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AT&T's $85B US Bid For Time Warner Sparks Antitrust Fears in Washington ( 94

An anonymous reader writes: The two top members of the Senate's antitrust subcommittee said Sunday that they plan to probe a colossal deal between AT&T and Time Warner. In a statement, Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. -- chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights -- said AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues" that the panel would "carefully examine." AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson announced the $85 billion deal Saturday as "a great fit" that will combine the "world's best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen." Among those new properties are HBO, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros., which would give them ownership of Cinemax, CNN and DC Comics, to name a few. Last year, AT&T completed the purchase of DirecTV, the country's largest satellite television provider. In an interview with NBC News, Klobuchar pointed to past mega-media acquisitions -- including the purchase of NBCUniversal by Comcast in 2011 and of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications -- and said the "sheer volume" of the deal should give regulators pause.Presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that he would not approve of this deal if elected as the President. In the meanwhile, Bernie Sanders have also asked Obama administration to kill this agreement. The Vermont Senator said, "The deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people,"

AT&T Buys Time Warner For $85B. Is The Mass Media Consolidating? ( 127

Though regulators may not agree, "Time Warner and AT&T reps claim this is necessary just to compete," warns Mr D from 63. Reuters reports: The tie-up of AT&T Inc and Time Warner Inc, bringing together one of the country's largest wireless and pay TV providers and cable networks like HBO, CNN and TBS, could kick off a new round of industry consolidation amid massive changes in how people watch TV... Media content companies are having an increasingly difficult time as standalone entities, creating an opportunity for telecom, satellite and cable providers to make acquisitions, analysts say. Media firms face pressure to access distribution as more younger viewers cut their cable cords and watch their favorite shows on mobile devices. Distribution companies, meanwhile, see acquiring content as a way to diversify revenue.
The deal reflects "big changes in consumption of video particularly among millennials," according to one former FCC commissioner, and the article also reports that the deal "will face serious opposition." Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey warned "we need more competition, not more consolidation... Less competition has historically resulted in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers..." And in a Saturday speech, Donald Trump called it " an example of the power structure I'm fighting...too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

AT&T Considers Buying Time Warner ( 60

In what would likely be one of the largest telecommunications takeovers in American history, Bloomberg is reporting that ATT has discussed the idea of a possible merger or other partnership with Time Warner Inc (may be paywalled; alternate source). Bloomberg reports: The talks, which at this stage are informal, have focused on building relations between the companies rather than establishing the terms of a specific transaction, the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private. Neither side has yet hired a financial adviser, the people said. Acquiring Time Warner would give ATT, one of the biggest providers of pay-TV and of wireless and home internet service in the U.S., a collection of popular programming to offer to subscribers, from HBO to NBA basketball to the Cartoon Network. ATT CEO Randall Stephenson has been looking to add more content and original programming as part of his plan to transform the Dallas-based telecommunications company into a media and entertainment giant. Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes is a willing seller if he gets an offer he thinks is fair, said one of the people. Bewkes and his board rejected an $85-a-share approach in 2014 from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Inc., which valued Time Warner at more than $75 billion. Last year, ATT paid $48.5 billion to acquire satellite-TV provider DirecTV, its biggest deal in at least 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ATT has been developing an internet-based version of the pay-TV service, called DirecTV now.

