Archives for Broadband

Unlimited Data = Throttled Users

smartphoneMobile users who have held onto unlimited data plans tend to guard them with their lives. The treasured flow allows them to surf the web and stream video to their hearts’ content without hitting any caps. But that doesn’t mean the experience is always pleasant.

While Verizon is the latest to face criticism for its plans to throttle data, it appears none of the major providers are innocent.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all been known to throttle unlimited data users as they gobble up bandwidth. Not all of them use the same methods, but results are the same – the heaviest users experience major slowdowns at some point. It’s something that the Federal Communications Commission isn’t pleased with, either.

Check out the ReadWrite article to learn a bit more about this practice.

Changes Coming to E-Rate Program

E-Rate changesAs an E-Rate specialist, I help clients make sense of what can be a confusing program. I recently shared this information about important changes to the E-Rate program with my clients, and am happy to share it here today as well.

On July 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced steps to modernize the E-Rate program and expand access to digital learning technologies by providing support for Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries. The program increases focus on the largest and most urgent needs – closing the Wi-Fi gap – while transitioning support away from legacy technologies to 21st century broadband connectivity (Internet access), ensuring E-Rate Program money is spent smartly and improving program administration.

Funding for broadband connectivity will continue to be provided but non-broadband services will be gradually phased out. It’s still unclear if that means all non-broadband services will be affected and how the phase out will be implemented.

We will provide more details as they are announced later this year.

Closes the Wi-Fi Gap

– Sets an annual funding target of $1 billion for Wi-Fi while ensuring support continues to be available for broadband connectivity to schools and libraries.

– Directs at least $1 billion in support for Wi-Fi for funding years 2015 and 2016 to connect over 10 million students and thousands of libraries each year by establishing reasonable budgets for applicants.

– Allows support for Wi-Fi purchased as a managed service and caching servers through the new internal connections funding mechanism.

– Continued use of new Wi-Fi funding methodology after funding year 2016 will be evaluated as part of a review of the long-term funding needs of the program.

– Increases support targeted for Wi-Fi in rural school districts substantially – a nearly 75 percent increase; and targets a nearly 60 percent increase in urban and suburban districts.

– Begins a multi-year transition of all program funding to broadband, by gradually phasing down support for non-broadband services.

– Adopts clear broadband goals to measure overall program success, while maintaining local flexibility to determine the needs of individual schools and libraries.

Maximizes E-Rate Spending

– Incentivizes consortia and bulk purchasing.

– Increases transparency on how E-Rate dollars are spent and on prices charged for E-Rate services.

Makes the E-Rate Administration and Application Processes Faster, Simpler, More Efficient

– Streamlines the process for multi-year applications.

– Expedites process for small dollar, cost-effective applications.

– Speeds review of all applications.

– Moves to electronic filing of all documents.

– Simplifies discount calculations.

– Strengthens efforts to combat waste, fraud and abuse by toughening document retention and site inspection rules.

This administrative review is already delivering huge dividends

– More funds: The FCC identified $2 billion that could be freed from existing reserve accounts and other sources over the next two years toward an initial down payment on broadband expansion. The $2 billion for Wi-Fi over the next two years comes from these reclaimed reserves.

Brings E-Rate into the 21st Century

– New digital learning technologies are opening new opportunities for students, teachers and library patrons.

– In schools, emerging educational technology allows an increasingly interactive and individualized learning environment and expands school boundaries through distance learning applications.

– The plummeting costs of tablets and netbooks, increasing Wi-Fi speeds, and innovative cloud-based software are allowing this technological transformation of learning, much of which would have been impossible five years ago.

Too many U.S. schools and libraries lack the infrastructure necessary to fully utilize today’s learning technologies particularly when it comes to Wi-Fi in the classroom.

– Three out of five schools in America lack the Wi-Fi needed to deploy 21st century educational tools.

– Half of school buildings have older, slower internal wiring that won’t carry data at today’s broadband speeds.

Greg Lowry is a Schooley Mitchell consultant based in San Francisco, Calif. His areas of expertise include supplier negotiation, billing analysis and contract optimization, business continuity planning, and sales and business development consulting.

Canada Making Large Broadband Investment

Broadband infrastructure

Rural communities stand to benefit from a major broadband investment from the Canadian government. On Tuesday, the government called for communities lacking high-speed Internet to apply for a share of the $305 million funding that will be available over the next three years.

