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DirecTV is contemplating embedding an antenna into their set top boxes
in order to offer live over the air broadcasts, thereby circumventing retransmission fees. Speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston, DirecTV chief financial officer Patrick Doyle stated they didn't have a timeline on the project, but that it makes financial sense due to the soaring price of retrans fees and the landscape shift that's occurring courtesy of Aereo. He also stated that whenever it does get deployed, it would only be initially made available to new customers. "Well probably test in some markets an over-the-air integrated tuner set-up and make sure the customer experience is there," insists Doyle.
After taking heat from consumer groups last year for blocking Facetime video chat, AT&T made waves last week by deciding to block the new cross-platform and device video chat functionality in Google Hangouts
from running over their speedy new LTE network. As they did during the Facetime debacle, AT&T made the obscure claim that they can block any application that comes pre-loaded on a device, even if technically Hangouts doesn't come pre-loaded (AT&T's just choosing language carefully to dodge wiggle through net neutrality rule loopholes).
Verizon's attempt to hang up on their copper networks in Sandy-impacted areas
has gotten more complicated after the NY Public Service Commission last week indicated hesitation at letting Verizon disconnect users state wide without first understanding the repercussions. According to regional Long Island news reports
, the PSC has granted Verizon temporary approval to pull DSL on Fire Island, NY, replacing it with Verizon's Voice Link wireless service.
Amtrak has been offering Wi-Fi on board some of their trains for several years
(a full list is here
), though historically the quality of the connections have been ridiculed. Since earlier this year the company has been promising upgrades.
For much of the last year, Verizon Wireless has been blocking Google Wallet
, claiming that its use of a device's "secure element" is what has prohibited them from letting consumers use the app. Numerous people have explained in great detail (including the lawyer that filed the original complaint with the FCC
) that this excuse is simply being used to keep Google Wallet permanently stuck in approval purgatory, while the wireless industry's own, competing Isis
platform sees no such restrictions.
It is very quickly becoming clear that if you want the FCC to avoid enforcing their network neutrality rules, all you have to do is throw some half-assed, vague-sounding technical jargon at the agency to bog them down in inactivity indefinitely. With yesterday's news that AT&T is blocking yet another video chat application
in order to drive users to more expensive data plans, it's rather clear that the FCC lacks the stomach to actually enforce the rules they designed.
Google today announced a flurry of news at their I/O Conference
, and while the company did not unveil a new Nexus phone, they did announce a new "Google edition" of the Galaxy S4 that will be sold unlocked and comes running a stock version of Android 4.2. According to Google, the phone will feature the "Nexus Google experience" and benefit from quicker Android updates than you traditionally see from the major carriers (which wouldn't be hard).
In late January, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list last year. It remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it unless you get your carrier's permission.
A federal judge this week refused to grant class action status to a Comcast customer complaining that Comcast failed to inform him about the fact the company charges a $7 modem rental fee (unless users buy a modem). Most of the complaints about the fee were dismissed back in January
, the Judge insisting that the plaintiff wasn't specific enough about which markets saw misleading Comcast marketing in relation to the fee.
It appears that Comcast is killing off its Skype service for set top boxes just a year after unveiling it. In May of last year Comcast launched the product offering
, which for an extra $10 a month allowed users to video chat -- if
users subscribe to the Comcast triple play of Digital Starter TV (or above) with HD service, Performance Internet (or above) and Unlimited Voice service.
The last few months have seen several developer and insider leaks
across several outlets
claiming the next Xbox will require an "always on" broadband connection as a way to counter both piracy and used game sales. Needless to say the rumors angered a lot of possible customers with the botched launches of Diablo 3 and SimCity (both requiring always-on connections) freshly in mind.
Buried in a statement
on the company's latest earnings report, wireless carrier U.S. Cellular stated that they too will soon be offering Apple products. "We have a number of strategies in progress to increase loyalty and attract more customers, including our announcement today that we will begin offering Apple products later this year," said the company. U.S. Cellular has had a length and spirited negotiation with Apple, originally turning down a deal because the "terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint." Leap Wireless, who is sitting on piles of unsold iPhones
because their customers don't want to buy them unsubsidized, would probably agree.
