Category: Internet-service competition

Google Fiber brings competitive Internet to two more cities

Articles US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Google Fiber Construction Begins in Salt Lake City | Broadband News And DSL Reports

Google Fiber Construction Begins in Nashville | Broadband News And DSL Reports

My Comments

AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and co are on notice in Nashville and Salt Lake City as Google gets work underway to bring fibre-driven next-generation Internet to the households’ doors in those cities. This is showing that they are coming good on their network expansion plans for their Google Fiber service.

With both these cities, Google reckons that the price for Internet service from their Google Fiber network will be similar to what has been called for Provo and Kansas City. This will typically be in the ballpark of US$70 / month for symmetrical Gigabit Internet service and US$130 / month for symmetrical Gigabit Internet plus pay-TV. They even offer a 6Mbps baseline Internet service for US$300 installation costs. Small businesses may end up with a business-grade symmetrical Gigabit service for US$100 / month.

As well, once Google has their Fiber footprint in a city, they also instigate community initiatives like computer literacy classes such as what they have done in Austin for that city’s public-housing communities. As well, situations do turn in the favour of customers when Google Fiber touches a city because there is real competition for residential and small-business Internet service.

I would reckon that Nashville and Salt Lake City are likely to see strong benefits from these rollouts with them becoming attractive to live or do business there along with properties that have this fibre-optic Internet service gaining value.

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Free launches the Android-driven Freebox Mini in France

Artlcles – French language / Langue Française

Free mise sur sa mini-box | TF1.fr

Free lance la Freebox Mini et un Freebox Player 4K sous Android TV | 01Net.com

Free : Une box plus petite et 4K | Ère Numérique.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Free.fr

Press release (PDF – French language / Langue Française)

My Comments

Freebox Mini press image courtesy of Free.fr

Freebox Mini

Free have launched into the French market the latest triple-play Freebox. This is not to replace the Freebox Révolution but to be offered as a cheaper hardware option for your high-value have-it-all service that they provide. It is based on a simplified design like the other Freebox products yet is designed to be future-ready.

The Freebox Server Mini is considered a highly functional Internet gateway device which can work with ADSL2, VDSL2 or Fibre-to-the-premises Internet services provided by Free. Like other Freebox gateway devices like the Freebox Révolution, it runs the Freebox OS which has a user interface not dissimilar to a QNAP NAS or a new Linux distro’s graphic user interface. The LAN is based on a 4-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and 802.11n N450 three-stream 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. There is the ability to connect audio equipment so it becomes an audio player in the same manner as the Freebox Révolution Server.

If you want to store data to this device, you would need to use an external hard disk that is connected via eSATA or USB 3.0. This allows for it to be a central “data store” for the home network, including recording TV content from the Freebox Player Mini. As well like other Freebox devices, it has a single-line analogue-telephone adaptor along with a femtocell for mobile phones that are connected to Free’s mobile service.

The Freebox Player Mini is the first set-top box issued by a French telco to have the latest expectations. These include an RF remote which is based on Bluetooth 4.0 Smart technology, the ability to supply 4K video via its HDMI output along with the fact that it runs Google’s Android TV operating system. It also makes this set Google Cast ready and able to be a Chromecast box of sorts.

Another bonus that this set-top box has is voice guidance courtesy of a microphone integrated in to the remote control. There is also an SD card slot so you can quickly show your digital pictures straight from your camera’s SD card “film”.

The price for these devices is EUR€29.95 per month if you are setting them up as one of those legendary French “triple-play” services which encompasses phone calls to more than 100 countries, more than 200 TV channels on the TV, Freebox Replay catch-up TV, or full-on “hot-and-cold” running Internet. The Android-based Freebox Player Mini is available for an extra cost of EUR€2 if it is to be an extra set-top box for a Freebox Révolution setup.

What I see of these devices is that there is a willingness for the highly-competitive French Internet-service market to step forward but stick to commonly-known commonly-available standards rather than head off down their own paths.

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FCC passes rules to enforce Net Neutrality

Articles

US to enforce net neutrality – Strategy – Telco/ISP – News – iTnews.com.au

FCC Passes Strict Net Neutrality Regulations On 3-2 Vote | TechCrunch

FCC Votes ‘Yes’ on Strongest Net-Neutrality Rules | TIME

From the horse’s mouth

FCC

Press Release

My Comments

He's spoken up for Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service

He’s spoken up for Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service

I have previously given a fair bit of covered to the issue of Net Neutrality and competitive Internet service in the USA.

