The small town of Monticello, Minnesota has emerged victorious in its legal battle against TDS Telecom. Unimpressed by the DSL and cable services being offered by TDS Telecom, the town with a population of 10,000 people decided to build a fiber network on its own.
But this riled up the telecom company’s feathers. TDS quickly adopted a browbeating approach and filed a suit against the town over the proposed fiber network. The company argued that revenue bonds can not be used for something – broadband internet – that isn’t actually a “utility”.
A new survey conducted by Zeugma Systems reveals that more than 8 out of 10 U.S. broadband customers disapprove of having their bandwidth capped with fees for going over a predetermined limit. Judging by the comments in previous news stories we've run on the subject, it's the same sentiment shared by many Maximum PC readers. But unlike the latter, 83 percent of those polled also were clueless about what a gigabyte is or much bandwidth they're currently consuming. Despite the lack of information, just over half of the respondents claimed they would switch service providers if their ISPs implemented a broadband cap.
"These results are both an opportunity and a warning for BSPs," said Kevin Walsh, Zeugma Systems vice president of marketing. "The opportunity is that consumers are signaling a willingness to pay more for dedicated bandwidth over and above basic high speed internet for such services as premium internet video, VOIP, gaming, and corporate VPN access. The warning is a clear distaste for bandwidth caps. At a minimum, providers moving forward with bandwidth capping schemes may want to consider a more intelligent and flexible application of caps.”
Today marks the beginning of Comcast's 250GB cap, which has drawn ire from those who fear it might not be enough, particularly as HD streaming moves to the forefront of digital distribution. But if this latest poll is any indication, the cap size may not even matter to the majority of subscribers, it's the fact that there's a cap in place to begin with. That perception may prove to be an even bigger challenge than trying to convince subscribers that 250GB is a lot of bandwidth.
Forget about Verizon's FiOS and your spiffy new fast internet connection, because overall, the United States ranks 16th in terms of the best quality broadband internet services, according to a new survey by Oxford University Said Business School. The survey, which received assistance from Oviedo University and Cisco Systems, used collected broadband speed tests as measured by Speedtest.net. They analyzed both download and upload speed, along with internet latency from eight million tests performed in May of 2008.
So who reigned supreme? Japan topped the list has having the best quality broadband, with Sweden and the Netherlands rounding out the top three. The rest of the top ten include Latvia, Korea, Switzerland, Lithuania, Denmark, Germany, and Slovenia, according to the survey.
Perhaps a bad economy is to blame, or maybe consumers are more concerned with getting outside this summer than going online. But whatever the reason, broadband operators are struggling to sign up new customers. Twenty of the largest cable operators and phone companies in the U.S. managed to snag just 887,000 new subscribers in Q2 '08, and according to Leichtman Research Group, the comparatively anemic numbers mark the lowest level of growth seen in the past seven years.
That's good news for consumers, as the lower than expected growth might have sparked a broadband price war. Verizon has said it offer six months of free DSL service to new customers who agree to a one year commitment and also grab a landline package. By taking advantage of the promotion, consumers can pay as little as $45 per month for high-speed DSL and phone service, compared to $65 per month.
But Verizon isn't the only one looking to entice new customers, and AT&T has kicked off a new promotion that guarantees customers its current pricing for two years. Prices range from $20 to $55.
As the broadband market continues to saturate, cable companies could feel the pinch too. Comcast added 278,000 high-speed internet subscribers in Q2, which represents 18 percent fewer customers than the company signed one year ago.
It seems that in the rapidly approaching future I may have to pay extra to my ISP to download my collection of Steam based games when I upgrade my PC or wipe a hard drive. Forget about streaming movies over the net. In fact, best keep your quality internet time to surfing text pages, email without pictures, and IMing. Okay, not quite that bad, but close, if some ISPs have their say about it. The Associated Press covered a story in which a man in New York changed from his cable company to his phone company based on the offer of a year of free service on a two-year contract, an attractive deal. Soon afterr Frontier Communications quietly updated its policies saying it would limit internet activity each month to 5GB. That’s the same figure that several other companies are trying out.
This story is particularly interesting because it’s a phone company trying the cap, not a cable company. Since in this man’s particular area the cable company is Time Warner, which is trying a pilot program in Beaumont Texas with a 5GB cap on its cable service for new users, it might not help to switch even if he can get out of his phone company contract. That is a scenario that we could see repeated in many areas if this catches on.
These scenarios are tough sells to customer that aren’t interested in having additional fees tacked on to their bills, especially after the fact. If consumers are left without a choice because all of their area ISPs are capping their downloads, it’s customers that lose out and it becomes pretty easy for ISPs to charge more money for less service. 5GB of data isn’t much at all.
Do you think this will backfire on ISPs? Sound off below.
We don't know what it is about the year 2012 that has the technological world gunning for it, but we've heard predictions ranging from Linux losing it's command line, to mini-notebooks exploding onto the market with 50 million units expected to ship. There's even talk of being able to book 3-night getaways in outer space, and humans turning into robots! But if we had to pick one prediction most likely to come true, it would be that mobile broadband will hit 100Mbps by 2012, beating fixed line broadband to the punch.