Last year you might recall that AT&T was sued for enabling and profiting off of the theft of cell phones
, the plaintiffs alleging that AT&T and other carriers intentionally don't do a very good job tracking and shutting down stolen phones, so that they can sell new service to both victims and
thieves that bring the stolen devices into stores. After the lawsuit brought attention to AT&T's failure to do much about theft, they and other carriers launched a nationwide database
to track stolen phones by IMEI number.
Sprint's launch of HD voice had to be delayed slightly to work out some "kinks," though the company now says HD voice should make an appearance sometime in the next two months. "We had a few things that came out of our FIT [field integration testing] testing in Q4 that we needed to resolve to ensure a really good customer experience," a Sprint spokeswoman tells Light Reading
. "Those have been resolved and now were planning the roll-out." When it does launch, it won't work if users call friends on other carriers -- or even other users different network gear made by various Sprint OEMs Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung. Sprint says it will take "several months to achieve interoperability" after launch, meaning the actual
Sprint launch of HD voice is much later this year.
After a few initial delays, AT&T today announced
that they're launching their new "Digital Life
" home automation and security platform in fifteen markets: Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Riverside, Calif., San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and select areas of New York and New Jersey.
Amazon is about to bring their Kindle brand to the set top box market. Sources tell Bloomberg
that Amazon's Kindle set top box should launch sometime this fall. That puts the device in direct competition with other small TV-focused devices like the Roku, Apple TV, and Boxee Cloud DVR, as well as game consoles by Microsoft and Sony. Around the same time Microsoft is expected to launch not only a new Xbox, but a smaller, cheaper Xbox focused entirely on video
. Amazon's set top is being built by Amazons Lab126 division in Cupertino, and run by former Cisco and Apple exec Malachy Moynihan.
While the Nexus 4 is generally considered a very good phone, Google took a lot of heat at launch
for the fact they didn't offer LTE. That marred an otherwise interesting attempt to bypass carriers by offering a less expensive, unsubsidized phone directly to consumers (aka the way Europeans have been doing it for years).
The tech specs for Google Glass were unveiled this week
, highlighting how the device won't have a cellular radio -- or even 802.11N support in an effort to save battery life and lower the unit's weight. Wired noted another interesting tidbit in the Glass terms of service
: once you've purchased your $1,500 glasses, you are technically prohibited from loaning them or selling them to another person.
Like so much of the software and other content you buy, you technically won't own your expensive new toy and risk device deactivation if your buddy uses the gear:
The companys terms of service on the limited-edition wearable computer specifically states, you may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person. If you resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person without Googles authorization, Google reserves the right to deactivate the device, and neither you nor the unauthorized person using the device will be entitled to any refund, product support, or product warranty."
Granted terms of service are always packed with restrictions, and outside of the eBay sale ban, it's unclear if Google actually intends to try and enforce some of these sillier provisions -- which is obviously going to be an uphill battle.
The ACLU is pressuring regulators to take a closer look at lagging carrier Android updates, claiming that belated security updates in particular are putting consumer privacy at risk. "All four of the major wireless carriers consistently fail to provide consumers with available security updates to repair known security vulnerabilities in the software operating on mobile devices," the ACLU stated in a complaint filed with the FTC
(pdf). Un-upgraded handsets are "defective and unreasonably dangerous," claims the ACLU, given they feature security vulnerabilities that may be used "to target spear-phishing campaigns, physically track or stalk individuals, and perpetrate fraud, resulting in costly bills to the consumer."
In addition to releasing the Google Glass API, Google this week also finally released the technical specs
for the company's Internet-infused eyeglasses, which are just now starting to leave factories and be shipped to members of Google's early-access Explorer program.
According to Google, the $1,500 device features a 5 Megapixel camera capable of 720P video, 16GB of storage (12 GB actually usable), Bluetooth, and bone conduction headphones.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , JKukiewicz , swintec