Last week on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver did a fantastic segment that lasted over 13 minutes talking about the issue of net neutrality and the work (or, lack thereof) that the FCC is going to address it. He broke it down perfectly and in true John Oliver fashion, touching on all the important points while keeping it light and funny. Then, at the end, Oliver called for the Internet commenter trolls to unite and head over to the FCC Web site to make their voices heard on the net neutrality forum. The result? The FCC site collapsed under the pressure. Seriously, I encourage you to watch the segment, which we've embedded here in this post. After you do, head on over to the FCC Web site and let them know to put a stop to this ridiculousness.
If you thought Comcast would let Verizon make them look bad with those 300 Mbps FiOS Quantum speeds, you've got another thing coming, as the company has just announced Xfinity Platinum. Boasting speeds of 305 Mbps down and 65 Mbps up, the new offering will only be available to Comcast customers living in the northeast region, with no details on if it will be deployed elsewhere.
In addition, customers on the lower-speed Xfinity Blast! tier will see their speeds increased from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps, and Extreme tier customers get bumped from 50 Mbps to 105 Mbps with no price increase. Now, two pieces of bad news. First, the 305 Mbps service will cost $299.95 per month, which is $95 more than FiOS Quantum. Second, if you're a Comcast customer who doesn't live in Boston, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburg, Hartford, Wilmington, Richmond, New Jersey, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., then you don't get any speed bumps.
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Comcast is finally ready to abandon the 250 GB data cap that it introduced in 2008. While this is certainly a welcome change, don't go firing up that myriad of torrents just yet. The company will be testing what it calls a more "flexible" approach--tiered pricing. Comcast will be doing trials of two different tiered approaches over the next few months. One sees base plans that start at 300 GB per month, and when exceeded, Comcast is considering charging customers an additional $10 for each extra 50 GB of usage in a given month. The other is similar, but gives a larger cap to homes subscribes to the 30 MBps Blast package and 105 Mbps Extreme package. Based on those trials, Comcast will decide how to move forward with pricing its network for the future.
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Finally, after a number of months, Xbox Live users now have access to Xfinity On Demand from Comcast, HBO Go, and MLB.tv. To get 'em, just head to the App Marketplace on your Xbox 360. All three apps require that you have access to, and pay for, the respective services. Comcast has announced that use of the Xfinity On Demand service will not count against a users data cap because the data is delivered over Comcast's private IP network, rather than the public Internet. It kind of makes sense, as Comcast is basically saying that the Xbox 360 is simply functioning as a cable box, but giving its own data preferential treatment does raise eyebrows as it pertains to Net Neutrality laws.
To use HBO Go, your cable service must be approved (sadly, the cable service we use at Gear Live HQ, Frontier, is not eligible) and you must subscribe to HBO service through your cable package.
Both Xfinity On Demand and HBO Go are available in the U.S., while MLB.tv can be accessed throughout North America.
Ahh Nintendo, rarely an innovator, often an imitator. At least that can be said about the company’s next online “innovative” venture. The company is looking to various media service providers in order to kick off the Wii U release later this year with a bang. Like the Xbox 360, Nintendo has every intention of collecting as many service providers as it can in order to try to replace your cable or satellite box with the console. Nintendo is currently in talks with several ‘top content’ companies, possibly including Comcast, to become a cable TV provider alongside or after the Wii U launch.
Currently there are no official statements from Nintendo as to what content we can expect to see with the Wii U. What we do know is that Nintendo has announced that the Wii will soon be receiving Hulu compatibility.
Users will sign into Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS apps on the Xbox 360 with existing account information. Redmond will also likely ink content deals with HBO, Sony's Crackle, the Bravo and SyFy channels, and Amazon's Lovefilm, Bloomberg said.
Microsoft discussed its Live TV efforts at this year's E3 gaming conference, and the feature has already kicked off overseas with Sky TV in the U.K., Canal Plus in France, and FoxTel in Australia. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer provided more details on what US consumers can expect during a presentation at the company's BUILD conference earlier this month.
"It's quite obvious that we need to increase the amount of video and TV content that are available on the Xbox," Ballmer said. "Our goal this year is to dramatically increase the total amount of content, the total entertainment catalog available on the Xbox, particularly by working in partnership with a number of video suppliers."
Comcast is tapping into its altruistic side a little bit and deploying a brand-new service tier, one that's designed to bring the Internet to families that would otherwise be unable to pony up $40 to $60 for the company's lowest tiered plan.
Dubbed "Internet Essentials," Comcast's new plan will cost a family only $9.95 per month for a connection that features 1.5 Mbps download and 384 Kbps upload speeds. There's a guarantee of no price increases after-the-fact, as well as no activation fees or equipment rental fees for families signed up for the program. Enrollees will even be able to purchase a netbook computer via the Internet Essentials program for $149.99 (plus tax), and Comcast is offering free online and in-person "Internet training."
To join the program, however, families have to meet four different criteria: They have to be located in an area where Comcast can actually deliver Internet service (obviously), one of their children has to be receiving free school lunches via the National School Lunch Program, families must not have had Comcast Internet service up to 90 days prior to requesting to join the program, and families must not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned Comcast equipment.
Comcast is working to bring Skype video chat to their set-top boxes through the Xfinity service, and they've put together a video that gives the inside scoop on what it took to build the look and feel for Skype on your television. We've got the video for you above. No pricing or launch date has been announced yet, but we're curious what you'd be willing to pay for something like this from your cable TV provider. Hit us in the comments!
At the NCTA Conference in Chicago, Roberts characterized the demonstration as the next generation of Xfinity, the company's hybrid cable-based video/phone/data service. The company launched it two years ago as "Project Infinity".
First, however, Roberts showed off the future of the Comcast interface.
"What I want to show you today is not the future, but right here, right now," Roberts said, showing off the "Xcalibur" interface that is currently in trials in Augusta, Georgia.
Xcalibur is based on cloud computing - not clpoud storage, but cloud-computing. The guide actually resides in the cloud, Roberts said. Users can see a traditional channel view, or view programs by genre or for different users. An On Demand view also uses a similar format. The Xcalibur's new remote also uses RF technology, which is not limited by line of sight. Users can also type in "HBO" using numbers - like a phone number - and pulls in additional information via the cloud.
Cable executives on Tuesday downplayed the impact of Netflix on their businesses, arguing that it is simply another provider in a crowded market, though they were forced to acknowledge that consumers are no longer satisfied with just a cable box and a remote.
Execs from Time Warner, Viacom, Comcast, Cox, and News Corp. sat down this morning for a panel discussion at The Cable Show in Chicago. When asked about Netflix's recent decision to air original content, Philippe Dauman, president and CEO at Viacom, warned that "it's not easy to get into the content business; it's a tough exercise."
"That's not really their fundamental business," Dauman said of Netflix. Viacom, on the other hand, is "100 percent focused on content," he said. Netflix is just one cog in the content wheel, he said, pointing to the "incremental money" Viacom has made by repurposing its older shows, like "Beavis and Butthead," on Web-based services like Netflix.