iPhone 7 Plus Qualcomm LTE Modem Significantly Outperforms Intel LTE Modem, Study Finds ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: With the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple elected to use LTE modems from two different sources, Qualcomm and Intel. The A1778 and A1784 iPhone models use a GSM-only Intel XMM7360 modem while the A1660 and 1661 iPhone models use a GSM/CDMA-compatible Qualcomm MDM9645M modem. Apple's decision has already caused some disappointment among customers because the GSM-only Intel modem is not compatible with as many carrier networks as the GSM/CDMA Qualcomm modem, and now independent testing conducted by Cellular Insights suggests there are some significant performance differences between the two modems, with the Qualcomm modem outperforming the Intel modem. Using an RS TS7124 RF Shielded Box, two RS CMW500, one RS CMWC controller, and four Vivaldi antennas, Cellular Insights created a setup to simulate LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower using two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one with an Intel modem and one with a Qualcomm modem. The goal of the test was to measure the highest achievable LTE throughput starting at a Reference Signal Received Quality of -85dBm (a strong signal) and gradually reducing the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower where signal is weaker. Three LTE bands were tested: Band 12, Band 4 (the most common band in North America), and Band 7. In all three tests, both the iPhone 7 Plus models offered similar performance in ideal conditions, but as power levels decreased, Cellular Insights saw "unexplainable sharp dips in performance" in the Intel modem, finding a gap "north of 30%" in favor of the Qualcomm iPhone 7 Plus. In the charts, the Qualcomm modem maintains noticeably higher throughput speeds than the Intel modem as signal strength decreases. According to Cellular Insights, in every single test, the iPhone 7 Plus with a Qualcomm modem "had a significant performance edge" over the iPhone 7 Plus with an Intel modem.

Higher-End Smartphones Make You Happier, Says JD Power Study ( 126

A new J.D. Power study published Thursday found that users who pay more for their smartphones report higher satisfaction than those who pay less for their smartphones. The study also found that among ATT and Sprint customers, Samsung phones ranked highest in overall satisfaction, while T-Mobile and Verizon customers preferred Apple iPhones. Jessica Dolcourt via CNET writes about the other conclusions made by the J.D. Power study: - Customers of ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon (full-service carriers) report more satisfaction than customers on Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile (co-contract carriers).
- Full-service customers pay an average of $361 for their phones compared with prepaid customers' $137 average.
-Customers who pay more for their phones report higher satisfaction.
- This is likely because high-cost phones perform better. (Editor's note: no duh)


Non-Cable Internet Providers Offer Faster Speeds To the Wealthy ( 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When non-cable Internet providers -- outlets like ATT or Verizon -- choose which communities to offer the fastest connections, they don't juice up their networks so everyone in their service area has the option of buying quicker speeds. Instead, they tend to favor the wealthy over the poor, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. The Center's data analysis found that the largest non-cable Internet providers collectively offer faster speeds to about 40 percent of the population they serve nationwide in wealthy areas compared with just 22 percent of the population in poor areas. That leaves tens of millions of Americans with the choice of either purchasing an expensive connection from the only provider in their area -- typically a cable company -- or just doing the best they can with slower speeds. Middle-income areas don't fare much better, with a bit more than 27 percent of the population having access to a DSL provider's fastest speeds. The Center reached its conclusions by merging the latest Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data with income information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The non-cable Internet providers -- the four largest are ATT Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, and Frontier Communications Corp -- hook up customers over telephone wires that are Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), or they use hybrid networks that include some fiber connections near (and sometimes directly to) homes. The Center included all types of connection in its analysis. These companies account for nearly 40 percent of the 92 million Internet connections nationwide. Cable companies, such as Comcast Corp and Charter Communications Inc, operate under a different set of conditions. These providers offer the same fast speeds to almost every community they serve, in part because of franchise agreements with local governments. But a previous Center investigation and other reports have shown that cable firms sometimes avoid lower-income or hard-to-reach areas based on how franchise agreements are written. Poor areas not served by the cable companies are not included in the Centerâ(TM)s analysis, which results in what seems like an equitable distribution of speeds across income levels. "Society said it did not matter if you could pay for electricity; we wanted everyone to have it. Society said we would not limit dial tone to those who could pay the most, we gave it to all," said telecommunications lawyer Gerard Lederer of Best Best and Krieger LCC in Washington, D.C., in an e-mail. "Broadband is quickly becoming that utility, and if applications only work at high speeds, then the universal availability of that speed must be the goal, otherwise you are providing everyone with water, just some of the water is not drinkable."

