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Pennsylvanians Excited/Outraged About Free Cell Phones & Discounted Broadband for the Poor | Stop the Cap!

WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Penn. has been running several stories about the FCC’s Lifeline program, which hands out free cell phones to those living below the poverty line. While the FCC defends the Lifeline cell phone program as delivering needed phone service for job-seekers and as a landline replacement, some citizens who consider cell phones a luxury are upset the federal government is subsidizing the project at a cost of $1.3 billion a year. Even more disturbing to some is the reported amount of waste, fraud, and abuse that may be delivering free phones to those who don’t deserve them. The anchor’s thinly-disguised editorializing leaves little doubt he considers the program a waste of money at a time of skyrocketing budget deficits.

 

WHP ran this follow-up story about the FCC’s forthcoming involvement in “free broadband” for the poor. In fact, the subsidized Internet program would likely deliver 1-3Mbps basic Internet service for around $10 a month. The WHP anchor doesn’t seem too impressed with this part of the Lifeline program either.

 

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Minneapolis residents to get 10-gigabit fiber, for $400 per month | Lee Hutchinson | Ars Technica

Minneapolis residents to get 10-gigabit fiber, for $400 per month | Lee Hutchinson | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While most parts of the US have to make do with Internet speeds of less than 100Mbps—in many cases much less than 100Mbps—some residents of Minneapolis will soon have access to a ludicrously fast fiber-to-the-home speed tier: 10 gigabits per second.

The service is offered by US Internet, the company that already provides "a couple thousand" Minneapolis residents with 1Gbps service for $65 per month. The 10Gbps service will be available immediately to existing customers willing to pay the $400-per-month fee, though US Internet expects the number of customers who take them up on the deal to be relatively small. All together, US Internet has "a little over 10,000" fiber-to-the-home customers at different speed tiers, all located on the west side of Interstate 35W.

This summer, the company plans to widen its service area to the east side of I-35W, which will encroach further into incumbent Comcast’s territory. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Comcast offers 50Mbps service for $77 and 25Mbps service for $65 in that area; US Internet by contrast prices its 100Mbps service tier—the company’s most popular—at just $45 per month. The gigabit plan at $65 gives customers about 40 times the bandwidth of Comcast’s 25Mbps plan for the same price.

The most difficult part about 10Gbps home Internet service—aside from paying for it—is actually using it effectively.


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Cities Start to Get Tougher on Cable Franchise Agreements | Bill Neilson | DSLReports.com

Over the years, cable providers have enjoyed forcing cities into ten, fifteen or even twenty year franchise agreements that allow the providers to enjoy competing against no one all the while increasing prices often and worrying little about the lack of any actual customer service. Now, as this site has shown a number of times (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3), cities are starting to fight back and demand some responsibility from cable providers if the companies want the city to give them a franchise agreement.

After being told for years that previous franchise agreements would magically increase local jobs and improve customer service (which never occurred on either front), some cities are now demanding guarantees in writing before agreeing to a franchise agreement. Now, some cities are also demanding that franchise agreements be reduced in years so that cities may see just how well the cable providers are acting during the agreed upon years.


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TDM-to-IP Transition: Does Copper Deterioration Equal Copper Retirement? | Joan Engebretson | Telecompetitor

TDM-to-IP Transition: Does Copper Deterioration Equal Copper Retirement? | Joan Engebretson | Telecompetitor | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking input on whether it should require telecom service providers retiring traditional copper phone wiring to provide and monitor batteries providing backup power to customer premises equipment. Additionally the commission is considering whether a service provider that lets its copper infrastructure deteriorate should be considered to have retired that equipment.

These are just a few of the ideas discussed in a notice of proposed rulemaking about the TDM-to-IP transition adopted by the FCC on November 21 and released publicly last week. As usual the NPRM includes some requirements that the FCC indicates it anticipates imposing, while other ideas are simply put forth for discussion.

Among the requirements the FCC indicates it anticipates imposing are:


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How Chicago is Narrowing the Digital Divide | Danielle Kim | GovTech.com

How Chicago is Narrowing the Digital Divide | Danielle Kim | GovTech.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Hoping to reinvent its image as the nation’s next tech hub, Chicago has doubled down on its investment in digital manufacturing and technology.


