Wall Street Journal

Telecoms Consider Fee Hikes, as Fierce Price War Plays Out

The wireless price war may have reached detente. After years of slashing prices, offering stunning promotions and undercutting each other to grab new subscribers in a market that has reached near saturation, the four largest U.S. wireless carriers have reported second-quarter results that suggest prices have stabilized. Some operators are even talking about how price rises could be in the future. For all carriers, the average revenue per user, a metric used to calculate how much the carriers earn from their subscribers, has plateaued after dropping steadily since late 2013, according to data from UBS Group AG. In the second quarter, the metric fell to $50.20, down from $60.70 in the third quarter of 2013, but only down slightly from $50.40 in the first quarter, according to UBS data. The stabilization of pricing comes at a time when carriers are facing big investments and slowing revenue growth.

This Beach Cabana Has Lousy Wi-Fi

For most people, a cabana on the beach is the ultimate refuge from their office. For others, it is the office. Beach clubs are expanding Wi-Fi and members are paying to install internet routers and phone lines in their cabanas to telecommute from the beach.

Apple’s Hard-Charging Tactics Hurt TV Expansion

Apple executives had every reason for optimism when they approached Walt Disney Co. in early 2015 to join the streaming television service Apple planned to launch. Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger is an Apple director and had said he was keen to strike a deal. Disney, which owns channels such as ESPN and ABC, was stunned, though, when Apple executive Eddy Cue made demands that would have upended decades of cable-industry and Hollywood practices, people familiar with the discussions say. In particular, Apple wanted to freeze for several years the monthly rate per viewer it would pay to license Disney channels. TV channels usually get annual rate increases and rely on them to fuel profit growth. Disney balked.

Similar talks with media giants that included 21st Century Fox Inc. and CBS Corp. also stalled. When Apple debuted its newest Apple TV set-top box last September, it announced no streaming TV service. Television is an important part of Apple’s strategy to reignite growth now that sales of the iPhone, the most popular and profitable product in the Cupertino (CA), company’s 40-year history, have fallen for two quarters in a row. Yet some of the same tactics previously used by Apple to such success have hurt its efforts to revolutionize the TV-watching experience, raising pointed questions about how it can revive its growth.

Publishers and TV Networks Feud Over Streaming Feed Ahead of Conventions

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, a dispute has broken out between the five national television networks that have traditionally pooled resources to provide live video from key political events and the online news publishers who rely on that signal for their streaming platforms. The networks—ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News —recently informed news outlets that aren’t members of the “pool” they will have to begin paying significant new fees in return for access to live coverage, not just at the conventions but debates, presidential news conferences, and many other events.

Media organizations are pushing back. A dozen publishers, from traditional players like The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, to digital specialists like BuzzFeed and Vox.com, protested the changes in a July 13 letter to the executive committee of the White House Correspondents’ Association. They said the fees are exorbitant, and pushed for a new digital pool to be set up.

New Smartphone Laws Could Mean Headaches for Employers

Companies that let employees use their smartphones at work will have to sort out the implications of two new policies.

First, all smartphones sold in the state must come with a “kill switch” to remotely disable phones if they are lost or stolen. And employers need to reimburse employees who use personal cell phones for work-related calls.

Amazon to Buy Video Site Twitch for More Than $1 Billion

Amazon has apparently agreed to acquire Twitch, a live-streaming service for videogame players, for more than $1 billion.

The acquisition would help Amazon bolster its position in the fast-growing business of online gaming and give it technology to compete with video-streaming rivals Netflix and Google's YouTube.

Google Fiber Fuels Internet Access -- and Debate

Frustrated by the hammerlock of US broadband providers, Google has searched for ways around them to provide faster Internet speeds at lower cost, via everything from high-speed fiber to satellites. In the process, it is changing how next-generation broadband is rolled out.

Telecom and cable companies have traditionally been required to blanket entire cities, offering connections to every home. By contrast, Google is building high-speed services as it finds demand, laying new fiber neighborhood by neighborhood.

Others, including AT&T and CenturyLink, are copying Google's approach, underscoring a deeper shift in US telecommunications policy, from requiring universal service to letting the marketplace decide. As Google's model gathers momentum, it stirs up questions about whether residents of poor or underserved neighborhoods will be left behind.

Google Wants Sites to Use Encryption, Except When It Doesn’t

Google wants websites to use encryption, to protect themselves and users from hackers. Unless they are e-commerce sites, in which case Google doesn’t want them to use encryption too widely.

The dissonance arises from the requirements of Google’s “Trusted Stores” program, an effort by the search giant to show users where they can “shop online with confidence.” Here’s the rub: According to e-mails Google sent one merchant, the Trusted Stores program doesn’t play nice with encryption.

Twitter to Remove Images of the Deceased Upon Families’ Request

Twitter said it will remove images of deceased individuals at the request of family members, a move that comes a week after Robin Williams’s daughter said she is quitting the platform after being sent disturbing photo-shopped images of her father’s death.

“In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances,” tweeted Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler.

The statement instructed immediate family members and other authorized individuals who would like to “request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death” to email [email protected].

NFL to Coldplay: Pay to Play the Super Bowl

The National Football League doesn't usually pay the act that performs at halftime during the Super Bowl. But in a recent twist, the league has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play, according to people familiar with the matter.

The NFL has narrowed down the list of potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl to three candidates: Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay.

While notifying the artists' camps of their candidacy, league representatives also asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.