|March 31, 2014 | By Steve Donohue
FCC commissioners agreed to open up 100 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band available for use with Wi-Fi services, in a big win for Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and other broadband providers that have said they need more unlicensed spectrum to support advanced services.
“Today’s decision is a win for every consumer who uses Wi-Fi. It will help alleviate congestion and pave the way for next generation Wi-Fi technologies that will operate at gigabit-per-second speeds,” Comcast VP of Regulatory Policy David Don said in a prepared statement.
The move was also cheered by National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell, who said the FCC action will drive a “substantially faster Wi-Fi experience” for American consumers.
The FCC said the new rules will remove the restriction on indoor-only use for the 5 GHz band. “This in turn will allow U-NII devices to better integrate with other unlicensed portions of the GHz band to offer faster speeds and reduce congestion at crowded Wi-Fi hot spots such as airports and convention centers,” the commission said.
In a hyper competitive Pay TV marketplace, cable, DBS and telco TV providers all know that they have to continually innovate in order to compete for a spot in today’s connected home. They also know that a big part of that innovation has to come in the form of creating a more energy efficient set-top box.
That’s why we’re pleased to report that the voluntary energy conservation agreement (VA) among multichannel video providers, device manufacturers and energy advocacy groups continues to expand and progress. The agreement works to deliver energy efficiency solutions for 90 million American homes. The VA includes commitments to efficiency standards that will improve set-top box efficiency by up to 45 percent, and are expected to rack up more than $1 billion in consumer energy savings annually.
On February 25, 2014, energy advocacy representatives who joined the expanded VA in December 2013 met for the first time as voting members of the steering committee. Highlights from the meeting include:
- Pace, plc, a major manufacturer of set-top boxes, joined the VA, further expanding its reach.
- As part of the significant transparency and monitoring requirements of the VA, service providers will be making the energy usage of new set-top boxes available for consumers to review. For example, the new set-top boxes of the six largest cable operators are posted to a web site hosted by CableLabs Energy Lab, the lab established by the cable industry to pursue energy efficient solutions.
- The VA also includes commitments to conduct industry-funded field verification testing. The steering committee finalized a Request for Proposal to be issued next week, seeking bids for a contractor to conduct verification testing in households to confirm that the posted efficiency levels are being achieved in the field. Potential candidates are invited to contact Paul Glist at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine (PaulGlist@dwt.com) to request a copy of the RFP.
- The Independent Administrator of the VA will continue its operations to assess each company’s compliance, produce an annual report, and handle many other transparency and verification functions. The Independent Administrator is already collecting the data to be used in its first annual report of progress during the first year of operation under the VA.
The Agreement Signatory organizations that participated in the meeting are (listed according to number of customers): Comcast, DIRECTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp., Bright House Networks and CenturyLink; manufacturers Cisco, ARRIS (including Motorola), EchoStar Technologies and Pace; and energy efficiency advocates Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which also represented its affiliate the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). The VA was embraced last year by the US Department of Energy, as it terminated its regulatory approach in favor of the VA.
Tom Rutledge also says he is “observing” the Comcast takeover of Time Warner Cable but adds, “We don’t need M&A to be a successful company.”
1:00 PM PDT 3/10/2014 by Paul Bond
Tom Rutledge is no fan of multiple visits from the “cable guy,” he said during a conversation at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in Florida on Monday.
The Charter Communications CEO said he is working hard to minimize the need to roll out personnel and trucks to customers because “getting that out of the business” improves the quality of the product. One way Charter is accomplishing that is by selling triple-play services so that multiple products can be installed with a single visit and fewer “transactions.”
“Taking transactions out of the business actually increases customer satisfaction,” Rutledge said. “The opportunity for things to go wrong are legendary. I mean, people make movies about it — Cable Guy. Getting that out of the business dramatically improves satisfaction.”
Rutledge also talked about “a whole bunch of opportunities” for Charter and other cable companies that will come by way of looming 10-gigabyte-per-second Internet speeds and wireless Internet connections in every home.
“We’ll have the ability to probably do something along the lines of a ‘wireless drop,’ meaning a wireless connection for every household, which might not even require a physical connection between the house and the street,” he said.
He said that he does not anticipate that consumers will want to navigate giant TV screens with their fingers the same way they do with iPads and other tablets, therefore Charter is focusing on improving remote controls for such functionality.
Of the impending Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable — a company Charter once coveted — Rutledge said, “We’re observing them.” He added, “We don’t need M&A to be a successful company.”
Charter shares, meanwhile, were rising 1 percent to more than $128 a share on Monday during midday trading. Wall Street analysts have been friendly to the stock lately, and, on Monday, Jefferies Group upgraded shares to “buy” with a $150 price target. On Friday, Northland Capital upgraded the stock to “outperform.”
Will Make Way for Hearing on STELA
According to sources, the Senate Judiciary Committee is moving its hearing on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger from March 26 to April 2.
That move will be to make room for a hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), said multiple sources. The committee would be unlikely to hold two big hearings on the same day.
STELA has been heating up, with a draft of a bill in the House Communications Subcommittee and movement in the Senate Commerce Committee as well, where Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) has asked for input on what should be in the bill.
The House Communications Subcommittee is holding a STELA hearing March 12, with witnesses from across the stakeholder spectrum including National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell.