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Democrats Propose Rules to Break up Broadband Monopolies - - Mon, 24 Jul 2017


The Democratic party this week released a new party platform -- one that proposes new rules that could break up existing broadband monopolies and put an end to often-mindless mergers and consolidation in the telecom space. The proposal was part of a rebranding of the party after its repeated failures in state and federal elections. The proposed rules would also require that regulators look at mergers after they're completed to see if they served the public interest.

Democrats have been inconsistent on this subject in years' past.

While the Obama administration did block AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile (to obvious benefit to consumers), the administration also approved Charter's $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, which ultimately drove up costs for consumers and resulted in even worse customer service. There's also the fact that as the minority party, they likely realize there's a snowball's chance in hell of such a platform being implemented anytime soon.

Still, Democrats are hoping that a more consumer-centric, anti-monopoly message will resonate with voters that have found their previous election choices from both parties not particularly in tune with their interests.

"Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in the New York Times. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition."

The outline of the Democrats "Better Deal" proposal is here (pdf), and offers a little more detail. The party singled out AT&T's looming $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner as an example of how so many of these mergers harm consumers and competition longer term.

If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers," the Democrats said. "This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."

The problem traditionally has been that while both parties talk a good game about innovation and broadband competition, politicians are so awash in AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Charter campaign contributions, meaningful action magically never materializes. That said, by the time current FCC boss gets done gutting all oversight of some of the least liked and least competitive companies in American industry, it's possible the political motivation may finally emerge to actually do something about this traditionally-dysfunctional, M&A-obsessed sector.
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Russia Moves to Ban VPN Use Entirely - - Mon, 24 Jul 2017


The Russian government is pushing harder toward banning VPNs outright as the company looks to thwart citizens evading its internet filters and telecom surveillance. The State Duma last Friday unanimously passed a bill that would force Russian ISPs to block usage of VPN technology, though the bill still needs to be approved in the upper chamber of Russian parliament and signed by Putin before it comes into effect. The move is part of a long-standing assault on privacy tools under the pretense that it improves national security.

Roughly 1,000 people protested in Moscow over the weekend against the move.

Last year, Russia passed a law mandating encryption backdoors into hardware and apps, a move, again that was pushed under the pretense that this improves national security. Of course eliminating perfectly legal privacy tools actually makes the public less secure than ever, though it does improve the Russian government's ability to engage in domestic surveillance.

In short if you want to do business in Russia, you need to be keen to participate in the government's efforts at censorship. VPN providers have for some time effectively been told that unless they help support Russia's blacklist on "controversial" websites, you won't be around long.

Roughly 100 VPN providers are already blocked in Russia for one reason or another, and Opera scaled back its Russian operations late last year after Russian telecom regulator Roskomnadzor pressured it to include website filtering in the integrated VPN (now included in its Opera browser for free). Another recent Russian bill levies additional penalties on Russian search engines, forcing them to remove all links to sites Rozcomnadzor determines to be ban-worthy.
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AT&T Expands its Gigabit Fiber Network to Parts of Tulsa - - Mon, 24 Jul 2017


AT&T continues to slowly but steadily expand scattered availability of the company's gigabit fiber broadband service. The company this week announced that its latest target market for expansion is Tulsa, Oklahoma, noting that customers in certain select areas of Tulsa, Jenks, Owasso and "surrounding communities" now have access to the ultra-fast service. The company says it's offering the symmerical gigabit connections for $70 per month for customers who bundle with other AT&T services, or $80 per month standalone for 12 months.

The price for the standalone option jumps to $90 per month after the initial year-long promo ends.

AT&T's pricing for this service varies depending on the level of regional competition. With cable providers increasingly deploying DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit service, and Google Fiber continuing to expand in select markets, AT&T's pricing for this service has dropped accordingly -- down from the $130 or more AT&T was originally charging in many early deployment markets.

The problem: AT&T considers an area "launched" even if this service is only available to a handful of housing developments, meaning many customers will find themselves disappointed when they head to the AT&T website to see if they actually qualify for service. Still, AT&T's quick to note that they've deployed gigabit fiber to parts of 55 metro areas nationwide, with plans n to reach at least 75 metros eventually.

"Today, we market a 1 gigabit connection1 on our 100% fiber network to over 5.5 million locations across 55 metros," crows AT&T. "We plan to reach at least 12.5 million locations by mid-2019."

The company's full announcement has a little more detail.
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Sprint Opens a Completely Fake Store Just to Mock Verizon - - Mon, 24 Jul 2017


Sprint's marketing efforts have been hit and miss the last few years as the company has struggled to forge a real brand identity among the big four wireless carriers. But Sprint's marketing folks actually managed to do something fairly amusing recently when they opened a completely fake store next door to an existing Verizon Wireless store for just one day. Its purpose? To simply sell products for twice what they're actually worth as part of an effort to make fun of Verizon's long-standing refusal to more seriously compete on price.

Verizon has long tried to insist that its prices are justified because the company has the best network. But that claim has started to wear a little thin as the T-Mobile and Sprint networks improve.

"People ask me how I came up with this genius idea and I told them, If Verizon can charge customers twice as much for four lines of Unlimited, why can t I?'" said "Uncle Danny," the fake owner of Sprint's marketing effort. "No, I was just inspired by their over-the-top pricing and the billions of dollars they ve made. I wanted to give customers a similar experience in my store. We ll sell anything for twice the price!"

Recent data has suggested that Verizon is losing more customers to T-Mobile competition at the moment than any other major carrier. Earlier this year this added competition forced Verizon to bring back unlimited data -- something the company had spent the last several years claiming consumers didn't want. T-Mobile has subsequently been claiming that Verizon's network has slowed substantially under the load of these new offerings.

You can check out a promo spot for Sprint's latest marketing effort below.

»youtu.be/VMfkM3DyHhc

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Monday Morning Links - - Mon, 24 Jul 2017


Chattanooga Has Its Own Broadband - Why Doesn t Every City? thedailybeast.com
Despite Republican appeals, Democrats not willing to deal on net neutrality legislation washingtonexaminer.com
Nearly one-fifth of U.S. postpaid subscribers considering switching fiercewireless.com
How Google Fiber won by failing thenextweb.com
TDS A-CAM Funded Broadband Expansion in Full Swing, Projects Underway in Five States telecompetitor.com
Senator blasts FCC for refusing to provide DDoS analysis - FCC is either too secretive or is unprepared for future attacks, senator says arstechnica.com
Hulu s Live TV Service Available on Amazon Devices multichannel.com
Sprint is just straight-up trolling Verizon now bgr.com
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Berkeley Group UK Home Builders Say Ultrafast Broadband is a “Must Have” - Mon, 24 Jul 2017

outdoor_fttp_openreach_install
Property developer firm the Berkeley Group, which has a partnership to roll-out Openreach’s (BT) 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology at new build sites, has said that “ultrafast broadband” is now “almost as important to new home buyers as running water and electricity.” The comments are unsurprising given that the Berkeley Group has this year adopted “full […]

First Connections Live on Southend’s New Gigabit “Full Fibre” FTTP Network - Mon, 24 Jul 2017

cityfibre street works pavement and road
Fibre optic builder Cityfibre has today announced that the first connections on their new £3.24 million Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) based ultrafast broadband and Ethernet network in Southend-on-Sea have gone live. The deployment in Essex is being supported by business ISP Onecom. The 10-year Dark Fibre project was first announced in March 2016 (here) and the optical […]

Virgin Media Reduce Roll-out in Wargrave Due to Disruption and Low Demand - Mon, 24 Jul 2017

virgin media project lightning rollout wrexham
Cable operator Virgin Media has had to roll back on part of last year’s pledge to roll-out their ultrafast broadband and TV network across the large Berkshire village of Wargrave. Apparently the work would cause too much disruption and there hasn’t been enough demand in related streets. Some may recall that the village was one […]

Why scientists want AI regulated now before it's too late - Mon, 24 Jul 2017

Why scientists want AI regulated now before it's too lateElon Musk isn’t the only expert who thinks we need to regulate AI soon. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (TSLA) and Space X, recently sounded the alarm that murderous artificial intelligence-powered robots could one day rampage through American neighborhoods. Musk’s warnings that AI poses an “existential threat” may have been a bit dramatic, but he’s not the only expert hoping for some kind of government regulation of AI.


Amazon launches a social network for spending money - Tue, 18 Jul 2017

Amazon launches a social network for spending moneyAmazon's Spark is a social network for spending cash.


Microsoft Surface Laptop review: A great notebook with one small flaw - Fri, 14 Jul 2017

Microsoft Surface Laptop review: A great notebook with one small flawThe back-to-school shopping season is just around the corner, and Microsoft (MSFT) is hoping its new Surface Laptop will be the computer you or your child brings to the classroom. Starting at $999, the Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s attempt to fight back against the growing popularity of Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) low-cost Chromebooks and Apple’s (AAPL) own MacBook line. The Surface Laptop also marks the debut of Microsoft’s new Windows 10 S operating system, a more security- and performance-minded variant of Windows 10.



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