According to the GSM Association (GSMA), demand for faster data speeds in Asian markets is pushing Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology that could deliver speeds up to 186Mbps in the not too distant future.
"The places we expect to see it first are Japan and South Korea in early 2010 and [former Vodafone chief] Arun Sarin said he expects to see the technology in the European market by 2012," said Dan Warren, GMSA director of technology.
Despite the strides being made, Warren doesn't see mobile networks completely replacing fixed lines anytime soon. Of course, none of this will matter if the other predictions come true and we all become half-human, half-robots living in outer space by 2012.
We are consuming huge amounts of bandwidth daily. Just 10 years ago I would have been thrilled with a 4Mb down 512Kb up connection. Today that’s just so-so when it comes to broadband. Downloading video, music, or whatever, is consuming massive amounts of bandwidth and communications companies are working hard to keep up. It’s only going to get more crowded on our current system.
Fiber optics is the big thing for moving large amounts of data around. After all, there isn’t anything that is faster than light (without getting into Quantum physics…). The internet’s current speed woes comes from routing information to its various destinations, not transporting it.
Fiber optics still relies on regular routers to relay information to its correct destination. Where fiber optics can handle frequencies in the terahertz range, electronics work on the gigahertz range. Those pulses of light have to be converted into electrical signals, which are stored, routed, and turned back into optical signals with lasers to be transmitted on. The conversion, besides adding significant cost and complexity, it slows down the data transmission.
So the simple thing to do is to slow light down and remove the needed conversion process. I can hear Han Solo now, “Slow down light speed? Not on this ship brother.”
That is just what researchers are trying to do using "metamaterials". If they can slow down light during the switching process, there would be no need for the electrical conversion step. It could be a first step into building a light based computer.
You can catch the whole article on the BBC website here.
eWeekbrings two pieces of sobering news on the broadband front to our attention this week: much slower median speeds than other advanced nations, and a big shortfall in new customers.
The US may think of itself as a broadband leader, but that's a perception that doesn't fit the facts, suggests a new report from the Communication Workers of America (link in PDF format). Their SpeedMatters.org website offers a free upload/download test, and the data from that test was used to compare US broadband speeds with typical speeds for other countries. According to SpeedMatters, the US is 15th in the world in broadband speed, with a median speed of 2.3Mbps, compared to world leader Japan at 63Mbps, South Korea at 49Mbps, Finland at 21Mbps, France at 17Mbps, and even Canada at 7.6Mbps. Median upload speed in the US is just 435Kbps (corrected 8-15-08).
Don't blame me, by the way. I use Insight's 10.0 (10Mbps) broadband service, and the SpeedMatters test clocked my download speed at 9347Kbps, and my upload speed at 952Kbps, both very close to the rated maximum. The problem is that 10Mbps or faster speeds (Insight also offers 20Mbps service at an extra charge) are not typical in today's marketplace.
To learn more about why the US is sucking wind in the Broadband Olympics, and what's happening to new broadband customer demand, catch us after the break.
Are you ready to fly the Wi-Fi friendly skies? Wireless has been on flyers’ wish lists for some time now and usually it was a luxury class only item. Delta is set to grant that wish to its flyers and is offering broadband to all its customers.
That will make it the only major U.S. airline to offer broadband Wi-Fi access on its entire domestic fleet. Alas, the best things in life aren’t free and if you want to take your allotment of the internet nirvana in flight, it will cost you a flat fee of $9.95 on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 on flights lasting more than three hours.
Delta is partnering with Aircell to offer the service, which will be branded as "Gogo".
Gogo will be offered initially on Delta’s fleet of 133 MD88/90 aircraft and will expand to the remaining domestic fleet of more than 200 Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300 aircraft throughout the first half of 2009. The airline expects to have more than 330 aircraft complete by summer 2009.
Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer says, "Delta remains committed to providing a travel experience that maximizes the time our customers spend with us onboard by offering them even more productivity options. Our customers asked for in-flight connectivity, and we’re responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky. Beginning this fall, our passengers will have the ability to stay connected when they travel with us throughout the continental U.S."
What do you think? Would the ability to make in flight use of broadband have you hopping on a Delta flight versus another carrier?
A decade ago, owning a 56K V.92 PCI modem used to mean you were the baddest Netizen on the block, but now it's just lame. Even Aunt Mabel has a broadband connection, and according to a new Gartner study, so will 77 percent of U.S. households by 2012. That only leaves 23 percent still living in the digital Stone Age.
Today just over half of all U.S. households surf at high speed, but Gartner expects that number to jump significantly in the next three years. According to Amanda Sabia, a Gartner principal research analyst, one of the biggest factors in the broadband adoption rate will be 4G wireless services like WiMAX, Long Term Evolution, and others that are expected to launch in the coming years.
Broadband also looks to do well worldwide, where 60 percent of the population in 17 countries will have high speed connections in 2012, whereas only 5 countries could make that same claim in 2007. Leading the way is South Korea, who is expected to jump from 93 percent to 97 percent of households having a broadband subscription in 2012. Gnarly.