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September 3, 2014
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Up Ahead: An IPO, an iPhone, an Internet Fight

It might seem like the tech industry—where no one comes up for air unless his options have just vested—has nothing to do to with the traditional September start of a new business cycle.

But this year things are different, with an avalanche of events coming soon: possibly the biggest initial public offering in history, a bunch of big releases from Apple and a political battle over whether the Internet is, after all, a public…

September 3, 2014
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EC to boot digital TV off 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband services

The European Commission (EC) wants to move digital TV services from the valuable 700MHz spectrum in favour of 4G and 5G services in order to ensure Europe does not suffer from a capacity crunch in the years ahead.

The report – by Pascal Lamy, former chief of the World Trade Organisation and former European commissioner for Trade – began life in January when stakeholders across the telecoms sector such as the BBC and Vodafone got involved.

He was tasked with trying to find a strategy that could meet the competing demands of broadcasters and mobile opreators, both of which have been adamant that their need is greater for the spectrum.

‘2020-2030-2025’
The crux of the report relates to the valuable 694-790MHz band currently used for digital TV services. Lamy’s report says this should be made exclusively available to mobile operators by 2020, with two years’ leeway.

However, to try and appease operators, Lamy proposes that the remaining spectrum, 470-694MHz, is reserved solely for broadcasters until 2030, but with the option of reviewing this situation in 2025.

The mix of dates has seen the Lamy dub his report with the catchy moniker ‘2020-2030-2025’. He claimed his proposals represented the best outcome to try and appease everyone in the debate.

“For too long the broadband and broadcasting communities have been at loggerheads about the use of the UHF [ultra-high frequency] spectrum band. There have been many different views and perspectives,” he said.

“On the basis of discussions with the two sectors, I have put forward a single scheme that could provide a way forward for Europe to thrive in the digital century.”

Vice president for the EC’s Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes gave her full backing to the proposals. “Lamy’s report lays down a path for creating capacity for fast wireless broadband everywhere and for ensuring a stable and predictable future for terrestrial broadcasting,” she said, as she also took to Twitter to back the report.

GSMA vs EBU
However, despite the best efforts of Lamy, dissenting voices have already been heard. Anne Bouverot, director general of GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, has already sounded the alarm at letting broadcasters retain access to the sub-700MHz band until as late as 2025.

“We are concerned that the report’s recommendations on the sub-700MHz (470-694MHz) band could put Europe at a competitive disadvantage compared to other regions” she said. “Limiting Europe’s flexibility on the possible co-existence of mobile and digital broadcast services until 2030 will discourage investment in world-leading mobile networks.”

Unsurprisingly, though, she welcomed the idea of giving operators sole access to the 700MHz range.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), meanwhile, said broadcasters must be financially compensated for having to give up their 700MHz holdings, as EBU director of Technology and Innovation Simon Fell explained.

“It is essential that broadcasters are not financially weakened by any loss of the 700MHz band. Member states must heed the report’s conclusions on compensation and transitional arrangements,” added Fell.

Ralph Rivera, BBC’s director of Future Media, welcomed the report for looking to provide stability on spectrum use for the years ahead.

“The BBC welcomes the recognition that broadcasters can only be expected to clear the 700MHz spectrum band if they receive certainty of access to their remaining spectrum and compensation for the transition,” he said.

The move to open up the 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband services is something Ofcom is already considering, and it claims moving digital television spectrum again would not be as complicated as last time.

“[It] would not require another TV switchover, like the switch from analogue to digital TV, and could be accomplished without causing significant disruption to TV viewers,” it said in a report in May.

V3 contacted Ofcom for comment on the EC report but had received no reply at the time of publication.

September 3, 2014
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Cell-phone regulations are a workable model for the Internet

“Fast lanes” have been the Internet’s savior, Gordon Crovitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, vilifying net-neutrality opponents and trotting out the same old, tired arguments we’ve been hearing for a decade: Any regulation will choke investment and stifle innovation.

He argues that applying net-neutrality rules to the Internet, which would prohibit blocking and discrimination by Internet service providers, amounts to 19th century railroad regulation. What he and other opponents have completely overlooked, however, is that cellular phone service has always been regulated (as a Title II common carrier service), and it hasn’t been harmed by that regulation one bit.

The dispute

Here are four reasons why Crovitz and his allies are wrong.

1) Essential public services require some degree of regulation to protect the public. Few would doubt that broadband Internet service is now an “essential” public service, one that is necessary for full and productive participation in our society, and critical for the public’s health, welfare and safety.

2. Net-neutrality opponents claim that the application of the antidiscrimination and no-blocking rules will lead to suffocating government intrusion into the functioning of the Internet. I doubt the vast majority of opponents has even read any of Title II’s provisions. If they had, they would know that the only significant restriction imposed on a company’s business activities by Title II is the regulation by the Federal Communications Commission of the prices companies may charge for their services. This is rate regulation. No one has proposed that the FCC apply rate regulation to ISPs and Internet services.

3. The antitrust laws are inadequate protections because they are remedies applied after the harm already has occurred. Crovitz asserts that the antitrust laws “would apply if there were abuses.” True. But does he remember Netscape? The antitrust laws were simply insufficient to prevent the demise of Netscape because they failed to prevent the harm Microsoft caused. This is likely to be the case with the power that an ISP, such as Comcast, will be able to wield if there are no rules to prevent the injury before it happens.

