FCC Set to Vote on Restoring Net Neutrality Guidelines at April 25 Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission April 3 announced that it plans to vote at the April 25 meeting on restoring net neutrality, which would bring back a national standard for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection.

If adopted, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s proposal would ensure that broadband services are treated as an essential utility, similar to the telephone services, deserving of FCC oversight under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The guidelines prohibit internet providers from intentionally blocking, slowing down bandwidth speed, or charging extra fees for specific online content, among other safeguards.

The guidelines, first adopted under the Obama Administration, were later scuttled under the Trump Administration, citing regulatory overreach. Under President Biden, talk of restoring net neutrality has been rebranded as a national security issue.

“The pandemic proved once and for all that broadband is essential,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “After the prior administration abdicated authority over broadband services, the FCC has been handcuffed from acting to fully secure broadband networks, protect consumer data, and ensure the internet remains fast, open, and fair.”

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Rosenworcel said that without broadband oversight, the FCC is unable
to fully monitor and respond to such national security concerns, including its authority to direct foreign-owned companies deemed to be national security threats to discontinue any domestic or international broadband services — as the agency has done with telephone services.

“A return to the FCC’s court-approved standard of net neutrality would allow the agency to serve as a strong consumer advocate of an open internet,” she said.

But to Evan Swarztrauber, a policy advisor to former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai during the Trump Administration, restoring net neutrality would increase  compliance costs for ISPs, and drive up the price of deploying networks.

“This would exacerbate the problems posed by the FCC’s ‘digital equity’ rules, and the NTIA imposing illegal price controls through the BEAD program,” Swarztrauber said in a statement.

Swarztrauber, a Senior Fellow at the conservative Foundation for American Innovation, said FCC concerns about national security are “cynical attempts” to justify government regulation, a political misstep he says should cause concern among “vulnerable” Senate Democrats in rural states in an election year touting broadband initiatives that could be stymied by new regulations.

“The unfortunate reality is that the FCC has already wasted precious resources on a partisan re-litigation of a tiresome debate that could, and should, be resolved by Congress,” Swarztrauber said. “The agency will never be able to regain the staff time spent on this issue that could have gone to worthy initiatives. And if the Supreme Court strikes down Title II under the major questions doctrine, then even the partisan goals of this regulatory effort will have been sought in vain.”

Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, a broadband trade group, said restoring net neutrality would undermine ongoing efforts on the “Internet for All” initiative laid out by Biden.

“It’s been two years since the White House asked Congress and the country to be all in on Internet for All,” Spalter said. “But just as this goal is now within reach, the FCC is pumping the brakes with this entirely counterproductive, unnecessary, and anti-consumer regulatory distraction. America deserves better.”

Parks Associates: The Whole Country’s Gone Broadband (Well, Almost)

A whopping 92% of U.S. households now have broadband internet access at home, according to a new Parks Associates report.

This bodes well for the future as streaming, as well as for smart home devices, particularly in the realm of security. 

“Consumers’ lives practically revolve around the internet and connected devices, and in all residence types, safety leads smart home product use cases,” said Mindi Sue Sternblitz-Rubenstein, VP of marketing at Parks Associates. “Many consumers are also interested in convenience and automation and rate valuable benefits of smart home devices around monitoring, notifications, automation, and remote controls.”

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Parks Associates data shows that 42% of U.S. internet households own at least one smart home device, 66% own a smart TV, 20% own a video doorbell, and 17% own a smart thermostat.

According to Parks, there has been steady growth in smart home and security adoption over the years as U.S. internet households accumulate more connected devices through an increasingly diverse list of channels, from retail to service bundles to dealers/installers.

The research firm will host the 18th annual Connections Summit: Performance and Profits: Smart Home Strategies at CES in Las Vegas on Jan. 9. The day-long event, which starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m., will be held at the Venetian. The Summit features the firm’s latest research on the connected home, along with insights from leading technology and service companies.

Ampere: Nearly Half of Global Internet Users Have Switched Off Broadcast TV

The percentage of internet users claiming to watch little to no linear broadcast TV in a typical day grew 22% to almost half (45%), according to new data from Ampere Analysis. In a global survey of 54,000 adults across 28 markets, Ampere found that while most younger respondents unsurprisingly watched little broadcast TV, another 35% of those claiming to watch no broadcast TV were over 45 years old — a rise from 28% six years ago.

