No, you’re not hallucinating if you think you’re paying too much for your monthly broadband plan. A new study from the Google-sponsored New America Foundation shows that broadband prices in major American cities are much higher than prices in comparable cities overseas, despite the fact that the more expensive American plans don’t deliver any significant speed upgrades. More →
The British are giving their mobile carriers the Guy Fawkes treatment. Per Which?, the United Kingdom’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced this week that it will let mobile customers ditch contracts without penalty if their carriers decide to jack up prices. An Ofcom representative said that the agency is “making it clear that any increase to the monthly subscription price should trigger a consumer’s right to leave their contract — without penalty.” How U.K. carriers adapt to this new rule change remains to be seen, although Ofcom’s regulations could become a model for other countries to follow if they’re successful in restraining the rise of mobile prices. T-Mobile has been leading the charge in the United States against wireless contracts and has often railed against rivals’ unpredictable pricing and sneaky fees in wireless bills.
Google Fiber is far from the only high-speed fiber service rolling out in the United States. Ars Technica reports that small Vermont telecom company VTel, with a big assist from an $81 million stimulus grant from the federal government, has started rolling out a fiber network to its 17,500 customers and charging them around $35 a month for gigabit Internet service. For perspective on what a great deal this is, consider that Google Fiber’s stand-alone gigabit Internet service costs residents in Kansas City $70 a month, or twice what VTel customers will pay for their service. Ars notes that “VTel’s testing in customers’ homes shows that its gigabit customers typically get between 925 and 950Mbps for both downloads and uploads,” so it really isn’t an exaggeration to say that VTel is offering Google Fiber speeds at just a fraction of the price.
The dire threat of public broadband lives on in Georgia. Consumerist reports that Georgia’s state legislature has shot down a bill that would have barred rural municipalities from building their own public broadband networks in areas where at least one residential building had an Internet connection speed of 1.5Mbps or higher. The Macon Telegraph reported last month that legislators from some rural towns in Georgia were “up in arms” over the proposed legislation and claimed that they needed to build their own broadband networks because “companies simply will not bring the highest-speed Internet to their residents because it doesn’t turn a profit.” More →
By now you’ve probably read the comments from Time Warner Cable (TWC) CTO Irene Esteves explaining that her company doesn’t plan to build out fiber to the home because there’s no evidence that American consumers actually want super-fast networks. While a lot of people expressed surprise in response to this attitude, it’s actually been a common refrain from the cable industry and its defenders for quite some time now — let’s recall that National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell recently described achieving gigabit speeds as an “irrelevant exercise in bragging rights.” That this attitude isn’t just consigned to one company but is apparently held by the entire industry indicates that the market for home broadband in the United States is horrendously uncompetitive and is in desperate need of a shakeup. More →
The Federal Communications Commission constantly monitors broadband service providers in the United States and the commission recently updated its report for the month of February. One part of the FCC’s study that always draws particular interest is the section that shows how closely ISPs come to providing customers with data speeds that match advertised speeds, and its latest report analyzes data collected in September 2012. Unfortunately for U.S. broadband subscribers, ISPs’ performance in September strayed a bit further from advertised speeds compared to a similar study from the FCC that analyzed July data. More →
Now this is some can-do spirit we can all admire. BBC News reports that the rural United Kingdom farming community of Lancashire has built its own fiber network with an all-volunteer troupe of workers who are digging trenches and laying down fiber optics cables. The community is calling its project B4RN, or Broadband for the Rural North, and it’s pledging to “build a community-owned gigabit Fibre To The Home (FTTH) network in the scarcely populated, deeply rural uplands of Lancashire in the north west of England utilising the skills, time, energy and ingenuity of the local residents and businesses.” More →
Georgia’s state legislature recently became the latest to take up the cause of protecting its constituents from the insidious menace of municipal broadband. Ars Technica reports that “incumbent broadband providers are pushing legislation that would restrict Georgia towns from building municipal broadband networks” by mandating that “if a single home in a census tract has Internet access at speeds of 1.5Mbps or above, the town would be prohibited from offering broadband service to anyone in that tract.” The Macon Telegraph reports that legislators from some rural towns in Georgia are “up in arms” over the proposed legislation and claim that they need to build their own broadband networks because “companies simply will not bring the highest-speed Internet to their residents because it doesn’t turn a profit.” More →
Think tank insults our intelligence by saying DSL and LTE count as legitimate ‘home broadband’ options
Earlier this week I received a study from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, DC, telling me that I should stop complaining about the competitive landscape of the American broadband market because if I don’t like my cable provider, I can always go over to DSL or LTE for my home broadband needs. Yes, I’m being completely serious. The study actually argues that anyone who claims that “DSL is a poor substitute for cable and that wireless is no substitute at all” is “blind to the nature of technological progress” and only wants “to make the case for regulating broadband as if it were a monopoly.” This is not merely insulting our intelligence, it’s equivalent to ripping out our brain and telling it a “Yo’ mama” joke. More →
The cable industry has long maintained that data caps were a necessity in order to keep their networks from toppling due to congestion. Data and logic both suggested their collective argument was a reach at best, and now former FCC boss and current top cable industry lobbyist Michael Powell has admitted that cable companies have been misstating their case, Broadcasting and Cable reported earlier this month. More →
Bandwidth caps are one of the least-liked features of today’s mobile data plans, but a new mobile app is promising a potential workaround that could save users the annoyance of paying overage fees. New Scientist points us to an app developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Viral Spaces initiative called Air Mobs that has designed a clever way for users to share their excess data with users who might be running up against their monthly limits. Essentially, one user agrees to let their mobile device act as a tethering hub that will send data from their LTE smartphone over Wi-Fi to any users nearby. In exchange, the central hub user gets a “data credit” that gives them access to other users’ data in the future. More →
Here’s another reason why Internet Service Providers’ plans to implement a “six strikes” anti-piracy system could be a disaster in the making: it will likely make life miserable for businesses that offer their customers free Wi-Fi connectivity. Essentially, ISPs have not yet indicated that they’ve figured out a way to avoid punishing everyone who uses a shared connection simply because one person on that connection allegedly pirated copyrighted material. What this means, as BoingBoing writes, is that “anyone operating a hotspot will quickly find that it can no longer access popular sites like YouTube and Facebook, because random users have attracted unsubstantiated copyright complaints from the entertainment industry.” More →
Sorry, American Internet service providers: Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is still not impressed. In a guest editorial written for Forbes, Genachowski implored ISPs in the United States to set their horizons higher and to start investing in building out broadband networks capable of moving data at gigabit speeds. At the same time, Genachowski scolded ISPs that have called gigabit networks unnecessary, and particularly singled out National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell, who recently described achieving gigabit speeds as an “irrelevant exercise in bragging rights.” More →