Archive for the ‘broadband’ Category

UK government buys chunk of bankrupt Starlink competitor, OneWeb

November 22nd, 2020
Promotional image of Web device.

Enlarge / A OneWeb receiver. (credit: OneWeb)

The UK has entered the increasingly competitive race to become a global satellite Internet provider after taking control of failed space startup OneWeb with Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal.

The low-Earth-orbit-satellite operator emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday and will now seek a further $1.25 billion through debt or equity to achieve its ambitious medium-term goal of launching a global commercial Internet service by 2022 focusing on remote areas.

It will face well-funded rivals, including ventures led by SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

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Posted in broadband, Internet, Policy, satellite broadband, space | Comments (0)

Broadband power users explode, making data caps more profitable for ISPs

November 13th, 2020
An illustration of $100 bills being sucked into an Internet connection.

Data cap cash. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

The number of broadband "power users"—people who use 1TB or more per month—has doubled over the past year, ensuring that ISPs will be able to make more money from data caps.

In Q3 2020, 8.8 percent of broadband subscribers used at least 1TB per month, up from 4.2 percent in Q3 2019, according to a study released yesterday by OpenVault. OpenVault is a vendor that sells a data-usage tracking platform to cable, fiber, and wireless ISPs and has 150 operators as customers worldwide. The 8.8- and 4.2-percent figures refer to US customers only, an OpenVault spokesperson told Ars.

More customers exceeding their data caps will result in more overage charges paid to ISPs that impose monthly data caps. Higher usage can also boost ISP revenue because people using more data tend to subscribe to higher-speed packages.

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Posted in AT&T, Biz & IT, broadband, Comcast, data caps, openvault, Policy | Comments (0)

What using AT&T’s 768kbps DSL is like in 2020—yes, it’s awful

November 6th, 2020
A snail resting on a computer mouse, to illustrate slow Internet service.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Synergee)

Millions of Americans live in broadband deserts with no access to anything resembling modern Internet service. But few people have it as bad as those who must rely on AT&T's ancient DSL network.

Kathie McNamee of Raymond, Mississippi is one of those unlucky AT&T DSL customers. McNamee said she pays AT&T $35 a month for a 768kbps Internet plan that rarely works well enough to be usable for her, her husband, and two teenage sons. McNamee contacted Ars after reading a story about AT&T incorrectly claiming that certain homes in Mississippi had access to broadband when in fact AT&T isn't capable of providing service to those addresses.

AT&T has received over $283 million from the Federal Communications Commission since 2015 to extend home-Internet service to over 133,000 potential customer locations in Mississippi. AT&T says it will exceed that requirement by the end-of-2020 deadline, but the company's mapping mistakes have led to unpleasant surprises for customers who thought they'd get modern broadband.

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Posted in AT&T, Biz & IT, broadband, DSL, fiber, pandemic, Policy | Comments (0)

The tech antitrust problem no one is talking about

October 31st, 2020

After years of building political pressure for antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies, this month Congress and the US government delivered. The House Antitrust Subcommittee released a report accusing Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook of monopolistic behavior. The Department of Justice filed a complaint against Google alleging the company prevents consumers from sampling other search engines.

The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

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Posted in AT&T, broadband, Charter, Comcast, Competition, Policy, verizon | Comments (0)

Pai’s FCC squeezes in one more vote against net neutrality before election

October 27th, 2020
FCC members Brendan Carr, Michael O'Rielly, and Chairman Ajit Pai participating in a panel discussion.

Enlarge / FCC Republican members (L-R) Brendan Carr, Michael O'Rielly, and Chairman Ajit Pai participate in a discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2018 in Maryland. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

The Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission took another vote against net neutrality rules today in its last meeting before a presidential election that could swing the FCC back to the Democratic party.

Today's vote came a year after a federal appeals court upheld FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules and deregulation of the broadband industry. Though Pai was mostly victorious in the case, the judges remanded portions of the repeal back to the FCC because the commission "failed to examine the implications of its decisions for public safety," failed to "sufficiently explain what reclassification [of ISPs] will mean for regulation of pole attachments," and did not address concerns about the effect deregulation would have on the FCC's Lifeline program, which subsidizes phone and Internet access for low-income Americans.

The FCC approved its response to the court's remand instructions in a 3-2 vote today, but didn't make any significant changes. "After thoroughly reviewing the record compiled in response to its request for additional comment on these issues, the FCC found no basis to alter the FCC's conclusions in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order," the commission said in its announcement. "The Order on Remand finds that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order promotes public safety, facilitates broadband infrastructure deployment by Internet service providers, and allows the FCC to continue to provide Lifeline support for broadband Internet access service." A draft version of the decision is available here.

