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Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - November 6th, ’21
November 6th, 2021
Cable Broadband Growth Is Sputtering, and No One’s Sure Why
Scott Moritz & Gerry Smith
Something is slowing internet subscriber growth at Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc., raising concerns about an end to what has been a huge growth business, with explanations ranging from a slowdown in consumer spending to competition from phone giants.
Charter on Friday reported 25% fewer new broadband subscribers than analysts estimated and said the overall number of new customers would fall back to 2018 levels. Comcast, which had earlier cut its subscriber forecast, reported 300,000 new internet customers Thursday, less than half the number added a year ago.
Analysts were expecting some slowdown in demand coming off 2020, a year when broadband sign-ups spiked as the pandemic shifted people to working and schooling from home. Still, with Charter echoing Comcast’s gloomy picture from Thursday, suddenly there’s a chill on the cable broadband front, which became the most prized segment of the business as consumers cut traditional TV service.
Charter’s shortfall raises “questions about whether this is the beginning of the end of the cable broadband story,” said Geetha Ranganathan, an industry analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
Charter shares fell as much as 6.6% to $660 Friday, the biggest drop in nine months. Comcast shares were down 1% Thursday and almost that much on Friday.
Chris Winfrey, Charter’s chief operating officer, said on an earnings call that “residential customer activity” was “taking longer than we expected to return to normal levels.”
Charter had 1.27 million new broadband customers in 2018 compared with 2.2 million last year. Analysts predict it will add 1.4 million subscribers this year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
No one has been able to identify the exact reason why the wind has gone out of the sails for big cable. Both Charter and Comcast blamed a slower new home market for some of the slack in demand, leaving the companies to try and squeeze more business out of their saturated markets.
Other factors could include a dropoff in lower-paying customers as government assisted broadband funds dry up.
“There’s clearly softness in consumer spending,” said Maribel Lopez with Lopez Research. “They are making choices on tiers and downgrading services.”
New competition from phone companies certainly doesn’t help. AT&T Inc. is expanding its network and added 289,000 new fiber internet customers last quarter. Meanwhile, T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are very excited about new wireless home broadband offers that aim directly at cable and outlying areas where cable could potentially expand.
Changes in TV viewing may also be a factor. For decades, cable companies sold TV and internet in discounted bundles. With rise of streaming video “the cable promos aren’t as appealing for broadband only,” Lopez said.
Even as Comcast and Charter deploy new faster network technology to attract more lucrative customers, cable’s share of the market is starting to shrink, according to Tammy Parker, a senior analyst with GlobalData.
Total U.S. broadband lines will increase to 112.3 million by the end of 2026 from 103.1 million in 2021, including new wireless internet customers, the research firm predicts. Cable’s market share may slide to 67.1% from 68%.
Amazon’s Satellite Launch Schedule Puts it Nearly 4 Years Behind Starlink
Amazon says it will test Kuiper broadband satellites in space late next year.
Amazon plans to launch its first prototype broadband satellites in Q4 2022, which would be nearly four years after SpaceX launched its first prototype Starlink satellites.
"This morning, we filed an experimental license application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch, deploy, and operate two prototype satellites for Project Kuiper," Amazon said in a blog post. "These satellites—KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2—are an important step in the development process. They allow us to test the communications and networking technology that will be used in our final satellite design, and help us validate launch operations and mission management procedures that will be used when deploying our full constellation."
Amazon said it will launch the satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on ABL Space Systems' RS1 rocket, as part of a multilaunch deal the companies announced today. Amazon's prototype satellites will operate at an altitude of 590 km.
"While operating under the experimental license, the KuiperSats will communicate with TT&C [telemetry, tracking, and control] Earth stations in South America, the Asia-Pacific region, and McCulloch, Texas, as well as with customer terminal units and a single gateway Earth station located in McCulloch, Texas," Amazon told the FCC.
