Tag Archives | Broadband

FiOS Goes Month-to-Month

Looking to better compete with cable, Verizon has announced that users will be able to sign up on month-to-month plans for its FiOS Internet, cable, and phone service. A contracted option would still be available, which would lock in prices for the duration of the contract. The move is aimed at eliminating one of the criticisms cable providers have leveled against it in advertising.

The cost to go month-to-month would be no more than having a contract, the company said.

Cable companies are looking to stoke the flames of resentment against the concept of early termination fees, which have become increasingly unpopular thanks to overzealous cell phone companies. There is good reason to fight back hard against FiOS: anecdotal evidence suggests cable rates decrease when FiOS is also available in the same area.

People are also looking for another option. In the places where it operates, on average FiOS holds a 25 percent market share.


Test (and Fix) Your Broadband Connection

There’s been a big kerfuffle since the FCC recently proposed to give broadband a goose.

If the National Broadband Plan goes as it should (and no, I’m not counting on it, either), almost everyone in the U.S. will get high-speed Internet access (the goal is 90% coverage); average speeds will increase by 20%; and everyone will get malware and viruses lots more quickly.

As it is, the U.S. is near the bottom of the broadband pile, with speeds averaging 2.5- to 10-megabits per second (Mbps); Japan, France, and Korea lead the pack at warp speeds ranging from 160 to 100-Mbps. Read BusinessWeek’s World’s Fastest Broadband; check some numbers from 2007; and if you’re a hard-core techie, dive into some OECD specs from 2009.

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FCC Begins Benchmarking ISPs’ Broadband Claims

The Federal Communications Commission has begun to benchmark Internet service speeds across the United States to allow consumer to compare the real world performance of their ISP with its advertised speeds. I’d like to see some action.

The program is under the aegis of the National Broadband Plan, which was created with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to accelerate broadband deployment in the United States. The FCC is gathering data down to the level of home address.

“The FCC’s new digital tools will arm users with real-time information about their broadband connection and the agency with useful data about service across the country,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement to Reuters. The benchmarks will be combined with other data and presented to Congress as part of the agency’s broadband proposal.

Consumers may visit the agency’s Broadband.gov Web page to run the rest from their PCs or download the FCC Broadband Test app for Android and the iPhone. (When I ran the test, a script froze Firefox 3.6 on my Mac to the point where I had to manually kill the process, but Safari worked without a hitch.)

The Broadband.gov test, which is powered by Ookla Net Metrics, mirrored the results given from other testing engines in my area. I have Time Warner’s Road Runner service in Manhattan. My results were: 9165kbps download speed/490 kbps upload speed.

Time Warner is cagey about putting its advertised speeds out on the Web. Its “Speeds Levels” page for Road Runner lists capabilities – not speeds. I had to look at the fine print for a comparison made with DSL services at the bottom of the page to see that it promises a standard download speed of up to 10 Mbps.

Typically, my speeds vary throughout the day. A Speakeasy speed test returned downstream results of 3.5Mbps yesterday afternoon. I informed Time Warner about the issue through its e-mail support, and received a boilerplate answer about resetting my modem and router as a response.

Hey FCC –how about some accountability with those benchmarks? Most Americans get broadband from regional monopolies or oligopolies, and I bet that their actual performance doesn’t always match what those providers advertise.

In October, the FCC concluded that open access to broadband infrastructure is a catalyst for competition and deals for consumers. That competition couldn’t come soon enough.

Now the FCC has the ammo to at least prompt better service levels. I am stuck with Time Warner. My only other option is Verizon, but my building isn’t wired for it–yet. More. Choice. Please.


Gizmodo’s Nationwide 3G Tests

What’s this about bloggers sitting around in pajamas regurgitating the work of real journalists? Gizmodo undertook an uncommonly ambitious project to test 3G wireless speeds in twelve U.S. cities, from New York City to Maui. The results? In a nutshell, AT&T was fastest overall, competing fiercely with Verizon Wireless for download dominance, and sweeping Giz’s upload tests. (The results are worth comparing with PC World’s somewhat similar tests from last Spring; PCW used different methodology in a different set of cities, so it’s no shocker that its conclusions weren’t identical.)

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Obama Set to Fund Broadband Expansion Initiative

The US government will be awarding $2 billion of federal stimulus money over the next 75 days to begin work to expand broadband to rural areas. The first $182 million is being distributed beginning today for 18 projects in 17 states, the Obama Administration said. Some $7.2 billion overall has been marked in the stimulus for work on broadband.

Government officials supporting the plan argue that the investment will stimulate the economy and create “tens of thousands of jobs.” The issue of unemployment has begun to nag the Adminstration, which for much of 2009 has been bogged down in the morass that has become health care reform.

Monies received through the broadband stimulus program may not be exactly for Internet access, however. Improvements to the electrical grid, work in electronic medical records, and high-speed rail projects are also set to receive some funds as a result of the move, officials say.

