Verizon plans 5G Home Internet in every city where it deploys mobile 5G 0 71

Verizon plans 5G Home Internet in every city where it deploys mobile 5G

5G in the home —

Verizon Wireless home Internet due for expansion, but 5G availability is sparse.


A Verizon router in a home along with text that says,

Enlarge / A Verizon ad for its 5G Home service.

Verizon says it will bring its “5G Home” Internet service to every market where it deploys 5G mobile service.

That might not be saying much, given how limited Verizon’s early 5G deployments are. But it would mean that at least some people in each 5G mobile market would be able to buy the 5G fixed Internet service, which offers an alternative to wired Internet.

“You should expect that every market that opens a 5G mobility market will in due course be a 5G fixed wireless [market] because it is one network,” Verizon Consumer Group CEO Ronan Dunne said Wednesday at an investor conference (link to webcast and transcript).

Verizon brought 5G Home to parts of four cities—Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento—late last year, charging $70 a month for service with no data caps and typical download speeds of 300Mbps.

Verizon plans to launch 5G mobile in parts of 30 cities by the end of 2019, and the company has done so in 10 of those cities so far. Those cities are Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Phoenix, Providence, Washington DC, Atlanta, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Other cities getting Verizon mobile 5G later this year include Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, San Diego, and Salt Lake City.

After testing the home service in the four pilot cities, Dunne said Verizon is “ready to go mass market” with 5G Home. The “full commercial launch” of the home service will happen in the “back end of this year,” he said.

Early 5G deployments are limited

But Verizon’s early 5G launches, which use millimeter-wave spectrum for both mobile and home service, have been anything but widespread. This isn’t surprising, given that these high-band frequencies have trouble covering large distances and indoor spaces. Reviewers of early Verizon 5G mobile deployments had trouble finding mobile signals, and Verizon’s 5G Home service only covered a fraction of each launch city.

5G can work on any frequency, but the biggest speed gains come on millimeter-wave spectrum bands because there’s simply more spectrum available in those higher frequencies. But carriers have admitted that millimeter-wave coverage won’t scale beyond densely populated urban areas.

Verizon rolled out millimeter-wave 5G to 13 NFL stadiums, but the network isn’t good enough to cover all of the seating areas in any one of those stadiums. In some of those cities, the stadium is the only place where Verizon 5G is available at all.

Given that, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to get Verizon 5G home Internet even if you’re in one of the upcoming launch cities. But if your home is in range of the Verizon network, it could be a good option since it’s a fixed connection rather than a mobile one that can vary widely in speed and availability as you move about a city.

In-home antennas

Verizon’s first 5G Home launch was based on its own version of 5G instead of the 5G New Radio (NR) industry standard. But toward the end of this year, Dunne said that Verizon “will launch the first of our 5G Home markets that are on the NR platform.” That’s because NR equipment is now becoming readily available, Verizon said.

Despite using non-standard 5G, the early deployments in four cities helped Verizon “understand how we develop our go-to-market and how we actually market street-by-street,” Dunne also said. The early deployment helped Verizon determine the right “balance between indoor and outdoor antennas and the proportion of those indoor antennas that can be self-activated rather than needing to have a truck roll,” he said.

Nearly 80 percent of new 5G Home deployments rely on an antenna inside a customer’s home instead of outside, like on the roof, making it easier for customers to set it up themselves, he said. “That’s critical for [customers], the ability to self-provision,” he said. Like wired Internet, the fixed wireless service uses a router in the home to create a Wi-Fi network.

The in-home equipment today is “effectively using a cellphone chipset” instead of something more powerful, Dunne said. But the next generation of chips available in the first half of 2020 will bring “higher power output” to the home Internet service, he said.

Verizon will eventually deploy mobile 5G on the lower-band spectrum it uses for 4G, but Verizon says the speed gains from 5G on this spectrum will be minimal. If Verizon also brings 5G Home to lower spectrum bands, we’d expect that the top speeds would fall far short of what cable and fiber networks are capable of, and there’d be a greater likelihood of Verizon imposing data caps.

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Google Maps gets new icon, tweaked UI for 15th birthday 0 10

Google Maps gets new icon, tweaked UI for 15th birthday

OK, but what about dark mode? —

There’s a new icon, new tabs, and the death of the hamburger button.


  • Left: the new Google Maps logo. Right: the old logo.

  • The new logo loosely follows Google’s new icon style, which is slowly creeping across the app lineup.

  • Here’s the “new” Google Maps. There are two new tabs at the bottom and “For You” was renamed to “Updates.” Also the hamburger button is dead.

  • Here are the two new tabs. Neither of these sections are new; they’re just tab buttons now.

Google Maps is turning 15 this year, and Google is celebrating with a new icon and a few UI tweaks.

First, the Google Maps icon is no longer, well, a map and is now a multi-colored map pin. Like all of Google’s other recent icons, Maps’ icon follows a formula of outfitting a simple shape or letter with the colors red, blue, green, and yellow, and calling it a day. You can expect this new icon to pop up on your phone sometime soon.

The bottom tab navigation is going to switch from three tabs to five, with new tabs for “Saved” (Saved places), “Contribute,” and “Updates.” None of these sections really represent new features, they just used to live in the left-side navigation drawer and now they have top-level access via the tab bar. Speaking of the left-side navigation drawer, the hamburger button that used to open it is dead. Presumably, the settings and other miscellaneous menu options will live under the account switcher, accessible via your profile picture on the right side of the search bar.

