Router and modem rental fees still a major annoyance despite new US law

Network cables plugged into a modem.

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Consumer Reports wants the Federal Communications Commission to take a closer look at whether Internet service providers are complying with a US law that prohibits them from charging hardware rental fees when customers use their own equipment. In a filing submitted to the FCC this week, Consumer Reports said it asked members about their Internet bills and got over 350 responses, with some suggesting violations of either the letter or spirit of the law.

“Some contain allegations that the law is being violated, whereas others state the new statute is being respected. Many more stories suggest that ISPs dissuade consumers from using their own equipment, typically by refusing to troubleshoot any service disruptions if consumers opt not to rent the ISP’s devices. Such practices result in de facto situations where consumers feel pressured or forced to rent equipment that they would prefer to own instead,” Consumer Reports told the FCC.

Consumer Reports’ filing came in response to the FCC asking for public comment on the implementation of the Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA), which took effect in December 2020. In addition to price-transparency rules for TV service, the law prohibited TV and broadband providers from charging rental or lease fees when “the provider has not provided the equipment to the consumer; or the consumer has returned the equipment to the provider.”

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#consumer-reports, #fcc, #policy

How much do you pay your ISP? Consumer Reports wants to see your bill

Vacuum cleaner sucking up a pile of money.

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With broadband-industry lobby groups implausibly claiming that Internet providers have slashed their prices, Consumer Reports is on a mission to collect and analyze thousands of monthly Internet bills from real customers.

In an announcement today, Consumer Reports said it launched the Broadband Together initiative with 40 other groups to “analyze the cost, quality, and speeds that are being delivered to people in communities across the US and to better understand the factors that affect price and why consumers pay different rates for the same service.” At least one thing is certain before the analysis begins: the actual amount ISPs charge is a lot higher than their advertised prices because of various fees that get tacked on after customers select a plan.

Over 6,600 people have already participated. You can join at the project website, which says the process takes seven minutes. “To participate, consumers will need an Internet bill, an Internet connection so CR researchers can test their speeds, and answer a few questions about their broadband service,” Consumer Reports said. The group will analyze bills “to compare companies’ prices and service” and figure out “what consumers actually pay for broadband.”

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#biz-it, #broadband, #consumer-reports, #policy

That Popular S.U.V. Is Going to Cost You

Demand plus production delays have tightened the supply of new models. That means fewer deals. The only good news? Your trade-in may get a better price.

#automobiles, #carvana-co, #consumer-federation-of-america, #consumer-reports, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #sports-utility-vehicles-and-light-trucks, #truecar-inc, #used-cars

Biden infrastructure plan proposes spending $174B to boost America’s EV market

President Joe Biden has earmarked $174 billion from his ambitious infrastructure plan to build out domestic supply chains for electric vehicles, noting the imperative for United States automakers to “compete globally” to win a larger share of the EV market.

The funds are just one part of Biden’s plan, which calls for an ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure investment across multiple sectors. The Fact Sheet for the plan includes six references to China – one of these in reference to the size of the Chinese EV market, which is two-thirds larger than the domestic U.S. market. Chinese manufacturer Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier, said in February it was considering producing EVs at its Wisconsin plants – just weeks after tentatively agreeing to manufacture an EV for startup-turned-SPAC Fisker.

To ensure Americans actually purchase these domestically manufactured EVs, Biden also plans to establish sales rebates and tax incentives for the purchase of American-made EVs, though the size of the credit has not been released. Customers can already cash in a $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs, but it is not available to automakers that have sold more than 200,000 electric cars – people looking to purchase a Tesla, for instance, would not qualify for the credit. It’s unclear whether the new tax credit would raise or abolish the sales limit for automakers.

The plan also proposes using some of the funds to build a national EV charging network of 500,000 stations by 2030. A recent survey from Consumer Reports found that the availability of public charging stations was a major concern deterring people from looking into an EV for their next vehicle purchase.

On the transit side, Biden’s administration said the funds will also go towards replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrifying at least 20 percent of school busses, through a new program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The plan places a huge emphasis on providing good-paying jobs to American workers, but it still has a long way to go. It must be approved by Congress before becoming law.

#automotive, #battery-electric-vehicles, #charging-station, #china, #congress, #consumer-reports, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #environmental-protection-agency, #foxconn, #green-vehicles, #joe-biden, #president, #transport, #transportation, #united-states, #wisconsin

Consumer Reports creates a “green choice” for vehicle reviews

A picture of a car made out of a leaf, with flowers coming out of the tailpipe

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Almost one in four Americans are very concerned about vehicle tailpipe emissions, according to a survey conducted in January by the publication Consumer Reports. Nearly half of survey respondents also said that fuel economy is very important when considering a vehicle to buy or lease, and 27 percent were very worried about car exhaust contributing to climate change.

Consequently, Consumer Reports will now grade cars according to their environmental impact. It has launched a new “green choice” rating, identified by a green leaf icon, to help people quickly identify vehicles with the best fuel efficiency and lowest contributions to atmospheric CO2 levels and smog formation.

Interestingly, the survey also shows that nearly half of car buyers will use information about a vehicle’s emissions to inform their buying—but only if they know where to look. Unfortunately, more than 50 percent are unaware that this information is displayed prominently on the Monroney sticker.

