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Sling TV Sees Impressive Growth, But Dish Remains in Trouble -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:00:03 EDT -

Dish's latest earnings report indicates that while Dish continues to bleed traditional satellite TV subscribers, it now has 2.2 million subscribers for its Sling TV live streaming video service. It's the first time Sling has formally broken out its subscriber tallies for the streaming service, normally preferring to avoid breaking them out to downplay erosion of its traditional video base. And that erosion continues undaunted: Dish lost 121,000 traditional satellite TV subscribers last quarter, ending the quarter with 13.2 million total video subscribers -- down from 13.7 million subscribers last year.

Dish apparently hoped to sooth investors' nerves by highlighting the fact it saw a 47% growth in streaming video subscribers over the last year.

The problem: Sling TV subscribers pay significantly less money per month than traditional video subscribers. Dish deserves credit for offering a cheaper, more flexible product, something many cable companies avoid for fear of cannibalizing their traditional cable subscriber bases. But the lack of a wireless service (like AT&T and Verizon) limits Dish's growth potential. And while Dish has claimed it's considering such a service, an actual product remains perpetually out of reach.

Analysts continue to argue that Dish's high debt load and limited growth opportunities will most certainly be trouble for Charlie Ergen's company. Many analysts believe a Dish sale is all but inevitable by somebody eager to hoover up the company's hoarded spectrum assets (something many believe was Charlie Ergen's plan all along).

Folks like Pivotal Research Group CEO Jeff Wlodarczak believe that T-Mobile is the natural fit.

"If T-Mobile is able to get Dish spectrum it would put them in a far better position spectrum-wise than Verizon, which would allow them to accelerate the market share gains they are already making," Wlordarczak argued. "In addition, the size of Dish s video base would give T-Mobile leverage to start their own DirecTV-Now like service (recall they just bought a small player in the area). I believe if T-Mobile goes for Dish it could put pressure on Verizon to come over the top with a more aggressive bid."

Amazon has also been tossed around as a potential merger partner, though nothing appears to have come from the rumors.
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FCC Net Neutrality Repeal to be Published Thursday -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:00:03 EDT -

The FCC's extremely-unpopular repeal of net neutrality protections will be formally published tomorrow, acting as the starting gun for the flurry of lawsuits headed the agency's direction. Sources tell Reuters the repeal should be published in the Federal Register as of tomorrow, formally opening the door to lawsuits by consumer groups, Mozilla, 22 state attorneys general and other interested parties. The publication also begins a 60-legislative-day deadline to attempt to reverse the repeal using the Congressional Review Act, an uphill climb that requires a majority vote in the Senate & House, as well as the signature of President Trump.
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Atlanta, Dallas & Austin Will be AT&T's First 5G Cities -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:00:02 EDT -

AT&T says that Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, Texas, will be the first cities to receive AT&T's ultra-fast, low-latency fifth generation (5G) wireless service when it launches by the end of this year. The new information comes on the heels of an AT&T announcement in January that the company would be launching some form of 5G in at least a dozen markets this year. That said, these early deployments will be glorified betas, and most analysts believe that seriously commercial deployment of faster 5G broadband isn't expected until at least 2020.

AT&T's full announcement continues to imply that broad deployment will arrive more quickly than that.

"After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G -- and do it much sooner than most people thought possible," said Igal Elbaz, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design. "Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all."

AT&T took heat last year for trying to call 4x4 MIMO antennas and 256 QAM "5G Evolution," despite neither technology having anything to do with 5G.

This will presumably be somewhat different as AT&T tests early 5G hardware, but without the company offering more specifics it's hard to tell. Again, expect these launches to be more trials than full commercial market launches. To help AT&T the company says it has opened a new "5G lab" in Austin, Texas.

AT&T has previously stated that the company has seen speeds up to 14 Gbps in trials of fixed 5G technology, which may someday prove beneficial to AT&T DSL customers the company refuses to upgrade. The company has been conducting trials of pre-standard 5G fixed wireless gear in Austin and Waco, Texas, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and South Bend, Indiana since last year.

"We re moving quickly to begin deploying mobile 5G this year and start unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses," AT&T says of its planned offering. "With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more."

