Broadband News 2016-05-12

Periodically we’ll share top news stories on broadband Internet topics from around the Internet. Have a story to recommend? Share it in the comments, tweet it to us, or contact us.

Internet outages and early termination fees: Frontier customers get shafted // ARS TECHNICA
Florida’s Attorney General has issued formal requests for concessions from Frontier Communications for customers across the state following tremendous problems after Frontier took over big parts of Verizon’s copper and fiber infrastructure. The AG is seeking refunds and major service repairs at all levels of technical and customer service.

fccConsumer groups press FCC on privacy regulations covering broadband Internet // POLIMEDIA
A coalition of a dozen consumer advocacy and privacy groups are demanding congressional and regulatory action to protect consumers against the asymmetric power broadband providers have over consumer privacy (or lack thereof). The formal letter included: “Consumers can choose to subscribe to a website or online service, but if they are to remain connected to jobs, health care, education, and the global economy, consumers have no choice but to use a [broadband] service. If consumers cannot trust their broadband provider to protect their content and personal information, the result could be an erosion of consumer privacy and chilling of online speech.”

Cable lobby group: Broadband competition is bad for customers // ARS TECHNICA
A lobbying group paid by smaller cable carriers is pressing the FCC for relief from recent demands for a more competitive broadband landscape. The new competition requirements were aimed at Charter and were included in the conditions for the Charter / Time Warner Cable merger approval. Basically, Charter is required to build services in some areas already served by competing broadband carriers, thereby generating more competition for customers by forcibly opening up some markets. The smaller carriers are most upset by these requirements because, as stated by one of the Republican commissioners at the FCC: “[U]nless Charter chooses to exclusively overbuild areas served by Comcast, which I find highly unlikely, Charter’s increased broadband market share will come at the expense of smaller competitors.”

google-fiberGoogle Fiber is just getting warmed up // BGR
In this case BGR summarized a much larger feature report by re/code (Google Fiber is the most audacious part of the whole Alphabet) in which it’s revealed that the Google Fiber division of Alphabet has some big wireless Internet plans coming, mostly because they’ve run into such big problems deploying fiber. Fiber has lots of regulatory, political, and physical costs and makes deployment very slow. So Google is experimenting with new wireless technologies, including some 28GHz frequency systems. Those frequencies are far higher than typical 4G / LTE systems, so their range is much more limited, but their throughput can be much higher. Google’s strategy, according to BGR: “Google’s core services rely on people having fast, reliable service. It rightly sees that incumbent ISPs have for years failed to do that and is taking matters into its own hands.”

starryThis guy has an idea to deliver cheap, super-fast internet to your home // TECH INSIDER / BUSINESS INSIDER
One of the key concepts of the next wave of broadband deployment is that wireless may be a faster/better way to reach more customers, boost competition, and reduce costs of mass deployment. In this case, it’s a millimeter wave wireless technology being developed by a startup company called Starry. It requires new gear in the home (that has to sit outside the walls of your home), but they hope to “…offer two tiers of speeds for customers, with the entry-level plan delivering about 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds. The top-tier plan could deliver speeds up to a gigabit per second.” But don’t get excited yet — the signals may require line-of-sight and may only reach perhaps 200 meters from the source tower. Real-world testing starts this summer in Boston.

How would you like a top speed of 4 Mbps?

There was a nice piece in Ars Technica this week discussing some federal, um… disagreements on what constitutes broadband when it comes to taxpayer-funded connectivity initiatives, especially in rural areas where the USDA is making grants. Would you be happy with 4 Mbps?

Not really “broadband” — US grant program has 4Mbps speed standard
http://arstechnica.com/business/2016/05/4mbps-still-the-standard-for-one-government-broadband-grant-program/

The article also notes that different federal agencies have different “broadband” definitions, including the FCC which only recently raised their definition from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps.

While most Dublin residents enjoy speeds much higher than 4 Mbps, we’re not that far off in some cases, especially in areas where aging DSL is the only option — provided over deteriorating copper infrastructure that carriers are failing to upgrade. At least one resident at the late April public forum noted Frontier Communications has been particularly unhelpful in providing reliable or speedy access at their western Dublin home.