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The NRA Gave Ajit Pai An Award Today For Being 'Courageous' - - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

Ajit Pai may be one of the least liked people in America after he ignored the public and killed popular net neutrality rules last December. But while Pai faces massive, bipartisan criticism for being a sellout to giant, entrenched telecom monopolies, the NRA today gave Pai their golden seal of approval. Journalists attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today noted that the organization gave Pai the Charlton Heston "Courage Under Fire" Award for his attack on net neutrality.

An added bonus alongside the award? A gun.

More specifically a musket the NRA said will be permanently housed in its museum to (apparently) memorialize Pai's "courage" for killing net neutrality. Dan Schneider, the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union (backer of CPAC), went so far as to call Pai "the most courageous, heroic person that I know" at today's event.

No, this is not the Onion. If you're struggling to understand why the NRA would jump into the net neutrality debate at this juncture, it's worth noting that Matt Schlapp, chairman of one of the groups that organize CPAC, is a lobbyist for both Verizon & Comcast according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Washington Post reporter Tony Romm and Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale both attended the event and first posted about the award on Twitter:

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Pai also gave a speech, the transcript of which was not made immediately available, entitled: "American Pai: The Courageous Chairman of the FCC."

Regular readers will of course realize there's nothing particularly courageous about Pai's efforts to rubber stamp every whim of extremely unpopular cable and broadband providers. Or his decision to ignore the public, ignore the experts, and ignore all objective data during his attack on net neutrality. It's similarly hard to find much courage in Pai's decision to block a law enforcement investigation into the fraud and identity theft during the repeal's public comment period. And while ISPs benefit from the infighting inherent in framing net neutrality as a "partisan" issue, surveys show the idea routinely has overwhelming bipartisan support.

Said "award" comes just a week after the FCC Inspector General's Office confirmed it had opened a bipartisan investigation into whether Pai is too cozy with the giant companies he's supposed to be holding accountable, another notably odd definition of "courage."
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Weekend Open Thread! - - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

Dump something interesting into the comment section below.
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Friday Morning Links - - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

The unwinding of net neutrality will begin on April 23rd
States Refile Suits To Try To Block Net Neutrality Repeal
SpaceX launches the first of its 12,000 planned Internet satellites
Ethernet Leaderboard: CenturyLink Overtakes AT&T for the Top Spot
CenturyLink Pulling Plug on OTT TV Beta Service
It looks like Dish is actually building its own 5G wireless network
'World's first' 5G call completed by Vodafone and Huawei
Charter quietly launches a la carte streaming bundle Choice
Meet Coldroot, a nasty Mac trojan that went undetected for years
DirecTV Now vs Hulu vs PlayStation Vue vs Sling TV vs YouTube TV - best live TV apps!
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The FCC's New Broadband Availability Map is a Misleading Joke - - Thu, 22 Feb 2018

In February of 2011 the government released our first ever broadband map (available here) after spending roughly $300 million on the project. Our readers by and large were unimpressed at the time, noting the map didn't list prices, and often reported non-existent competitors and unavailable speeds in many markets. Many of these shortcomings are due to carriers, who have fought for the last decade to keep price comparison and deployment data out of the hands of consumers.

So while the intention was arguably good, the implementation wasn't--in part because ISPs don't really like having coverage, competition, and pricing issues highlighted and the FCC routinely lacks the courage to hold their feet to the fire.

After being stuck in funding limbo for several years, Ajit Pai's FCC announced that they'd be relaunching the map as part of Pai's arguably hollow dedication to "closing the digital divide."

"The new, cloud-based map will support more frequent data updates and display improvements at a far lower cost than the original mapping platform, which had not been updated in years," the FCC said in a statement.

The agency also took to Twitter to claim the updated map "provides consumers, policymakers, and stakeholders a robust tool for closing the digital divide."

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The problem: the new map (available here) appears to have all of the problems that plagued the original, and then some. And were somebody to actually use it to determine where broadband coverage gaps exist, they'd falsely walk away thinking there weren't any.

The map still doesn't bother to list pricing data, since ISPs have lobbied ferociously to keep that data out of the hands of the public. After all, if the public could see how much limited competition impacts the price they pay for broadband, somebody in government might just be forced to actually stand up to telecom campaign contributors and actually do something about it.

The map also tends to hallucinate competitive options and over-state speed availability.

For example, I only have the option of one real broadband provider at my home address (Comcast). Yet the FCC's broadband availability map informs me I have more than seven broadband options. Two of which are counted twice (CenturyLink fiber, CenturyLink DSL) despite the fact that neither are actually available at any speed. And despite being a map that proclaims to measure "fixed broadband deployment," three of my available options are slow, over-priced and capped satellite broadband service. Four of the listed options don't even meet the FCC's own definition of broadband (25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up).

Were somebody to actually use the FCC's map to determine where broadband coverage gaps exist, they'd falsely walk away thinking there weren't any.
For good measure, the map appears to have also hallucinated fixed wireless broadband availability that isn't actually available in my neighborhood.