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#cars, #consumer-reports, #fuel-efficiency, #vehicle-pollution

While You Weren’t Looking: Revised Airline Policies May Make Flying Better

Four years after a man was dragged from a plane, amended rules regarding involuntary bumping and oversold flights are about to be enacted. And there are more changes to come.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #consumer-protection, #consumer-reports, #transportation-department-us, #travel-and-vacations

If elected, Biden commits to rejoin climate accord U.S. just abandoned

On the same day that the U.S. officially withdrew from the global pact to reduce emissions that cause climate change, presidential contender Joe Biden committed that he would rejoin the Paris Agreement if elected.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Biden wrote, “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

The Trump Administration announced that the U.S. would leave the agreement three years ago, in a move that was blasted by venture investors at the time.

“I have always believed that, while we can disagree on the scientific premise behind climate change, we should all agree that advanced energy technologies represent one of the biggest economic opportunities,” said General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja at the time. “To give that up is a threat to American prosperity … Our American companies will be at a huge competitive disadvantage globally if they don’t have a market to rely on in their backyard.”

Biden’s decision to rejoin the agreement should come as no surprise given the $2 trillion climate stimulus package that was a major plank of the former Vice President’s campaign.

For the Trump Administration, the official abandonment of the climate agreement was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made in what could be the waning days of its authority.

A permanent American exit from the climate accord would be a huge blow to the international community’s ability to stave off a climate disaster caused by rising temperatures related to greenhouse gas emissions. A year of wildfires, flooding and other climate-related catastrophes have shown how changing temperatures are already wreaking havoc on communities. As the second largest emitter of global carbon dioxide, the U.S. plays an outsized role in the success of any climate change mitigation plan.

The agreement, a centerpiece of the previous Obama Administration in which Biden served as vice president, was designed to limit the emissions that cause global warming so that temperatures would not rise beyond another 2 degrees celsius.

“If Biden wins, then the fact that the withdrawal became final on November 4 really won’t matter,” Todd Stern, who was the top U.S. climate negotiator during the Obama administration, told the Financial Times. “If Trump wins a second term, then it will have much more lasting impact.”

To date, the U.S. is the only country that has formally left the agreement.

Even if a Trump Administration were to eke out a slight electoral college victory and return for a second term, market dynamics could mute the effect of any fossil fuel industry advocacy or stimulus the government may try to initiate.

Simply put, renewable energy is making more economic sense within the U.S. than its fossil fuel competitors. Wind and solar are now basically cost competitive or cheaper than fossil fuels in many markets. The cost of battery storage is also falling dramatically.

A March report from Consumer Reports explained just how much better solar power can be for consumers. “Going solar is a money-saver in the long term, even though startup costs are higher for the consumer,” according to the publication. “Electricity from fossil fuels costs between 5 cents and 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy costs average between 3 cents and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour and are trending down, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.”

Beyond market forces, a recalcitrant Trump Administration could be pressured to adopt more aggressive policies to reduce its emissions by international tariffs and potential sanctions, Sarah Ladislaw, a director of the climate change program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Tufts University, told the Financial Times..

“It is quite likely that other countries with ambitious emissions reduction targets, like the EU and China, will try to influence US behavior through cross-border carbon tariffs and a push to influence the global financial system to incorporate climate considerations,” she said.

#consumer-reports, #european-union, #general-catalyst, #government, #hemant-taneja, #joe-biden, #paris, #paris-agreement, #tc, #tufts-university

Consumer Reports: Tesla Autopilot a “distant second” to GM Super Cruise

The dashboard of the 2021 Cadillac CT4-V.

Enlarge / Super Cruise will be available on the 2021 Cadillac CT4-V. (credit: Cadillac)

Cadillac Super Cruise has retained its title as the best driver assistance system on the market, Consumer Reports declared in a new ranking. Super Cruise also won CR’s last ranking in 2018. While Super Cruise started out as a Cadillac-only feature, GM is planning to bring it to 22 vehicles by 2023.

Tesla’s Autopilot came in second place—a “distant second” according to Consumer Reports. The group says it saw “minor improvements in lane keeping performance” from Tesla’s offering since the system was last evaluated in 2018.

Those minor improvements were enough for Autopilot to get the top spot in the “lane keeping and performance” category of CR’s report. CR ranked Autopilot 9/10 for performance, while Super Cruise scored 8/10. Tesla also got top marks for Autopilot’s ease of use.

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#adas, #cadillac-super-cruise, #cars, #consumer-reports, #tesla-autopilot

Owning an electric car really does save money, Consumer Reports finds

Owning an electric car really does save money, Consumer Reports finds

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If you bought a Tesla Model 3 instead of a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, you’d probably save $15,000 over the total lifetime of the vehicle. That’s according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports, which examines the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles—both battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs—versus comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.

CR found that much lower maintenance costs and the lower price of electricity compared to gasoline more than offsets the higher purchase price of a new BEV compared to an ICE.

Operating and maintenance costs were calculated using data from annual reliability surveys conducted by CR in 2019 and 2020. Among other data collected, the survey asked CR members to estimate their automotive maintenance and repair costs and driven mileage over the previous 12 months, as well as total mileage of their vehicle. (CR filtered out outliers who drove fewer than 2,000 miles (3,200km) or more than 60,000 miles (96,560km) in 12 months, as well as vehicles with more than $20,000 in maintenance costs or vehicles with more than 200,000 miles (322,000km) on the odometer.)

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #bev, #cars, #consumer-reports, #electric-car, #phev, #plug-in-hybrid-ev, #total-cost-of-ownership