This summer, the global online marketplace eBay and the high-profile tech incubator 1871 pledged to expand their presence in Chicago and to add hundreds of tech-savvy jobs to the city’s growing workforce.

Notwithstanding these successes, Chicago remains plagued by an enormous connectivity gap. In the Windy City, broadband usage varies widely, ranging from just 36 percent to 94 percent for a given neighborhood.


Low-income families, minorities, people with disabilities and seniors are overwhelmingly represented in the broad swath of the city’s population who are unable to gain access to crucial information and resources. Furthermore, research has shown that neighborhood-level factors like poverty and segregation magnify existing barriers to Internet use and home adoption).


The Smart Communities initiative aspires to narrow the digital divide by providing disconnected individuals with increased access technology and the Internet. Spearheaded by the Local Initiative Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago) in 2009 in conjunction with the city and a dozen community nonprofits,


Smart Communities brings digital education, outreach, Internet access, small business training, digital youth jobs and local content portals to five digitally underserved neighborhoods in the Chicago area, including Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Auburn Gresham, Englewood and Chicago Lawn.


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12 Days of Broadband, Day 12: MCNC's flagship network celebrates 30 years | WRAL TechWire

12 Days of Broadband, Day 12: MCNC's flagship network celebrates 30 years | WRAL TechWire | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This year marked a milestone for MCNC as the technology nonprofit celebrated the 30th anniversary of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

NCREN is one of the nation’s finest statewide research and education networks available today. But, NCREN is much more just than a network. It is a broadband backbone for collaboration in North Carolina.

MCNC began as an economic development and research innovation center in the semi-conductor industry. The number of patents produced and companies incubated only tell part of the story. What MCNC really did was attract great companies and tech talent to North Carolina as well as better retain the great minds in technology innovation that were graduating from NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, NC A&T University, UNC Charlotte and many others. Finally, it allowed the organization to build out, scale and sustain NCREN.

The past 30 years have brought tremendous economic changes in North Carolina and growth in the state’s tech-based economy. In that time, MCNC has built one of the nation’s most future-proof networks serving education, research and health care for the entire state. MCNC’s backbone network efficiently and cost-effectively delivers broadband services to community institutions throughout North Carolina as high-speed connectivity continues to evolve into an essential economic asset. And, NCREN is engineered to have virtually unlimited capacity to grow with increasing bandwidth demand.

NCREN has provided the broadband infrastructure to connect North Carolina citizens to the path of success for the last three decades. The historic 2,600-mile expansion of NCREN completed in 2013 now gives even more citizens in almost every county in North Carolina access to high-speed, broadband connectivity.


Today, NCREN serves the broadband infrastructure needs of more than 500 community institutions including all K-20 public education in North Carolina. NCREN is one of the nation’s premier backbone networks, and its expanded capabilities now allows MCNC to customize services and applications for users more than ever before as they also look to further enable private-sector providers to bring cost-effective broadband infrastructure to rural and underserved areas of North Carolina.


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TX: McAllen may sue over FCC ruling | Sky Chadde | The Monitor

The city of McAllen, TX might take the federal government to court if a new ruling by the Federal Communications Commission comes into effect.

The commission, which regulates the technology people use to communicate, adopted an order in October meant to give cell phone providers such as T-Mobile and Verizon an easier time of establishing areas of service. One element of the order is that, if a local government doesn’t act on a provider’s request to set up a cell tower in a certain amount of time, the provider is allowed to set it up.

The order will go into effect once it’s published in the Federal Register, but that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s intended to deliver “more wireless capacity in more locations to consumers across the United States,” according to a press release. “At the same time … it safeguards Tribal, State and local land-use priorities as well as safety and aesthetic interests.”

However, city officials believe the order, if published, actually infringes on McAllen’s authority to regulate the cell towers within its limits, City Attorney Kevin Pagan said.

“It ties our hands in respect to certain elements of regulating these facilities,” meaning cell towers, he said. “We still have the ability to impose certain restrictions on (providers), but our ability to impose those restrictions become significantly more limited.”

It could also impact the city’s ability to regulate the towers’ locations, a community concern that stretches back quite a while, Pagan said.

