The news just broke shortly ago that the Comcast-NBC deal has been approved by government regulators. The FCC approved the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Michael Copps was the lone holdout. In a statement he said the deal "opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet." We had been expecting the FCC to ok the deal, but the Justice Department was always more of an unknown.
Almost immediately after the FCC vote, the Justice Department also approved the deal, according to a Comcast press release. Now that both agencies have given their stamp of approval, the acquisition is expected to go through by the end of January. This will make Comcast a first of its kind media powerhouse.
Early indications are that at least some of the FCC's conditions will be in place for the deal to proceed. Comcast will be required to allow online video distributors (read: Netflix) access to their content. Additionally, Comcast will be allowed to retain its stake in Hulu, but will have to relinquish its decision making role. How do you feel about the deal?
It looks like the FCC has gotten to spend some quality time with the mysterious Dell Looking Glass tablet, says Engadget. The FCC has been taking a look at the integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and 3G data. From the FCC documentation, we see this device supports UMTS bands II, IV, and V. That means 3G on both AT&T and T-Mobile.
All the rumors have pegged the Looking Glass as coming with a 7-inch display, but a 10-inch version is not out of the question. For the internals, the Looking Glass may be packing a Tegra 2 dual-core chip. The labeling on the door indicate the device will have a SIM and SD card, as you might expect. We'd bet voice calls won't be available stock, but some industrious modders could find a way. One thing is for sure. The Dell Looking Glass is coming, and CES is as likely a place as any for it to debut.
One of the provisions in the new FCC mandated net neutrality deal would have Comcast-NBC sharing their content with multiple online video providers. The only problem, NBC has already worked out an exclusive deal with Hulu. This could mean the FCC is looking to take Hulu down a peg, by spreading content more widely.
The relevant section of the regulation reads, "Comcast would be required to offer NBC Universal programming to any online video provider that has reached a similar deal for content with some of NBC’s competitors." This would make Hulu less of a draw if the content could be had elsewhere. Hulu's premium service has already had trouble attracting subscribers.
Of course, it is also possible that the FCC has little intention of enforcing these regulations, in which case Hulu could continue on as usual. We like the idea of having content available everywhere, but without a controlled experience where content producers get a big cut of the take, they might sour on the idea of online distribution even more than they already have.
The Washington Post is reporting today that FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski has issued a statement indicating his willingness to allow the Comcast-NBC merger to proceed. Although, there is still a ray of hope for those opposed to the deal. Genchowski has outlined several conditions that Comcast would need to agree to in order to get what they want.
Comcast-NBC would need to make their content available over the Internet, but the amount of content, and the method are not specified. The new media conglomerate would also be required to share some content with competing cable and satellite firms. This is likely still not enough for many public interest groups to sign on. The fear is that Comcast's ownership of NBC would be a conflict of interest as they sell access to content from many competing sources. Network neutrality is also a concern; it is feared that Comcast would give priority to their own content.
The issue is far from settled. The US Justice Department is still reviewing the deal to ensure it passes anti-trust laws. The FCC and Justice Department have been working closely, though. So this move could indicate approval by both bodies soon.
Since Qualcomm decided to scrap the ill-fated FLO TV service, they've been shopping around their 700MHz spectrum block. Now it's looking like AT&T is biting, and the price is handsome. According to GigOM, AT&T will pay $1.9 billion for 12MHz of the lower 700MHz band. That's blocks D and E for some larger markets. AT&T will then have 6MHz of Spectrum in the D block for the rest of the US.
This spectrum will be devoted to AT&T's upcoming LTE 4G data network. The carrier has already acquired some of the 700MHz block. In 2007 they paid $2.5 billion for a large chunk of 700MHz bands. This spectrum is highly desirable because the relatively low frequency is better for passing through walls and other obstacles than higher ones.
The FCC still needs to approve the deal, but the agency has been taking a harder line on spectrum sales as of late. It is not seen as advantageous to have all the best spectrum bought up by only a few players. We'll be keeping an eye on this one.
In the wake of the Comcast dispute with Level 3, many have been wondering about the ISP's future bandwidth management plans. Some idea that's been floated often is the idea of usage-based pricing. Users would be charged based on the amount of data they use each month. According to Reuters, Comcast has denied that such a scheme is in the works.
