January 8, 2013
Rewiring all of Lower Manhattan with fiber-optic cable after Hurricane Sandy would be hard enough without landlords blocking the way with their palms open. But that is what Verizon alleges some are doing. Verizon, whose copper wires under the streets of the financial district were ruined by the storm's floodwaters, complained last week that "many building owners in Lower Manhattan" had barred their doors. Some have simply refused to let the company in, but others have demanded exorbitant fees for access, the company said in a petition to state regulators. "In some of these cases, building owners have demanded excessive compensation from Verizon to permit the installation of fiber-optic-facilities," a Verizon lawyer wrote to the state's Public Service Commission. Verizon named six downtown buildings in its petition.
A Verizon spokesman, John Bonomo, declined to say how much the landlords asked for, but cable-industry executives said building owners have sought as much as $150 per apartment in what are known as door fees. For a building like 11 Maiden Lane, that could translate to more than $10,000. In its petition, Verizon cited an e-mail from DSA Management, the company that manages 11 Maiden Lane, mentioning its demand for "compensation in exchange for allowing Verizon access to the building." Ralph Abecassis, a DSA executive, said tenants at 11 Maiden Lane never lost phone service because of the storm and did not need the additional services that Verizon wanted to provide. He did not respond to inquiries about Verizon's contention about a demand for payment. Some other buildings in the area have yet to have their phone service restored, however, Verizon officials said.
Mr. Bonomo said Verizon sometimes paid a "nominal fee" for permission to post fliers advertising its services or to set up a sales table in a building lobby. But some landlords have asked for significantly more to allow Verizon in to install equipment, he said. Door fees and other financial arrangements between landlords and cable companies were commonplace before regulators started fostering competition. The companies paid to have exclusive access to apartment buildings and complexes, either in upfront fees based on the number of potential customers or by agreeing to share the revenue derived from tenants.
But in 2007, the Federal Communications Commission banned cable companies from striking such deals to keep competitors out. That decision, which was upheld in 2009 by a federal appeals court, helped phone companies like Verizon compete with incumbent cable system operators like Time Warner. Verizon has been rushing to replace all of the copper wire that was damaged by the salt water that flooded into the financial district when Hurricane Sandy hit more than two months ago. The conversion gives Verizon the chance to sell its "triple play" combination of telephone, broadband and cable television services. The company appealed to regulators on the need to restore telephone service but based the petition on a regulation that prohibits blocking access to cable TV providers.
Landlords and their representatives said they recognized the opportunity Verizon was hoping to cash in on. But some said they did not feel any urgency to let the company in to start running wires along their stairwells and hallways. Two of the larger buildings Verizon cited - luxury high-rises at 2 Gold Street and 201 Pearl Street - have been uninhabitable since the storm. Their owner, TF Cornerstone, said through a spokesman that the first priority was "the rebuilding of our critical infrastructure," including heat, hot water and electricity. "We are surprised by Verizon's action related to our property in Lower Manhattan, especially considering there are presently no tenants occupying the building and at no time have we conditioned Verizon's access on unreasonable terms," the spokesman, Frank Marino, said in a statement. The other buildings Verizon cited included another managed by DSA, at 700 East Ninth Street, and two owned by Rockrose, at 200 Water Street and 22 River Terrace. Calls to the property manager for Rockrose were not returned. New York Times
Roku, the maker of devices for streaming music and video in the home, bolstered its entertainment offerings with the addition of Time Warner Cable, Blockbuster on Demand and Fox Now - among other services. The company said it has surpassed 700 channels on the Roku platform with Monday's addition of more television, music and games. Roku announced nine additional video partners, bringing shows from PBS, SyFy and A&E, new audio services, including iHeart Radio and Spotify, and interactive entertainment from Big Fish and others. "When we launched the first Roku player in 2008, it was the very first device to stream Netflix to the TV and offered just that one channel," said Steve Shannon, Roku's general manager of content and services. "Today, the content universe is vastly different with many content producers and owners embracing delivery over the Internet ... we have the best brands in streaming entertainment."
The new distribution partnerships, announced before the official start of the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, are a sign of the mainstream nature of entertainment streamed via the Internet into the home. Entertainment companies are eager to reach a generation of consumers who watch video and listen to music via their game consoles and other Web-connected devices. A projected 66 million U.S. households - or 54% of the total population - will access the Internet via game consoles, Blu-ray players, or connected TVs by 2017, according to a new report from Forrester Research analyst Jitender Miglani.
The Time Warner Cable agreement with Roku will allow its existing subscribers to watch live television via the streaming devices sometime this quarter. Separately, Roku announced that its streaming technology will be integrated into a new generation of Internet-connected smartTVs, Blu-ray players and other devices from six new partners, Coby Electronics Corp.; Harman Kardon; Hisense Electric Co. Ltd.; TCL Corp.; Voxx Accessories Corp. and Westinghouse Digital. Chicago Tribune
Huawei said Monday that its 6.1-inch-screen Ascend Mate has the largest display of any smartphone on the planet. The Chinese company announced the device and its smaller sibling, the 5-inch Ascend D2, at CES. Huawei CEO Richard Yu said that besides having large displays, the two phones are also more durable than their competitors. To make his point, Yu held one of the phones over a tank and poured a pitcher of water on the device. Yu then walked back to the center of the stage, boasting about the phones' toughness before dropping the device. As he picked it up, Yu said consumers could do the same with the phones on a rocky road and they'd be fine. Besides durability, the phones have quite a few features worth noting.
The Ascend D2 features a full 1080p HD resolution and a pixel density of 443, according to a slide during the presentation. That figure would give the Ascend D2 the highest pixel density of any smartphone on the market. The Ascend D2 also has a powerful 1.5GHz quad-core processor and a 13-megapixel rear camera. Yu said the Ascend D2 also has a long-lasting battery, with enough life to power the phone "for two days' work." Despite being larger, the Ascend Mate has a little less power and a lower screen resolution. The 6.1-inch phone uses a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and has a 720p HD resolution. It has an 8-megapixel rear camera. Both phones run on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, according to their Settings apps. Huawei said the two devices will launch in China by February at the latest but did not reveal any pricing information. There is also no date set for when the two devices might make their way to the U.S. Los Angeles Times
In the future, the TV shows and movies you want to watch should find you - you shouldn't have to find them. And you should be able to watch them on any device. That's the video service Cisco Systems wants to put in your living room. On Monday, the company introduced Videoscape Unity, a cloud-based video platform that it hopes service providers, like cable TV companies, will embed in their set-top boxes. The software package includes a tool to recommend shows to a person based on past viewing patterns. It creates a profile for each user - if Mom likes watching musicals, for example, her profiles will show a list of music-related channels; if Dad likes sports, his profile would show ESPN and Fox Sports.
The other major part of Cisco's package is a cloud-based DVR. If you want to record an episode of "Mad Men," it can potentially be stored in the provider's cloud for as long as you like, as opposed to your local hard drive. As a result, you should be able to watch that episode on any device, like an iPad or Android phone. Cisco did not say which service providers, if any, had signed up for Videoscape. But it's not the only company thinking about making content easier to find on the television. Panasonic and Samsung demonstrated a similar feature in their TV sets that makes recommendations based on a person's TV habits. Some of Panasonic's televisions even use a built-in camera to detect a person's face and switch to his or her profile. New York Times
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- USA Today: CES Monday recap: TV, table PCs and more
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