Of course if you've watched Pai manipulate facts and ignore the public as he rushes to give wet sloppy kisses for the industry he used to work for, none of this is probably surprising. Nor is it particularly surprising for an FCC that has actively worked to change measurement criteria to make the sector look more competitive. And if you've been paying attention you're probably not shocked to learn large ISPs like Comcast and AT&T routinely lobby to prevent more accurate mapping.

Again, if you release data that clearly highlights the negative impact limited competition has on price, availability, and customer service, somebody might just get the crazy idea to actually do something about it -- and we certainly wouldn't want that.

Head to the FCC's "new" map here and let us know in the comment section if it reflects reality in your neck of the woods.
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Space X Launches First Satellites for Major Broadband Play - - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

Space X has officially launched the first two satellites to be used as the cornerstone of the company's looming broadband efforts. Thursday morning saw the launch of two of the satellites that will be used in the company's low-orbit Starlink broadband service, which isn't expected to see commercial launch until 2019. The new service, once complete, will utilize a constellation of roughly 4,425 satellites to hopefully provide better connectivity than traditional satellite broadband provides.

The two satellites were launched alongside a Spanish radar satellite via Space X's Falcon 9 rocket. Recent Space X filings states the launch deployed "two experimental non-geostationary orbit satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b."

"These are experimental engineering verification vehicles that will enable the company to assess the satellite bus and related subsystems, as well as the space-based and ground-based phased array technologies," the company told the FCC in the filing.

These two satellites will be the backbone of early tests to determine the viability of the broader Starlink plan. If successful, Space X states that commercial satellite launches will begin in 2019, slowly ramping up to 4,425 satellites in 2024. Ideally, Space X says that the system, if it becomes viable, will provide speeds up to a gigabit per second, with latency somewhere between 25ms and 35ms. It's obviously far too early to speculate how much this service will cost.

That would be a dramatic improvement over existing satellite broadband technology, which has traditionally be plagued by high latency, high costs, slow speeds and usage caps (it's too early to know if Space X will have similar usage restrictions, though given the cost it seems likely). The satellites will orbit at 511km, notably lower than the 35,400km orbit of traditional satellite broadband satellites.

Granted Musk isn't the first person to explore low-orbit satellite as a fixed-line broadband alternative, and due to the complexity of such systems past efforts on this front have tended to amount in lots of sound of fury, but not much else. Others also have the same idea.

Richard Branson, for example, is also building a service called OneWeb, which he says will use 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency bands, providing "ubiquitous low-latency broadband connectivity across the United States, including some of the most remote areas in places like Alaska where broadband access has not been possible before," according to an FCC filing.
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Some Background on Virgin Media’s UK IPv6 and DOCSIS 3.1 Plans - Sat, 24 Feb 2018

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The parent company of UK cable operator Virgin Media, Liberty Global, has recently offered a couple of interesting updates about their plans for a future upgrade to Gigabit capable DOCSIS 3.1 broadband technology and adoption of the IPv6 internet addressing standard. Firstly, we’ll talk about IPv6. Last year revealed news of a secret IPv6 […]

Budget Price War Continues as TalkTalk Slash Broadband Prices - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

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Low cost ISP TalkTalk appears to be taking the fight to Vodafone and other UK rivals by introducing new discounts, which will make some of their broadband and phone (with optional Pay TV) bundles as cheap as they were all the way back in 2016 (e.g. 38Mbps “fibre” for £22.50). The aggressive discounting is said […]

Ofcom Changes to Boost UK Full Fibre Broadband and Cut FTTC Prices - Fri, 23 Feb 2018

openreach bt fibre optic cable hands
The telecoms regulator has today completed several wholesale market reviews, which among other things will force Openreach (BT) to adopt stiffer Quality of Service standards (installations and repairs), open up their cable ducts to rival ISPs and introduce a big price cut on 40Mbps FTTC broadband lines. Ofcom’s review has largely chosen to leave newer […]

Acer's Swift 7 is the world's thinnest laptop, making yours look huge - Sat, 13 Jan 2018

Acer's Swift 7 is the world's thinnest laptop, making yours look hugeAcer's Swift 7 is the thinnest laptop in the world.

HTC's Vive Pro and wireless adapter make me want to love VR again - Sat, 13 Jan 2018

HTC's Vive Pro and wireless adapter make me want to love VR againHTC and Valve’s Vive was the first virtual reality headset that really made me jump on the VR hype train. Not only could you escape into virtual worlds, but thanks to its motion tracking sensors, your movement in the real world was translated into the digital. Like Facebook’s (FB) Oculus Rift, the Vive’s display resolution made individual pixels clearly visible in certain situations, killing any sense of true immersion.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant duke it out at CES 2018 - Sat, 13 Jan 2018

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant duke it out at CES 2018CES 2018 had more than its fair share of wacky items and compelling gadgets, but one of the biggest trends to emerge, once again, from the popular tech expo was voice-enabled devices. And, of course, it was all about Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

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