Now the FCC have voted 3:2 to pass rules that place Internet service providers in the USA under the remit of Title II of the US Communications Act. This treats them like regular communications services rather than as information services and proscribes discrimination of data traffic sent to their customers.

It has been part of an ongoing battle by FCC, human-rights organisations, technology lobby groups and Internet content providers against established telecommunications and cable-TV companies to assure a level playing field for Internet-hosted data traffic. This is because of the existence of “over-the-top” TV and telephony services like Netflix, Hulu, Skype and Viber offering services competing with established cable and telephone services.

The rules ban paid prioritisation and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services and are described as the “bright-line rules”. They also include forbearance so that certain rules like telephone operator service requirements don’t apply to data carriers like ISPs.

But, as I have observed, incumbent telecoms and cable-TV firms along with conservative pro-business reduced-government lobbies have been standing against the Title II rules. The counterclaims offered include increased government regulation of Internet service with the inability to innovate and I would see them being valid as long as sufficient and sustainable real competition exists in the Internet service market.

The other gap that hasn’t been looked at is establishing a mandate for universal broadband access especially in to rural areas where there isn’t the likelihood of gaining decent broadband service. This includes provision of this goal using cost-effective technology.

What then needs to happen is for action to take place to assure real competition for telecommunications, pay-TV and Internet service in the USA and to proscribe redlining of communities that are deemed to be unworthy of decent Internet service. This can be taken on not just by the FCC but by other federal government departments like the Department Of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.

What will also be interesting to see is whether these rules will withstand a legal challenge that Comcast, AT&T and the like put up in the US Supreme Court.

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Why FCC’s Tom Wheeler is not caving in to cable and telco pressure

Article

Net Fix: Why FCC’s Wheeler is ‘defying the greatest lobbyists in the world | CNet

My Comments

I had come across this interesting article in CNet about FCC’s current commissioner, Tom Wheeler and the way he is standing up for the consumer, real competition and Net Neutrality. There were people who were saying that he would cave in to the cable and telecommunications industry because of his work with them but he has determined that the end user is his customer.

In 1984, he was involved with the NABU idea which was a special home computer that would be connected to the cable TV infrastructure to deliver games and news information to consumers. This was a closed-loop system that required the use of particular equipment all the way. Compare this with Steve Case who had built up America Online which was centred around commonly-available home computers and modems along with the common telephone network. This was a service that led to and underpinned the dot-com era. The NABU system had to have him get permission from each and every cable operator to set that up in every market. This had given him a first-had experience of what happens to closed-loop telecommunications systems that don’t work on an open framework where you end up with them stifling innovation and them suddenly collapsing.

But Tom Wheeler got his hands wet with the nascent cable-TV industry where he lobbied against the NAB to build the service with programming and make it viable in the minds of consumers. This was where he met his wife Carol who was lobbying for the National Association Broadcasters.

His current reign as FCC Chairman has made him to be the equivalent of Joseph Kennedy Snr. in 1934 when he set up the Securities & Exchange Commision in the first bid to regulate Wall Street. Here, this was about standing up to powerful interests especially that of the US business moguls. It was also about getting things done at the FCC rather than the niceties, like what had happened in the UK at Ofcom when they humiliated British Telecom to provide competitors access to the local loop at reasonable prices.

But what has he done in his position as FCC Chairman?

  • He has had the e-rate program which provides tech finding to schools and libraries modernised. This has lead to it benefiting from US$45 billion of revenue from a wireless-spectrum auction that took place in January 2015.
  • He eliminated the decades-old sports-blackout rule concerning the broadcast of sports fixtures organised by the popular sports leagues like NFL. This was where TV stations and networks, including cable and satellite TV setups, couldn’t broadcast a sports fixture in the town it was played unless the match was sold out.
  • He raised the minimum bandwidth of an Internet service to be classed as a broadband service from 4Mb to 25Mb like what most of Europe calls a broadband service. This was to raise the game when it came to DSL services offered by the incumbent telcos.
  • He sided with T-Mobile to make AT&T and Verizon charge reasonable data-roaming rates for 4G LTE services
  • He is intending to pre-empt state laws which preclude the establishment of competing fixed-broadband infrastructure by cities, communities and competing operators
  • This is part of an effort by the FCC to bring teeth to the concept of Open Internet. Tom Wheeler even caused President Obama to take action to have broadband Internet deemed a Title II Utility in the same concept as fixed telephone service. This is where the service gains various legal protections and requirements

His term at the FCC is about the fact that he represents the US communications-service end user who is watching TV, listening to the radio, making calls on a fixed or mobile phone, or using a regular or mobile computing device  to benefit from the Internet.

