FCC Queries Comcast, AT&T and T-Mobile About Data Caps

Comcast, AT&T, and T-Mobile USA received a letter from the FCC asking them to answer questions about their use of “zero rating,” by which some types of content are exempted from a customer’s data cap. Though FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler insisted this doesn’t constitute an investigation, the FCC has previously noted that data cap exemptions can favor the exempted content over content that counts against a customer’s data use. The FCC asked the companies’ technical and business personnel to be available for discussions by January 15. Continue reading FCC Queries Comcast, AT&T and T-Mobile About Data Caps

Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

Text messaging is a regulatory gray zone that is currently the object of a dispute between AT&T, Verizon and other wireless carriers, and Twilio, a software company that enables automatic text-sending, with consumer advocacy groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and Free Press. Twilio is petitioning that the FCC impose common carrier regulations on text messaging, which means carriers could not block or throttle texts. The carriers say they’re protecting consumers against spam. Continue reading Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

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

T-Mobile Launches Binge On: Video Streaming, No Data Cap

T-Mobile US will stream 24 video services including Netflix, Hulu and HBO for free, albeit at lower quality. The wireless company has already used this tactic — called zero rating, which means the data will not be counted against the subscriber’s data limit — for its Music Freedom service, which includes music streaming apps Spotify and Apple Music among others. The new video exemption, dubbed Binge On, does not, however, include video from YouTube, Facebook and Netflix and requires users to have a 3GB plan or larger. Continue reading T-Mobile Launches Binge On: Video Streaming, No Data Cap

TPP Trade Agreement Sparks Response from Tech Community

With the publication of the Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP) international trade treaty, numerous technology and privacy rights groups are speaking up over a range of issues. Non-profit consumer rights organization Public Citizen decries what it says is “serious implications for online privacy.” Others note that the TPP would prevent member countries from requiring that companies from other member states hand over the source code of their products. And some activists believe TPP could help further net neutrality. Continue reading TPP Trade Agreement Sparks Response from Tech Community

FCC and Alamo Broadband Set to Face Off Over Net Neutrality

On December 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments against net neutrality brought by Alamo Broadband, a small Texas Internet provider, the latest to push to end net neutrality. In its filing, the Federal Communications Commission reiterated that the net neutrality rules issued this year that reclassified ISPs as “common carriers” do not violate First Amendment rights. Both the FCC and Alamo’s positions are clear in the filings they’ve recently made to the court. Continue reading FCC and Alamo Broadband Set to Face Off Over Net Neutrality

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

Sprint Stops Throttling Speeds as Net Neutrality Takes Effect

The new net neutrality laws had a real-world impact when Sprint announced it would no longer throttle speeds for unlimited data customers. Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure made the move in reaction to customers disgruntled by the fine print of a new $80/month unlimited text, talk and data plan, noting that video would be delivered at lower speeds. The 600 kilobits/second speed recommended by a consultant to Sprint would have particularly impacted high definition video, which runs at three to four megabits per second. Continue reading Sprint Stops Throttling Speeds as Net Neutrality Takes Effect

Ad-Sponsored Data to Be Part of Verizon’s Internet TV Service

Verizon’s upcoming Internet TV service, expected to launch sometime this summer, may encourage brands to sponsor your binge watching. According to Verizon exec Marnie Walden — who described the new service as a “mobile-first video product” — the company plans to offer live and on-demand programming in addition to content from digital networks such as AwesomenessTV. Rather than passing the additional data costs for such a service to customers or programmers, Verizon is turning to advertisers. “Ad-sponsored data is part of the product offering,” said Walden. Continue reading Ad-Sponsored Data to Be Part of Verizon’s Internet TV Service

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

Streaming TV Services Look to Bypass Internet Congestion

While the FCC has proposed that broadband companies cannot accept payments for access to an Internet fast lane, some streaming TV services want to be classified as “managed services,” much like digital phone services. This gray area of the net neutrality rules may provide media companies a fast lane opportunity. The FCC allows cable and phone companies to operate managed services, such as digital phone services or video-on-demand, on a special bandwidth so that consumers do not experience dropped calls or video buffering. Continue reading Streaming TV Services Look to Bypass Internet Congestion

FCC Rules in Favor of Regulating Broadband Internet as Utility

The FCC voted 3 to 2 yesterday to approve regulation of broadband Internet service as a public utility. The new rules, recently proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, are designed to ensure net neutrality by discouraging content blocking and the introduction of “fast lanes” for Internet and media companies and “slow lanes” for others. Wheeler said the FCC was using “all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers.” He added that Internet access is “too important to let broadband providers be the ones making the rules.” Continue reading FCC Rules in Favor of Regulating Broadband Internet as Utility

HPA Tech Retreat: Jim Burger Delivers a Washington Update

On the second day of the HPA Tech Retreat, Jim Burger, a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP in Washington, DC and copyright lawyer, gave his annual Washington Update. “Washington, as always, is a city under construction,” he said. “There’s a lot going on.” Burger discussed the potential impact of the Aereo decision on cloud storage, the latest regarding lawsuits against Dish Network, the FAA’s examination of drones, a very busy FCC and what’s next for net neutrality, and an update on the spectrum auctions. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Jim Burger Delivers a Washington Update

Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

Last week, we reported that Verizon would offer users the ability to opt out of the company’s mobile ad-targeting program, which tags customers with unique codes to track online activity. The move followed complaints from privacy advocates regarding the use of the alphanumerical customer codes known as “supercookies.” Now, three Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation are calling for a formal investigation into Verizon’s tracking practices of its wireless subscribers. Continue reading Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

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