To cut down on the towers’ visibility, the city required that providers share and that the towers blended into the environment as best as possible, Pagan said.

The FCC order also gives providers the ability to increase the size of their towers without city permission.

Once Pagan heard about the order’s possibility, he started to pay attention to it, he said.

“There was a comment period for these regulations, and we commented that we thought it was a troublesome regulation for a lot of reasons,” he said. “Well, the FCC – I don’t want to say ignored that but largely discounted a lot of the comments from municipalities and issued the regulation. We think it’s bad enough that we need to challenge it.”

At its Dec. 8 meeting, the City Commission granted the City Attorney’s Office the ability to start considering legal options. They’ve already hired a lawyer based in Washington.


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MN: CenturyLink looks to enter Minneapolis cable market | Erin Golden | Star Tribune

MN: CenturyLink looks to enter Minneapolis cable market | Erin Golden | Star Tribune | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Minneapolis residents could soon have another option for cable TV service, as CenturyLink looks to dislodge Comcast’s monopoly on the market.

CenturyLink plans to seek a new franchise agreement that would allow it to provide its Prism TV cable service alongside Comcast’s offerings. The digital cable service is distributed through a fiber-optic network and allows customers to watch live programming on smartphones and tablets, in addition to their televisions.

Such an agreement would require the approval of the Minneapolis City Council, which won’t take up the issue until the new year. CenturyLink’s move could dramatically reshuffle the local television market, as cable companies nationally are under intensifying competition from other providers and Internet streaming services, such as Netflix.

CenturyLink already has rolled out Prism TV in other Midwestern cities, including La Crosse, Wis., and Omaha, Neb. The company intends to seek franchise agreements in St. Paul and other cities across the metro area in 2015.

“This brings to customers the opportunity to choose, and to have an improved customer experience,” said Joanna Hjelmeland, a CenturyLink spokeswoman.

Comcast, the largest cable provider in the Twin Cities, has a franchise agreement with Minneapolis that expires at the end of 2021. The deal requires Comcast to make its cable service available to every home in the city, with some exceptions for areas with low population density. But it does not guarantee that Comcast will be able to stand alone as the only cable provider in Minneapolis.

CenturyLink does not plan to immediately offer service to all Minneapolis residents. Instead, it would offer Prism TV to a variety of neighborhoods where its network is already in place and later bring it to other parts of the city.

Comcast said in a statement it expects competitors to adhere to the same standards it does.


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Incumbent telcos, cablecos should reconsider shunning wholesale open access fiber networks | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

Incumbent telcos, cablecos should reconsider shunning wholesale open access fiber networks | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Incumbent telephone and cable companies that enjoy a natural monopoly over last mile Internet infrastructure connecting customer premises have been loath to offer services over open access, wholesale fiber to the premise (FTTP) networks like the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) system.


In some states, they’ve even successfully supported legislation outlawing or making the creation of publicly operated open access networks difficult. As monopolies, they want control over both the “pipe” serving customer premises and the services provided over it. Having control over the premise connection is essential to this business model since it puts the incumbents in the dominant position with regard to selling their proprietary services.


But with a growing chorus of calls for competition for Internet service from the White House, members of Congress, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and consumer advocates, the threat of federal antitrust litigation to break up the incumbents’ last mile monopolies has increased.

Given that possibility, incumbents might want to reconsider their flat refusal to do business with wholesale open access fiber networks. If they chose to purchase access to wholesale networks to sell retail services to customer premises, they’d likely appear to be far less insular and monopolistic in the eyes of the government.


Doing business with wholesale, open access fiber networks would also spare the incumbents –largely reliant on metal wire and cable last mile infrastructure – from the expense of having to upgrade their last mile plants to fiber in areas where these networks exist and allow them to reach customer premises outside their limited footprints.


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Kentucky middle mile telecom infrastructure project needs solid last mile solution | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

Kentucky middle mile telecom infrastructure project needs solid last mile solution | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

"Kentucky.gov: - Governor Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers Launch Statewide Broadband Initiative, Beginning in Eastern Kentucky": The first stage of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state. These major fiber lines are called the “middle mile.” The “open access” network will allow the private sector to use the fiber to deliver services into communities. Once complete, other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those “middle mile” lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.