The million dollar question for most users remains unanswered: how much you'll pay for this faster service, and just what kind of usage limitations will be placed on the network.
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Wednesday Morning Links -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 06:40:02 EDT -

AT&T picks Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco as first 5G cities, Austin for 5G test lab venturebeat.com
How SpaceX plans to bring speedy broadband to the whole world cnet.com
FCC reversal of net neutrality rules expected to be published Thursday reuters.com
Ahead of SpaceX Starlink launch, T-Mobile asks FCC to auction satellite spectrum for 5G use venturebeat.com
FCC Broadband Availability Data Derided As Inaccurate, 'Shameful' techdirt.com
FairPoint Brand is Formally Retired, Consolidated Focuses on Upgrading Broadband telecompetitor.com
Stakes Run High for Tivo in Comcast Suit lightreading.com
Small Cells to Play Big Role in Charter s Mobile Future multichannel.com
AT&T s attempt to buy Time Warner suffers a blow in court arstechnica.com
Trump Proposal Could Provide as Much as $40 Billion for Rural Broadband (At Least in Theory) telecompetitor.com
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AT&T Expands 10 Mbps Fixed Wireless With 160 GB Cap -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:00:03 EDT -

AT&T continues to slowly but surely expand the company's 10 Mbps fixed wireless service into additional states. Announced last April, AT&T's creatively-named "Fixed Wireless Internet" service features a 10 Mbps LTE connection with a 160 GB monthly cap. From there, users pay $10 per each 50GB of additional data consumed -- up to a maximum of $200 per month. The service costs $60 per month with a one-year contract, or $70 per month without a contract (and after the contract period expires).

Users that sign a contract and bundle the service with AT&T wireless or DirecTV will pay $50 per month, or $60 per month without a contract. The $99 installation fee is also waived if you sign up for DirecTV.

Originally only available in Atlanta and select portions of Georgia, the company expanded the offering into Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee last fall. This week, the company stated the fixed wireless offering was recently expanded to reach 70,000 Rural Locations in Parts of 61 Counties across Mississippi. AT&T says it has also pushed fiber to the home to 60,000 locations across the state.

All told, AT&T says it's now offering the fixed wireless service in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

The trials are being fed by AT&T's existing LTE towers, but utlitize WCS (Band 30) 2.3 GHz spectrum for connectivity. The offering is AT&T's alternative to upgrading countless DSL customers (predominately in rural areas), a practice most telcos have been routinely criticized for.

Those interested in the service as a potential alternative to satellite or traditional mobile wireless can check availability and get some additional detail from this AT&T website.
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Networking 101: Packet Switching -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 08:30:03 EDT -

Anyone that has used the internet will have a basic knowledge that data is being transferred back and forth, or more properly termed download and upload between their device, the internet, and ultimately a server. However, they may not realize the technology of how the data is actually moving.

The way that data gets moved is via packet switching, and forms the basis for digital data communication. This is a technique that breaks the data into pieces, better known as packets or datagrams, which follow a standard format for digital transmission. By dividing the data into smaller pieces, this facilitates for an efficient transfer of information.

The packet contains not only the data to be sent, but also routing information. This additional routing information has several components, including:
• The address of the destination
• The address for the source
• The total count of the packets
• The sequence number

This additional information then serves to reassemble the data at the destination device. By having the total count of the packets, and their order, it allows the receiving computer to reorganize the data into the correct order at the destination.

The system is designed so that the data can tolerate out-of-order delivery. This commonly occurs as the different packets end up taking different routes due to multiple possible pathways, and variable network congestion along the way with variable latency as the packets of data traverse multiple nodes, and are forwarded. Packet switching is connectionless, as there is not one dedicated pathway between the devices transmitting and receiving the data.

The alternate to connectionless packet switching is connection-oriented packet switching, which also gets termed virtual circuit switching. In connection-oriented packet switching the data is transmitted over a predefined route, in the correct order. For this type of communication, a bidirectional environment needs to be present as a handshake is required so that the end-to-end connection gets defined. This gets called a reliable connection as it guarantees that all the data gets sent, and in the correct order.

However, both our LAN s, and the Internet are connectionless networks, and therefore the Ethernet and IP are also connectionless. Here there is no requirement of a dedicated session between the sender and the receiver. While there is no guarantee of delivery on the level of the network, this allows maximization of the bandwidth. However, the connection-oriented services can now get handled via the TCP, or Transport Control Protocol, as well as other protocols including X.25, Frame Relay or Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

Sending these data packets across the network, and through the Internet makes the process susceptible to congestion as the network gets overloaded. This results in ISP s implementing traffic shaping solutions to deal with this network congestion, and maintain a Quality of Service (QoS). Manipulating the data packets to avoid congestion is a process known as Packet Shaping, or Traffic Shaping, with the overall goal of maximizing the network experience for the majority of users.

Packet switching is a key component of our communications across digital networks. Feel free to discuss future directions, opinions and challenges for this important technology.

