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Weekend Open Thread -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:38:11 EDT

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CBS Still 'Threatening' Internet Video Service if Aereo Wins -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:59:36 EDT

You might recall last year that CBS joined in a chorus of broadcaster pouting and empty threats in regards to Aereo, proclaiming that they'd pull their network from over the air broadcasts and move it to cable if they weren't allowed to crush Aereo. It's an empty threat designed primarily to try and get lawmakers to pass laws constricting Aereo, just in case CBS can't stop them in the Supreme Court.

Despite the fact that CBS has been resistant to change of any kind, another threat/promise they've been making for months is that if Aereo wins in the Supreme Court, they'll offer an over the top Internet video service. CBS CEO Les Moonves has been talking about this seemingly every day, and the Wall Street Journal this week quotes a source that says CBS has the potential to make it happen quickly:

Mr. Moonves hasn't provided details, but a person familiar with the situation said CBS has the ability to launch a service that would stream its programming over the Web simultaneously with its television broadcasts.

CBS would charge a few dollars a month and show ads, the person said. Such a service would also likely offer on-demand programming. It could include Showtime, the CBS-owned premium cable channel, which would increase the subscription fee, the person said. CBS would use technology company Syncbak, in which it owns a minority stake, to power streaming of local TV stations' signals over the Web, the person said.
It's worth remembering that Moonves is also on record stating that an Aereo win wouldn't technically hurt CBS financially at all, as they could simply offer such a service directly to users. CBS's threat simply isn't much of a threat, the worst case scenario would be more Internet video options, and a bevy of public airwaves that surely somebody, somewhere could put to good use.
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Time Warner Cable Enables Hotspot 2.0 Across Wi-Fi Network -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:21:41 EDT

Time Warner Cable has announced that they've enabled Hotspot 2.0 functionality across the company's growing network of Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing Time Warner Cable customers to seamlessly log into those networks without entering usernames and passwords, or navigating login screens. According to a company press release, the new network option is available on nearly all of Time Warner Cable's 33,000+ Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Southern California, New York City, Austin, Charlotte, Kansas City, Myrtle Beach and Hawaii. While Boingo began tinkering with Hotspot 2.0 back in February at some airports, Time Warner Cable's implementation is now the largest Passpoint-enabled Wi-Fi network in the country to date.
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Google Cellular Data by Balloon in Nevada Desert -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:44:20 EDT

PC World (here's a cached version as the website has been having problems) notes that not only has Google been testing their Loon "broadband by balloon" service via unlicensed spectrum in New Zealand, they've for the first time been testing cellular data delivery by balloon in the Nevada desert. The report notes the cellular tests approved in by the FCC involve a ground station and a balloon 65,000 feet in the air, both located within 100 miles of Carlin, Nevada.

In the filing, Google urges the FCC to keep the tests quiet:

"The technology is under development and highly sensitive and confidential in nature," Google wrote, according to PCWorld. Publicizing these tests would "jeopardize the value of the technology" and enable others to "utilize Google's information to develop similar products in a similar timeframe."
Google recently swiped drone maker Titan Aereospace out from under the grasp of Facebook, with an eye on using drones as part of their Google Loon project. Google says they recently completed a 22 day automated balloon trip around the world, though it's too early to say if this project will ever result in usable real-world connectivity (some professional balloonists have their doubts).
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Al Franken Wants Netflix's Help in Stopping Comcast Merger -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:39:21 EDT

Al Franken has been leading a strong charge in opposition of Comcast's $45 billion Time Warner Cable acquisition, being one of the only people to hit the company with hard questions during the recent Congressional hearing on the merger. Now Franken is looking to get Netflix's help after the company recently vocally complained about the threat new interconnection and peering deals pose to the health of the greater Internet.

Netflix has already been one of the only major content companies to complain vocally and repeatedly about usage caps, and the use of caps to thwart competing content and services. With Comcast about to take over a larger swath of users, and considering their growing interest in usage caps, it's an issue that very much hits right at the heart of Netflix's business interests.