This last sentence is key and delineates between what's actually planned to be built and what's theoretically hoped to be. Without those last mile ISPs, Kentucky will end up with an incomplete network, condemning many of its residents to continued subpar Internet service.


It would be like building an expressway and having gravel or dirt roads at the exits and on ramps. As the news release from Gov. Beshear's office notes, Kentucky rates poorly compared to other states on Internet access. That sad statistic is unlikely to improve without a solid plan to build fiber to the premise infrastructure to serve the last mile.

Historically, middle mile projects like this one do a good job getting anchor institutions like schools, libraries and government offices connected. But that doesn't automatically mean nearby homes and small businesses will get connections and can even hinder their getting service as network expert Andrew Cohill has noted since the network operators tend to concentrate their efforts on serving anchor institutions and figure someone else can solve the last mile problem.


That someone else has typically proven to be nonexistent. It's essentially a funding problem since there tends to be insufficient and/or uncertain future revenues to attract those interested in investing in the needed infrastructure to bridge the last mile to homes and small businesses.


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Time Warner Cable: Deck the Halls with $8 Modem Fees, Fa La La La La, La La La La ($2.75 DTA Fee, Too!) | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Time Warner Cable: Deck the Halls with $8 Modem Fees, Fa La La La La, La La La La ($2.75 DTA Fee, Too!) | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It’s a Merry Christmas from Time Warner Cable, with rate increases for one and all!

The cable company that usually waits for the holiday season to end before sending out annual “rate adjustment” notices got an early start this year with some dramatic price changes for many customers, with further rate hikes likely to follow later in 2015.

Taking a lead from Comcast, Time Warner Cable is hiking its broadband modem lease fee from $6 a month to $8 a month in January. That equals $96 a year for a modem that not too long ago used to be included at no extra charge as part of your broadband subscription. A typical customer with a Motorola SB6141 DOCSIS 3 cable modem can buy a brand new unit for nearly $20 less than what Time Warner will collect from customers each year for refurbished or used equipment… forever.

In 2013, Time Warner Cable’s Rob Marcus admitted the company does not charge modem rental fees to defray the cost of the equipment, but as a hidden rate increase designed to generate more revenue.

“The modem fee is a rate increase by all accounts, it takes a different form than usual […] it’s very much a part of the overall revenue generation program,” Marcus told an audience of investment banks.


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NY Judge Laments The Lack Of A 'Right To Be Forgotten'; Suggests New Laws Fix That | Mike masnick | Techdirt

NY Judge Laments The Lack Of A 'Right To Be Forgotten'; Suggests New Laws Fix That | Mike masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A NY state judge, Milton Tingle, has apparently decided that Europe's troubling right to be forgotten concept should be imported into the US (possible registration/paywall). The case he was dealing with -- the rather impressively an vaguely named "Anonymous v. Anonymous Jane Does" -- touches on an issue we've discussed for many years. What happens when you have defamatory content posted to a site, where the site is protected by Section 230 of the CDA, and the original posters cannot be found.

In those cases, as we've noted, there may be no effective remedy for the defamatory speech. The site cannot be forced to take it down, because if they're just a platform, they have no liability for someone else's speech. And since the person or people who are responsible can't be found, not much can be done. That appears to be the situation in this case:

Claiming they were prostitutes, anonymous commentators with the handles "JennaVixen," "Emma NYC Escort" and "Anonymous," posted opinions about the plaintiff's sexual habits.

One of the commentators said he or she also was "an ex-employee owed money who is suing [the plaintiff]."

The plaintiff sued in 2013, claiming the comments were defamatory per se. He said he never engaged in the sexual activity described, nor was he an employer who failed to pay employees.

