Wireless news and broadband updates

Ari Howard

Feb 19, 2021 — 7 min read

A brief rundown of some of the most important stories, updated bi-weekly.

At Allconnect, we work to present quality information with editorial integrity. While this post may contain offers from our partners, our opinions are our own. Here’s how we make money.

Starlink is now accepting pre-orders on its high-speed satellite internet service 

Starlink, the satellite internet company founded by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is now accepting pre-orders for its satellite broadband service. Pre-orders require a $99 deposit and the estimated fulfillment time period is anywhere between two to four weeks. The monthly rate for Starlink service is $99/mo. and you also have to pay $499 for the necessary equipment. Users can expect to receive anywhere between 50 to 150 Mbps download speeds. There are currently over 10,000 people, primarily rural households, who have signed up for Starlink.

Study discovers just how much data consumption increased in 2020  

OpenVault recently released its findings on monthly data usage in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the need for broadband access in one’s home has become essential. The study found that data usage increased by 40% from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020. In fact, much of this spike in data consumption occurred towards the end of 2020 where data increased by 26% from Q3 2020 to Q4 2020. 

OpenVault stated that one of the most noteworthy findings was that the majority of subscribers in 2020 (53.6%) consumed more than 250 gigabytes of data each month. OpenVault writes, “What just a few years ago was considered a power user – 250 GB of monthly consumption – will now include over half of all subscribers.” However, many users consume well over 250 GB of data each month. OpenVault found that in Q4 2020, 14.1% of users consumed over 1 TB/mo. of data. This is a 94% increase from Q4 2019.

Network neutrality advocates petition FCC

Network neutrality advocates, including Common Cause, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, 1 United Church of Christ, OC Inc., National Hispanic Media Coalition and New America’s Open Technology Institute and Free Press, sent a petition on Feb. 8 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the reinstatement of internet service providers as a Title II service. This change from a Title I to a Title II service would give the FCC the ability to regulate internet service providers as if they were utilities.

ISPs were classified as a Title II service in 2015, under former President Obama. However, in 2017, the FCC reinstated ISPs as a Title I service under former President Trump. Advocates expressed that a Title I classification has “significant shortcomings” for connecting low-income households to high-speed internet. For that reason, the petition demands the FCC “to reinstate broadband as a Title II service – the commission’s strongest legal authority for Lifeline support of broadband.”  

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) receives $1 billion 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will provide its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) with $1 billion to expand broadband access on tribal lands. This money will be applied to tribal governments, tribal colleges, Native Hawaiian communities, tribal organizations and native corporations. This program is essential for addressing the Native American poverty crisis in the U.S. as only 60% of tribal lands in the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) have broadband access. 

DISH Network delayed in 5G expansion 

While DISH Network initially planned to have 5G established in a market by the end of 2020, DISH now doesn’t expect to have its first major 5G market until the third quarter of 2021. The primary reason for the delay is that DISH is currently waiting to receive more radios from Fujitsu. 

Although the timeline for deployment has altered, the company still expects to honor the commitments it made to the FCC of expanding 5G service to 20% of the U.S. population by June 14, 2022, and at least 70% of the population by mid-2023. DISH expects this development to cost around $10 billion. 


Amazon launches the Amazon Sidewalk: “A new way to stay connected” 

One of Amazon’s newest innovations is the Amazon Sidewalk, a device that extends the range of your Wi-Fi by up to half a mile. Amazon first announced Amazon Sidewalk in 2019, but the technology did not launch until the very end of 2020. 

The Amazon Sidewalk is not a physical device, but a free software update to Amazon’s smart-home gear. This includes select Amazon Echo speakers and Ring cameras. Amazon’s smart-home devices will act as mini mesh networks that take a small portion of your home’s Wi-Fi bandwidth and apply it to a new low-bandwidth network you share with your neighbors. 

The more people in your neighborhood who activate Amazon Sidewalk, the stronger the network becomes. Think of everyone in your neighborhood contributing a small portion of their bandwidth to create a new network that can allow anyone participating in that network to access Wi-Fi even when they are outside of their homes or when their home’s Wi-Fi is down. 

Top executives at Verizon, Mastercard, Google and others, have formed Edison Alliance to address digital divide 

The World Economic Forum has recruited some of the top executives from Verizon, Mastercard, Vista Equity Partners and Google to help address the digital divide by starting the Edison Alliance. The primary mission of the Edison Alliance is to “foster affordable and accessible digital opportunities for everyone by 2025.”

While the organization has not yet released specific information on how it will achieve its mission, we can expect that each company is planning on providing money and resources to expand broadband access to the underserved around the world. Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon and chairman of the Edison Alliance recently commented on the importance of this initiative. 

