THE BROADBAND REPORT

The latest from the team at Broadband Now

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Who Are the FCC Commissioners and Where Do They Side on Net Neutrality?

The war over how to regulate the internet has a key problem: the process for creating regulation is so complex that even vehement supporters and opponents of Net Neutrality and other key issues often have little knowledge of where this regulation actually comes from, or how it’s created. Interestingly, the group that’s responsible for managing these regulations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is quite small. Just five commissioners cast votes on everything from Next Gen TV standards to wireless spectrum allocation. These five commissioners have a huge impact on the lives of every American who uses the Internet — which is to say, virtually all of us, with the exception of a few hermits. In this breakdown, we’re going to… Continue reading →

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Why Is the American Internet Empire Crumbling?

The colossal labyrinth of pulses and wires we refer to as “the Internet” is sort of like the jumble of wires and plugs behind your uncle’s VCR. Sure, it works — but it’s largely improvised, and for the love of God don’t touch anything. Much like that old VCR, America’s network infrastructure is often a bit dated in terms of infrastructure. This has become increasingly clear in the past year as policy changes around Net Neutrality and regulatory standards have been riling up consumers, Internet providers, and Internet access advocacy groups alike. Overall, one thing is clear; the US has some issues when it comes to the modern innovation it helped give birth to. The heart of the trouble goes… Continue reading →

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Broadband Bill Autopsy: The Origin and Purpose of Every Single Fee

Fun fact: Internet and telecom providers paid $1.8 Billion dollars to the government’s “Universal Connectivity Fund” last year. [1] Where did the cash come from? Take a look at your bill, and you’ll see that much of it came directly from millions of Americans like you — mostly in the form of “Universal Connectivity Charges” tacked onto broadband bills. [2] Unfortunately, that particular fee is just one of many you’ll find if you squint hard enough at your monthly statement: Phone-Related Fees: Federal Universal Service Charge Regulatory Recovery Fee 911 Service Fees State Universal Service Fund County Telecom Surcharge State Telecom Surcharge Telecommunications Relay Service Gross Receipts Tax Surcharge Administrative Charge Communications Sales Tax Television Fees: Receiver Fee Broadcast TV… Continue reading →

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Report: Every ETC Registered with the FCC’s Lifeline Program

This post includes: An overview of the Lifeline program and how it works A comprehensive list of registered ETCs (Eligible Telecommunication Providers), including websites and states served. For state-by-state ETC listings including contact information for each provider, see the United Service Administrative Company “find a Lifeline provider” page. How Lifeline Works Lifeline, a government program created in 1985 to provide phone service for low-income Americans, has been coming under public scrutiny this year thanks to regulatory overhaul of the program under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. [1] The expansion of the program in early 2016 to cover home broadband Internet service for low-income customers has also been a contentious public issue, especially since reports of widespread Lifeline fraud have been making… Continue reading →

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Obscure Telecoms Make Millions Signing up Dead People for Phone Plans

There’s a house in southern California with 10,000 residents. The people that live in this house have a lot of similarities — in fact, most of them share the same name, age, and birthday. But the most important thing they have in common is that every single one of them has a free subsidized phone plan from a telecom company called “Total Call Mobile.” Every month, that company collects $9.25 per registered customer in government handouts through the “Lifeline” program. Lifeline is designed to help low-income Americans get phone and Internet access — but in practice, much of that money seems to mysteriously find its way back to telecom pockets. [1] Following the Money Trail …But wait. 10,000 roommates in… Continue reading →

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Choosing the Best Media Streaming Services and Devices

The number of cable customers “cutting the cord” from traditional cable in favor of over-the-top streaming services grows every year. 8.2 percent ditched cable in 2014 alone, driving big media players like Amazon and Google to step up their game in the battle for the box that sits on top of your TV. [1] With satellite and cable TV bills easily topping the 100 dollar mark monthly, it’s no wonder that consumers are opting for streaming services like Hulu (only $7.99 per month) and streaming devices like the Roku ($50 for the entry-level Streaming Stick device). The only drawback is that the wide selection of streaming services and devices sometimes makes it difficult to figure out which of the many… Continue reading →

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In Spite of Lobbyist Efforts, over 500 Community Broadband Networks Across US

Telecom lobbyists have been doing their best to block municipal broadband networks. In spite of their efforts, public-owned Internet options continue to spread in towns throughout the US. The data set below, based on records from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, shows 528 communities served by public-owned broadband networks in the US. Municipal broadband expanding despite restrictive state laws Considering that more than half of US residents only have one Internet service provider (ISP) to “choose” from, municipal broadband can be a game changer for rural areas where commercial ISPs can’t or won’t provide service. While the data is encouraging for municipal broadband advocates considering the FCC’s recent defeat in Tennessee and North Carolina, full-fledged city-wide networks like Chattanooga’s “smart… Continue reading →

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How to Determine Which Internet Plan Is Right for You

Getting a broadband connection to your house can be a frustrating process. Choosing an Internet plan used to be a simple question of comparing prices and speeds. But these days, the quickly-changing tech marketplace has introduced a number of other factors consumers need to be aware of before they sign on the dotted line. For starters, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) recently began implementing data caps (limits to the amount of data you can use in a month), which can have a big effect on your monthly bill if you go over. At the same time, the growing popularity of high-definition video streaming via services like Netflix is poised to eat up data like never before — meaning that your bandwidth… Continue reading →

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Municipal Broadband Roadblocks

34 million Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet. In fact, 62 percent of those who can get broadband only have one provider to “choose” from. [1] This means that, for the majority of the US, our only option is to pay up… or go without. Some municipalities have taken it upon themselves to fix this problem by building public-owned “municipal broadband” networks. Cities like Chattanooga, TN and Sandy, OR made headlines by providing gigabit-speed Internet at a low cost to their residents. As of 2016, over 185 communities nationwide have followed suit with some form of public broadband service.[2] Needless to say, incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t like this idea, and have been lobbying at the state level for years… Continue reading →

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Cable, Satellite, IPTV & OTT Streaming: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between Cable TV, Sattelite TV, IPTV, and OTT (over-the-top) streaming services can be tricky — particularly as content providers scramble to offer bundled services that blur the line between Internet and broadcast media. While cable subscription numbers have been tailing off in favor of alternatives like Netflix and Hulu, the video-consumption industry on the whole has only grown.  [1] There are more ways to tune into our favorite shows than ever before. More choices translate to more power for consumers, but only if you take a moment to understand the differences between the various types of TV connection available on the market today. Our goal in this post is to walk you through the basics of each “flavor”… Continue reading →