Since the commenters were anonymous, and there was no way to track them down, the judge initially allowed the commenters to be "served" by posting the summons on the same site where the comments were made, Dirtyphonebook.com. Not surprisingly, posting the summons on the site didn't make the commenters show up in court (whether or not they even saw the summons). Thus, the plaintiff won in a default judgment. But, again, nothing specifically could then be done -- which the judge appears to understand. However, he's troubled by this lack of a remedy, and appears to use the opportunity to muse on importing the "right to be forgotten" in such cases:


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Can you Satirize Poor Customer Service from Big Cable Companies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 130 | community broadband networks

Can you Satirize Poor Customer Service from Big Cable Companies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 130 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Given all the horrible experiences people have had over the telephone with massive cable companies, it isn't clear that one can design a skit to parody such a conversation. Each time someone calls one of these companies is a parody in and of itself. However, given that this is a holiday week, we decided to have some fun and record two such conversations using some of real interactions we have had.

The first call is reflective of many attempts we have had in trying to ascertain prices for common services from cable and telephone companies. The second call, starting at about 10:30 into the show, involves someone calling in to have a repair scheduled, this was inspired by and fairly closely mimics what he went through after a neighbor's tree fell on his cable line, severing it from his house.

Just before posting this show, a colleague shared a hilarious comic from Pearls and Swine covering cable sales practices.

Next week, we will have a year-end conversation that itself ends with some predictions for 2015. After that, we will back to normal guests and our normal format. Enjoy the holidays!


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Who’s listening? Skype on Android flaw may allow eavesdropping | Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News

Who’s listening? Skype on Android flaw may allow eavesdropping | Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Heads up if you use Skype on an Android device: A reported flaw in the software allows another Skype user to listen to you through your phone without you even knowing.

First reported on Reddit and later by Neowin, here’s how it works at a high level. A Skype caller starts a connection to your device over Skype by calling but hangs up before the call is actually connected. Skype will attempt to reconnect and then will access both your microphone and camera. Effectively, this lets the caller hear and see what’s going on around your Android phone or tablet, leaving you relatively unaware.


The original Reddit poster says that he reached out to Microsoft and that the company responded, saying it’s aware of the issue and is working on a fix. As of time of writing, the last Skype update for Android took place on December 9 in the Google Play Store, so I’d stay tuned and watch for an update; then again, we’re just about ready to enter the holiday week, which could affect any development work on Skype.

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Quantum memory storage to help quantum communications go the distance | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com

Quantum memory storage to help quantum communications go the distance | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The technologies made possible by breakthroughs in quantum physics have already provided the means of quantum cryptography, and are gradually paving the way toward powerful, practical, everyday quantum computers, and even quantum teleportation.


Unfortunately, without corresponding atomic memories to appropriately store quantum-specific information, the myriad possibilities of these technologies are becoming increasingly difficult to advance. To help address this problem, scientists from the University of Warsaw (FUW) claim to have developed an atomic memory that has both exceptional memory properties and a construction elegant in its simplicity.

The FUW researchers from the Institute of Experimental Physics claim that the new, fully-functioning atomic memory has numerous potential applications, especially in telecommunications where the transmission of quantum information over long distances is not as straightforward as the transmission of simple electronic data encoded on laser light and traveling through optical fiber.

This is because quantum information can't simply be amplified every so often along its path of travel as information digitally encoded on a laser beam can be. Instead, it is essential that the quantum information itself remain absolutely preserved in its original form to maintain its inherent security, and boosting the signal risks disrupting the quantum state and immediately rendering the transmission useless and unusable.

In this vein, the new memory may prove useful in providing a means to bring into reality the DLCZ quantum transmission protocol (DLCZ being the initials of the physicists from the University of Innsbruck and Harvard University who proposed it; Duan, Lukin, Cirac, and Zoller), enabling quantum information to be sent across long distances.

As an essential requirement for this protocol to work, quantum information transmitted must be stored at various relay points along the channel of communication. Up until now, the physical capabilities to realize the DLCZ protocol have been unavailable, but this new atomic memory may help solve that problem.


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The New York Times Entirely Misunderstands The FCC Spectrum Auction | Tim Worstall | Forbes.com

The New York Times Entirely Misunderstands The FCC Spectrum Auction | Tim Worstall | Forbes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

You’ve got to hand it to the editorial board of the New York Times. They really do have a preternatural ability to grasp the wrong end of the economic or logical stick as we discuss what public policy should or might be.


Their latest example is the two little discussions going on over in the broadband world. The first about net neutrality, the second about the auction that the FCC is undertaking over certain mobile frequencies.

