Archives For Broadband

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  August 10, 2009

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:


Technology and the Future of the Comic Book
In all the comic-themed panels I attended at this year’s Comic Con, digital distribution was an unavoidable topic, brought up by audiences, creators or outside observers, no matter the specific theme of the talk.

Judge Denies Further Extensions, DivX/UMG To Be Resolved By Christmas
At one point, DivX may have been able to convince the judge to let them have wider access to the copyright records, but after failing to cite a single “widely distributed” modern act, he put an end to this discovery requirement.

US Telco TV Numbers Up
Apparently we like TV. A lot. Ongoing Nielsen studies show our viewing times continue to increase, and the latest quarterly earnings show that telecom operators are reaping some of the benefit from our love affair with TV.

IBC 2009 Preview
Beyond the technical issues, there’s also the challenge of integrating web-based video and traditional TV services in a workable business model. Part of this involves cross-platform apps that are both useful to a consumers and generate revenue for providers.

Plex Media Center Releases 0.8.2 – New Features & New Plugins
Plex, the popular Mac-based media center software (a fork of the XBMC HTPC software) had a new version released this weekend along with some nice, new plugins as well.

Silicondust releases Gold Version of HDHomeRun Tuner Software
The ever popular SiliconDust HDHomeRun dual network tuner received a software & firmware update to Gold which includes some nice improvements all around including those for SageTV, GBPVR, MediaPortal and even XBMC.

Comcast NFL Network

There we were, happily channel surfing at home last night, and suddenly it appeared out of nowhere: the NFL Network. We have the Comcast digital classic plan and have never, ever had access to the NFL Network before. Surely a mistake, right? Not at all. Somehow back in May I missed the earth-shattering news that Comcast and the NFL Network had finally come to a peaceful resolution in a years-long standoff. After much “friendly” haggling, Comcast finally agreed to carry the network by August 1st with no additional fee required from digital subscribers. As with the dispute over the the Big Ten Network, it was all a matter of finding the right price. In the end, the NFL didn’t have to hand over any channel equity, but it did reduce the cost per subscriber from 70 cents to just over 50 cents on average.

In combination with the NFL Network, I also now get ESPN360 as a Comcast broadband subscriber, and I should be getting ESPNU before the start of college football season. Unlike Dave, I’m not much of a college football fan, but the ESPN360 access will certainly come in handy for those out-of-market Redskins games. Yes, I’m a Redskins fan. And I’m ready for some football!

Re-upping with the CableCo

Dave Zatz —  July 26, 2009


While I dig pay television content and broadband, I can’t say I always dig the cable company. Historically, I haven’t had the greatest experiences with things like billing or installs. Those installs, in particular, have been a recurring pain point. With a 25% no-show rate, the possibly high contractor who had to be escorted out after getting aggressive, his replacement drilling through the wall as intended and continuing on into our dresser as not intended, having to call the franchising authority to encourage Comcast to locate CableCARDs, etc.

So, upon making the move from DC’s Maryland suburbs to the Virginia equivalent I flirted with the idea of giving up cable. Well, most cable. Since dissembling the home theater and selling my place in 2005, we’ve lived like gypsys… and our new rental community bundles basic cable into our monthly fees (for $45). I figured SD CNN would satisfy Melissa and I’d get my fix of HD video over-the-air and via Netflix. Unfortunately, given the construction of our building or our location, I haven’t been able to tune a single major network OTA (WJLA and WUSA haven’t helped the situation) using several indoor antennas and tuning devices. Combined with Verizon raising their FiOS Internet fees, I pretty much had to re-up with cable (we face east and north – no satellite options available).


As if CableCARDs weren’t complex enough to implement with Comcast, Cox Communications here in Virginia utilizes SDV – so TiVo owners also require fugly “tuning adapters” mated to their units via coax and USB to handle switched programming. (Some of my thoughts on the industry cluster here.) At least they’re provided free, although commentary on the TiVo Community indicates reboots are periodically required to keep everything synced up and that they may unintentionally inject copy protection flags – limiting the usefulness of multi-room viewing and TiVoToGo.

Bottom line, after an 8 hour ordeal yesterday, I’m up and running on 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and a cable modem. Cox HD looks great and we may receive even more channels than Comcast. Plus, broadband speeds are very good (see pic below) on the mid-tier package which runs $38ish/mo. All I need now is some sort of stand or entertainment center to house the living room plasma.