SpaceX launched prototypes in February 2018
Amazon previously said it doesn't expect to launch any satellites until 2023 at the earliest. The expected Q4 2022 launch of prototype satellites doesn't change that timeline for production satellites, which might not be launched until a year or more after the test versions.
SpaceX launched two test satellites for Starlink in February 2018 and its first batch of 60 production satellites in May 2019. The Starlink public beta began in October 2020, and the service just exited beta within the past few days.
If Amazon follows a similar timeline, which is no given, its first production satellites would launch in late 2023 or early 2024. Actual service would be available in 2025. Amazon has Federal Communications Commission approval to launch 3,236 low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites while SpaceX has approval for nearly 12,000.
In its FCC filing, Amazon said it "is designing and testing the Kuiper System in an all-new, 219,000-square-foot facility in Redmond, Washington," and "adding another 20,000-square-foot facility to provide additional capacity." Amazon said it has over 750 employees working on Kuiper, up from 500 or so a few months ago, and plans "to add hundreds more to the team in the coming year."
After launching the two planned prototype satellites, Amazon said it will collect "performance, diagnostic, and telemetry data from satellite bus and payload components" and "collect data from its ground station antennas, including customer terminals and gateway and TT&C Earth stations."
Here are a few details from Amazon's FCC filing on how the satellites will communicate with user terminals:
The KuiperSats will be equipped with three phased array antennas for customer terminal links—two for transmit and one for receive communications. The phased array antennas will each produce independent steerable beams that will be used to track the customer terminal throughout a satellite pass. The KuiperSats will transmit multiple 100 MHz wide carriers within the 17.8-18.6 GHz band and will receive transmissions from customer terminals in the 28.6-29.1 GHz band. The KuiperSat customer terminal beams will be enabled when the satellites are above the customer terminal Earth stations' minimum elevation angle of 35 degrees.
"All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we'll soon be ready to see how they perform in space. There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment," Project Kuiper VP of Technology Rajeev Badyal said in Amazon's announcement today.
ABL to be long-term launch partner
While Amazon doesn't have its own rockets like SpaceX does, Amazon said it is "impressed by ABL's unique capabilities" and expects "a long-term relationship" with its newly announced launch partner. (Amazon could eventually use rockets from Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company.)
"With a one-ton-plus payload capacity, RS1 delivers the right capacity and cost-efficiency to support our mission profile," Amazon said. "ABL's RS1 and GS0 launch system are also fully containerized and mobile, providing the speed and flexibility to support these early launches. We have been working closely with the ABL team for several months and already completed two integration design reviews—including plans for a novel adapter design. We will conduct an initial fit check early next year."
Pirating Metroid Aside, Emulators Play an Important Role in Games Preservation
A whole new kind of console wars
As we all know, the internet loves to get up in arms about… well everything. When I saw that Twitter was blasting Kotaku last week, I didn’t think much of it. That was until I saw what everyone was so upset about.
In case you missed it, Kotaku put out an article that basically told players to download an emulation of Metroid Dread. They’ve since added an addendum that apologizes if their initial article was misinterpreted, they don’t condone illegal emulation, blah, blah, blah.
I’m not here to give Kotaku a slap on the wrist for what they may or may not have insinuated, but what did intrigue me about this whole situation was that it brought the conversation about piracy, emulation, and game preservation to the forefront for the first time in a while.
More affordable, readily available smartphones and tablets have done a lot to make gaming accessible to poorer communities, and mobile gaming is becoming more sophisticated all the time. Things start to get a bit dicey with games that require a console or a high-end PC to run, because huge portions of the population simply don’t have the funds to play them. That barrier of entry becomes even higher when it comes to retro games, between the dwindling supply of working hardware and subsequent skyrocketing prices.
Naturally, people who can’t afford to play games this way, or just don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars to build out their retro games collection, turn to emulators, and have been doing so for decades.