We should point out that both are important events and or discussions. Over net neutrality, well, I’m on the unpopular side of that argument. Spectrum, bandwidth, is a scarce resource. Thus there’s the possibility that at some point it will require rationing.


As every economist will tell you in just about all circumstances price is the best way of rationing something. Thus, if bandwidth does need to be preferentially allocated in some manner then I’m just fine with the idea that it should be done by price. But I agree that puts me at odds with just about everyone commenting upon the matter.

On the spectrum issue this is actually one of the great victories for economists in recent decades. Time was when spectrum was simply allocated by bureaucratic fiat. Given that it is a scarce resource (you can’t have two TV stations on the same frequency in the same geographic location, as an example) that meant that anyone who managed to get some allocated made windfall profits.


So, economists have been arguing, and it was in my native UK some 15 years ago that the policy really came to fruition, that spectrum should be auctioned. As it’s a pure natural resource there’s no good reason why any private actors should just be allocated the use of it.


But if we’re to auction it, on the grounds that the people who can make the best use of it will offer the most money, then someone’s got to get that money and it might as well be the government thus reducing the tax bills on the rest of us. That’s what the FCC is doing and it’s all going swimmingly well, vast sums of money are being offered.

Great, so, how does the NYT mix and match these two stories:


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British Telecom Joins Complaints on AT&T Special Access Monopoly | DSLReports.com

British Telecom Joins Complaints on AT&T Special Access Monopoly | DSLReports.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Competing carriers for years have complained about AT&T and Verizon's more than 85% market dominance of the special access market -- or the fiber lines that help feed and connect cellular towers.


Add British Telecom to the list of companies lobbying for changes on that front; the UK company visited the FCC this week to protect its business services, complaining that AT&T and Verizon are charging "five or six times what it should cost" for companies to move from legacy TDM networks such as T1s to faster technology.


The complaints come at the same time BT is facing a fresh round of anti-competitive monopoly allegations across the pond.


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Today’s Launch: Nonprofit Organizations Providing Digital Literacy for All | The Grommet

Today’s Launch: Nonprofit Organizations Providing Digital Literacy for All | The Grommet | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we here at The Grommet take a break from launching products.


Instead, we spotlight nonprofit organizations we feel adhere to our idea of giving differently.


If you have one last gift to give, let it be to those who aim to help others.


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GreatLand Names Three New Execs | Mike Farrell | Multichannel

GreatLand Names Three New Execs | Mike Farrell | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

GreatLand Connections, the cable operator expected to spring into existence after the completion of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, has named three new executives, expanding its team to five senior leadership members.

The new executives are: Leonard Baxt, executive vice president, chief administrative and legal officer; Michele Roth, senior vice president and chief human resources officer; and Keith Hall, executive vice president for corporate affairs. Together with previously announced president and CEO Michael Willner and CFO Matthew Siegel, the five designated members of the executive leadership team have over 125 years of combined experience in the cable industry.

“Our future employees, customers, shareholders and communities are fortunate to have these accomplished individuals leading this new company. They have deep experience in their areas of responsibility and are extremely knowledgeable about our changing industry. In addition, they have the unique leadership characteristics that will allow a seamless transition for customers and exciting new opportunities for employees and the communities we serve,” Willner said in a statement.


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What we know about North Korea's cyberarmy | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com

What we know about North Korea's cyberarmy | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The attack on Sony Pictures has put North Korea’s cyberwarfare program in the spotlight. Like most of the internal workings of the country, not much is known but snippets of information have come out over the years, often through defectors and intelligence leaks.

Here’s a summary of what we know:

North Korea’s governing structure is split between the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the National Defense Commission (NDC).

North Korea’s main cyberoperations run under the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which itself falls under the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces that is in turn part of the NDC. The RGB has been operational for years in traditional espionage and clandestine operations and formed two cyberdivisions several years ago called Unit 121 and Office 91.

Office 91 is thought to be the headquarters of North Korea’s hacking operation although the bulk of the hackers and hacking and infiltration into networks is done from Unit 121, which operates out of North Korea and has satellite offices overseas, particularly in Chinese cities that are near the North Korean border. One such outpost is reportedly the Chilbosan Hotel in Shenyang, a major city about 150 miles from the border. A third operation, called Lab 110, participates in much the same work.

