What’s Hot List: 2/5/16

The costs of AllVid (The Hill Blog 2/3/16)  

With much fanfare, the FCC has just announced a sweeping new proposal to “tear down the barriers” that supposedly limit innovation and choice in video and save TV viewers on their monthly television bills.  The FCC claims its new rules – similar to the “AllVid” mandate rejected by the Obama FCC in 2010 – are needed to let large tech companies create new “set top boxes” viewers could buy to replace the ones they currently lease from their satellite, cable, or fiber video provider. 

The FCC’s cynical set-top box play (The Hill Blog 2/3/16) 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced that it intends to vote this month on a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” aimed at creating a competitive retail market for video set-top boxes, a move that gives clear meaning to the biblical proverb “as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” In 1998, the agency initiated its first attempt to fabricate a competitive retail set-top box market as mandated by Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Over a decade later, the agency would be forced to concede that its “efforts to date have not led to a robustly competitive retail market for navigation devices that connect to subscription video services.” That’s a stout understatement of the facts. Only about 1 percent of consumers ever used the technology despite over a billion dollars in implementation costs. The agency would try again in 2010 with its AllVid proposal, but this scheme never got out of the gate.

Former, current students sue Google over university-issued Gmail scanning (ARS Technica 2/3)

Four former and current University of California, Berkeley students have sued Google in federal court in San Jose, California, claiming that the company scanned their academic-affiliated Gmail accounts. 

Google Fiber’s plan to give free Internet to the poor (Washington Post’s The Switch Blog 2/3)

Google Fiber says it’s going to give away its high speed Internet service to thousands of low-income Americans across the country who can’t afford gigabit broadband. Starting with its Kansas City market, Google Fiber eventually plans to wire “select” public housing buildings in all of the cities where it operates, the company said.

Service will be switched on Wednesday for the West Bluff Townhomes community in Kansas City, Mo. Ultimately, as many as 1,300 households in Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan. will get a free subscription to Google Fiber’s 1,000 Mbps service, enabling those users to download the equivalent of an HD movie in about 7 seconds.

Comcast’s Internet is about to get a lot faster in these 5 cities (Washington Post’s The Switch Blog 2/2)

Comcast has just released some new details about its future-ready answer to Google Fiber and Verizon FiOS. Beginning in the first half of the year, Atlanta and Nashville will be the first cities to take advantage of a new technology that enables gigabit speeds over traditional cable connections.

FCC chief: Internet subsidies for poor coming in ‘not too distant future’ (The Hill 2/3)

The Federal Communications Commission will finish up rules in the “not to distant future” to help subsidize Internet service for low-income Americans, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The FCC started work last year to update Lifeline, the program that now only offers subsidies for traditional voice-only phone service. The update has faced resistance from Republicans who point to lingering inefficiencies in the $1.7 billion program.

ISPs Are Trampling Net Neutrality While The FCC Sits Boxed In By Lawsuits, Upcoming Election (Tech Dirt Blog 2/3)

While the public successfully forced the FCC to adopt net neutrality rules last year, one glaring omission may be coming back to haunt consumers and the commission alike. The FCC’s open Internet rules contain three “bright-line” restrictions: no blocking, no throttling apps or traffic, and no “paid prioritization” of apps or content. Unlike neutrality rules in Japan, The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Chile however, the FCC refused to outright ban zero rating (exempting content from usage caps), instead opting to determine on a “case-by-case basis” if a carrier is violating the “general conduct” portion of the rules.

Big Cable to FCC: Kiss Our Apps (Yahoo Tech 2/2)

Ever since Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said last week that the FCC would move to open up the market for cable boxes, the cable industry has had one response: Relax, we’ve got this!

Where Wheeler called for open standards that would let pay-TV viewers watch the channels they pay for on the gadgets and apps of their choice, cable operators say they’re already making that choice happen by shipping a growing variety of apps.

34 million Americans lack access to broadband service, FCC says (Fox News Technology)

And you thought your Internet was slow.

According to the most recent Broadband Progress Report released by the FCC, 10 percent of Americans (34 million) continue to lack access to advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings.

The report is conducted to ensure compliance with Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires the FCC to report annually on whether advanced telecommunications capability “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” and to take “immediate action” if it is not.

Net Neutrality Expert: T-Mobile’s Binge On Will Lead Internet Down ‘A Slippery Slope’ (Forbes 2/2/16)

Another shot has been fired across the bow in the battle over video streaming and net neutrality. While T-Mobile says its unlimited streaming service Binge On offers value to consumers, a leading expert says it violates net neutrality—and threatens the very future of the Internet itself.