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Posted in ajit pai, broadband, common carrier, FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy, Title II | Comments (0)

With Starlink, SpaceX continues to push the bounds of reusing rockets

October 19th, 2020
A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Starlink-13 mission on October 18.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Starlink-13 mission on October 18. (credit: SpaceX)

A Falcon 9 rocket ascended into the blue skies above Florida on Sunday morning, and much of the space world barely took notice.

Sure, it was fairly early on a Sunday, and many Americans were not even yet out of bed. But there's a deeper reality here: SpaceX has made launching rockets almost seem routine. The company's vice president of reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, once told me that one of his goals was to take the "magic" out of rocket launches. And the company seems to be succeeding.

SpaceX is also succeeding at reuse. Sunday morning's launch used a Falcon 9 first stage that has already flown into space five times. This is the second time SpaceX has used a first stage a total of six times, and next year it is likely to reach ten uses of its rocket. And then there is the payload fairing. For the first time, SpaceX was able use each of these fairing halves for a third time.

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Posted in broadband, musk, science, space flight, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

House OKs $100B broadband plan with $50 monthly discounts for poor people

July 2nd, 2020
A map of the United States with lines and dots to represent broadband networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bonilla1879)

The US House of Representatives yesterday approved $100 billion worth of broadband funding as part of a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill.

The broadband portion is modeled on the Democrats' "universal fiber" plan we wrote about last week. The plan includes $80 billion in fiscal year 2021, money that the Federal Communications Commission would use to fund high-speed broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas. Funded projects would have to provide 100Mbps download and upload speeds, along with low latencies, conditions that would spur fiber-to-the-home development.

The bill has additional money for broadband-deployment loans, grants for states to pursue digital-inclusion projects, Wi-Fi on school buses, and network equipment for schools and libraries. It also includes a $9 billion Broadband Connectivity Fund to provide $50 monthly discounts for low-income broadband users, and $75 monthly discounts for low-income households in Tribal lands. The broadband portions of the infrastructure bill are in this set of amendments.

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Posted in Biz & IT, broadband, Democrats, FCC, Policy | Comments (0)

$100 billion “universal fiber” plan proposed by Democrats in Congress

June 25th, 2020
A US map with lines representing communications networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | metamorworks)

House Democrats yesterday unveiled a $100 billion broadband plan that's gaining quick support from consumer advocates.

"The House has a universal fiber broadband plan we should get behind," Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Legislative Counsel Ernesto Falcon wrote in a blog post. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, saying it has more than 30 co-sponsors and "invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting Internet service is affordable." The bill text is available here.

In addition to federal funding for broadband networks with speeds of at least 100Mbps downstream and upstream, the bill would eliminate state laws that prevent the growth of municipal broadband. There are currently 19 states with such laws. The Clyburn legislation targets those states with this provision:

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Posted in broadband, congress, Democrats, Policy, republicans, Universal broadband, universal fiber | Comments (0)

Despite 100GB video games, average download times are decreasing

June 9th, 2020

Anyone who downloads games regularly probably has a complaint about just how long it takes to download some of the bigger big-budget titles these days. Unless you want to buy your games on a physical disc or cartridge (or use a streaming gaming service), playing a new game these days means budgeting time for the raw files to get onto your system from centralized servers.

At a quick glance, it can feel like this problem is getting worse over time. Take a look at Red Dead Redemption 2 and Final Fantasy VII, for instance; two recent high-profile games that each push past a whopping 85GB for their PS4 downloads. The coming release of The Last of Us Part 2 continues the trend, with marketing materials warning that players will need 100GB of hard drive space. That's a big change from 2013, when a 50GB PS4 game download was considered shockingly large.

Those examples notwithstanding, though, the data shows that US console gamers are generally spending less time than ever downloading popular console games. In fact, an analysis conducted by Ars confirms that average broadband download speeds in the United States have been increasing faster than average game sizes for years now.

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Posted in broadband, Download size, Gaming & Culture, speed | Comments (0)

Democrats try to ban Internet shutoffs until pandemic is over

May 12th, 2020
A US map with lines representing communications networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | metamorworks)

A proposed US law would make it illegal for telecom providers to terminate Internet or phone service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was submitted in the Senate today by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"Now—as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning—would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like Internet service," Merkley said in an announcement.

Separately, House Democratic leadership today unveiled a $3 trillion relief package that includes at least $4 billion for an "emergency broadband connectivity fund." That money, if approved, would be given to ISPs that provide discounts to low-income households and people who lose their jobs. Subsidies would be up to $50 a month for most low-income households and up to $75 for households in tribal areas. Another $1.5 billion would be allotted to Wi-Fi hotspots and other telecom equipment for schools and libraries.

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Posted in broadband, Democrats, pandemic, Policy, Senate | Comments (0)