This article was contributed by the DSLReports.com community. If you'd like to receive payment for writing content like this for our front page, please drop us a line.
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Hulu Takes Heat For Olympics Streaming Issues -
Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:00:03 EDT -

Hulu is taking plenty of heat after numerous technical glitches impacted users trying to watch the Olympics and the NBA All Star game. Hulu was just recovering from outage complaints by users trying to watch the Superbowl when the problems surfaced over the weekend, ranging from connection time outs to authentication issues. The @Hulu_Support Twitter account spent the weekend inundated by users that not only complained about the outage, but complained that the company stated issues were resolved when they weren't fixed yet.

Hulu acknowledged the problems on Twitter, but failed to provide any real technical explanation for the problems.

»twitter.com/hulu_support ··· game%2F

»twitter.com/hulu_support ··· game%2F

»twitter.com/Mike_Cerar/s ··· -game%2F

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AT&T Whines, Files Complaint Over T-Mobile Holiday Ad -
Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:00:03 EDT -

AT&T has filed complaint over a holiday T-Mobile ad that compared AT&T to "the abominable snowman" while stating the company "only cared about silver and gold and how to take it from the people of the world." The ad in question, a riff of old holiday claymation specials, features an animated T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who travels to the "Island of Misfit CEOs" to help save consumers from the "abominable carriers." The ad features clips from numerous news reports regarding how AT&T and Verizon routinely nickel and dime their customers.

Apparently not realizing it would only drive more people to view the ad, AT&T complained about the ad to the National Advertising Division -- a self-regulatory watchdog group operated by the Better Business Bureau.

AT&T's complaint insists that the animated spot made "unsubstantiated, false, and misleading claims," and "disparages and denigrates AT&T." You can determine that for yourself:


As we've long noted the NAD process is arguably toothless. The NAD process is a self regulatory system where cases can be handed off to the FTC for false advertising enforcement, but punishment for false advertising is all but nonexistent. Most ads have already run and had their impact by the time competitors get around to retracting misleading claims.

It's understandable then that NAD issued a statement saying it would be forwarding the debate to the FTC after T-Mobile declined to participate in the proceeding.

"In response to NAD s inquiry, T-Mobile denied that the video made any claims about present business practices and argued that it did not represent the kind of advertising that NAD was designed to review," the group said. "T-Mobile requested that NAD administratively close the proceeding pursuant to ASRC procedures, arguing that AT&T s challenge was without sufficient merit to warrant the expenditure of NAD s resources."

The complaint will now be forwarded to the FTC, which isn't likely to do much about the ad. It's also worth noting that AT&T's currently in court trying to argue that the FTC has no real authority over broadband ISPs anyway. Legere was quick to make fun of the entire affair on Twitter.

»twitter.com/JohnLegere/s ··· 3168256

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Minnesota Opens Inquiry Into Frontier Billing, Service Issues -
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:40:03 EDT -

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is opening an investigation into Frontier after numerous consumer billing complaints. Local news outlets indicate that "a large volume" of complaints regarding to improper billing and horrible customer service remain unresolved, forcing the government to launch its investigation. Minnesota has also been at the lead of numerous lawsuits filed against CenturyLink for intentionally over-billing subscribers.

"Between January 2017 and January 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission s Consumer Affairs Office (CAO) received a large volume of complaints related to the service quality, customer service, and billing practices of Frontier Communications," the state indicates. "After attempts to mediate these complaints, many of them remain unresolved."

Frontier remains under pressure after it bungled the company's acquisition of Verizon network assets in Florida, California and Texas. And while those problems may have eased in recent months, many Wall Street analysts believe Frontier is headed toward bankruptcy thanks to a steady stream of defecting subscribers and mounting debt from recent acquisitions, many of which saddled the company with aging copper phone lines and dwindling subscriber rolls.

The Minnesota Commerce Department has created a docket that will help the agency track consumer complaints about the ISP. Impacted users in Minnesota hoping to aid the inquiry can share their billing and support stories by e-mailing consumer.puc@state.mn.us, and referencing the docket number, 18-122.
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Tuesday Morning Links -
Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:40:02 EDT -

AT&T making the most out of copper infrastructure with G.fast rcrwireless.com
Startup company Altaeros working on 'SuperTowers' - Broadband blimps equal to (as many as) 30 conventional towers aimed at easing LTE deployment challenges in rural communities telecompetitor.com
T-Mobile Injects AI Into Customer Service lightreading.com
CableLabs-Cisco Trial Successfully Extends Bridge Between DOCSIS and LTE multichannel.com
AT&T files complaint against T-Mobile over claymation John Legere video androidauthority.com
Cincinnati Bell expands fiber network to 70% of city fiercetelecom.com
C Spire 5G fixed wireless test to feature 3.65 GHz spectrum, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr will attend prnewswire.com
Judge rules Charter must face New York slow-Internet lawsuit yahoo.com
I tried cutting the cord with Sling TV for a month - here's why I returned to cable businessinsider.com
35% of Winter Olympics fans are watching online netimperative.com