It’s difficult to pin down the first-ever release of a gaming emulator, but their use became widespread between 1995-1997, mostly due to factors like faster CPUs and sharing via the internet. Some of the earliest include the Family Computer Emulator V0.35, which could run simple NES games all the way back in 1990, Virtual Game Boy, which was widely released in 1996, and VSMC, which could play SNES games by 1994.
Trust me though, these emulators are only a few examples out of dozens. It’s definitely easy to fall down a research rabbit hole if this is something that interests you (the Video Game Emulation Wiki is a great place to start).
Nintendo has been at the center of many controversies in the past few years surrounding their shutting down of emulators, as many of their games hold a lot of nostalgia for players, and are only accessible via consoles. One notorious example is the lawsuit the company filed against LoveROM.com and LoveRetro.com to get their emulators taken down for good. Every time they do something like this, Nintendo becomes a massive target of criticism online, with plenty of claims flying around that they don’t care about their players at all, and yet they seem unfazed.
Of course, Nintendo does own all of the source code to all of these games, and can release anything they own to be played at any time. Naturally, they’ve been doing so, but charging players full price for “retro” games, or at least a monthly subscription service. There are all kinds of debates about whether it’s okay (or just a dick move) for Nintendo to keep charging for older games, but the reality is that they legally own them, so they can do whatever they want.
Some might argue that we should be able to play these old games for free because they’re an important part of gaming history, but as long as there’s a demand and Nintendo can make a buck, there’s no way they would just peacefully hand over all the old Pokemon source code. “But Valve encourages players to mod their games and post them online for everyone!” “Sega holds events to celebrate Sonic fan games!” Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but that being said, I do think Nintendo should be doing more to make their games accessible, especially since they own some of the most influential games from a historical standpoint.
Nintendo Enthusiast also brought up the point that preserving games is much more complicated than simply updating the format in which they’re stored. When creating emulators, fans will make a game’s controls compatible with contemporary hardware simply as a hobby, but that’s a whole other factor to consider for these companies if they are to do the same.
One of my favorite YouTube channels brings old consoles to their former glory, but after a while, just trying to maintain the hardware won’t be enough. The first generation of games and gamers are aging — something inevitable, sure, but something this industry hasn’t had to reconcile with in a serious way yet. The combination of having no existing infrastructure for games preservation, as well as games being more difficult to preserve than media like books or movies, has caused us to fall behind quite a bit.
There are grassroots efforts from organizations like the Video Game History Foundation, the National Videogame Museum, and The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, just to name a few. However, I suspect they’ll need some cooperation from the publishers to make any real headway.
Aside from the conversation about pirating games that have been newly released, I think we as an industry really need to start thinking seriously about how we’re going to preserve the history of our games, because a huge percentage of them could disappear before we do.
Cancel Culture: Why do People Cancel News Subscriptions? We Asked, they Answered.
We found that the primary stated reason was money, followed by political or ideological concerns.
Nieman Lab Staff
What was the last news subscription you canceled, and why?
Media Twitter may be full of people threatening to cancel their (for instance) New York Times subscriptions over some recent op-ed, but we wondered how many people actually went ahead with their threats to cancel news subscriptions.
Public data on cancellations is sparse. It’s not something that news organizations like sharing. It can also be surprisingly annoying to cancel news subscriptions online, often requiring an actual call to customer service. (It doesn’t have to be this way!)
So we asked our readers for their most recent cancellation stories, and received over 500 responses. Keep in mind as you read this that Nieman Lab readers are a weird (great! but weird) bunch. They’re more into news, and more likely to pay for it, than the average person; this isn’t an “ask some guy on the street” survey. Many of our respondents alluded to paying for more than one news subscription, which is not the norm. (2017 data suggests that about half of Americans pay for some kind of news, including making donations to public radio.) Only about one in five Americans pays for online news, according to the most recent data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.) The responses we received were largely thoughtful and detailed, and in many cases it was clear that people felt bad about canceling and hadn’t made the decision lightly. (Make sure you read to the end of this post!)
