Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


May 17, 2012

There are people in Adams County who are still using dial-up Internet connections.

To some, the sound of modems beeping and sputtering their way to the web is a distant memory. But to those living and working in outlying areas of Adams County, watching that annoying little hour glass on the screen is a major headache and a daily frustration as they wait to connect with the rest of the world.

And to a newly formed group of local business and government officials, that poor connectivity means lost opportunities - and lost money. For the county to have a future, it needs to get out of the past and join the present, they say.

The Adams County Commissioners on Wednesday approved a resolution establishing the Broadband and Internet Connectivity Task Force. Commissioner Marty Qually said the task force will study the county's connectivity problems and limited access to broadband, which was defined in the U.S. National Broadband Plan of 2009 as "Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access."

Task-force members will report their progress quarterly to the commissioners, and after two years, provide recommendations on what the county should do to improve its connectivity issues. And these are big issues, said Gettysburg Adams Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Stuart. Even those with something more advanced than dial-up are plagued by slow connections. The county also faces its share of spotty cellphone service, and runs into glitches that those living in more urban and populated areas take for granted, she said.

If the county wants to attract businesses to the area and keep them here, there's no way around it in the modern age, she said. They need to be connected. Stuart, along with other community leaders, first got together several years ago to look at ways to encourage economic development in the county, and one of the biggest issues that kept coming up was connectivity. The Gettysburg Hospital, for example is well connected within the WellSpan network, she said, but patients needing to connect with the hospital might not have the capability to do so. The same holds true with some schools that might have the latest computer technology, but because of the lack of broadband, they battle connectivity issues daily. And boosting the local economy can't be done without modern technology, Qually said. "Economic development is one of the most important issues facing us today," he said.

Qually compared expanding connectivity around the county to the rural electrification of America years ago. That's where we need to be now, he said - where that connectivity is as common in the mountains and orchards as it is in the residential hubs like Gettysburg. "It's the only way to grow," he said.

The new task force will be made up of members from a wide spectrum of affiliations. It will include representatives from the Adams County Council of Governments, kindergarten through 12th-grade education, post-secondary education, a major employer, a utility provider, a small business, a health-care group, a county commissioner and three members of the Adams County Economic Development Corp. Task-force members will develop a proposed strategy to address connectivity and affordability issues, and present those findings in two years. "For us, it's a huge economic benefit that also improves the quality of life for our residents," said Commissioner Randy Phiel. Hanover Evening Sun

Time Warner Cable Inc. said it will resume live streaming of some Viacom Inc.-owned TV channels to customers' iPads following a legal settlement with Viacom.

Viacom and Time Warner filed dueling federal lawsuits against each other in April of last year, weeks after the cable operator introduced an application that let its subscribers watch live TV on iPads from dozens of channels-such as Viacom's MTV-as long as the subscribers were in their homes. Viacom argued Time Warner Cable didn't have the right to offer the iPad live streaming. Time Warner said it did have the right but it took Viacom's channels off the live-streaming service anyway. On Wednesday, the two companies issued a joint statement saying they had "agreed to resolve their pending litigations." Viacom's programming "will now be available to Time Warner Cable subscribers for in-home viewing" via devices such as the iPad.

A Time Warner Cable spokesman said it would take time to resume live streaming of all channels and it would start with major outlets such as Comedy Central and MTV. The settlement also resolves a separate dispute over Viacom's Country Music Television channel, which will continue to be carried on Time Warner Cable as a result. Verizon Wireless is taking another step to snuff out unlimited data plans, a move that will likely lead to higher bills for millions of customers of the largest U.S. wireless carrier.

A top executive from the carrier said Wednesday it will no longer allow customers to keep their unlimited data plans when they upgrade to its high-speed mobile network, known as 4G LTE. The switch means Verizon Wireless customers still on unlimited $30-per-month plans will likely have to shell out more to stream video and download photos and music to their devices. It wasn't clear when the change would take effect and a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman declined to comment on the move. Last July, Verizon ended unlimited data plans for new customers, but allowed existing subscribers to keep their plans.