Verizon Is Now Selling Unlimited Data In 30-Minute Increments ( 56

Verizon has unveiled a new pay-as-you-go unlimited mobile data offering yesterday called PopData that has some significant strings attached. The option charges you $2 for 30 minutes or $3 for 60 minutes of unlimited internet data. The Verge reports: Think of it like a microtransaction or in-app purchase in a mobile game, where you can't enjoy the full benefits of a product you ostensibly already own or pay for without ponying up a few extra bucks. There does appear to be some legitimate reasons to want unfettered data access for a short amount of time. For instance, perhaps you know you'll be downloading large files to your phone like numerous Spotify playlists, or maybe you want to enjoy an uninterrupted stream of a sports game or Netflix movie without having to worry about your data cap. But there's no telling really whether this is a good or bad deal, as it complicates how we think of the value of data by blending a monthly bucket metaphor with that of a time-based subscription system. This wouldn't be such a big deal if customers could simply pay for unlimited data every month. Yet Verizon -- unlike ATT, T-Mobile, and Sprint -- does not offer customers a standard unlimited plan, and the company has made an effort to kick users off their grandfathered plans in the past.

Verizon, AT&T Made $600 Million in Overage Fees Alone in 2016 ( 78

A new study claims that Verizon and AT&T made $600 million alone in 2016 just on overage fees. And while both telcos unveiled new plans that let you avoid $15 per gigabyte overages in exchange for just being throttled (Verizon's "safety mode" and AT&T's Mobile Share Advantage) the study by Nerd Wallet found that thanks to buried surcharges and other fees, users on these new plans may not save much money. DSLReports adds: That said, the report claims whether or not you save money under these new plans depends on your (or your family's) usage behavior. "If you're on an average-sized plan and your data overages exceed 8GB per year, choosing one of the new plans will save you money, according to NerdWallet and My Data Manager's analysis," says the report. "The individual Verizon Plan will save you money if you have an average plan, even if you never go over your data limit," it continues. "Otherwise, the new Verizon plans and AT&T's Mobile Share Advantage plans won't save you money. In fact, most consumers on legacy plans would be better off sticking to them and paying the occasional overage fee."

AT&T Considers Stopping All Samsung Note 7 Sales ( 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: ATT Inc. is considering stopping all sales of Samsung Electronics Co.'s flagship Galaxy Note 7 over concerns about the smartphone's safety, according to a person familiar with the situation. A final decision will likely come as soon as Friday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. ATT spokesman Fletcher Cook declined to comment. Like many competitors, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier is already offering alternative smartphones to people who return Note 7 devices. Samsung started replacing the Note 7 last month because of a flaw in its lithium battery that can lead to overheating and pose a burn hazard to customers. Airlines have banned customers from using the smartphones on flights, and the evacuation of a Southwest Airlines Co. plane earlier this week was blamed on smoke caused by a replacement device. ATT's move would be a further blow to Samsung. The wireless carrier is the third-biggest customer of the South Korean company, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung is already facing a bill that analysts estimate stretching into the billions of dollars for the recall of 2.5 million Note 7 phones that it announced last month. A U.S.-based Samsung spokeswoman didn't immediately have a comment.

AT&T Gigabit Internet Coming To 11 More US Regions ( 64

AT&T is bringing its gigabit Internet service to 11 new metro areas. Currently available in parts of 29 cities around the country, the ultra-fast network -- which the company is now calling AT&T Fiber -- is expected to reach another 45 locations by the end of this year, reads a PCMag article. From the report: That includes 11 new markets: Florida: Gainesville and Panama City, Georgia: Columbus, Kentucky: Central Kentucky, Louisiana: Lafayette, Mississippi: Biloxi-Gulfport and Northeast Mississippi, Tennessee: Southeastern Tennessee and Knoxville, and Texas: Corpus Christi.

AT&T To End Targeted Ads Program, Give All Users Lowest Available Price 44

AT&T has confirmed to ArsTechnica that it is getting rid of Internet Preferences, a controversial program that analyzed home internet customers' web browsing habits in order to serve some targeted ads. From the report:"To simplify our offering for our customers, we plan to end the optional Internet Preferences advertising program related to our fastest Internet speed tiers," an AT&T spokesperson said. "As a result, all customers on these tiers will receive the best rate we have available for their speed tier in their area. We'll begin communicating this update to customers early next week." Data collection and targeted ads will be shut off, AT&T also confirmed. Since AT&T introduced Internet Preferences for its GigaPower fiber Internet service in 2013, customers had to opt into the traffic scanning program in order to receive the lowest available rate. Customers who wanted more privacy had to pay another $29 a month for standalone Internet access; bundles including TV or phone service could cost more than $60 extra when customers didn't opt in.
The Courts