Personally I see Chairman Tom Wheeler as someone who could bring the USA in to line with Britain, France and the Nordic countries where they don’t kowtow to established telecoms monopolies or cartels but bring forward real competition. His work could be underscored by the bodies at the Department Of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as a way to effectively shake up the telecommunications industry and stop it going backwards.

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New York State to raise the bar for US broadband

Article

New York State plots broadband future | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

New York State Government

Governor’s speech (video)

My Comments

The New York State government are taking the bull by the horns to raise the bar for broadband in New York State. This is a regional-government effort to counteract the way that the US broadband Internet service has been going downhill.

This may rattle some “established” cages regarding public funding for projects but they are pitching US$500 million towards public-private broadband-service improvement projects through the state. Here, they want a minimum bandwidth of 100Mbps for most of the state with, in some rural situations, 25Mbps. This is compared to a state average of around 6Mbps.

Albany is also soliciting local input to guide development so they know of unserved or underserved neighbourhoods; aggregate the demand across across business, institutional and residential usage sectors; identify and detail the most cost-effective ways to achieve this universal-access goal along with leveraging their state-owned assets. The goal of identifying the unserved and underserved areas works well also to combat any redlining that is taking place concerning service provision.

Any of the developments that are taking place will be worked to support a “dig once, make ready” policy so that any further work to improve the state’s broadband doesn’t require any further major work that would be costly.

Of course, a lot of these efforts put forward the idea of increased employment and business development in the areas concerned.

But they would need to encourage the provision of competitive broadband by allowing those other than the incumbent telcos or cable-TV firms to lay down infrastructure or provide broadband service to the state’s citizens.

Could this light up New York State for Broadband?

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President Obama speaks out for real competition in US Internet service

Article

Obama’s Plan to Loosen Comcast’s Stranglehold on Your Internet | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

The White House (US Government)

Report (PDF)

Video by Barack Obama

Click to view

My Comments

An issue that is constantly raised in the USA is the lack of real competition when it comes to Internet service provision.

This is because incumbent cable and telephone companies, especially Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, are using their lobbying power to influence state governments to proscribe competing interests like municipal Wi-Fi projects or Google Fiber from setting up infrastructure and service. Similarly, these companies effectively tie up fibre-optic and other backbone infrastructure also to prevent real competition. Here, this leads to an Internet service that simply is poor value-for-money due to prices that go up, reduced bandwidth, onerous terms and conditions and poor quality-of-service.

As illustrated in the video that President Barack Obama made regarding this topic, this limits the available throughput for Internet service and he compared the US situation to cities like Paris, France or Seoul, South Korea where they have the high-speed broadband.

He underscored the role of state and local government to pull their weight to support high-throughput last-mile Internet connections on a competitive level. Uncle Sam had already facilitated the backbone of the US Internet connection but he sees these governments being responsible for the connection to the customer’s door.

It also comes at a time where Comcast and Time-Warner Cable have registered an intent to merge and this is becoming a hot potato issue in the US due to the state of the Internet and pay-TV services that exist there.

One analogy I have used regarding the state of the US Internet service is that it is moving towards a similar standard to monopoly-era telephone service where a single privately-owned or government-owned post-office or telephone company looked after the telephone service. This led to situations like the poor quality of customer service, disinvestment in areas that weren’t considered profitable along with very high prices especially for service-provisioning costs or long-distance calls.

What I have liked about this is that someone “from the top” of the food chain is addressing the issue concerning the quality and value of Internet service in the USA.