Here’s what we found in our survey. Click here to read all of the responses grouped by outlet, and stay tuned for an upcoming story on possible solutions to some of the problems mentioned here.
The New York Times accounted for nearly a quarter of all the cancellations in our survey, which probably isn’t surprising since it is also the largest newspaper in the U.S. Here are the most-canceled outlets in our survey, with “local newspapers” (including large local newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune, as well as smaller ones) combined in one category.
The No. 1 reason people say they cancel a subscription is money… Nearly a third of respondents — 31% — cited money as the primary reason they canceled a subscription. Some people canceled when promotional rates expired; others were irritated that subscriptions auto-renewed or that news organizations weren’t transparent about price. Respondents cited a lack of funds, often due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related income loss, as another reason for cancelling subscription. Some of those were folks who had multiple subscriptions and had to choose to cut back on one or more publications to help make ends meet. Others will seek promotional offers to the end.
My budget is tight these days. There were many expensive and unexpected expenses last year (leaking bedroom roof needing urgent repair; large tree removal due to storm damage; car repair due to winter ice; etc.). [The Nation]
It’s $1 for five months (so, basically free), and after that you just cancel and sign up again under a different email, so it’s basically free forever. and their regular price is ludicrous. [Newsday]
I did not want to cancel it; I had been a subscriber for decades. But the subscription rates skyrocketed at a time when my income was going in the other direction, and the service team was not willing to negotiate an affordable price for me. So things didn’t work out for either of us: I lost a subscription I wanted, and the paper lost a customer they could have kept if they’d been more willing and able to compromise. [Mercury News]
Too expensive (>$20 a month) [Lexington Herald-Leader]
…followed closely by ideology or politics. Thirty percent of respondents said that they canceled the news subscription due to ideology or politics. The publications that were most often implicated in this line of reasoning were The New York Times and The Washington Post, but other publications weren’t exempt. Many were not happy that James Bennett, the Times’ former opinion editor, chose to publish Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for the military to quash Black Lives Matter protests; others were only upset that the Times had apologized. Bret Stephens and Maggie Haberman got name-checked multiple times, as did, of course, Donald Trump.
I subscribed after Trump was elected. I wanted to support them, even though I have access through work. But I have become really annoyed with how much the Times has become a left-of-center newspaper. It doesn’t feel balanced anymore. I am left of center, but I need to feel that my news sources are open about where they are coming from. The Times acts like it is objective, but then doesn’t come off that way. Not in all of the reporting of course, which continues to be top notch, but in the presentation. I especially am turned off by the way they present headlines in the push notifications. [The New York Times]
Publishing Senator Tom Cotton’s editorial — calling for the use of military force against peaceful protestors on U.S. soil — was irresponsible and dangerous. […] The NYT’s apparent lack of reflection on why this was a problem — ‘It didn’t meet our standards’ — was the last straw regarding their decisions about what voices from the right to select for inclusion in the paper. [The New York Times]
The straw that broke the camel’s back was after publishing an op-ed piece supporting conservative views from a sitting U.S. Senator, The New York Times not only published a rebuttal (well, maybe okay) but then they apologized to their readers for essentially practicing journalism, promised it wouldn’t happen again, and then censored, and finally fired the editor who made the decision to expose Times readers to the thinking of the other side. [The New York Times]
For me, the Tom Cotton op-ed was the breaking point. The Times is profitable. They’ll be fine without my subscription, so I decided to direct that money to a local news org instead. [The New York Times]
Even $4 a month (on a student discount) is too much for a product whose core offering has increasingly become aggrieved and insane opinion columns about how anyone who has committed the grave sins of [checks notes] voting for Biden, being young or poor or nonwhite, or caring about people who are poor or nonwhite is actually a vile woke-mob leech who viscerally hates America and wants to see it destroyed from within. [The Wall Street Journal]
I didn’t like their pro-Brexit stance, I wasn’t willing to continue to read a newspaper that I had read daily for 20 years once it became clear that their editorial policy was becoming biased or at the very least nowhere near as challenging of the Brexit lobbyists’ arguments. I still miss doing the crossword and have not replaced the Times with another daily paper. [The Times of London]
After that, there were a myriad other reasons for canceling:
The content isn’t good enough. Thirteen percent of respondents said they’d canceled the subscription for what we categorized as non-ideological content concerns: They thought a publication had become too clickbaity or non-substantive, or found that the content generally wasn’t useful to them or just wasn’t worth paying for.