Over the past 10 months, we have seen just how impactful connectivity and access to digital technologies is to working, learning and transacting …This is a critical moment for leaders from all sections to join forces and recognize access and affordability to digital services as a top priority for recovery in every country.

Hans Vestberg

Comcast and Charter Communications addressing the digital divide 

Beginning March 1, Comcast will increase the speeds it provides for low-income households through its “Internet Essentials” program from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps. Upload speeds will also increase from 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps. Comcast has connected over eight million people through its Internet Essentials program.

Comcast is also focusing on closing the digital divide among students by accelerating the deployment of 1,000 “Lift Zones.” These Lift Zones will include free Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity and “hundreds of hours of educational and digital skills content to help families and site coordinators navigate online learning.” 

While Comcast is addressing the digital divide by helping low-income families get connected, Charter Communications is focusing on rural communities. Charter recently announced it will spend $5 billion on rural broadband expansion. The federal government will subsidize $1.2 billion of the costs through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Charter’s broadband expansion plan will help get over one million people in rural areas connected to high-speed internet across 24 states. 

President Biden appoints new acting FCC chair 

In January, Biden appointed Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as the new acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair. Rosenworcel will lead the FCC until an official chair is confirmed, a position for which she is a candidate. Rosenworcel has worked for the FCC since 2011 when former President Obama nominated her to the FCC. Former President Trump re-nominated Rosenworcel in 2017. 

Rosenworcel has two focuses as chair: enforcing net neutrality online and closing the digital divide. One of Rosenworcel’s main goals for addressing the digital divide among youth, also known as the homework gap, is by providing high-speed internet to every child in America.

It’ll cost you more to stream your favs in 2021 

The New Year brought price increases from the major streaming services:  

Netflix: Netflix’s standard plan increased from $12.99/mo. to $13.99/mo. and their premium plan increased from $15.99/mo. to $17.99/mo.

Hulu: Hulu decided to increase its most expensive plans. Hulu’s live TV subscription increased from $54.99/mo. to $64.99/mo. and its ad-free subscription increased from $60.99/mo. to $70.99/mo.   

Disney Plus: Disney Plus increased both its monthly and yearly subscriptions. The monthly subscription will increase from $6.99/mo. to $7.99/mo. and the yearly subscription will increase from $69.99/yr. to $79.99/yr. 

Comcast lifts data limits and fees in some states

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Feb. 3 that Comcast will delay implementing their new internet data caps and fees for their Northeast customers.

“As Pennsylvanians continue to navigate this pandemic, we know millions are relying on the internet for school and work more than ever. This is not the time to change the rules when it comes to internet data usage and increase costs,” said Shapiro. “My office negotiated with Comcast to delay the implementation of these overage charges and waive any early termination fees for customers who opt out through December 2021. We also limited the impact of these changes on low-income households.”

According to Shapiro’s news release, Comcast agreed to:

  • Forgo the data threshold on low-income users who are enrolled in the Internet Essentials program or IEPP programs for the duration of 2021.
  • Disclose data threshold information more prominently in the contract execution process.
  • Delay implementation of the overage charges until July, to be seen in the August bill.
  • Waive any early termination fee normally charged only for canceling all Xfinity services early, through Dec. 31, 2021, for any customer who entered into a term contract prior to November 2020.

About the agreement, Comcast said, “We are providing customers in our Northeast markets, including Pennsylvania, a total of over six months of notice before our data plan goes into effect so that they have ample time to understand their data usage and their service options and plan accordingly. The earliest that the very small percentage of customers who exceed 1.2 TB of data could have any charges due under the plan is August 2021.”


 

Charter Communications no longer petitioning FCC to permit company to impose data caps and more 

When Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, the FCC banned the company from implementing data caps or paid peering deals. Charter Communications petitioned in June 2020 to have these bans removed; however, they rescinded their petition just this month. 

Charter explained its reason for withdrawing its petition by stating, 

“In light of the ongoing severity of the global pandemic and its effects on our customers, we want to offer them the assurance that they will continue to benefit from unlimited access to broadband and the accompanying financial certainty it provides during these trying times, and therefore have withdrawn our petition.”

Altice makes offer changes for both Optimum and Suddenlink 

Altice has removed its Price for Life plans as of Jan. 18. This means both Suddenlink and Optimum will no longer offer Price for Life for their 1 Gig plans. Altice is also getting rid of all its 24-month contracts and will replace them with 12-month contracts.  

Allconnect Watermark

Compare internet, TV and phone service offers in your area on Allconnect, for free.

Compare providers
Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

Read bio