Specifically, in the first quarter this year, 37% of internet users claimed to watch little to no linear TV on a typical day. The percentage of high linear TV viewers — those who watch at least four hours of broadcast TV daily — has also declined in the same two-year time frame, down from 19% of respondents in 2021 to 15% this year.

By comparison, the percentage of internet users saying they watch more than four hours of video-on-demand (VOD) content in a typical day is up 4% to 62%.

While streaming video consumption continues to increase, Ampere found that so-called “low-level” TV broadcast consumption (less than two hours per day) suggests that many internet users still tune in for key live events such as sports, major reality TV shows and exclusive dramas.

Additionally, pay-TV operators’ investment in proprietary streaming services has ensured they can still engage with streamers. In fact, engagement with these broadcast-led video services has increased by 26% since Q1 2023.

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Minal Modha, research director at Ampere, contends that while the decline in linear TV viewing looks like a troubling trend for broadcasters, adoption of video streaming options should limit subscriber losses.

“If the linear channels can continue to adapt and provide a strong OTT offering for audiences switching from scheduled TV channels, they have an opportunity to retain them, albeit on a different medium,” Modha said in a statement.

NPD: Internet Access, Speed Impact Consumer Electronics Ownership, Including Smart 4K TVs

Internet access and speed are key to determining the amount and type of consumer electronics devices in U.S. homes, including connected 4K UHD TVs, according to new data from The NPD Group.

While household internet and speed can vary widely from state to state, or even county to county, there are a number of consumer electronics devices that have reached parity levels among connected households in rural and urban U.S. markets. Those include TVs, video game consoles, smart watches, activity trackers and tablets, according to NPD.

However, NPD found that wider gaps exist in ownership levels of devices that are more dependent on an internet connection, such as 4K UHD TVs, where a broadband connection is required for high-definition streaming, and smart home devices, where higher download speeds are needed for live video streams.

In the United States, 50% of households do not currently have a broadband connection (25Mbps per second download speed or greater). In addition, 15% of homes in the United States have no internet access, while 10% use a smartphone-only solution. Based on NPD’s findings, this lack of internet access or lack of internet speed has the biggest impact on rural markets. As a result, in rural markets ownership of 4K TVs and home automation products have trailed ownership levels reported in urban areas.

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While other factors also influence the CE ownership gap, such as income levels, one theme that is consistent across 4K TV ownership for connected households in rural and urban markets is that as home internet download speeds increase, so too do household ownership levels. The same can be said of smart home devices, such as internet security cameras that require higher download speeds.

“Consumers with slower internet speeds have less incentive to purchase 4K TVs,” Eddie Hold, president of NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement.

Hold said consumers with slow ISP speeds present a challenge for manufacturers that need usage data and advertising revenue to help sustain manufacturing.

“The internet is essentially the lifeblood of all consumer electronics products,” he said. “Understanding where coverage gaps exist can help explain trends and identify future opportunities.”

Parks: 92% of U.S. Internet Households Use Wi-Fi at Home

New data from Parks Associates finds that even as download speeds increase for U.S. internet households, value-added services and the quality of experience are increasingly more important factors in how subscribers evaluate their high-speed internet service.

Currently, 92% of U.S. internet households use Wi-Fi at home, and more than a quarter say they value quality of service more than price. Dallas-based Parks is holding a webinar — Managed Services with Exceptional Experiences: How Broadband Providers Win — Jan. 24, 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT), to examine the ecosystem for broadband services and the role of managed services, including Wi-Fi, advanced support, and privacy protection.

“U.S. households have 16 connected devices on average, and these products rely on an uninterrupted Wi-Fi connection and solid network to deliver on their benefits,” Jennifer Kent, VP of research, said in a statement. “There are also multiple people in the household, each using these products for different reasons and with different expectations, so providing the support to deliver on these expectations is critical to the success of broadband service providers.”

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U.S. Internet Households Pay Average of $116 Per Month for Internet

U.S. internet households pay an average of $116 per month for their home internet, including both standalone and bundled internet, according to a new report from Parks Associates, “Quantified Consumer: Fixed vs. Wireless — Consumers’ Shifting Broadband Preferences.”

The report also noted consumer savings of $600 to $1,800 annually should consumers cut their home internet service.