“Connecting Canadians is about ensuring that Canadians, whether they live in urban centers or remote regions of the country, have access to the latest wireless technologies and high-speed networks at the most affordable prices possible,” Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement.

If the project is successful, about 98 percent of Canadians will have access to high-speed Internet. Western provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta are among the most underserved.

*Source: Reuters

Facebook Rolls Out Free Wi-Fi to Students’ Homes

Facebook passwordsProviding improved Wi-Fi access to students is becoming a big initiative in the United States. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission just announced a $2 million plan to do just that. Facebook is taking this goal even further with a trial to provide Wi-Fi to students’ houses in Forest City, N.C.

Forest City is conveniently the location of one of Facebook’s largest data centres. The trial was rolled out in cooperation with the local school board and non-profit high-speed fiber Internet provider Pangaea, with 75 to 100 homes participating.

There is no word yet as to whether Facebook will extend this project beyond Forest City to other parts of the U.S., or even internationally. It is just one of the company’s many efforts to improve Internet access and educate — one project, Education Superhighway, gets schools more familiar with how their broadband works and how to improve it.

Facebook and Pangaea’s project launched July 15.

*Source: Tech Crunch

Canadian Court Orders Google to Delist Site

Google privacyEver since the European Union ruled that users have the right to have embarrassing or defaming links delisted from Google, people have been applying to be forgotten in a virtual sense. However, this ruling was specific to Europe. Now a Canadian court has ruled that Google must delete links for a very similar reason in a decision that may reach beyond borders.

Canadian company Equustek Solutions filed a complaint alleging another company stole its ideas and sold similar technology on over 300 websites after conspiring with former Equustek employees. The Supreme Court of British Columbia agreed, and ordered links to sites associated with the rival company be taken down.

While Google agreed to delist all links from Google.ca, the courts mandate reached further than that by ordering all references to the offending sites be removed globally by June 27.

This case has raised the question of whether or not the “right to be forgotten” is a principle that will extend far beyond the European Union.

*Source: The Telegraph

Comcast Rolls Out Xfinity Network in Houston

Comcast XfinityComcast took a big step in blanketing Houston with public Wi-Fi hotspots by rolling out its Xfinity Wifi system on Tuesday. About 50,000 subscribers with newer routers now host the network, which allows free access to fellow Comcast customers.

The company promises it will have 8 million hotspots in 19 of the largest cities across the United States by the end of the year.

“Wireless access is increasingly important to our customers, and we are building a network that not only meets today’s needs but also stays ahead of tomorrow’s demands,” said Marcien Jenckes, Comcast executive VP of consumer services, in a press release. “Xfinity WiFi is a reliable, fast resource for millions of customers who want access to the Internet, anytime, anywhere. We’ll add millions more hotspots this year in the places where our customers live and work.”

According to Comcast, nearly 200 million sessions have been initiated on the Xfinity network in 2014. Currently outdoor, business and neighborhood hotspots are being offered.

*Source: Time

Funding Boosts Windstream’s Rural Infrastructure

Rural internet serviceWindstream expects to provide broadband to 75,000 homes thanks to USDA Rural Utilities Service stimulus funding, the company announced at the recent Stephens Spring Investment Conference in New York.

It is the only provider in many of the markets and is expected to play a large role in the program. Execs have said customers can expect to receive speeds of 10 Mbps and higher.

“In a lot of these locations, all that’s really is available is satellite broadband on the stimulus side so we feel really good about our chances to be the only game in town in terms of being a reliable broadband provider,” Windstream senior vice president and treasurer Bob Gunderman was quoted as saying. “We have already good adoption on some of the market share gains in the markets we have turned up so we’re optimistic that that will continue.”

Even faster speeds could become available to some customers through the recently approved Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program Connect America. A federal appeals court recently gave the green light to transition the funding to rural broadband infrastructure improvements from rural telephone service costs, much to the chagrin of the telcos that were benefiting from the annual subsidies.

Windstream will receive $90 million in grants under the $4.5 billion Connect America program, and hopes to deliver speeds of up to 24 Mbps.

*Source: Fierce Telecom

Verizon Rages at Netflix for On-Screen Message

Verizon has slapped Netflix with a cease and desist letter after the online streaming service posted messages blaming slow speeds on the telecom company. The on-screen messages popped up when a video was buffering, blaming the interruption on the congested Verizon network.

