FCC Approves T-Mobile and Sprint Merger, States File Suit

The Federal Communications Commission approved T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, a $26 billion merger that has been opposed by numerous state attorneys general and consumer advocacy groups. T-Mobile and Sprint, respectively the nation’s third and fourth-largest wireless carriers, pioneered the end of early termination fees and reintroduction of unlimited data plans. The FCC, which is dominated by Republicans, lauded the deal as likely to speed up the adoption of 5G networks across the U.S. Meanwhile, a group of state attorneys general are continuing with a lawsuit that intends to fight the merger. Continue reading FCC Approves T-Mobile and Sprint Merger, States File Suit

AT&T Looks to Attract Cord Cutters With New Video Service

AT&T launched WatchTV, a “skinny bundle” video service aimed at luring cord cutters. The package offers a select number of TV channels for as little as $15 per month and gives free access to subscribers on unlimited data plans. For now, the service will be free with the company’s two top-tier wireless plans; the $15 per month plan will launch later. Among the channels to be included are AMC Networks and Discovery; Viacom’s Comedy Central and MTV2 will be added after launch. AT&T just acquired Time Warner for $81 billion. Continue reading AT&T Looks to Attract Cord Cutters With New Video Service

Facebook Announces its ‘Find Wi-Fi’ Feature Is Going Global

Facebook wants to help mobile consumers locate accessible Wi-Fi networks by expanding its “Find Wi-Fi” option, initially launched last year on iOS in select countries. Facebook announced that the feature would be made available worldwide on both iOS and Android devices to help users find public Wi-Fi networks, useful when traveling or in areas where cellular data is scarce. This could help Facebook’s “2 billion monthly users stay connected to the network and spend more time in its app — something that directly impacts Facebook’s bottom line,” notes TechCrunch, and “the tool also serves as another way to discover local businesses” as a possible alternative to Google Maps. The feature can be found under the “More” tab in the Facebook app. Continue reading Facebook Announces its ‘Find Wi-Fi’ Feature Is Going Global

Verizon Intros LTE SmartHub to Manage Connected Devices

Verizon announced the release of its $200 integrated smart home control interface and Wi-Fi hot spot called SmartHub. Designed for managing your connected devices, SmartHub features its own dedicated LTE line, which enables connectivity to a variety of devices, including phones and laptops. SmartHub also supports an HD Voice feature for making calls over the Verizon network, and “has its own battery, which means it maintains your home phone and Internet connection in the event of a power outage,” explains Android Police. “It’s not clear if there will be special data plans for the SmartHub,” and a full list of the devices that work with SmartHub has yet to be unveiled, although Verizon did reference Nest and Kwikset. Continue reading Verizon Intros LTE SmartHub to Manage Connected Devices

Verizon Plans to Launch New Internet Data Service for Drones

After two years of working on the technology, Verizon will soon connect drones to its wireless network, with drone data plans starting at $25 a month for 1 gigabyte of data and $80 for 10 gigabytes, similar to what consumers are already paying for data. The company just demonstrated the technology with drone manufacturer American Aerospace Technologies at Cape May, New Jersey. The new drone data plan will allow consumers to connect their drones to the Internet, streaming videos and photos to earth. Continue reading Verizon Plans to Launch New Internet Data Service for Drones

EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

The European Union’s executive arm is poised to propose that online communication services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp be regulated similarly to telecoms, a move that telecom executives have long advocated as creating a level playing field. Telecoms would actually prefer that the EU repeal regulations on user privacy among other specifics but, in lieu of that, are content to see their industry-specific regulations extended to online communication services, most of which are currently free. Continue reading EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

Netflix, Not AT&T or Verizon, Throttles Speeds Over Networks

For the last five years, Netflix has been throttling speed of its service to AT&T and Verizon subscribers so they would not exceed mobile data caps and incur extra charges that could discourage viewing on mobile devices. After T-Mobile’s chief executive noted that AT&T and Verizon customers were watching Netflix at slower speeds, the two carriers were initially blamed, but denied the charges. Net neutrality rules prevent wireless carriers from throttling the speed, but those rules appear not to apply to content companies. Continue reading Netflix, Not AT&T or Verizon, Throttles Speeds Over Networks