"Right now we have no plan in place to activate usage-based pricing," said Comcast president Neil Smit. The FCC recently announce that ISPs would have some leeway in network management, provided they are transparent about their practices. Comcast currently has a single tier for residential customers with a 250GB data cap.
Comcast maintains almost all users never get near the monthly cap, although some have taken umbrage at having the cap at all. Would you welcome the opportunity to pay for a particular data cap, os is the one size fits all approach best?
Google and Verizon caused quite a fuss a few months ago when they came out with their proposal for net neutrality regulation. Many found its exemption of wireless technology unacceptable, and according to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, the FCC wasn't too pleased with it either. Genachowski came short of a full scale indictment of the companies at the Web 2.0 summit, but laid some of the blame for the lack of progress on them.
“I would have preferred if they didn’t do exactly what they did when they did. It slowed down some processes that were leading to a resolution," Genachowski said. The FCC said when the proposal first came out that they weren't looking for more discussion on the topic. Instead they intended to move forward with reasserting FCC control over broadband. The public statement by Google and Verizon drew attention away from that course of action.
It's true, we haven't seen much movement on the net neutrality front since last summer. The firestorm over this proposal, and caution by the FCC may likely contributed to this lack of action, but it seems we should have seen some progress by now. Do you think the Google/Verizon plan did more harm than good?
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has agreed to cut a check for $16.25 million to settle allegations that it bribed Texas school officials with expensive gifts in exchange for federally funded contracts that pay for Internet connections for schools and libraries, the Associated Press reports.
We're not talking about $100 watches here, but pricey items like Super Bowl tickets and yacht trips. This drew the attention of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DoJ), which accused HP of fraud related to the government's E-rate program, an $8 billion-a-year fund that subsidizes Internet access in rural communities via a surcharge on phone bills.
It's all water under the bridge, says HP, which points out that this occurred over five years ago and that the employees responsible have since been canned.
The Federal Communications Commission is getting ready to make its pitch for new rules that would require mobile phone companies to send out voice or text messages to subscribers once they've reached their limit, and warn them that extra charges would then apply.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has been fighting to eliminate so-called "bill shock" for some time now, which not only covers the above scenario, but also hidden charges and when customers are about to be hit with roaming charges.
"The data is clear that there is a significant consumer issue," Genachowski said during a recent interview. "The solution is a 21st-century solution -- one that is workable, one that is non-burdensome, and one that is a terrific example of a 21st century consumer policy."
As you might imagine, wireless providers aren't on board with any potential new legislation. Verizon, for example, did admit that consumers should have access to their wireless usage, but added "intense competition has led wireless carriers to provide consumers" with the "tools that allow [them] to monitor and control their usage in various ways."
Nevertheless, the FCC continues to field complaints from consumers bemoaning unexpected charges, which sometimes comes out to thousands of dollars.
"Most people still don't know what a megabyte is," Genachowski said. "So it's hard to expect them to know when they have reached their limits."
Should wireless carriers be required to send a text or voice message to consumers when they've reached their monthly limit, or does the onus fall completely on the consumer to keep track of, and understand, their mobile plan?
You've probably heard the horror stories, maybe you've even experienced it yourself. The cell phone bill comes, and it is unexpectedly massive. Huge overages happen more than expected, so much in fact, that it's been given a name: "bill shock". The FCC received 764 complaints in just the first 6 months of the year, and a survey showed that 30 million Americans have experienced this. Now it looks like the FCC might be about to take action.
According to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the agency will propose rules tomorrow that will force the carriers to alert users via voice or text when they are about to go over their plan's limits and incur extra fees. The carriers are not particularly pleased with this possibility. The VP of CTIA ( an industry trade group) said in an interview that, "The industry continues to develop tools to keep customers informed about their level of usage." He also cautioned against " prescriptive and costly rules." We're not sure what needs to be developed. SMS works just fine as it is.
Some customers have ended up being stuck with bills in the tens of thousands after traveling, or changing their plan. Wireless carriers often end up cutting them a deal, but still ask for substantial sums of cash. The FCC has intervened in some of these incidents, but if new rules are adopted this problem could go away altogether. Have you ever had a case of bill shock? Let us in on the sordid details.