AT&T outclassed Verizon in hurricane response, and it wasn’t close, union says

A Florida man sets up a sign that says,

Enlarge / PANAMA CITY, Fla. – OCTOBER 19: Mark Mauldin hangs a sign near the front of his property expressing his dissatisfaction with his Verizon cell phone service following Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Panhandle on October 10. (credit: Getty Images | Scott Olson )

filing with the Federal Communications Commission, which recently found that carriers’ mistakes prolonged outages caused by the hurricane. Many customers had to go without cellular service for more than a week.

It’s not surprising for a union to argue that union workers are preferable to contractors, of course. But it seems clear that AT&T did a better job than Verizon after the storm. In the days following the October 2018 hurricane, Florida Governor Rick Scott slammed Verizon for its poor hurricane response while praising AT&T for quickly restoring service.

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Pornhub wants to buy Tumblr and restore site to former porn-filled glory

A Verizon logo displayed along with stock prices at the New York Stock Exchange.

Enlarge / A monitor seen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Less than two years after buying Tumblr as part of its Yahoo acquisition, Verizon is reportedly trying to sell the blogging platform. Pornhub has also announced that it wants to buy Tumblr and end the site’s Verizon-imposed porn ban.

“Verizon Communications Inc. is seeking a buyer for blogging website Tumblr, according to people familiar with the matter, as it tries to steady a media business that has struggled to meet revenue targets,” The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Pornhub quickly announced its interest after the news broke, although it isn’t clear whether the two companies have talked. Verizon banned all adult content from Tumblr in December 2018, and Pornhub wants to restore the site to its former porn-filled glory.

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Millimeter-wave 5G isn’t for widespread coverage, Verizon admits

A giant Verizon 5G logo in an expo hall.

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote that millimeter-wave spectrum “will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments,” wireless industry analyst Craig Moffett asked Vestberg about Ray’s statement during a Verizon earnings call.

Vestberg responded that millimeter-wave spectrum “has lived up to our expectation on performance” and will get better as Verizon improves the software for managing the spectrum. But he added a significant caveat.

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Palm’s tiny secondary smartphone arrives November 2

Can’t wait to get your giant hand on Palm’s tiny “ultra-mobile?” Turns out it will be arriving sooner than later — next Friday, in fact. Verizon (you know, the giant telecom that owns the media conglomerate that owns TechCrunch) announced today that it will be launching the strange new thing on November 2.

The 3.3-inch device runs $349 off-contract. On-contract, it’s $14.58 a month for two years. It will be available through the carrier’s stores o through Best Buy kiosks. The companies are also betting big on accessories, from companies including Kate Spade, Zagg, LifeActiv and some Verizon-branded products.

Makes sense, as the device is being positioned as somewhere between a smartphone and smartwatch, given its small size. It’s novel, for sure, the notion of what’s essentially a smaller, second phone. It’s also fairly retro, both from the standpoint of the startup licensing out the familiar name and the fact that it sports roughly the same size screen as the original iPhone.

I know I’m excited to try the thing out. The built quality is certainly there from my initial impressions, and you can’t really go wrong with a design that looks like nothing more than a shrunk down iPhone. Of course, the company has painted itself into a bit of a corner with a single carrier launch for a device that already includes a number of barriers to entry.

Of course, with the run that Steph’s been having lately, maybe they’ll pull it off, after all.

Hate your Comcast broadband? Verizon might sell you 5G home Internet

A Verizon router in a home along with text that says,

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

this week were Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Comcast is the main cable provider in Houston, Indianapolis, and Sacramento, while Charter leads the way in Los Angeles and covers part of Indianapolis, according to ISP tracker BroadbandNow.

That’s no coincidence. Verizon Chief Technology Architect Ed Chan told Ars that Verizon is focusing on using the $70-per-month wireless home Internet service to compete against dominant cable companies.

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AT&T and Verizon want to manage your identity across websites and apps

A smartphone app showing an option to confirm or deny a login attempt.

Enlarge / Project Verify would let you confirm or deny logins for other apps and websites. (credit: Project Verify)

Project Verify” from a consortium of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile US, and Sprint, was unveiled in a demo yesterday. It works similarly to other multi-factor authentication systems by letting users approve or deny login requests from other websites and apps, reducing the number of times users must enter passwords. The carriers’ consortium is putting the call out to developers of third-party apps and websites, who can contact the consortium for information on linking to the new authentication system.

“The Project Verify app can be preloaded or downloaded to the user’s mobile device,” a video describing the technology says. “And then when they face a login screen on their favorite sites and apps, they select the verify option. That’s it—Project Verify does the rest.”

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Verizon 5G home Internet: $70/month, 300Mbps to 1Gbps speeds, no data caps

A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Enlarge / A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

single-millisecond latencies.”

Verizon 5G Home will be available in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento beginning on October 1, and customers can sign up starting on Thursday morning, Verizon announced yesterday.

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Fire dept. rejects Verizon’s “customer support mistake” excuse for throttling

Enlarge / A West Covina firefighter pulls a hose away from a horse barn that burns as the Mendocino Complex Fire moves through the area on July 31, 2018 in Lakeport, California. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan)

yesterday acknowledged that it shouldn’t have continued throttling Santa Clara County Fire Department’s “unlimited” data service while the department was battling the Mendocino Complex Fire. Verizon said the department had chosen an unlimited data plan that gets throttled to speeds of 200kbps or 600kbps after using 25GB a month but that Verizon failed to follow its policy of “remov[ing] data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations.”

