symptoms of a problem: the existing legal regime and its accompanying regulatory processes are outdated and broken. Congress last established a clear policy framework almost 20 years ago, well before most of today’s technology was even developed. As a result, regulators are applying early 20th century tools to highly dynamic 21st century markets and technologies. Inefficiencies and collateral damage are inevitable. It is time for Congress to re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem.”
And by “take responsibility,” Verizon actually means it’s time for Congress to take Verizon campaign contribution cash and write new laws ensuring that broadband industry regulators have the strength of babies, the freedom and authority of an asylum inmate, and the budget of a high-school prom committee.
The real irony of course is that regulators wouldn’t keep intervening in Verizon’s market if the telco didn’t consistently engage in behavior that made it necessary. Again, the FCC only shifted to Title II after Verizon sued to overturn its 2010, industry-friendly net neutrality rules. Similarly, the entire net neutrality conversation wouldn’t be happening if Verizon didn’t have a long, proud history of trying to block every technological innovation it deemed a threat. If Verizon’s honestly looking to affix blame for the regulatory policy chaos of the last few years, it doesn’t have to look very far.
One unlucky man who bought a house that can’t get wired Internet service is reportedly selling the home just months after moving in.
Seth, a software engineer who works at home, bought a house in Kitsap County, Washington, after being told by multiple Comcast employees that he could buy the Internet service he needs to do his job, according to a detailed Consumerist article yesterday. Seth also wrote a lengthy account on his blog titled, “It’s Comcastic, or: I Accidentally Bought a House Without Cable.” (The man’s last name was not given.)
“Before we even made an offer [on the house], I placed two separate phone calls; one to Comcast Business, and one to Xfinity,” Seth wrote. “Both sales agents told me that service was available at the address. The Comcast Business agent even told me that a previous resident had already had service. So I believed them.”
That turned out to be untrue. After multiple visits from Comcast technicians, he says the company told him extending its network to his house would cost $60,000, of which he would have to pay an unspecified amount. But then Comcast allegedly pulled the offer.
“After about seven weeks of pointless install appointments, deleted orders, dead ends, and vague sky-high estimates, Comcast told him that it had decided to simply not do the extension,” according to the Consumerist story. “The company wouldn’t even listen to Seth’s offers to pay for a good chunk of the cost.”
We contacted Comcast to get more details last night but haven’t heard back.
After getting nowhere with Comcast, Seth tried getting DSL Internet from CenturyLink, which told him it could provide service of up to 10Mbps.
“After that very first Comcast tech told Seth there was no cable infrastructure to his house, he contacted CenturyLink. The company promised to get him hooked up right away,” Consumerist wrote. “But then the next day he got a call informing him that his area was in ‘Permanent Exhaust’ and that CenturyLink wouldn’t be adding new customers. Of course, that didn’t stop CenturyLink from billing Seth more than $100 for service he never received and will never be able to receive. Seth then had to convince someone with CenturyLink’s billing department to zero out the account that should have never been opened.”
Besides Comcast and CenturyLink, the Kitsap Public Utility District operates a gigabit fiber network that passes near Seth’s house, Consumerist wrote. “So why can’t he just get his service from the county? Because Washington is one of the half-dozen states that forbids municipal broadband providers from selling service directly to consumers,” the article said.
Nationwide, about 20 states impose limits on municipal broadband in order to protect private Internet providers from competition. The Federal Communications Commission voted to preempt such laws in Tennessee and North Carolina after receiving petitions from municipal providers in those states but is facing a lawsuit over the decision.