FCC Questions Verizon Plan to Throttle Some Unlimited Data Customers

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today sent a letter [PDF via Gigaom] to Verizon Wireless, questioning its plan to throttle customers that have unlimited data plans during peak usage times. Verizon first announced its intention to throttle high-usage customers on grandfathered unlimited LTE plans last week.

In the letter, Wheeler says that he is “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s decision to throttle its unlimited users, as the company described its efforts as necessary for “Network Optimization.” Wheeler stated that he does not believe slowing the data speeds for select users falls under the “reasonable network management” umbrella.

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“Reasonable network management” concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams. It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its “network management” on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.

Wheeler goes on to ask Verizon to answer a series of questions, requesting that the company explain its rationale for treating customers differently based on data plan type and questioning whether Verizon’s new throttling policy is justified under the FCC’s Open Internet rules. Wheeler also questions the necessity of cutting data speeds on the much more efficient 4G LTE network.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal Verizon said that it would respond to the Chairman’s letter following a review of the content.

“We will officially respond to the Chairman’s letter once we have received and reviewed it,” Verizon Wireless said in a statement. “However, what we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell cites experiencing high demand. The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don’t limit capacity for others.”

Verizon plans to begin throttling high-usage LTE customers accessing congested network cells beginning on October 1. The company says the change will only affect users with grandfathered unlimited plans not under contract who rank in the top five percent of data users.

At the time of its announcement, Verizon said that the top five percent consisted of customers who used 4.7GB of data each month, and those customers may experience slow data speeds “when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming” when connected to a cell site “experiencing heavy demand.”

Verizon, which has long restricted 3G data usage for unlimited users, is not the first wireless carrier that has implemented LTE usage restrictions for customers on grandfathered unlimited plans. Other carriers, like AT&T, have similar policies and restrict key features from unlimited data plan holders in an effort to encourage them to switch to pay-by-usage tiered data plans.





NomadPlus Transforms an Apple Charger Into a Portable Battery [iOS Blog]

Nomad, the company behind the pocket-sized NomadKey iPhone cable, today debuted the NomadPlus, a product that transforms an Apple charger into a portable battery pack.

While there are hundreds of different portable battery options for the iPhone, the NomadPlus is unique because it functions with an existing Apple charger. The NomadPlus plugs into an Apple wall charger, transforming it into a 1500 mAh portable battery with enough juice to recharge an iPhone to 70 percent.

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One of the most cumbersome aspects of most battery packs is the recharging of the battery itself, but the NomadPlus allows the add-on battery to be charged as an iPhone charges via the wall charger, a simple solution that saves time and effort.

The NomadPlus is not much larger than an iPhone wall charger, measuring in at 2.75″ x 1.33″ x 1.10″, and it weighs just 2.1 ounces. It supports pass-through charging, and will charge the iPhone before charging the battery itself.

While NomadPlus takes advantage of the Apple wall charger’s superb design and engineering, its USB port can be used to power up any number of smartphone or tablet devices. Upcycling your wall plug with NomadPlus is the way to go when looking for a portable battery; it’s a practical upgrade of something you already own.

The NomadPlus can be pre-ordered from the Nomad website for $39, but as noted by TechCrunch, entering the promo code “nomadplus” will cut the price down to $20, presumably for a limited time.






‘Modbook Pro X’ Tablet Based on 15-Inch Retina MacBook Pro Debuts on Kickstarter

Modbook, the company with a history of offering pen-based Mac tablets using the internals of Apple’s notebooks, is announcing a new Kickstarter campaign today to support the launch of a new Modbook Pro X based on the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The $150,000 campaign will allow users to send in their own machines for conversion at $1999 or reserve complete systems directly from Modbook starting at $3999.

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An innovative computer modification product, the Modbook Pro X incorporates the original hardware of a Retina-display Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-inch base system running the OS X 10.10 Yosemite operating system. The expansive drawing and writing surface of the Modbook Pro X has a scratch-resistant ForceGlass screen with paper-emulating texture that covers a crisp, clear 15.4-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels. Users get highly sensitive pen input with 2,048 pen pressure levels and pen tilt and rotate functionality for producing pro-quality creative deliverables.

Various configurations of the Modbook Pro X are available, including processor options ranging up to the top-of-the-line 2.8 GHz chip launched in the Retina MacBook Pro just yesterday, up to 32 GB of RAM, and up to 2 TB of flash storage.

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Additional options for Modbook Pro X customers include integrated Keybars on the rear of the device providing eyes-free programmable access to key combinations for commands and shortcuts, as well as a Keyboard Stand that serves as a keyboard, adjustable easel stand, and protective cover for the Modbook Pro X.

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Shipping on complete systems is scheduled for January 2015 in limited quantities, with the bulk of orders starting the following month. Send-in-your-own systems are planned to begin shipping roughly a month later.

Given its price, the Modbook Pro X is obviously targeted at a niche market interested in a tablet running full OS X such as creative professionals, but for those people the device may be an appealing option. For others, particularly those who would appreciate an OS X-based iPad, it’s at least an interesting example of what can be done.

Backers not interested in a full Modbook system can also support the project through cheaper rewards such as a $59 Modbook Digitizer Pen that is compatible with an array of pen-based tablets or a Modbook Shuttle portable hard drive starting at $139.