“This was a customer support mistake” and not a net neutrality issue, Verizon said.

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Verizon throttled fire department’s “unlimited” data during Calif. wildfire

Enlarge / A firefighter battling the Medocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan )

Santa Clara fire department has responded to Verizon’s claim that the throttling was just a customer service error and “has nothing to do with net neutrality.” To the contrary, “Verizon’s throttling has everything to do with net neutrality,” a county official said.

Verizon Wireless’ throttling of a fire department that uses its data services has been submitted as evidence in a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate federal net neutrality rules.

“County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration. “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

Bowden’s declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission. The government agencies are seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit they filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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Making way for new levels of American innovation

New fifth-generation “5G” network technology will equip the United States with a superior wireless platform, unlocking transformative economic potential. However, 5G’s success is contingent on modernizing outdated policy frameworks that dictate infrastructure overhauls and establishing the proper balance of public-private partnerships to encourage investment and deployment.

Most people have heard by now of the coming 5G revolution. Compared to 4G, this next-generation technology will deliver near-instantaneous connection speed, significantly lower latency — meaning near-zero buffer times — and increased connectivity capacity to allow billions of devices and applications to come online and communicate simultaneously and seamlessly.

While 5G is often discussed in future tense, the reality is it’s already here. Its capabilities were displayed earlier this year at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where Samsung and Intel showcased a 5G enabled virtual reality (VR) broadcasting experience to event-goers. In addition, multiple U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, have announced commercial deployments in select markets by the end of 2018, while chipmaker Qualcomm unveiled last month its new 5G millimeter-wave module that outfits smartphones with 5G compatibility.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – 2018/02/26: View of the phone company QUALCOMM technology 5G in the Mobile World Congress. (Photo by Ramon Costa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

While this commitment from 5G commercial developers is promising, long-term success of 5G is ultimately dependent on addressing two key issues.

The first step is ensuring the right policies are established at the federal, state and municipal levels in the U.S. that will allow the buildout of needed infrastructure, namely “small cells.” This equipment is designed to fit on streetlights, lampposts and buildings. You may not even notice them as you walk by, but they are critical to adding capacity to the network and transmitting wireless activity quickly and reliably. 

In many communities across the U.S., 20th century infrastructure policies are slowing the emergence of bringing next-generation networks and technologies online. Issues, including costs per small cell attachment, permitting around public rights-of-way and deadlines on application reviews, are all less-than-exciting topics of conversation but act as real threats to achieving timely implementation of 5G according to recent research from Accenture and the 5G Americas organization.

Policymakers can mitigate these setbacks by taking inventory of their own policy frameworks and, where needed, streamlining and modernizing processes. For instance, current small cell permit applications can take upwards of 18 to 24 months to advance through the approval process as a result of needed buy-in from many local commissions, city councils, etc. That’s an incredible amount of time for a community to wait around and ultimately fall behind on next-generation access. As a result, policymakers are beginning to act. 

Thirteen states, including Florida, Ohio and Texas, have already passed bills alleviating some of the local infrastructure hurdles accompanying increased broadband network deployment, including delays and pricing. Additionally, this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has moved on multiple orders that look to remedy current 5G roadblocks, including opening up commercial access to more amounts of needed high-, mid- and low-band spectrum.

The second step is identifying areas in which public and private entities can partner to drive needed capital and resources toward 5G initiatives. These types of collaborations were first made popular in Europe, where we continue to see significant advancement of infrastructure initiatives through combined public-private planning, including the European Commission and European ICT industry’s 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP).

The U.S. is increasing its own public-private levels of planning. In 2015, the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation launched its successful “Smart City Challenge” encouraging planning and funding in U.S. cities around advanced connectivity. More recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded New York City a $22.5 million grant through its Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative to create and deploy the first of a series of wireless research hubs focused on 5G-related breakthroughs, including high-bandwidth and low-latency data transmission, millimeter wave spectrum, next-generation mobile network architecture and edge cloud computing integration.

While these efforts should be applauded, it’s important to remember they are merely initial steps. A recent study conducted by CTIA, a leading trade association for the wireless industry, found that the United States remains behind both China and South Korea in 5G development. If other countries beat the U.S. to the punch, which some anticipate is already happening, companies and sectors that require ubiquitous, fast and seamless connection — like autonomous transportation, for example — could migrate, develop and evolve abroad, casting lasting negative impact on U.S. innovation. 

The potential economic gains are also significant. A 2017 Accenture report predicts an additional $275 billion in infrastructure investments from the private sector, resulting in up to 3 million new jobs and a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of $500 billion. That’s just on the infrastructure side alone. On the global scale, we could see as much as $12 trillion in additional economic activity according to discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January.

Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” When it comes to America’s technology evolution, this quote holds especially true. Our nation has led the digital revolution for decades. Now with 5G, we have the opportunity to unlock an entirely new level of innovation that will make our communities safer, more inclusive and more prosperous for all.