Charter Fails to Wiggle Out of Lawsuit Over Slow Speeds -
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:38:51 EDT -

Early last year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Charter Communications (Spectrum) for, among other things, knowingly selling broadband speeds company executives knew they couldn't provide. The lawsuit alleged all manner of shady behavior by the cable giant, from admissions that it was actively gaming FCC efforts to measure speeds (via the custom-firmware embedded routers the FCC uses for said purpose), to acknowledging that it was considering actively causing congestion at interconnection points to drive up costs for transit and content companies.

Charter had tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing, among other things, that states lack the authority to hold ISPs accountable under consumer protection law.

Today the Supreme Court for the State of New York disagreed. In a ruling (pdf) Justice O. Peter Sherwood of state Supreme Court in Manhattan stated that Charter must head to trial to defend itself against State AG allegations that the company systematically misled customers by advertising speeds executives were caught on e-mail admitting they knew they couldn't deliver.

The AG's inquiry found that Charter speeds for its premium plan (100, 200, and 300 Mbps) were up to 70% slower than promised. The lawsuit alleges that WiFi speeds were even slower, claiming that many subscribers get WiFi speeds that are more than 80% slower than what was advertised. The complaint notes that Spectrum-TWC charged New Yorkers as much as $109.99 per month for premium plans, but couldn't actually deliver what was advertised.

But the lawsuit also catches Charter executives on e-mail admitting they were interested in gaming the SamKnows FCC router program in order to trick regulators and customers into believing they were getting the speeds they pay for. E-mails also hint that Charter execs considered letting peering points congest as part of a widespread industry attempt to kill settlement free peering and drive up costs for competitors like Netflix. You might recall that incumbent ISPs like Charter, Verizon and Comcast breathlessly denied this practice a few years ago after Netflix, Level3, and Cogent accused them of the practice and Netflix customer streaming performance began to mysteriously degrade.

Charter has also been under fire lately after its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, a deal Charter repeatedly promised would deliver untold "synergies" to consumers, resulted in fewer network upgrades, higher prices, and even worse customer service than the cable giant was already known for. Charter was also fined $13 million by regulators for failing to adhere to the modest deployment conditions attached to the deal.

"The allegations in our lawsuit confirm what millions of New Yorkers have long suspected--Charter-Spectrum has been ripping you off, promising internet speeds it simply could not deliver" said Schneiderman in a statement. "The law requires internet service providers to tell consumers the truth. Our suit seeks much-needed relief for the millions of New Yorkers we allege have been cheated by Charter-Spectrum for far too long. Now, we look forward to vindicating New York consumers in court as our case proceeds toward trial."
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Comcast Eyes 3.5 GHz Wireless Trials in Philly -
Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:30:03 EDT -

A new Comcast filing indicates that Comcast is interested in offering wireless broadband using the 3.5 GHz CBRS band. The request to the FCC, first spotted by Fierce Wireless, suggests that Comcast may be interested in using the band to lower the costs of using Verizon Wireless as backup for their existing MVNO offerings. Countless other companies, including T-Mobile, Charter, Google and AT&T, have already conducted experiments using the band, a 150 MHz-wide batch of spectrum in the range of 3.55 GHz to 3.7 GHz previously largely used by the Navy.

"Comcast will conduct outdoor and indoor fixed and mobile testing in a small targeted portion of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, market within its service territory. Specifically, testing will be conducted within a 7 km radius," the company said in its application with the FCC.

"The field test will evaluate coverage, throughput, and mobility of equipment and facilities operating in the CBRS band to obtain data and advance Comcast s understanding of the full potential of the technology and equipment utilized in these experimental operations," Comcast added. "The field testing will also evaluate the performance of pre-commercial equipment in the CBRS band."

The trials come as analysts are already questioning the high costs and so far relatively modest returns from the company's pricey expansion into wireless services. Comcast isn't alone in its interest however, as Charter has also expressed interest in using the band to potentially offer fixed wireless broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps.

Both Charter and Comcast are also interested in the band to potentially lower the costs of their existing wireless services. Those services currently lean heavily on the cable companies' existing footprint of WiFi networks, but both Charter and Comcast pay Verizon Wireless a significant sum to utilize Verizon Wireless' network as a backup option when users are outside of WiFi range.
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