Crowdsourcing has always been a major source of information for Google Maps, and soon Google says it will start surfacing information based on surveys that past Google Maps users have filled out. Things like the temperature of a mass transit car, accessibility, and the security level will soon be surfaced when you’re planning your travels.

Google’s last update concerns the company’s augmented reality “Live View” mode in Maps. Instead of unreliable smartphone compass hardware, Live View cross-references your camera feed with Street View imagery to figure out the direction you’re facing. The feature is meant to help with walking navigation in big cities, where getting that first turn right can often be a challenge. Live View works, but location compatibility is currently extremely limited right now. Google says it will be “expanding Live View and testing new capabilities” over the coming months but doesn’t provide any detail on what, exactly, that means.

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Downloading public court documents costs a dime a page—is that legal? 0 18

Downloading public court documents costs a dime a page—is that legal?

Tear down this wall? —

Federal courts use hefty PACER fees to pay for non-PACER projects.


Chief Justice John Roberts.

Enlarge / Chief Justice John Roberts did not actually use PACER fees to buy a new chair. That’s just a hypothetical example.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

If you need documents from federal court cases, you’re in luck. Almost every brief, exhibit, and legal ruling is available for download from the judiciary’s PACER website. But there’s a catch: documents cost 10 cents a page.

In 2016, three nonprofit organizations, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Alliance for Justice sued the federal courts—in federal court. The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of all fee-paying PACER users, argued that these hefty charges were illegal. Federal law allows the courts to charge fees “only to the extent necessary” to provide public access to information. Over the last 15 years, the cost of storage and bandwidth has plunged. Yet PACER’s fees have actually risen from 7 cents to 10 cents. These fees have raised far more money than it costs to run the PACER system: $146 million in 2016 alone.

In a 2018 ruling, Judge Ellen Huvelle largely agreed with the plaintiffs, concluding that the courts are breaking the law by spending PACER money on non-PACER projects like installing flat-screen TVs in courtrooms and sending electronic notifications to bankruptcy creditors. On Monday, the case reached the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where three judges heard oral arguments from each side. Judges seemed skeptical of the arguments of government lawyers representing the judiciary.

Before I explain the arguments, I should note that I’m not a neutral observer on this issue. As a reporter, I’m a frequent user of PACER; Ars Technica will probably get some money back if the plaintiffs win this lawsuit. Also, a decade ago, I helped create RECAP, a browser extension that helps PACER users share documents with each other and avoid paying PACER fees. I’ve long been on record arguing that public court documents should be free to the public—not locked behind a paywall.

The current lawsuit wouldn’t go that far. Both sides agree that the courts are allowed to charge something for judicial documents. But the two sides in Monday’s oral arguments disagreed radically about how much the documents should cost. Plaintiffs argued that the law only allows the courts to charge the marginal cost of distributing documents—a tiny fraction of the current fee. The Administrative Office of the Courts, on the other hand, has argued for an expansive interpretation of the law that allows them to charge as much as they want and to spend it on anything related to distributing information electronically to the public.

In her 2018 ruling, Judge Huvelle charted a middle course. She ruled that the courts could not only charge for the cost of delivering a particular document to a particular customer, but also for the costs of maintaining the infrastructure behind the PACER system. That includes CM/ECF, the website that litigants and judges use to upload, organize, and view case documents. She concluded that these costs are relevant because PACER is fundamentally a public-facing front-end for the CM/ECF system. But she held that the courts couldn’t use PACER fees to pay for projects completely unrelated to PACER.

“We’re redecorating all judges’ offices with gold plate”

Monday’s oral arguments (MP3 recording here) didn’t go well for Alisa Klein, the government lawyer representing the judiciary. At one point an exchange got so testy that Judge Raymond Clevenger snapped, “Do you have a lot of trouble answering questions generally in life or just when you come in front of the court?”

Rather than directly defending the courts’ use of PACER fees for non-PACER purposes, Klein spent most of her time arguing that the courts shouldn’t be hearing the case at all—an issue known as “standing” in legal jargon. While the law restricts how fees can be spent, she said, Congress didn’t intend to let individual PACER users sue the courts if the law wasn’t followed.

The judges seemed skeptical. Clevenger asked incredulously whether it would be legal for PACER fees to be used to replace “the curtains at the Supreme Court” and to buy “the Chief Justice’s new chair.”

“We’re redecorating all judges’ offices with gold plate,” he said sarcastically. Under the judiciary’s theory, he said, “there’s absolutely no remedy” for this kind of illegal spending.

But Klein pointed out that the judiciary’s budget gets reviewed and approved every year by Congress. If Congress doesn’t want the courts spending PACER fees on gold-plated office renovations, Congress can easily nix expenses it doesn’t like. This annual process of oversight and appropriations, not lawsuits from private citizens, should shape spending decisions by the courts, she argued.

If the judges do decide that the courts have overcharged customers, they’ll be left with the tricky problem of deciding how much was overcharged. Deepak Gupta, the lawyer who represented the non-profit plaintiffs, said he didn’t have enough information to draw a clear line between permitted and illegal uses. He suggested that the judges send the case back down to the lower courts with instructions to dig into the courts’ budgets, uncover more information, and then rule on the issue.

While this lawsuit might force the courts to reduce PACER fees, eliminating the paywall entirely will probably take action from Congress. Last year, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced legislation requiring the courts to make PACER documents available free of charge. But so far the bill hasn’t gotten much traction.

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