They had too many clickbait-style articles. I’d see a headline that looked interesting, go to the article and find that it was an opinion piece, not news. Or that it has a little fragment of news in it, with a lot of speculation around it. [The Washington Post]
I subscribed after the George Floyd murder to get local coverage on what was happening. But now that the Chauvin trial is over, most of their news is irrelevant to me since I live in DC. [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Paper stopped covering City Council and county commission meetings and when asked said no one read those stories and replaced with features and columns, many of which were written by readers/businesses/amateurs … lack of any coverage of where vaccinations were available and how to get appointments. [The Spokane Spokesman-Review]
Too much to read, too little time. Another 13% of respondents said they’d canceled because of information overload; in the case of print publications, they saw them piling up unread. (This was a common reason cited for canceling The New Yorker; man, we miss The New Yorker Minute.)
Let it lapse because there was no option to not receive the hard copies in the mail and they just kept piling up. I know I should have donated them but I have very little energy after work — I’m clinically depressed and I can’t even keep my house clean very well. It felt wasteful to keep filling up the recycling bin with shiny new unread magazines. (Already read the digital version of the stories I was interested in before getting the mailed issue.) I feel shame about this and I miss not having to ration my click-throughs when I see links to stories I’m interested in. [The New Yorker]
I just didn’t have time to read it and while it was dirt cheap at $12 a year, I just couldn’t justify it. I’ve become slowly feeling trapped by online news writing. What I mean by that is, it’s never ending and yet I cannot remember a single word a week later… but print; I can remember entire passages years later and I tend to “get it” better compared to online. [Wired]
Customer-service issues. Finally, 12% of respondents to our survey said they had canceled primarily due to some kind of customer service or UX issues. Print newspapers were getting delivered too late (often, these people switched to online-only), or changing a subscription was so annoying that the subscriber decided it wasn’t worth it.
My wife wanted to go from twice a week to full seven days. Can’t do it by email with [Arizona Republic]. Told we have to call. Number to call seems to be regional phone center, constantly busy. Called Republic directly but were told to try to call earlier in the morning and maybe the call center wouldn’t be so busy. Always busy. Tried sending a letter to Republic, no answer. Tried sending letter to billing center, no answer. Finally went to bank and had auto withdrawal for monthly subscription canceled. Only response from Republic was that payment request was denied. [Arizona Republic]
They never delivered the actual newspaper despite maaaaaaany calls and they’re union-busting jerks. [Boston Globe]
Couldn’t access website easily, SO MANY POPUPS even when I had logged in, other places where I can access the info. [The Times-Picayune]
Actually, I didn’t intend to cancel. But when I canceled my Milwaukee Journal Sentinel subscription, the dreadful Gannett customer service canceled my Green Bay subscription as well, and I just said screw it. [Green Bay Post-Gazette]
They failed to deliver the Sunday newspaper to me multiple times a month. [The Desert Sun]
I had a print subscription for years, however I became aware that the ink they use to print is toxic. I typically reuse the newspaper in my garden or fire pit. I wanted to cancel the print subscription and just get digital, but in order to do that you have to call customer service. It seemed ridiculous that a phone call is required to cancel, when you can sign up just online. Felt like a cheesy, gimmicky way to try to retain customers. I was so irritated that I canceled the entire subscription. [The New York Times]
I didn’t think that the responses to our survey would make me cry, but that’s what happened.