Steaming mad, Verizon has accused Netflix of pulling a PR stunt, and has demanded it be provided with a full list of all customers that saw the message on their screen.

“There is no basis to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network,” wrote Verizon general counsel Randal Milch, in a letter to Netflix’s chief lawyer. “Verizon demands that Netflix immediately cease and desist from providing any such further ‘notices’ to users of the Verizon network.”

Netflix began displaying the messages in mid-May. It says it was merely experimenting with different ways to inform paying customers about issues affecting the service’s performance.

“This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider,” Netflix spokesman Jonathan Friedland was quoted as saying. “We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion.”

*Source: USA Today

Customers Least Satisfied with ISPs, TV Services

Consumer satisfaction telecomIt looks like Americans are fed up with their Internet Service Providers, ranking their satisfaction with them below all other industries, including banks, hospitals, utilities and the U.S. Postal Service. Ouch.

According to the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), ISPs weren’t the only ones to take a beating – subscription television service was second last on the list of 43 industries, only two benchmark points higher than the last-place finishers.

“Customer satisfaction with pay TV service pales in comparison with other types of household services such as energy utilities and fixed-line telephone service, which customers rate as more reliable and a better value,” states the report. “High prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service are to blame for low customer satisfaction with pay TV services.”

Just in case you didn’t know, the cost of pay TV has been rising six percent per year, or about four times the rate of inflation.

But why do consumers hate their Internet providers so much? The ACSI points to several factors, including slow broadband Internet speeds, high cost and unreliable service. And there are clear divisions as to what consumers do prefer – companies offering DSL and fiber connections rate higher than coaxial cable companies.

Survey respondents identified Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-verse services as the best ISP options, with CenturyLink rounding out the Top 3. Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Comcast and Time Warner were ranked fourth through seventh, respectively. In fact, Comcast dropped eight percent and Time Warner 14 percent in overall satisfaction from the year before, leaving some wondering if the looming merger between the two companies will spell disaster for customers.

Of the customer experience benchmarks, subscribers seemed most pleased with overall data transfer speed and quality of video streaming, but least satisfied with Internet plan options and customer support call centers. It’s worth noting that ISP call center satisfaction rang in below call centers from all other industries included in the study.

“The quality of ISP service leaves room for improvement across the remaining elements of the customer experience,” states the report. “Bills are not very easy to understand, and other services such as email accounts, data storage and Internet security products receive low ratings from customers. Another pain point for customers is that providers do not offer a wide enough variety of plans at different prices.”

While satisfaction with fixed-line telephone service ranks the highest of all types of telecom, it’s worth noting the study’s authors figure it’s because fewer and fewer people are utilizing it. With more households cutting off landlines and opting to use their wireless devices full time, there aren’t as many complaints. And chances are, those who have disconnected their service already were the least happy with it. Go figure.

Meanwhile, overloaded wireless networks are blamed for dissatisfaction with cellphone service, which didn’t come last on the list but wasn’t well ranked.

“While customers are more pleased with wireless service than with pay TV and Internet service, the industry remains among the lower-scoring categories in the ACSI,” the study reports. “Along with TV and Internet service, only airlines and Internet social media display lower levels of customer satisfaction.”

Do you agree with the study’s findings? How happy are you with your telecom services? To check out the full report, visit the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

FCC Moving Forward With Rural Broadband Improvements

FCC Schooley MitchellThe Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America program has been given the green light by a federal appeals court to begin funding improvements to rural broadband infrastructure. Instead of covering rural telephone service costs, the $4.5 billion program will now set its sights on high-speed Internet service in high-cost rural areas.

The FCC kickstarted the effort in 2011, but phone companies that were enjoying annual subsidies under the program protested and took the matter to court. In its judgement, the appeals court dismissed their complaints, saying the phone companies were “either unpersuasive or barred from judicial review.”

Connect America is part of the Universal Service Fund, which helps libraries, schools and health care providers gain access to advanced telecommunications services in an equitable manner. It is funded through interstate end-user revenues.

“Congress has directed the commission to ensure that all Americans receive the benefit of 21st-century communications,” FCC spokesperson Kim Hart, was quoted as saying. “With today’s across-the-board affirmance of our landmark 2011 reforms, the commission has tools in hand to accomplish that critical goal.”

*Source: NY Times