Comcast’s Stream TV Does Not Affect Subscriber Data Caps

Comcast just launched Stream TV, its live streaming TV service, in the Chicago and Boston areas (including eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine), and plans to debut the service in all its territories by early 2016. What makes Stream TV of interest is that its usage does not count against the 300GB data plans available in some Comcast territories or use a customer’s Internet bandwidth measured in bits per second. Stream TV is an IP cable service delivered over Comcast’s managed network rather than the public Internet. Continue reading Comcast’s Stream TV Does Not Affect Subscriber Data Caps

YouTube Music Aims Spotlight on Personalization, Discovery

After a year in beta testing, YouTube Music is finally available for Android and iOS. The app — meant to compete with streaming music offerings such as Apple Music, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify and Tidal — emphasizes music videos and amateur recordings. YouTube’s catalog of 50 million songs does not mean a video for every song, since the collection mixes video, audio-only, fan covers, emerging indie artists and much more. Discovery continues to be the underlying focus, and each song is connected to an auto-generated station of related songs. YouTube Music also blends human and algorithmic curation, similar to Apple Music’s approach. Continue reading YouTube Music Aims Spotlight on Personalization, Discovery

Users Embrace Live Mobile Video, Data Plan Overages Grow

Live mobile video has exploded in the last few months, with offerings from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and others. Mobile users have quickly caught on to how they can use live video, from concerts to personal rants. But the Achilles heel, however, is that live video uses a tremendous amount of data and, the immediacy of live video encourages users to go live without a Wi-Fi network handy. The result is that an increasing number of mobile users are going over their data plan, incurring extra charges. Continue reading Users Embrace Live Mobile Video, Data Plan Overages Grow

Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

Facebook plans to ramp up its efforts to provide free basic Internet on mobile devices, after successfully debuting the application through its Internet.org platform in 17 developing countries. The company will launch a dedicated portal for mobile operators to offer the service under Internet.org, which has brought nine million people online in the last year. Facebook hopes to bring an estimated 4.5 billion people online in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The platform offers free pared-down Web services and Facebook’s social network and messaging. Continue reading Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

FCC Plans to Fine AT&T $100 Million for Slowing Data Speeds

The Federal Communications Commission has accused AT&T Mobility of misleading its wireless customers regarding unlimited data plans by slowing their service without notification. As a result, the FCC announced that it plans to fine AT&T $100 million. According to the agency, AT&T delivered slower service than advertised after its customers had used a certain amount of data. The slow-down impacted the ability to stream video, use mapping services and more. The move raises questions about future actions now that the FCC is treating Internet services more like utilities. Continue reading FCC Plans to Fine AT&T $100 Million for Slowing Data Speeds

Letter Released in Protest of Facebook’s Free Internet Project

As part of the growing backlash to Facebook’s Internet.org project, 65 advocacy organizations from 31 countries released a letter of protest this week to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has partnered with wireless carriers and other organizations on the initiative that hopes to bring free Internet service to the developing world. However, the letter argues that the project “violates the principles of net neutrality, threatening freedom of expression, equality of opportunity, security, privacy, and innovation.” Continue reading Letter Released in Protest of Facebook’s Free Internet Project

Google’s Project Fi Phone Service Promises Fast Connectivity

Google has unveiled its experimental Project Fi, a new mobile phone service that seamlessly switches between Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks to ensure that people will have the fastest connections. Users will also be able to switch between devices, so text messages and phone calls can be answered from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Google partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile for the data networks, and it plans on offering its Project Fi for as low as $30 per month. Continue reading Google’s Project Fi Phone Service Promises Fast Connectivity

FreedomPop Targets Affordable Alternative to Cellular Plans

Los Angeles-based FreedomPop wants to make Wi-Fi hotspots more accessible to mobile phone users by eliminating the process by which users typically have to accept terms and conditions or enter a password in order to connect. Users of the new service would pay $5 monthly in exchange for automatic and seamless access to about 9 million hotspots (and growing). With its new Wi-Fi service, FreedomPop hopes to provide customers with an alternative to costly service plans from cellular carriers. Continue reading FreedomPop Targets Affordable Alternative to Cellular Plans

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