For the complete blow by blow of how the install process played out, here’s a capture of my Twitter feed:

  • 3 CableCARDs, 2 tuning adapters, and 1 modem scheduled for install tomorrow, 10-12. I’ll surely tweet Cox’s performance.
  • Why is QVC selling Christmas lights this morning? And why am I even channel surfing QVC?
  • I have no idea where my new cable operator puts channels? Waiting for the installer with CableCARDs this AM. We shall see…
  • Yep, Cox installers suck as bad as Comcast. Received a voicemail on my work line that no one’s home, call to reschedule. BS.
  • After 30 minutes with three phone reps, they’ll try again after 1PM.
  • I just turned off Google Voice’s requirement to announce your name to prevent further confusion of/by the cable guy. *shakes head*
  • Oh, and I offered to pick up the three CableCARDs. But apparently installing them is highly technical and requires a home visit. Uh-huh.
  • With a $30 per television CableCARD “installation” fee, I’d rather sit on hold to activate them myself.
  • I hooked up the cable modem while installer wrestles CableCARDs and tuning adapters. Going on 2+ hrs.
  • There’s gotta be a better way.
  • Success. Finally. I need a beer.
  • Glorious, glorious HD. How I missed you. Cox’s Internet speeds are solid, too. Getting 25+ down on the $38/mo plan. Why’d FiOS raise rates?

After all the buzz surrounding Verizon’s launch of FiOS Facebook and Twitter apps last week, I was surprised to see such limited coverage of the video features also released. Luckily, a well-timed trip to my parents’ house gave me the opportunity to test out the new video-sharing functionality that’s now part of Verizon’s Home Media Manager software.

Home Media Manager is only available to subscribers who purchase Verizon’s Home Media DVR service. It allows users to network media from the Internet and the PC to the main FiOS DVR hub. Until now, that’s only included pics and music, but last week Verizon added long-awaited video support. (Dave first saw this demoed almost exactly one year ago.) Over the weekend I installed the necessary FiOS software on my dad’s computer, and then played around with the new TV features.

Verizon FiOS Internet Video screenshot 4

Video support in Home Media Manager includes the ability to watch both select Internet video clips, and your own home movies. As you can see in the footage above, the  Internet video clips are currently limited to Dailymotion, Veoh, and – no YouTube yet. Entertaining, but since I don’t spend time browsing those sites, not particularly interesting to me. What is interesting is contemplating where Verizon could take this feature in the future. Since we’re talking IP video, there are a lot of opportunities, both in terms of content and advanced features. At the same time, Verizon has to use a different portion of its network bandwidth to deliver video this way (versus its QAM video delivery), and that could ultimately cause network strain. Hmm…

On the home movie front, the FiOS software scans your PC automatically to make compatible videos available to your FiOS set-top. Once that’s done, it’s a simple process to select those videos on the TV menu for playing on the big screen. In my experience, the Home Media Manager software crashed a few times in this process, but once everything ran smoothly, it was a pretty compelling feature. Consumer interest may be mitigated by the fact that more and more camcorders (and PCs) now plug directly into a TV USB port, but the ability to access even old videos with the TV remote control has definite uses, especially because the connection is wireless. You must have your PC running and connected to the Internet, but no wires are required.  I also wonder if Verizon will make it possible in the future to transfer some of your personal video files for storage on the set-top. That would make the process even easier.

If you’re not up for watching the demo video above, I’ve also included some still pics below. The new features are available now across the entire FiOS footprint.

Click to enlarge:

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  May 9, 2009

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

Top Cablecos to Debut Online On-Demand Shows
In recognition of the need to bridge the gap to the Internet, both Comcast and Time Warner Cable have now said they will make select programming available online to TV subscribers in the second half of this year.

Operator Plans for Mobile Broadband

Even as cable and telecom companies gear up with 4G wireless broadband strategies, Wi-Fi continues to grow in popularity, and more operators are starting to use it to their advantage.

The Kindle DX, Bigger and still expensive
At Amazon’s press event they announced their new, bigger, more expensive Kindle. The focus for this one is definitely on the newspaper, periodical and textbook consumer.

The (Sweedish) Pirate party is on
If the Pirate Party can translate their current momentum into enough actual votes to get representatives into the EU parliament, it would get the word out on precisely the kind of copy-left, file sharing, network neutrality that the Pirate Bay has promoted for years via far more mainstream avenues.

How to Share News Items, Music, Videos and Websites on Facebook
Ever wanted to share a blog post, website, video, music or news story in Facebook? There are two ways to do this, by using either: the ‘Share on Facebook’ bookmarklet’; or the attach ‘Links’ method.