According to the research, there are more than 13.9 million home internet cord-cutters in the United States, a missed revenue opportunity of more than $10.5 billion. Cord-cutters exist for a variety of reasons, according to Parks. Cost and preference for mobility are top triggers, but technical issues and lack of availability also impact their decisions.

“Consumers overall are increasingly concerned with quality over price; however, older households are concerned about costs,” Kristen Hanich, director of research at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “Over 80% of those 65-plus cite cost as a factor for cancelling their home internet, and almost two-thirds of this age group say that they prefer using their mobile internet.”

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While there is some interest in canceling home internet services, consumers are increasingly upgrading to Gigabit speeds and adding on additional value-added services. A growing percentage of consumers are likely to be more concerned with the quality of their home internet service over the price, according to Parks. The pandemic, work at home, and increases in video consumption and video conferencing have all put pressure on networks, highlighting the importance of quality internet to consumers. Currently, half of home internet households receive at least one additional non-traditional service from their ISP.

“Consumer intention to upgrade their home internet service remains at an all-time high,” Hanich said. “ISPs must elevate their value proposition or risk losing their customers to competitors.”

Parks Associates: Home Internet Service Cancellation Triggers

Parks: 114 million U.S. Households Access the Internet at Home

Parks Associates estimates that almost 114 million U.S. households access the internet at home at speeds faster than dial-up, according to a survey of 10,000 U.S. internet households.

“Over the past decade, high-speed internet adoption in the United States — here defined as an internet subscription adoption to the home or individual, with speeds faster than dial-up — has grown steadily since 2015,” Kristen Hanich, director of research at Parks, said in a statement. “These internet households may have home internet service or may rely on mobile internet, or a combination of the two.”

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The research finds that as bundles have become less common, consumer spending on standalone internet service has increased significantly, from an average of $39 per household per month in 2011 to an average of $63 per month in 2021, a 62% growth. Standalone mobile service ARPU has stayed remarkably stable over this time period, with 2021 averages largely reflecting spending levels from 2011 and ARPU actually decreasing since 2016.

“A growing percentage of consumers are relying on fixed wireless or 5G home internet service, which includes services offered by traditional wireless internet service providers or mobile providers such as T-Mobile or U.S. Cellular,” Hanich said. “The wider availability of these services, in addition to further buildouts of traditional fixed networks, will further help to drive home internet adoption over the next few years.”

Study: Stolen Logins for OTT Services Proliferate on Dark Web

Hundreds of stolen login details for popular OTT services are available every month on the dark web for an average of only $8.81, according to research from digital platform security firm Irdeto.

Dark web marketplaces offer credentials for a range of pay TV and VOD OTT services, meaning legitimate subscribers could have had their accounts compromised and used illegally for a small one-off fee, according to Irdeto. Consumers should be vigilant of any unusual or unfamiliar activity on their account, changing their password regularly, according the company.

“Content theft by pirates has become a full-fledged criminal enterprise, with some providing illegal subscriptions in an attempt to compete with established pay TV operators,” said Mark Mulready, VP, Cybersecurity Services, Irdeto, in a statement.  “Content owners, rights holders, technology and security partners and law enforcement agencies are working hard to combat the threat of piracy. However, consumers must also be vigilant to avoid the risks they may be subject to from illegal content.

“Consumers must think about where they access their content from and ensure that any streaming or downloading is done from legitimate sources. They must also remember that if they use the same password for their OTT services as they do for a number of other online accounts, they could also be opening themselves up to a wider array of exploitative threats.”

The Irdeto Global Consumer Piracy Threat Report looks at pay TV credential availability on the dark web, global piracy hotspots and the market in illicit streaming devices. Other key findings from the report include:

  • In one month (April 2018), Irdeto discovered 854 listings of OTT credentials from 69 unique sellers across more than 15 dark web marketplaces. These credentials were from 42 different OTT services including Netflix, HBO, DirecTV and Hulu.
  • Irdeto’s web analytics partner found an average of 74 million global visits per month to the top 10 live streaming sites in Q1 2018. Most traffic came from the United States (2.9 million average monthly visits), the UK (1.7 million average monthly visits) and Germany (1.5 million average monthly visits).
  • Pirates are using popular ecommerce sites to advertise illicit streaming devices, which are often advertised around major sporting events.