While I know some of Obama’s opponents will see this as a foolhardy way to spend money, I think it is a good idea to start investing in our broadband infrastructure. Lets put it this way: in the modern economy, broadband Internet access has become ever more vital to success. With the US falling behind globally, you could argue that our businesses are also suffering as well. Add to this the patchwork nature of our broadband footprint, and well, you get the point.

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House Republican Asks FCC to Stop Open Internet Vote

joe_bartonIf you’re a fan of net neutrality, meet your next enemy. Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has asked the FCC to stop a planned vote on open Internet rules.

PresidentObama has pushed for the change, and it appears as if it will pass, as Chairman Julius Genachowski apparently has the support of the commission’s two other Democrats, reports the WSJ.

Essentially, what these rules would do is make it illegal for ISPs to selectively slow down or block certain Internet content, while at the same time compelling them to reveal how their networks are managed. Barton sees this as a  problem apparently, and so do the big telcos.

He believes it would be “potentially catastrophic” to the broadband industry, which is a take that’s certainly at complete odds with about two dozen smaller providers who have lauded the imminent vote. To them, it offers a more level playing field and will be an impetus for growth.

Big telcos are complaining that this hampers their investments in the broadband network, and are pulling the Obama card–he’s a big proponent of nationwide broadband.

Wireless Internet is also covered by this proposal, which to date has been unregulated. Barton here believes such regulations would “retard the deployment” of the wireless web.

It’s hard to read here exactly who is right and wrong. In defense of the big telcos, these folks have spent quite a bit on building out broadband. Then again, sticking up for the little guy, a few companies control basically the entire US Internet, effectively shutting others out.

But why would the Republicans want to get on this side of the issue? After all, Obama’s broadband policy is intended to help those who many of these folks claim to represent–our rural citizenry and small business. Ah, politics in Washington these days.


Report: Open Broadband Access is Good for Competition

A report commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that open access to broadband infrastructure is a catalyst for competition. I hope that the research will be allowed to stand on its own, and that its effect will not be diluted by telecommunications lobbyists.

In the report, the FCC examined global broadband plans and practices in an effort to devise a better strategy for increasing high speed Internet access in the United States. It found that government regulation that obligates open access led to more options and better prices for consumers.

“The lowest prices and highest speeds are almost always offered by firms in markets where, in addition to an incumbent telephone company and a cable company, there are also competitors who entered the market, and built their presence, through use of open access facilities,” the study said.

I am not at all surprised by its findings. Most metropolitan areas within the U.S either have a monopoly carrier or regional duopolies. Whereas, European established public/private partnerships to roll out broadband infrastructure, and guaranteed open access.

As a resident of Manhattan, I have no other option but to buy my Internet access from Time Warner Cable. Time Warner has had little incentive to upgrade its systems.

Consequently, it is not a very good service, and customer support is a nightmare. Verizon has begun to install FIOS in some parts of the city, but the service is not available for me yet. I want more competition.

Fortunately, that competition could be on its way. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included a long overdue investment to deliver broadband access throughout the U.S. Companies such as IBM are working with the government to create new technologies as part of that effort. Open access should be made a requirement.


Is Broadband a Basic Human Right?

Bill of RightsIntoMobile is reporting that our friends in Finland will soon get access to broadband Internet access as a basic legal right. Starting next July, a 1-Mbps connection will be mandated; by the end of 2015, a 100-Mbps one will be required. The story doesn’t say whether these connections are guaranteed to be free, or who’s providing them.

Of course, I live in America, a country that can’t figure out how to provide healthcare to everyone, so I’m guessing that universal broadband isn’t coming anytime soon. (And me, I’d vote for putting that particular “right” off until the health thing is resolved, okay?)

What’s your take?


Virgin America Aircell Gogo In-Flight WiFi

While I’m a little late to this particular mile high club, I finally experienced the joy of in-flight WiFi last Friday. Unlike Boeing’s now defunct Connexion satellite solution, it appears that most domestic airlines are utilizing Aircell’s Gogo service – essentially 3G EVDO connectivity in the sky. On my cross country Virgin America flight, the prices for Internet access were more than reasonable: $13 for a laptop or $8 for a handheld. Although, as we discovered, we didn’t need to pay for each device, periodically swapping the connection between Macbook, iPhone, and Blackberry.

Not only were Gogo’s download speeds (and latency) perfectly suitable for typical web browsing, I also had no probs with SD YouTube video (above). In fact, after seeing how quickly the buffer filled, I gave HD a shot. Giving it a minute to build a buffer worked out fine as well. (In fact, I’m more stoked than ever about Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2. Come November 10th, you can safely expect a period of blog silence.)

Officially, in-flight VoIP is restricted. Which is probably a good thing given how loudly most folks talk into their cell phones. However, when Melissa connected her 8900 Curve to check for email, T-Mobile’s UMA service automatically kicked in. I wouldn’t say it was very usable, with frequent audio drop outs, but the fact that she could check voicemail from 36,000 feet was inspiring.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)

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