Each time I pick up ScreenPlays Magazine I’m reminded to read it more often. The reporting staff often go deeper than many folks in the broadband industry – digging up fantastic little nuggets that, unfortunately, seem to get passed over by the broader industry and mainstream technology press.

In the April issue (PDF), Fred Dawson cites insider sources who say that Comcast has secured a deal with programmers permitting them to broadcast channels from the analog basic tier digitally… and in the clear for two years. There seems to have been trepidation amongst operators regarding how well digital terminal adapters (DTAs) would fare if they required any kind of content decryption technology. Public discussion has always centered on the fact that DTAs don’t need those decryption capabilities found in ‘regular’ set-tops boxes, freeing them from the FCC’s separable security mandate (i.e. CableCARD).

So the question has been: How would providers broadcast encryption-free content from a licensing perspective? And now we know how it’s all going down. Bottom line: Cablecos have a blessed method to make it easy for consumers to access basic digital content. Another step in migrating analog subscribers to digital service, and ultimately (they hope) to premium tiers with VOD, DVR, and the like.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  May 3, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…


Why Does Photo Sharing Still Suck?
Yep, I agree. Still looking for that perfect solution. And still pissed at Kodak for deleting my Galleries when I didn’t make a purchase. PS SmugSmug has a backup solution which uses Amazon’s cloud storage/server farm for an extra fee. They’ll even mail you recoveries on DVD.

Palm’s Foleo: Back From the Dead?
Agree with DTNick – Palm shot themselves in the foot. They understood the form factor, they didn’t understand the market. I played with a pair of Foleos at two different tech press events. Really liked the small size and super sprightly OS. The apps were minimal and minimalistic, but they seemed to have more powerful stuff in the pipeline. Thought it would have made a great mobile blogging tool. Then they blew it all up. I tried to get one that hadn’t been destroyed through some back channels, but never succeeded.

Why I Jumped on the Blu-ray Bandwagon
I had a Blu-ray player via a PS3. But I ended up dumping it. Not because I didn’t like the Blu-ray, but because I didn’t like the gaming experience. I’m fine with HD movie rentals (Xbox, Vudu, Amazon, cable box) and premium cable for now. Oh yeah, I also had a HD DVD player for a short time. That didn’t work out so well.

Here’s Why You Want Bandwidth Caps
Neil, it’s already a reality. Comcast has me capped at 250GB… without a meter to track household usage. 250GB isn’t unreasonable, but online backup solutions are much less useful/realistic. Also, there are NO higher tiers or overages. Break the cap, and my ISP reserves the right to dump me. Unlike a utility, which they may claim to be.

HP’s LX195 Low-End Windows Home Server is $390
@SysRq_: It’s definitely not a Time Capsule killer because HP’s MediaSmart servers don’t actually recover Macs. It’s a bit of smoke and mirror marketing… HP supports Time Machine for individual file recovery, but there’s no network whole-OS recovery. I got burned by this with the EX485.

Are There Caps on Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi Usage?
You still have any phones on T-Mobile? $10 gets you unlimited HotSpot (Starbucks, many airports, etc) PLUS unlimited WiFi domestic calling (if you have a UMA phone like Melissa’s Blackberry Curve 2). Great deal! I also have a Starbucks Gold (black) card which gets me that WiFi. Though the benefit seems the same as the regular debit card – 2hrs/day, purchases every 30 days. Although, I still need my Sprint 3G card. I have it on the friends & family plan, so it’s $50/mo instead of $60. It’s a lot, but well worth it to me. Maybe I should resell some of my wireless access.

(Remixed photo sourced from Elizabeth West, Flickr.)

In the aftermath of last week’s Consumer insurrection to testing of bandwidth caps, Time Warner Cable’s Glenn Britt hinted that metered billing was inevitable.

“…We continue to believe that consumption based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers.”

Now Patrick Knorr of Sunflower Broadband has gone on the record by saying metered bandwidth pricing (including caps and overage fees) are a foregone conclusion. He made this statement Tuesday during a press conference at the American Cable Association’s annual summit in Washington D.C. An especially notable quote by Mr. Knorr was;

“I would like to pay the same price for my heating bill all year round, but I have to pay more in winter, when I use more.”

Both Mr. Knorr and Mr. Britt seem to be implying that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the same as the other household utilities like electricity and natural gas. If that is the case, the subject of Consumers being able to monitor their consumption is not the issue at hand, but how that monitoring is done.

The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is the utility provider cannot be the one who provides the monitoring tools – it is a conflict of interest.

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