One respondent, from Michigan, wrote about why he’d canceled his print subscription to The New York Times.
Really can’t afford to have it and have it lay unread. Spouse of 57 years passed in March and I’ve discovered reading Sunday alone without the precious, coffee-driven exchange of common enthusiasms is too dark a place for me. Maybe if my whole self gets regathered around a breakfast for one, maybe later. For now, my daily Battle Creek Enquirer and two, good local weeklies help keep alive my niche in community. [The New York Times]
In The New York Times, he didn’t see a stack of paper. He saw 57 years’ worth of Sunday mornings with the person he loved. Asked if he had anything else to add, he said: “I can’t believe I stopped the Sunday Times.”
As I write this, I realize that it sounds like a hokey ad campaign for print newspapers. Worse, an ad campaign targeted at sentimental old people! But it’s based in truth. My father-in-law, Ronnie, died last month at the age of 80. Giving the eulogy at his funeral, his oldest son passed out front pages of The Boston Globe to family members sitting in the first two rows as a reminder of how Ronnie communicated with his wife and seven children on weekday mornings — from behind the newspaper.
So many people who responded to our survey didn’t cancel their subscriptions lightly. Sadness and guilt were frequently tied up in their decisions. “The only reason I’d cancel is that I have no money,” wrote a woman who lost her job during the pandemic. “I feel horrible.”
Sometimes, in print publications, respondents saw expectations that they could not meet. One woman let her New Yorker subscription lapse because “hard copies just kept piling up.”
“I know I should have donated them but I have very little energy after work,” she wrote. “I’m clinically depressed and I can’t even keep my house clean very well. It felt wasteful to keep filling up the recycling bin with shiny new unread magazines…I feel shame about this.”
“Hard to remember what the particular issue was,” another woman wrote. But “I canceled with full knowledge of the crucial role that the NYT plays in American news and politics. They can do better. Cancellation of love.”
—Laura Hazard Owen
'5D' Storage could Fit 500TB on a CD-Sized Glass Disc
That would be 10,000 times more data than Blu-ray discs.
Using high-speed lasers, researchers have created "5D" data storage technology that could allow 500 TB of data to be written to a CD-sized glass disc, according to the Optica society. The technique uses higher writing speeds that might finally make it feasible to use the technology for archival and other purposes.
With 5D optical storage, each file is uses three layers of nanoscale dots. The dots' size, orientation and position within the three standard dimensions, make up the five "dimensions." The dots change the polarization of light travelling through the disc which is read using a microscope and polarizer.
We've seen 5D optical storage before, but there were a number of problems — particularly the slow writing speeds that made the technology impractical. It has huge upsides for (extremely) long-term storage, though. It's been estimated that the storage medium could withstand temperatures up to 1,000 degrees C and last 13.8 billion years at room temperature without degrading.
To overcome the speed problem, researchers used a femtosecond laser with a high repetition rate. Rather than writing directly in the glass, they used the laser to produce a phenomenon called near-field enhancement, that creates tiny structures using a few weak light pulses. Those can be used to enhance the circular voids generated by a more powerful, single-pulse "micro-explosion." This technique "minimized the thermal damage that has been problematic for other approaches that use high-repetition-rate lasers," according to the paper.
Using the new technique, the team was able to write 5GB of text data ono a silica glass disc the size of a conventional CD with nearly 100 percent readout accuracy. "With the writing density available from the method, the disc would be able to hold 500 terabytes of data," the researchers said. They were also able to write at speeds or around a million voxels per second, or about 230 KB per second.
That might sound slow, but by introducing parallel writing, you could feasibly fill a 500TB disc in about 60 days. That could provide a way to backup reams of valuable data, essentially forever. "With the current system, we have the ability to preserve terabytes of data, which could be used, for example, to preserve information from a person’s DNA," said research team leader Peter G. Kazansky.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
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November 6th, October 30th, October 16th, October 9th
Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles, press releases, comments, questions etc. in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.
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