Broadbandits: Data cap craze spreads to Charter Communications

via DVICE by Charlie White on 2/6/09

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You know how we warned you about Time Warner’s plans to limit broadband usage in more cities? Now the nearly-bankrupt Charter Communications has decided to set limits, too, but they are significantly more lenient than Time Warner’s stingy 40GB/month cap.

Charter will bring the hammer down on Monday (2/9/09), limiting heavy downloaders to 100GB/month on its 15Mbps (megabits per second) tier, and 250GB (equal to Comcast’s limit) on the higher tier of up to 25Mbps. The company’s easing into this draconian measure — Charter isn’t saying anything about consequences of running over those limits, and adds that the caps won’t be strictly enforced … at first. The good news: those lucky users of Charter’s recently announced $140/month 60Mbps top tier reportedly won’t be metered.

What’s next? Verizon FiOS? We deplore these kinds of limits on broadband access that was formerly called “unlimited,” but really, how many of you are downloading more than 250GB of data per month? That’s equal to two 720p HD movies every day. What would be a fair limit?

DSL Reports, via Ars Technica

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Details on AT&T’s 3G MicroCell: everything but the date and price

via Engadget by Chris Ziegler on 1/25/09

T-Mobile has HotSpot @Home, Sprint has AIRAVE, and Verizon has its Wireless Network Extender, leaving just AT&T among the States’ big four carriers without a launched WiFi or femtocell solution for extending signals into the home — but it looks like that’s finally getting close to changing. We know that they’ve been in the process of trialing some units recently, and tipsters have observed that there’s now a pretty slick site launched on AT&T’s domain for its 3G MicroCell, an indication that they might be looking to go retail eventually. There’s quite a bit of detail here; from the picture, we can make out that the unit comes from Cisco (versus Samsung for Sprint and Verizon), and like its competitors, the MicroCell will require a broadband connection to operate. It’ll cover up to 5,000 square feet, allow up to four simultaneous voice or data connections (locked down so that your neighbors can’t pilfer the signal), and most interestingly, will only work with 3G phones. We’ve heard that femtocells are more difficult to manage in a 2G GSM environment than in CDMA and WCDMA — hence the 3G requirement — but the cells offered by Sprint and Samsung only offer 2G coverage, so AT&T’s arguably got an advantage here. We still don’t know exactly when this is coming or for how much dough, but the site makes mention of a “3G MicroCell service plan,” so we’d count on a fee for the pleasure of extending AT&T’s network on their behalf. Follow the break for AT&T’s full rundown of the device.

Japan’s Kizuna Satellite to Beam Souped Up Internet Connection Back Home

via Gizmodo by Haroon Malik on 2/24/08

Kizuna%20Launch%20GI.jpgJapan is launching the Kizuna satellite, which will bring high-speed internet access to Japan’s remote territories and neighboring countries, as well as providing continuous networking in case of emergency. The $342 million project, spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is expected to culminate in internet connections reaching speeds of 1.2Gbps, dwarfing current ADSL connections that typically allow data transfer to occur at below 8 Mbps. Users will need to install an antenna to be able to receive a signal, but for those speeds, I’d be willing to trade in a pound of my very own flesh.

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Kizuna is expected to go live in July following a setup process once it is in position, but a speed boost is not the only aim of the game. Having a satellite in space means natural disasters on Earth are not going to have any ramifications on the country’s connectivity, which can be imperative in disaster zones. If all should go well, expect such an infrastructure to hit the mainstream. Does that mean everyone will have a 1.2Gbps connection? Will outages become a thing of the past? Does Simba eventually become a good leader? The answers come in July, when the service rolls out.

[JAXA via Yahoo News; AP]

First Look: HBO on Broadband off to a strong start

via DVICE by Charlie White on 1/31/08

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Time Warner just launched a test of its new HBO on Broadband service, only available so far to residents of Wisconsin who are subscribers of Time Warner Cable, HBO and Road Runner broadband. It so happens that some of your humble narrators at DVICE are currently living on Wisconsin’s appealing yet frozen tundra, and qualify for the free service. As soon as we heard about it, we jumped at the chance to get our hands and eyes on it. So we took HBO on Broadband for a spin using a desktop PC, a laptop and a home theater PC, giving it quite a workout. Here are our first-hand impressions.

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The special player is a separate application, not browser-based, but for now it’s only supporting Windows XP and Vista. If you’re an HBO subscriber and have Time Warner’s Road Runner broadband cable service, you can download HBO on Broadband’s 48.9MB application which hooks you up to the service’s 600 titles. Included in that list of shows are all HBO’s currently-running series and movies, as well as a few shows from the company’s back catalog.