Appeals Court Decision Kills North Carolina Town's Gigabit Internet ( 222

MojoKid writes: In early August, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina -- population 1,300 -- will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town -- sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town -- lawsuit

AT&T Is Phasing Out the U-Verse Video, Broadband Brand ( 44

AT&T is killing off the 'U-Verse' brand after its $69 billion acquisition of DirecTV. AT&T's broadband and phone services will now be called AT&T Internet and AT&T Phone. The company says the move will bring "simplicity" across the swaths of services it offers. FierceTelecom adds: This transition should not be of any great surprise as the same trend has been taking place with U-verse TV. AT&T has been driving new TV customers to its DirecTV satellite service, a process that could enable the telco to use the additional bandwidth to increase broadband speeds. While AT&T is still supporting current U-verse IPTV customers, the telco has not indicated how long they will continue to offer that service. Additionally, AT&T may also phase out the DirecTV name at some point, but industry insiders said that won't occur until it launches its streaming video service under DirecTV. AT&T has already been moving away from the U-Verse name by directing new TV customers to the company's DirecTV satellite TV service. The company will likely then use the freed bandwidth from that transition to improve overall broadband speeds. Existing U-Verse TV customers are being supported for now, but it's unclear how long that will last.The Hollywood Reporter states that the move is also necessary because AT&T plans to launch three streaming video services next quarter.

Comcast Will Launch a Wireless Service Next Year ( 50

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:Comcast plans to launch its own wireless service in 2017, CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Tuesday. Since Comcast doesn't have its own cell towers, it'll rely on WiFi networks for connectivity. The user will be switched to Verizon's network when they're away from WiFi. There are already a few smaller carriers that offer services like this, like Google's Project Fi and Republic Wireless. Those companies work as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and pay major wireless carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile to use their cell towers when users aren't connected to WiFi. MVNOs tend to be cheaper than traditional wireless carriers, offering benefits like the option to only pay for the data you use. The move will also help Comcast and Verizon compete with AT&T, which merged with DirecTV and is able to offer combined wireless, home broadband, and TV packages.

AT&T and Comcast Helped Elected Official Write Plan To Stall Google Fiber ( 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As the Nashville Metro Council prepares for a final vote to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles, one council member is sponsoring an alternative plan that comes from ATT and Comcast. The council has tentatively approved a One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ordinance that would let a single company -- Google Fiber in this case -- make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself. Ordinarily, Google Fiber must wait for incumbent providers like ATT and Comcast to send construction crews to move their own wires, requiring multiple visits and delaying Google Fiber's broadband deployment. The pro-Google Fiber ordinance was approved in a 32-7 preliminary vote, but one of the dissenters asked ATT and Comcast to put forth a competing proposal before a final vote is taken. The new proposal from council member Sheri Weiner "call[s] for Google, ATT, Comcast and Nashville Electric Service to create a system that improves the current process for making utility poles ready for new cables," The Tennessean reported last week. "Weiner said ATT and Comcast helped draft the resolution she proposes." Weiner told Ars that she asked ATT and Comcast to propose a resolution. "I told them that I would file a resolution if they had something that made sense and wasn't as drastic as OTMR," Weiner told Ars in an e-mail today, when we asked her what role ATT and Comcast played in drafting the resolution. Weiner said she is insisting on some changes to the resolution, but the proposal (full text) was submitted without those changes. When asked why she didn't put her suggested changes in the version of the resolution published on the council website, Weiner said, "I had them [ATT and Comcast] submit it for me as I was out of town all last week on business (my day job)." Weiner said an edited resolution will be considered by the council during its next meeting. Weiner's plan could stall the OTMR ordinance and -- though it might improve Google Fiber's current situation -- would not provide the quick access to poles sought by Google Fiber and most council members. However, Weiner said she is willing to support OTMR later on if her proposal doesn't result in significant improvements.