In the letter (pdf), Franken urges Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to answer a few questions, while outlining his own concerns:

My concern is that Comcast will be able to use its clout in the broadband distribution market to obtain an anticompetitive advantage in the content market. Comcast can achieve this by blocking, degrading, raising costs for, or otherwise interfering with unaffiliated content that relies on Comcast s distribution network to reach consumers. I am not alone in my concerns. When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, the FCC noticed the unprecedented nature of Comcast s vertical integration and concluded that it would increase Comcast s incentive to discriminate against unaffiliated content and distributors in its exercise of control over consumers broadband connections . Those concerns were appropriate when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal a few years ago; they are heightened significantly now that Comcast seeks to acquire Time Warner Cable."
Many companies in the TV ecosystem have been quiet on the problems the merger poses, though Franken recently stated many media companies indicate to him they're afraid to speak out for fear of marketplace retribution.
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T-Mobile's Crazy Plan to Treat Consumers Better is Working -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:08:35 EDT

A new report by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners finds that being consumer friendly is paying dividends for T-Mobile. T-Mobile's share of new subscribers grew more than any other wireless carrier last quarter. Though they only had the third largest growth by volume, the company's 15% growth rate is higher than last quarter's 13%. And it comes at a time when AT&T's growth slowed from 29% to 28%. It's not staggering movement to be sure, but T-Mobile's decision to starting treating consumers a little better is clearly working. Most Wall Street analysts expect T-Mobile to see the biggest gains when carriers report their 2014 first quarter earnings over the next few weeks.
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Time Warner Cable Urges Employees to Donate to Their PAC -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:36:15 EDT

The same Time Warner Cable executives who are getting massive, multi-million dollar golden parachutes from the Comcast merger are asking the company's employees to contribute to the cable operator's political action committee (PAC), even if the company may not even technically exist one year from now.

A Reddit user has posted a letter they received from Time Warner Cable, stating that while getting the Comcast merger completed is their "top priority," they'd still like it very much if employees would contribute to the company's Federal PAC:

Cable is a highly regulated industry and the outcome of current debates in Congress over video reform, Internet taxation and net neutrality will greatly impact the success of our business and our ability to serve our customers. THe TWC Federal PAC supports candidates that appreciate the value our company adds to the economy and to their local communities...While we had total contributions of $500,000 in 2013, our corporate peers continue to do much better. In 2013, Comcast raised $2 million, AT&T $1.8 million; Verizon $1.4 million; Google $1.1 million; and NAB $1 million.
On the plus side, Time Warner Cable says the donations made by employees to the PAC will be matched with donations made to two charities of the employee's choice. On the negative side, those donations are being used by Time Warner Cable executives for things like fighting net neutrality, consumer protections, broadband and video competition, and as we saw in North Carolina, the right for locals to decide for themselves what happens in their own communities.

Perhaps Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus can contribute some of the $80 million he's set to make from the merger?
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Cord Cutting on The Rise, Especially Among the Young -

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:24:58 EDT

Cord cutting is on the rise, according to a new study by Experian Marketing Services. According to the report, the number of cord cutters (defined by Experian as people who have broadband but never have had cable or just dropped cable) has risen 44% in the last three years. The firm claims that 6.5 percent of households in the U.S. cut the cord in 2013, a number that was 4.5 percent in 2010. The number increases for users who subscribe to Netflix or Hulu, with a fifth of Americans who use those services refusing to subscribe to cable TV.

Experian notes however it's the young where the real sea change is occurring. Almost a quarter of young adults between 18 and 34 who subscribe to Netflix or Hulu don't pay for TV.

"The young millennials who are just getting started on their own may never pay for television," said John Fetto, a senior analyst at Experian Marketing Services. "Pay TV is definitely declining."
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Time Warner Cable Pretends Customer Complaints Don't Exist -

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:43:01 EDT

Time Warner Cable is currently teaming up with Comcast to persuade Congress and the DOJ to allow the companies to merge. Comcast has told Congress that they are "deeply disappointed" that their customer service is rated, along with Time Warner Cable, at or near the bottom of just about every customer service list.

Yet, Time Warner Cable seems to have found a new way to keep complaint numbers down .put language in the franchise agreements that allows them to forget the complaints ever existed.

Last month in Keene, New Hampshire, the Keene City Council was voting on whether to add a second local channel (which would give the city more revenue) through Time Warner Cable. In exchange, Time Warner Cable wanted to extend the franchise agreement with the city for an additional five years, or the year 2023. While the rest of the council agreed to give Time Warner Cable the extension, one Councilor had a bit of an issue with the way that Time Warner Cable was running their business.