4. Mobile phone services have been regulated as common carrier services by the FCC for decades. In 1995, in its first report to Congress on mobile services, the commission noted that there were approximately 25 million cellular subscribers. In 2008, the FCC auctioned 1,099 licenses for wireless services for a total of $19.6 billion. In its 16th report to Congress in March 2013, the FCC reported that there were 298.3 million subscribers to mobile telephone or voice services. It’s indisputable that the application of Title II regulation to mobile phone services has not inhibited either investment or innovation.

A solid model

That is why this is the model the FCC should apply to broadband Internet services. It’s tried and it’s true.

Opponents, such as former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican, state that proponents of net-neutrality rules have been warning for a decade of imminent danger but nothing has happened. Not quite. Remember how Comcast blocked or degraded peer-to-peer transmissions using BitTorrent in 2007?

However, the reason there have been few instances like Comcast’s is because the FCC and the industry generally believed there were enforceable rules, and those rules did constrain most ISPs from engaging in blocking and discriminatory conduct.

But now that those rules have been overturned by the court, we are seeing the consequences of a landscape without meaningful protections: In just six months, Netflix has entered into paid priority agreements with the three largest ISPs. These agreements likely would have been unlawful under the rules the court overturned.

Anyone who thinks this trend won’t accelerate and other Internet content providers won’t get on the bandwagon has failed his or her history lessons. And unless the FCC acts quickly, it will be too late.

James P. Tuthill teaches telecommunications, broadcast and Internet law at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

September 3, 2014
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BSkyB’s Now TV gains Chromecast Support – Android Headlines

Now TV is an internet television service owned by BSkyB. Instead of operating over BSkyB’s satellite network, subscribers can watch TV shows over their fixed line or mobile broadband internet connection. Now TV has been designed for flexibility, offering a choice of contract-free daily or monthly passes. It’s a good solution if you don’t spend long at home apart from major sporting events, or science fiction days with your buddies. You can watch Now TV on a large number of devices including Android, iOS devices, the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 consoles and some LG Smart TVs.

In common with other Internet streaming services, Now TV uses adaptive bitrate streaming to make the most of your hardware and Internet connection speed, but only supports up to 720p whereas services such as Netflix can reach 4K resolution. If you use a service such as Now TV, you’ll often notice that the app uses more data if you have a fast WiFi or LTE connection compared with a slower 3G connection.

Now, BSkyB have included Chromecast support in the latest build of their mobile application, providing your device meets the minimum requirements of Android 4.0 or higher, a 1.0 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM and at least a 480 by 800 pixel screen. This is great news if you have been sitting on the fence wondering if you should try the Now TV but don’t own a console and don’t fancy plugging a HDMI cable into your Android smartphone or tablet.

Google’s Chromecast dongle has just celebrated its first birthday. It’s is a digital media player that sits into the HDMI port of your television and streams video directly via a WiFi connection. Under the skin, the Chromecast runs an operating system that appears to blur the lines between Chrome OS and Android; it receives updates silently from Google just as a Chromebook. The Chromecast is controlled by Chromecast-enabled mobile or web apps, or the Google Chrome browser on a desktop computer. Google released the Google Cast SDK, software development kit, in February earlier this year. It’s reassuring to see more and more application developers releasing support for the Chromecast and Google is constantly evolving the product: in June 2014, the announced that a controlling device can discover nearby Chromecasts by detecting ultrasonic sounds from the television the dongle is attached to!

September 3, 2014
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AT&T enhancing coverage for Lockn’ Music Festival

 










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Published Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2:36 pm
Filed under Business/Economy

As thousands of people converge at Lockn’ Music FestivalATT* is boosting network capacity to help its customers have a great wireless experience.  The Lockn’ Music Festival takes place annually on Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, VA, at the foot of the Blue Ridge.

The company has deployed two Cell on Wheels (COWs), to accommodate expected increased wireless network demands from high concentrations of smartphone users in Arrington. The augmentations will help improve reliability and data speeds as the event runs through September 7.

An incomparable celebration of everything the region has to offer from food to beverage to the stunning beauty of its location, Lockn’ has quickly become one of the most talked about festivals of the year. This year’s festival features Tom Petty The Heartbreakers in their only area appearance, The Allman Brothers Band in their last festival appearance ever, Willie Nelson, Grace Potter the Nocturnals, Wilco and many other world-class artists.

“Events like Lockin’ Music Festival generate memorable experiences that our customers will want to share with friends and family through text messages, photos, status updates on social networks and calls from their mobile devices,” said J. Michael Schweder, President of ATT Mid-Atlantic. “We’ve deployed a team of network engineers that’s hard at work on local enhancements to help provide great connectivity, solid coverage and fast speeds.”

ATT is building its network for speed, reliability and overall performance.  ATT made strategic network architecture decisions as the company planned for 4G – taking into account what services customers would want down the line, and how they could be best served.

ATT’s focus to deliver the best possible mobile Internet experience goes beyond 4G to embrace additional connection technologies. ATT owns and operates more than 34,000 ATT Wi-Fi Hot Spots at popular restaurants, hotels, bookstores and retailers, and provides access to more than 1 million hotspots globally through roaming agreements.  Most ATT smartphone customers get access to our entire national Wi-Fi network at no additional cost, and Wi-Fi usage doesn’t count against customers’ monthly wireless data plans.***

Over the past six years (2008 to 2013), ATT invested more than $140 billion into its wireless and wireline networks, when you combine capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations. Over the past six years, ATT has invested more capital into the U.S. economy than any other public company. In a September 2013 report, the Progressive Policy Institute ranked ATT No. 1 on its list of U.S. “Investment Heroes.”

For more information about ATT’s coverage in Arrington or anywhere in the United States, consumers can visit the ATT Coverage Viewer.  For updates on the ATT wireless network, please visit the ATT network news page.