The move could help rivals of Verizon who offer more generous data plans. Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest U.S. carrier, which still offers unlimited plans to new customers, will launch its first 4G LTE markets by midyear. AT&T Inc. currently allows users to keep their unlimited data plans when they upgrade to 4G LTE, though it said it would slow download speeds if unlimited users exceed monthly usage caps. Facing a shortage of wireless airwaves amid rising demands on their networks, carriers have been seeking to squeeze more revenue out of their customers by raising monthly data rates, charging higher fees when customers upgrade to new phones, and introducing penalties for users who exceed limits on tiered data plans.

The change was announced Wednesday by Fran Shammo, finance chief of Verizon Communications Inc., who was speaking at a J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. conference. Mr. Shammo said customers with unlimited plans who upgrade to LTE devices will be required to sign up for a new data-sharing plan that allows people to use multiple mobile devices on one of several capped data plans the company will unveil this summer. Ultimately, the company hopes to move everyone off unlimited plans, said Mr. Shammo. "You will have to go onto the data-share plan and moving away from, if you will, the unlimited world," he said. As customers adopt increasingly data-rich plans, "you'll see the revenue increase there." Mr. Shammo's comments suggested users who keep 3G-only devices may be able keep their unlimited plans.

Under today's tiered pricing plans, Verizon Wireless customers get two gigabytes of data monthly-more than five hours of streaming video-for $30. The company also offers plans for five gigabytes for $50 and 10 gigabytes for $80, with each extra gigabyte costing $10 per month. Verizon took an early lead in rolling out 4G LTE, which promises speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G networks, and has been pushing customers to upgrade because it is a more efficient service. However, with the popular Apple Inc. iPhone only operating on 3G networks, just 9% of Verizon's contract customers-roughly 8 million-have made the switch. As a further inducement, the carrier has said it will only introduce smartphones this year that are compatible with 4G LTE networks. Mr. Shammo didn't provide details of the new data plan pricing. AT&T was the first to introduce tiered data pricing in 2010, a move to help manage mushrooming traffic on its network, with Verizon Wireless following suit last summer. Verizon Wireless has been limiting download speeds for the top 5% of users in areas where cell sites are congested. Wall Street Journal

The federal government is wondering why Verizon Wireless wants to sell some parts of the radio spectrum it already owns if it is allowed to acquire spectrum licenses from a group of cable companies. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday issued a letter asking Verizon Wireless to clarify a few points, as first reported by Ars Technica. Verizon Wireless is offering to sell the A and B licenses for the 700 MHz spectrum it owns, so long as it can have the spectrum licenses it wants to buy from cable companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications, for $3.6 billion.

What has Verizon Wireless done with the spectrum it is trying to sell? And what exactly is the challenge in using that spectrum in the first place? Those are the core questions that the F.C.C. is posing in its letter. "What steps to date, if any, has Verizon Wireless taken to deploy mobile services using the Lower 700 MHz A or B licenses (either or both)?" the letter asked. "Please describe Verizon Wireless's current assessment of the Lower 700 MHz A Block challenges that Verizon Wireless previously identified in the instant proceeding and other proceedings," it said.

The F.C.C.'s questions come at a time when the wireless industry claims it is facing a spectrum crisis - a situation in which carriers will run out of the resources required to serve the rising population of data-guzzling smartphones and tablets. If Verizon Wireless has spectrum to sell, the F.C.C. seems to be asking, how could it be hitting the roof? In a previous interview, Robin Nicol, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, said the spectrum that it could get from its deal with the cable companies would help it develop its faster fourth-generation LTE network. She said that if the deal with the cable companies fails, it will have to adapt the 700 MHz spectrum to work with 4G LTE and buy some additional spectrum from a source yet to be identified in order to have enough capacity. New York Times