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Four-play service competition intense on both sides of the Channel

Article

Brit mobile firms in FOURPLAY TUSSLE – how very French of them | The Register

My Comments

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

France and the UK have recently become hotbeds for Internet-service competition whether at a pure-play (single-service) level or with packages that integrate landline telephony, fixed broadband Internet and / or multichannel pay TV. Those companies typically are offering this service via a “single-pipe” setup with some of them reselling content and services from competitors who offer it on a wholesale basis if they can’t sell it directly.

This has been due to government telecommunications and competitive-trade authorities enforcing real competition through measures like stopping incumbent operators from selling wholesale service to competitors under unfair terms compared to their retail offerings. As well, in France, it took Free to offer broadband and triple-play packages with increased value at ridiculously-low prices to effectively “shake up” the market and start this level of competition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

The smartphone to be part of cost-effective home telecommunications and pay-TV packages in the UK

Now this is being expanded towards “four-play” or “quadruple-play” services that include mobile telecommunications along with the fixed telephony, “hot and cold running Internet” and pay TV. This is facilitated typically through their own mobile networks or buying mobile telecommunications from an established. typically pure-play, mobile operator on a wholesale basis as a “mobile virtual network”. Some companies may call the mobile broadband service as a distinct service and describe the packages that include this service as “five-play” or “quintuple-play” packages.

Over previous years, France has established an example of a healthy competitive market for this level of telecommunications and entertainment service. This is with all their telcos and broadband operators offering the “boxes” which integrated telephony, broadband and pay TV at some very keen prices, something I have covered regularly on HomeNetworking01.info. But most of these providers either have their own mobile infrastructure over the country or are putting themselves in a position to set up mobile virtual networks that they resell with their packages. An example of this is Free selling mobile telephony to their customers for an extra cost that is effectively “pennies’ worth”.

The way this level of service has come about for a lot of the UK operators is through varying levels of consolidation and business partnerships. A lot of these consolidations and partnerships have been with the companies who offer one or more services that can complement their own service packages to construct the “quad-play” package. But one of the situations that this has led to is for BT who sold off their Cellnet mobile-telephony service to O2 which is part of Spain’s Telefonica company in the 1990s, wanting to buy back the mobile network from this telco to run as the “mobile arm” of their quad-play package.

The directions that this could lead to include the availability of private femtocells that provide local mobile-phone coverage for the customer with the broadband connection serving as a backhaul or “cellular over Wi-Fi” for voice calls on one’s smartphone; TV Everywhere which is about access to the pay-TV packages anywhere in the country with your laptop or mobile device; and integrated landline / mobile telephony setups i.e. to receive calls destined to your landline on your mobile phone for no extra cost or call from home using your mobile phone at home-phone tariffs. As well, multiple-mobile-device Internet service could become very much part of the packages which can cater to those of us who maintain more than one mobile-broadband device like a “Mi-Fi” device.

Even integration of “over-the-top” telephony services like Skype and Viber could become the norm for these service providers by allowing customers to make or take calls through these services via either the mobile or the landline phone for nothing.

Other countries like the USA, Germany or Australia could be highly aware of this level of competition and know how to be prepared when it hits their shores or to know how to encourage it in a viable and sustainable manner.

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US President Obama takes action on Net Neutrality

Articles

Obama’s Plan To Save The Internet, Detailed | Gizmodo

Battle lines drawn: Obama’s net neutrality stance puts rift on display | Mashable

Radio Broadcast

Obama moves to bolster free flow of internet traffic | ABC The World Today (Listen here)

My Comments

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA common issue that is being raised in relationship with the Internet service in the USA is “Net Neutrality”. This is where there is the desire for any one who provides content to the Internet to gain access to the Internet’s bandwidth on an equal footing to each other.

It is in contrast to the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Communications who want to sell a faster pathway and guaranteed access to their subscribers’ bandwidth to companies who are willing to pay for it.

I have also seen the issue of Net Neutrality in a similar context to real service-provider competition in most of the USA. This is because one company, typically an incumbent telephony provider or cable-TV company provides Internet service to a neighbourhood via a particular technology. An example of this is Comcast providing cable TV and Internet via coaxial cable, along with AT&T providing landline telephony and DSL Internet service via telephone lines and, AT&T even providing cell phone (mobile phone) and mobile data via the airwaves in that same neighbourhood.