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Downloads are fast, and you can start watching immediately. Well, almost. When we tried pressing Play right after hitting the download button, it stuttered a bit, but after a few seconds, it’s smooth sailing all the way. That’s helped along by our sprightly 14.6mbps Road Runner connection.

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You can take it with you. You can either watch HBO’s east coast feed live (pictured above) while you’re connected to Road Runner, or download a show on your laptop (up to five PCs allowed per account) and watch it on the road, even when you’re not connected. This is where the service really shines, and is better than Netflix “Watch Now.”

My Library lets you store the shows you’ve downloaded, and the programs don’t take up too much disk space—they’re compressed fairly tightly—around 600MB per hour of playback. You designate how much hard drive space to dedicate to this library, and titles stay on board for various lengths of time until HBO decides they expire. For instance, currently airing episodes of The Wire don’t expire until the end of March, a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode expires two weeks from now, while a Sopranos show expires at the end of the day today.

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Playback looks okay, but it’s not HDTV. The low rez still looks pretty good on standard-def shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Flight of the Conchords, but HD resolution is sorely missed on shows such as The Sopranos and The Wire. They’re shown in letterbox format with image quality that’s not quite as good as a DVD. Making matters worse is the player’s color rendering, taking on a red tinge on some shows (see pic above) that was mildly annoying, and there’s no way to adjust the tint or saturation.

You can play the content full-screen. Or, play it in the app’s small window if you want. We like the player’s added niceties such as the Netflix-like ability to rate each show or movie you’ve seen, as well as see other subscriber’ ratings.

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You can schedule recordings of upcoming HBO shows, akin to TiVo’s Season Pass. Just click Season Pass and you can choose to download all the episodes from that season, or just download new episodes.

Summing up, HBO’s first foray into the streaming video/download game is looking good. While we’d like to see all of the network’s back catalog of stellar series available for download in HD, the opening slate of 600 standard-def choices isn’t too shabby. The player works well, has some welcome conveniences and might just make a plane flight or two go a lot faster with its content-to-go capability. Best of all, it’s free if you’re already paying for HBO at home.

AT&T hands out free hotspot access to broadband customers, ups its bandwidth

via Engadget by Joshua Topolsky on 1/24/08

AT&T, continuing to be the open, giving, and free-wheeling loony that it is, has decided to bestow cost-free access to its 10,000+ WiFi hotspots (for its broadband subscribers, that is). Effective immediately, if you’re tossing money the company’s way for any high-speed access, you can hop onto wireless networks in retail shops, restaurants, and airports free of charge… provided they’re AT&T networks. We know its a lot to handle, but get this — the telco has also upped the speeds of its U-verse service to a whopping 10 Mbps downstream / 1.5 Mbps upstream configuration, undoubtedly warming the hearts of AT&T subscribers hankering for a little more bandwidth to sustain their ever-increasing ‘net needs. It’s like the holidays all over again.

Read – AT&T To Deliver Free Access To Nation’s Largest Wi-Fi Network
Read – AT&T Boosts Bandwidth Choices and Speed with 10 Mbps Offer for U-verse Customers

All-You-Can-Eat Broadband Is Dead: Time Warner to Charge by the Byte

via Gizmodo by matt buchanan on 1/17/08

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Reason number 149 I won’t move to Texas: Time Warner confirmed it’ll be testing a new pricing plan in Beaumont that’s based on how much bandwidth you eat up. That’s right, hard caps. Totally made-up example, since they haven’t released details on the package tiers: Pay $50 a month for 500 gigs, and if you consume more, get slapped with probably obscene overage fees.

Supposedly, consumption-based billing is aimed at all you assholes downloading movies from BitTorrent—”heavy users of large downloads,” the purported 5 percent that swallows “up to 50 percent of network capacity” in order to improve network performance. But this is, at least partially, BS.

Everybody is using more bandwidth than ever, and that is going to continue ramping up with services like Netflix and iTunes that keep pushing these “large downloads” into the mainstream. So, it might only hit a small percentage of users really hard right now, but soon enough it’ll be hitting everybody, which is the real point.

At the same time, ISPs and telcos are lobbying hard against network neutrality, largely so they can slap the content providers themselves with higher costs for equal priority on the network with the ISP’s own services. In other words, they’re reaching into the cookie jar with both hands—from the top, and a hole they’re trying to cut into the bottom.

For now, Time Warner’s plan will only affect new users starting sometime in the next couple of months, and they actually give you tools to monitor your data diet, but if there isn’t a total revolt and pillaging of their home office, expect them to roll it out nationally and other providers to follow suit.

[AP/Wired]