Even though the Council voted 4-1 in favor of the second channel, Councilor Terry M. Clark expressed his disappointment with Time Warner Cable on their refusal to adhere to the original franchise agreement signed with the city years back that forces Time Warner Cable to tell the City Council about any complaints that they receive from customers:

"They reported back that they had no complaints," Clark said at last week s meeting. "I asked, Why? They said because they weren't required to write them down."
I recently spoke to Councilor Clark by email. He provided me with the city franchise agreement:
Except as limited by federal law or FCC regulations concerning privacy, Franchisee shall maintain a record of all such complaints and such records shall be available at Franchisee's local offices for at least two years for inspection by the Franchising Authority as it may from time to time request, during regular business hours and upon reasonable notice. Nothing herein shall be deemed to require Franchisee to maintain records of oral complaints, which can be handled to the customer's satisfaction in the course of the initial conversation in which the complaint is made or does not require technical field response. Upon request, the Franchisee shall provide to the Franchising Authority an accounting of the number and nature of such complaints.
At first, it may come off as if Time Warner Cable does not need to write down any phone call complaints. But, take note that they do need to record any complaints that are not settled by the initial phone call.

Does anyone actually believe that the entire city had all issues completed with the initial phone call? Does anyone believe that Time Warner Cable does not keep a record of all complaints including those initial phone calls? I have more questions than answers after reading the franchise agreement and hearing the Time Warner Cable representative.

"It's my contention that most call-in complaints are not resolved in the course of the initial conversation and that they are required to account for the nature of all complaints," said Councilor Terry M. Clark.

Councilor Clark is mistaken if he thinks that Time Warner Cable couldn t satisfy every complaint with one single phone call. Hasn t he seen all of the customer service rankings that list TWC as the worst or near the worst? ranked TWC 2nd worst with customer service.

• youth-users ranked TWC dead last with customer service.

•Consumer Reports stated that TWC ranked "very poorly with consumers when it comes to value for the money and have earned low ratings for customer support" and "Time Warner Cable ranked 16th overall for television service with particularly low ratings for value, reliability, and phone / online customer support."

•According to YouGov, Time Warner Cable has the poorest brand perception of the major pay TV service providers, with a score of -10.

•The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ranked TWC second to last among Internet service providers. The picture wasn t much rosier on ACSI s list of pay-TV providers, with TWC ranking second to last in the subscription television industry.
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Aereo Launches 'Protect My Antenna' Site Ahead of Court Date -

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:36:26 EDT

Hoping to generate a little public and press support ahead of the company's life or death Supreme Court fight versus broadcasters later this month, Aereo has launched a new website called that attempts to educate the public on what their battle is all about. Aereo has previously stated that the company has no backup plan should broadcasters win, forcing the broadband TV streaming operation to close down completely.

"What is at stake in this case is much bigger than Aereo," said Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia in an e-mail to the press and public.

"We believe that consumers are entitled to use a modern, cloud-based, version of an antenna and DVR and that consumers should not be constrained to 1950 s era technology to watch free-to-air broadcast television. The broadcasters positions in this case, if sustained, would impair cloud innovation and threaten the myriad benefits to individuals, companies, and the economy at large of the advances in cloud computing and cloud storage."

The website also links to all the amicus briefs filed by other companies in support of Aereo, as well as all of Aereo's filings with the Supreme Court. The fight officially begins before the high court on April 22.
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Google Fiber Strikes Preliminary Agreement With Portland -

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:27:21 EDT

Back in February Google announced they were working with thirty-four new cities in nine regions on making it easier for those locations to see Google Fiber deployed. While not all of those cities will receive Google Fiber, the company announced they'd be working with all of the cities to help expedite the arrival of faster broadband services -- whether it's courtesy of Google Fiber, somebody else, or the city itself.

Target cities were given a list of questions regarding infrastructure issues and municipal laws. Some cities have moved beyond that; San Antonio for example has already struck a preliminary agreement for the placement of some 40 fiber huts should San Antonio get selected. Portland is another city that's moving quickly, recently reworking city ordinances restricting cabinet placement.

Despite some early grumbling from city council leaders, Portland's hurdles appear to be resolved, and the city announced this week they've struck a preliminary ten year franchise agreement with Google and are hashing out potential cabinet placement arrangements.

"This franchise agreement is an important step along the path to Fiber. It gives us permission to build here, and it also outlines the ways that we ll partner with the city to invest in local infrastructure and give back to the community," Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres said in a written statement. "There s still a lot of work to do beyond this one agreement, but we hope to provide an update about whether we can bring Fiber here later this year."

Some of what Google is doing is obviously for press impact as much as hurdle jumping; most of these cities won't see Google Fiber, but the very public press exposure these preliminary agreements see as cities bicker over who'll get to be next is some of the very best free marketing a company can get.
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