Cable Lobby Tries To Make You Forget That It Represents Cable Companies ( 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. cable industry's biggest lobby group has dropped the word "cable" from its name in a rebrand focusing on its members' role as providers of both Internet and TV services. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will henceforth be called NCTA-The Internet and Television Association. NCTA will be maintained in the name as a nod to the group's past, even though the initials no longer stand for any particular words. "Just as our industry is witnessing an exciting transformation driven by technology and connectivity, NCTA's brand must reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our members," NCTA CEO Michael Powell (a former Federal Communications Commission chairman) said in today's announcement. The group's "mission to drive the industry forward remains the same," he said. This isn't the NCTA's first name change. The group began as the National Community Television Council in 1951 and then became the National Community Television Association in 1952, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Despite dropping the word "cable," the NCTA's name change announcement makes reference to how cable companies are dominating the broadband market. Powell noted that the NCTA "represent[s] an industry that is America's largest and fastest home Internet provider." As it goes forward, the NCTA won't be the only telecom lobby group initialism that no longer stands for anything. The CTIA -- previously known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and then the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association -- is now just "CTIA-The Wireless Association."

Intel Breaks Qualcomm's Hold On Apple's Baseband Chips ( 84

Long-time Slashdot reader randomErr writes: In a big blow to Qualcomm, Apple plans to incorporate Intel baseband chips into at least some models of the new iPhone 7. The selection of Intel chip means that in newer iPhones Apple will no longer support CDMA technology popularized by Qualcomm. The Wall Street Journal states that many industry analysts believe Intel could be supplying as many as half of of baseband chips for Apple's handsets.
This was the last key iPhone component that didn't have two sources, and the Journal estimates that Intel's revenues could now increase by up to $700 million before the end of 2016.
The Internet

Verizon Now Offers 'Unlimited' Data On All Plans, Without $5 Fee ( 36

In July, Verizon announced some big changes coming to its data plans that will make them more expensive, but will add more data. They include some new features like "Carryover Data," which is Verizon slang for rollover data, and "Safety mode," which eliminates the prospect of an overage fee and reduces the speed of the service until the end of the month. Originally, the "feature" was $5 per month for some shared data plans and was included free for Verizon's XL and XXL plan customers. However, this week Verizon announced it's now including safety mode for "free" on all plans, according to DSL Reports. "Responding to ATT's own new plans and renewed pressure from T-Mobile, Verizon will no longer be charging users the $5 'safety mode' fee starting September 6th. Instead, you'll just be throttled to 128 kbps for the remainder of your billing cycle, unless you're willing to pay $15 per each additional gigabyte at LTE speeds. That's good news for users on the S (2GB), M (4GB) and L (8GB) who were shelling out an extra $5 per month, though it doesn't really help make Verizon's new plans any more interesting overall."

US Appeals Court Dismisses AT&T Data Throttling Lawsuit ( 26

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A federal appeals court in California on Monday dismissed a U.S. government lawsuit that accused ATT Inc of deception for reducing internet speeds for customers with unlimited mobile data plans once their use exceeded certain levels. The company, however, could still face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission regarding the slowdowns, also called "data throttling." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said it ordered a lower court to dismiss the data-throttling lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC sued ATT on the grounds that the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier failed to inform consumers it would slow the speeds of heavy data users on unlimited plans. In some cases, data speeds were slowed by nearly 90 percent, the lawsuit said. The FTC said the practice was deceptive and, as a result, barred under the Federal Trade Commission Act. ATT argued that there was an exception for common carriers, and the appeals court agreed.

ISP Lobbyists Pushing Telecom Act Rewrite ( 77

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports:Telecom lobbyists are pushing hard for a rewrite of the Telecom Act, this time with a notable eye on cutting FCC funding and overall authority. AT&T donated at least $70,000 to back Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, and clearly expects him to spearhead the rewrite and make it a priority in 2017. The push is an industry backlash to a number of consumer friendly initiatives at the FCC, including new net neutrality rules, the reclassification of ISPs under Title II, new broadband privacy rules, new cable box reform and an attempt to protect municipal broadband. AT&T's Ryan donation is the largest amount AT&T has ever donated to a single candidate, though outgoing top AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi has also thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton.

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