There are also several cyberunits under North Korea’s other arm of government, the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Unit 35 is responsible for training cyberagents and is understood to handle domestic cyber investigations and operations. Unit 204 takes part in online espionage and psychological warfare and Office 225 trains agents for missions in South Korea that can sometimes have a cyber component.


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46 Connecticut Towns Sign On To Plan For Massive Municipal Broadband Project | Kate Cox | Consumerist.com

46 Connecticut Towns Sign On To Plan For Massive Municipal Broadband Project | Kate Cox | Consumerist.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Connecticut might be a small state, but they’re poised to make a large leap into the 21st century internet. Local officials have announced they’re joining together on a plan to create at least 46 local municipal gigabit fiber networks in the state — an enormous jump from their current number of zero.

The Hartford Courant reports that leaders from Stamford, New Haven, and West Hartford first announced the initiative in September. Between the announcement and the deadline, an additional 43 towns in the state signed on.

The plan is, as the formal language has it, to “issue[] RFPs to create public-private partnerships resulting in open-access fiber networks in many Connecticut municipalities providing a variety of competitive Internet-based services to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions.”

Or, in other words: to make internet service in Connecticut better for everyone through a local-level, public project that would bring gigabit fiber (like Chattanooga has) to the state’s residents and businesses.

Those 46 towns, out of Connecticut’s 169, represent over a quarter of the municipalities in the state.The list (PDF) includes a wide variety of towns, from the large and well-to-do to the small and entirely underserved. All have in common that the current options in the state — which is Comcast country — are simply not meeting their needs.


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CT: Frontier To Regulators: We Guessed Wrong On Call Volumes | Mara Lee | Hartford Courant

CT: Frontier To Regulators: We Guessed Wrong On Call Volumes | Mara Lee | Hartford Courant | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Frontier Communications found itself caught short of trained people when customer call volumes in Connecticut were higher than expected in the changeover from AT&T, company officials told regulators Monday.

The company had projected call volumes to increase by 35 percent after it bought AT&T's wireline business for $2 billion, a deal that took effect Oct. 25. Instead, the calls came in at a rate that was 47 percent above what AT&T handled.

And making matters worse, Frontier had not trained most of the former AT&T call center employees, because the company did not have access to them before the merger took effect, a Frontier executive said.

Frontier also incorrectly projected the number of homes that technicians could service in one day, which caused missed appointments, said Paul Quick, Frontier's senior vice president and general manager for Connecticut.

The explanations were part of a hearing called by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority after widespread problems related to the switch over. In all, more than 2,000 complaints were filed by customers with several state agencies.

The No. 1 problem was interruptions of high speed Internet, but video services, part of the former AT&T U-verse package, was second. There were virtually no problems with regular wireline telephones, which are not part of the video and Internet packages.

Despite the problems that led the state Attorney General and Consumer Counsel to request Monday's "technical meeting," Quick said the vast majority of former AT&T customers had no problems.

"Overall the transition proceeded as planned," Quick testified. "Less than 1 percent of all our customers experienced any [service] issues."


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CA: Mendocino County Analyzes Losses From Communications Outage | community broadband networks

CA: Mendocino County Analyzes Losses From Communications Outage | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In November, the Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County (BAMC) released a report documenting the results of an online survey to determine the effects of a summer communications outage. The Willits News reported that the survey revealed losses of over $215,000 in the county, although actual losses likely reach the millions.

In August, an accident wiped out Internet, telephone, cell, and 911 services for eight communities along the coast in Mendocino County. AT&T aerial fiber optic cable was destroyed. Approximately 17,400 people lost access to 911 services. Depending on the location, 911 service was out for 24 to 45 hours.

Only about 6.5 percent of the people in Mendocino County participated in the survey according to the report. Ninety-five percent of those responding said they were directly impacted.

The article quotes the BAMC report:

According to the BAMC, the outage was lengthy because "the AT&T backbone fiber network was not configured to be redundant nor diverse with protection routing. This was not due to the lack of fiber in the surrounding routes. AT&T did provide diverse fiber and protection for their cable station, but elected not to provide the same for the surrounding community and emergency services."

