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Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. has agreed to acquire BendBroadband, a broadband and data center provider in Bend, Oregon for $261 million. BendBroadband is a cable provider that offers data center operations, 100Mbps broadband service, and also offered a wireless broadband offering for rural areas that is now discontinued. It had revenue of $70 million in 2013. Given the spirit of experimentation around rural broadband, and a need for new services, I expect this market to see more deals in the coming year. Last year, TDS purchased Baja Broadband, a regional provider in the Southwestern U.S.

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Highway1, the hardware incubator founded by Irish manufacturing giant PCH, is offering its next class of startups $50,000 in seed money, up from $20,000, and has moved into larger digs in the Potrero Hill area of San Francisco. It also opened the application process for its fall program (for more on the program read our story on its launch), so ship yours in before June 20 if you have a hot hardware startup idea you want to bring to reality. Based on the number of hardware ideas in my inbox, hundreds will likely enter and 15 will be chosen.

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Yesterday Cox president Pat Esser, told Bloomberg the cable operator would deliver a gigabit network in some residential markets this year. The interview was cagey on how, but an Ars Technica story notes that Cox has spread doubts about FTTH tech on its web site. Last year, I covered how next-generation DOCSIS technologies can deliver gigabit service and last year Comcast even showed off a 3 Gbps connection. But as cable providers use more of their network capacity and for IP delivery, they will also run up against a tough business problem — namely how to keep subscribers from dumping pay TV packages in favor of web-based alternative.

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In Brief

While the internet debates the death of network neutrality, the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger back-and-forth continues. Sen. Al Franken released Netflix’s response to his request for its thoughts on the proposed merger. Netflix, needless to say, doesn’t like it. In details that have not been aired publicly, the letter accuses Comcast of abusing its market power to charge Netflix an interconnection fee to reach its customers — the first time Netflix has ever paid such a fee to an ISP. However, if the FCC has its way on net neutrality, this may just be one of many fees Netflix will find itself paying.

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Hey, Ma Bell! Your peering policies are so lame, your fiber network is slower than DSL! That’s essentially the insult that Netflix is flinging at AT&T in a shareholder letter accompanying the streaming video service’s first quarter financials. The gist of the accusation is that by refusing to sign an interconnection deal with Netflix, AT&T’s customers are getting a streaming experience that sucks. It’s the same tactic Netflix employed with Comcast, putting the customer in the middle of an esoteric fight about internet interconnection agreements. Absent FCC intervention, we’ll see if the Netflix strategy works a second time around.

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Home builders are getting hip to the smart home, with Lennar signing a deal to put Savant’s smart home control software in one of its developments and KB Homes apparently installing an energy management system that will lay the groundwork for later home control upgrades in all new homes it builds. An article in the Silicon Valley Business Journal has an interview with a KB Homes VP about how the homebuilder has so far implemented technology into its homes, and the user reaction. I wish there was indication on how open KB’s systems are, but it’s still worth a read.

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken has written to Netflix asking its opinion on Comcast’s efforts to buy Time Warner Cable, implying that Netflix is a good indicator of the potential consumer and content harms of the deal. In his letter, Franken touches on peering challenge, noting that Comcast implied that it was no big thing in its hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee. Since Netflix wasn’t at the hearing, perhaps Sen. Franken just wants to get Netflix’s comments on the record. And while, we aren’t Netflix, if Sen. Franken is interested, here’s how we think regulators should view the deal.

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Woohoo! SmartThings has added support for TCP Lighting, Quirky Pivot Power Genius, and my personal favorite, the ecobee thermostat. This will allow people who currently use apps to control these devices to control them through the SmartThings app, cutting down the number of places you have to go to control your home and giving users a way to set automation plans that incorporate the newly supported gadgets. I’m excited because I’ll now be able to program an away mode that will lower my thermostats, cut my lights off, lock my doors and shut my blinds.

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