The situation that comes about in most US markets is that these companies establish cartels in order to control the service that people benefit from. Here, this has led to poor customer service and Internet-access packages that represent poor value-for-money, including the arrival of bandwidth-throttling for some cable-Internet services. This situation was leading towards an environment reminiscent of the telephony service in the US before the Carterfone decision and the enforced breakup of AT&T (Ma Bell) in the early 1980s.

Here, when you don’t have Net Neutrality and you have the status quo associated with uncompetitive Internet service, the companies can charge Internet content providers an arm and a leg to gain access to that neighbourhood.

This issue was going to take a long time to be sorted because the US politicians in both the Congress and the state governments were effectively being paid by “Big Business”. But Barack Obama, the US President, had taken action to have the FCC provide the level playing field for Internet service.

Here, he outlined a plan where there would be no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency and no paid prioritisation of Internet traffic. Here, he wanted to see the FCC place all Internet traffic on the same footing as telephone traffic by classifying it under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act which guarantees the reliability of telephone traffic, in a similar equivalence to having the broadband Internet treated as a “utility”.

One issue that would be of concern is that outgoing FCC commissioners would be heading to top positions in the US’s broadcasting and telecommunications firms especially if they did what these companies wanted. This is although the President of the United States Of America, as head-of-state and head-of-government is technically the FCC’s Commander-In-Chief and has that level of oversight.

At least a US President has had the guts to stand up for Net Neutrality, especially with a pro-consumer angle rather than pandering to “Big Money”.

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Google puts the wind up Comcast and Time Warner Cable

Article

Comcast, Time Warner boost net speeds in Google Fiber city – COINCIDENCE? | The Register

My Comments

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRegular readers will have noticed my comments about the lack of real competition in the US fixed broadband market thank you to very cosy deals arranged by incumbent cable-TV and telecommunications companies and various governments on a state and federal level.

Google have just rolled out their Google Fiber FTTP broadband service, known for offering headline data-transfer speeds of a gigabit each way, into Kansas City. Now Comcast and Time Warner Cable, for fear of hemorrhaging cable-broadband customers to Google, have upped their cable Internet service’s headline data-transfer speeds without charging their customers a single penny extra for the upgrade.

Issues have been raised about the pricing and customer-service behavior of cable-TV companies when they are faced with real competition beyond the DSL service offered by the incumbent telco. This has come in to play during discussions concerning the proposed merger between Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, as well as the issue of Net Neutrality.

As well, I would see the Google Fiber rollout as a boost for local government in Kansas City because the properties in the area that have Google Fiber past their doors become increasingly valuable to live in or do business there. It is a similar situation that has happened in various UK neighbourhoods where houses are assessed by prospective buyers on whether next-generation broadband is passing their doors or the property is connected to a next-generation broadband service.

Who knows what this means for other US cities who are pushing Google for their fibre-optic service?

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Allowing competitive infrastructure can help US broadband

Article

Killing Muni-Broadband Bans First Step to Helping U.S. Broadband | Broadband News & DSL Reports (USA)

My Comments

As previously covered, the US broadband Internet service is heading down the path of a poor-value service. This is due to very cosy duopolies and cartels that exist in providing this service on both the fixed and mobile platforms and are placing householders, small business and community organisations at a disadvantage.

This article is highlighting how the state governments are doing their bit to protect these cartels by passing laws that proscribe companies and local governments from deploying their own infrastructure to provide retail communications services in their neighbourhoods. These laws came about when various local governments were setting up free public-access Wi-Fi services for their constituents and this activity was disturbing the likes of Comcast and the Baby Bells.

But the issue is being highlighted again by Google launching their own Google Fiber service which has its own infrastructure and has an intent to provide next-generation broadband at next-generation speeds for rock-bottom prices. The same issue could be raised concerning a competing provider who uses other technologies like fixed wireless or even their own coaxial cable to raise the Internet bar in a neighbourhood.

Some of these efforts may be to either provide real broadband Internet to rural communities or enable disadvantaged communities to have access to high-quality broadband. It also is about igniting business development and sparking up residential and commercial property values in various neighbourhoods, especially where a lot of business is being conducted online.

What is being raised in this article is to have some form of oversight concerning the state laws affecting the deployment of municipal or other competing retail broadband services. Personally, I would like to see these laws looked at in the context of antitrust (competition) issues, because they have been architected to protect uncompetitive behaviour.

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