Mendocino County has been working for several years on an initiative to improve connectivity along California's north coast. They are now part of a larger collaboration called the North Bay/North Coast Broadband Consortium.


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Cox Communications close to wrapping up Homelife roll out | Mike Robuck | CED Magazine

Cox Communications close to wrapping up Homelife roll out | Mike Robuck | CED Magazine | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With Baton Rouge, La. going live last week, Cox Communications is close to having its home automation and security service launched across its entire footprint.

The Cox Homelife service, which was first trialed in Phoenix three years ago, will be completely launched once Cox deploys it in Florida and Georgia in early February.

In addition to providing security, as well as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors, the service also allows customers to keep track of areas of their homes via cameras and to control home lighting and thermostats in order to reduce their monthly bills.

“Customers trust Cox each day to connect them to the things they care about. For most people, home and family are at the top of that list. Just in time for the holidays, Cox Homelife is a natural extension of the communications services we deliver,” said Jacqui Vines, senior vice president and region manager, Cox Southeast Region.

Customers can add additional video monitoring and lighting controls on an a la carte basis to customize the service to their home floor plans. Cox’s system allows viewers to access the service’s controls via the Web or through apps for smartphones as well as pay for all of the Cox services on one bill.


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Edith Ramirez Is Raising the F.T.C.’s Voice | Edward Wyatt | NYTimes.com

Edith Ramirez Is Raising the F.T.C.’s Voice | Edward Wyatt | NYTimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The New England Journal of Medicine is not a common venue for antitrust debates. But it was in that academic journal that Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, warned this month that mergers of physician practice groups could stifle competition.

The essay was vintage Ramirez: precise, astute and quietly forceful, particularly when expounding on the commission’s authority. The essay was also the latest example of Ms. Ramirez flashing the agency’s regulatory teeth.

“Extensive evidence that consolidation of health care providers leads to higher prices without corresponding improvements in quality,” she wrote, “supports the F.T.C.’s continued vigilance over these markets.”

While public debate has raged in recent months over the Federal Communications Commission’s position on net neutrality and the Justice Department’s review of the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the F.T.C. has operated somewhat more in the shadows. But Ms. Ramirez is pushing to regain some of the prominence of the F.T.C., the nation’s top consumer protection enforcer, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary — by focusing particular attention on digital privacy and transactions.

Ms. Ramirez’s efforts could lead to more turf battles, including with the F.C.C. and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which see their mandates as covering much of the same enforcement territory. The agencies say publicly that they are working well together and just divvying up the spoils. Behind the scenes, though, more than a little tension has developed.


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Stupid Costly Patent Nuclear War By Microsoft & Apple Against Android Averted | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Stupid Costly Patent Nuclear War By Microsoft & Apple Against Android Averted | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

We've written a few times about Rockstar Consortium, a giant patent troll that was created when Microsoft and Apple (and a few others) teamed up to outbid Google, Intel (and a few others) in buying thousands of Nortel patents. Nortel admitted that it had bulked up on many of these patents for defensive measures, but once Nortel went bankrupt they went to the highest bidder (and the bidding went pretty damn high).


The winners of the bidding kept a few of the patents for themselves, but then dumped them all into "Rockstar Consortium" which was a new giant patent troll and which, importantly, was not subject to promises that Apple and Microsoft initially made (to avoid antitrust problems) to license the patents under reasonable terms.

Last year, Rockstar launched its massive patent attack on Android, suing basically all the major Android phone makers and Google. While some have argued that big company v. big company patent attacks aren't a form of patent trolling, some of us disagree. This, like most patent trolling, is just trying to extract money from companies and has nothing to do with actual innovation. In the tech world, some have referred to this kind of thing as "privateering" in which a big company puts the patents into a shell company to hide their trolling activity.

Either way, it appears that a settlement of sorts has been reached, with Rockstar Consortium agreeing to sell its patents to RPX (with Google and Cisco picking up much of the bill). RPX is sort of the "good version of Intellectual Ventures." It's a company that collects a bunch of patents with the goal of using those patents for member companies for defensive purposes. Even though RPX has generally been "good," the business model basically lives because of patent trolling. Its very existence is because of all the patent trolling and abuse out there.


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