Archives For Broadband

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 Blip.tv – 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.

motorola-dta

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…

kodak-crap

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.

broadband-meter
(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.

Continue Reading…

cablevision-101-mbps-docsis-3

Cablevision is going renegade. Unlike many other operators, the company has come out against bandwidth caps. And now to add to that rebel stance, Cablevision is introducing a new speed tier at $99.95 per month with 101 Mbps downstream. That’s higher than anything else offered in the US, and marks the first time we’ve seen someone break the 100 Mbps barrier on this continent. It’s remarkable that only 18 months ago we were looking at 20 Mbps as a record speed tier. It’s a wonder what competition (and DOCSIS 3.0 technology) will do.

Cablevision has also made headlines by offering free Wi-Fi access to subscribers at certain hotspots in its footprint. As many have pointed out, the MSO is going all out to counteract Verizon, which has come on strong in the NYC area. What’s interesting is how innovative Cablevision is willing to be. Remember, Cablevision is also the cable company fighting for Network DVR. It may not be one of the largest players on the scene, but Cablevision continues to do interesting things.

Full press release after the jump.

Continue Reading…

Bandwidth Caps: Round 27

Mari Silbey —  April 16, 2009

bandwidth-caps

Get used to it. We’re going to be talking about bandwidth caps for a long time to come. To sum up the latest happenings, Time Warner Cable sparked fresh outrage with the recent news that it would be testing consumption-based billing beyond Beaumont Texas. Then lots of other cable operator folks jumped in with their two cents on metered broadband and whether they would or would not consider it. Now NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow weighs in with his perspective that testing a new form of pricing is just that, a test. Let the experiment play out and continue to have open dialogue.

I have pretty strong opinions on cable and Internet video because I work in the business. (NOTE: My opinions do not reflect those of my employer Motorola.) However, I don’t  come down squarely on either side of the issue. I don’t like bandwidth caps, and would prefer not to have them, but at the same time I don’t believe that operators are trying to protect their television turf by inhibiting online video. Among several other reasons, many of the content companies out there aren’t going to suddenly slide in line with the everything-for-free-on-the-Web approach. These companies like the revenue they get from cable licensing agreements. Unlike over-the-air broadcast networks, they depend on cable revenue in addition to the income they bring in from advertising. So everything you want to see isn’t going to end up on Hulu or TV.com. (Try to find full episodes of Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs or Trading Spaces online, not to mention ESPN content) And that takes away a lot of the threat to the cable subscription model.

I do believe, on the other hand, that cable operators want to set a precedent now with metered billing to get consumers used to the idea that bandwidth isn’t free. As I said, I don’t like caps, and as a consumer I don’t want them, but reasonable caps are, well, reasonable. For example, Comcast’s 250GB cap completely satisfies my needs today. I want to believe that the cap will go up as my demand goes up, and if the cap ceiling rises so that it’s always the equivalent of what 250GB gives me today, then I’m okay with that. There will always be arguments about what’s “reasonable”, and I’m okay with that too. Let’s continue to debate it.

I also understand the innovation argument and agree there should be room under the cap for continued innovation. Again, how much room? What’s reasonable? We should continue to ask those questions.

Bandwidth caps aren’t likely to disappear, so it’s good that they inspire such public debate. One motion I can get behind: Please give us effective bandwidth meters! If an operator’s going to cap my broadband usage, I should at least be able to measure it.