Why Is AT&T Trying To Block A Small Kansas Town From Building A Better ISP?

Chanute, a small Kansas town of 9,000, is pulling a high-tech move straight out of Google’s playbook and installing its own fiber optic network so that residents might enjoy faster broadband speeds. This is much to the chagrin of AT&T, which provides its own Internet service to the town, albeit at slower speeds for a higher cost. If Chanute can demonstrate that a town committed to quality Internet service can take care of its own needs, why aren’t we seeing more municipal broadband efforts around the country?

This Kansas town has a history of self-reliance – it also provides its own utilities, ranging from water to sewage to electricity, and is the third-largest electricity producer in Kansas. Now it would like to step up its Internet game, as the town has already been an Internet service provider since 2005 for area hospitals, banks, and manufacturers.

This means laying lots of fiber, which it already had running between its power plants. An upgrade of this system in the early 2000s saw technicians replace 24-strand fiber with 144-strand, meaning the network could carry vastly more data than before. “That [upgrade] kind of started our effort,” said Rick Willis, who has been the city’s information technology manager for the past 30 years.

“AT&T said they’re not going to invest another dime in our community since it’s too small. But a number of our residents live out in the country where AT&T’s DSL service won’t reach – it only serves homes within 18,000 feet of the telephone central office,” Willis said. “These people either go without Internet or rely on a satellite connection, which is far more expensive.”

Chanute’s own fiber optic broadband would reach speeds of 1 Gbps for $40 per month, 14 times faster than AT&T’s service at less than half the price. AT&T filed a formal intervention with the Kansas Corporation, so the project can’t move forward until the state of Kansas grants permission.

“AT&T has not taken a position on this fiber network,“ AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said. "As a provider in the area, any decision made by the [Kansas Corporation Commission] could impact AT&T’s business operations, which is why we asked to intervene in the proceeding.” It’s only natural for a company to want to take some sort of action if its business might be against some sort of impact. AT&T’s "intervention” gives it a legal means to keep up to date with any developments pertaining to Chanute’s proposed network.

OwnFone launches world’s first 3D printed Braille phone

While smartphones can do incredible things these days, they’re still too expensive or complicated for some consumers, such as the elderly, disabled or technophobic. We wrote about OwnFone back in 2012 when it began offering cheap and small customizable phones that only receive and make calls to pre-selected numbers. Now the company is back with the Braille Phone, a credit-card sized device that can be easily used by those without full vision. READ MORE…
The Department of the Internet

Thanks to thedoomreport for bringing this article to my attention

Get ready for the Department of Broadband. On Monday, President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify the Internet as a public utility—like water or electricity—under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The goal: “to protect net neutrality,” Mr. Obama said in a White House YouTube video, an ironic venue for announcing a monumentally bad idea that could strangle the Internet.

For years the FCC has been inching toward imposing net-neutrality rules, which are sold as a way to ban Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers. In reality such rules would dictate what ISPs like Comcast and Verizon can charge for their services. The Silicon Valley crowd particularly likes the net-neut idea, because it would mean cheaper access for companies like Google and Netflix, who are heavy bandwidth users. President Obama’s announcement is likely to delight them—and liberal groups supporting supposed Internet “fairness”—because now FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will be under enormous pressure to do the White House’s bidding.

But the Internet cannot function as a public utility. First, public utilities don’t serve the public; they serve themselves, usually by maneuvering through Byzantine regulations that they helped craft. Utilities are about tariffs, rate bases, price caps and other chokeholds that kill real price discovery and almost guarantee the misallocation of resources. I would know; I used to work for AT&T in the early 1980s when it was a phone utility. Its past may offer a glimpse of the broadband future. Innovation gets strangled.

Bell Laboratories—owned by AT&T—invented the transistor in 1947, the basic building block of today’s telecommunications and computing. But AT&T was one of the last businesses to use the innovation. Why? Because the company had a 10-year supply of the old technology—vacuum tubes—and waited until they ran out before converting to using AT&T’s own invention.

It was much the same with touch-tone dialing, which was invented in 1941 but not rolled out until the 1970s. Though touch-tone was easier to use than rotary-dial phones, and cheaper, AT&T charged $10 a month extra for the service—because the company could. Bell Labs funded a study to decide the size, color and coding of the touch-tone buttons. The study’s director received a report with hundreds of ideas but didn’t like any of them. Instead, he insisted on gray buttons, and just 12 of them.

More utility follies? The first cellphone call was made in St. Louis in 1946 with AT&T’s Mobile Telephone Service, but the company let the innovation wither. It took until 1983 for Motorola to introduce the now comically unwieldy DynaTAC, a cellphone that weighed more than 2 pounds—but that private-sector effort is what ultimately led to today’s 4-ounce iPhone.

Oh, and data. I worked in a group at Bell Labs that developed the early 300 and 1200 bit-per-second modems. We wanted to test them by sending data from our Western Electric factory in Illinois to our site in New Jersey. But no luck, because Illinois Bell hadn’t set tariffs for data. We had the technology, but regulators lagged far behind.

A boss at Bell Labs in those days explained what he called the Big Lie, using water utilities as an example. Delivering water involves mostly fixed costs. So every decade or so, water companies engineer a shortage. Less water over the same infrastructure meant that they needed to raise rates per gallon to generate returns. When the shortage ends, they spend the extra money coming in on fancy facilities, thus locking in the higher rates for another decade.

If the Internet is reclassified as a utility, online innovation will slow to the same glacial pace that beset AT&T and other utilities, with all the same bad incentives. Research will focus on ways to bill you—as wireless companies do with calling and data plans—rather than new services. Imagine if Uber had to petition the FCC to ask for your location.

The president’s statement Monday was not the first time he has promoted net neutrality, just the most emphatic. At an Oct. 9 town-hall meeting in Los Angeles, he said: “I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality. I think … it’s what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.” Then he, however awkwardly, implored the FCC to act: “My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. Now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet.”

Maybe Mr. Wheeler didn’t get the message last month and the White House thought he needed some public hectoring. Or maybe he has been only sidling up to the idea because he knows deep down that network neutrality is a fuzzy concept that can’t possibly exist in nature. Comcast might want to charge Netflix customers $5 a month for a fast lane, but if Google Fiber is in town and offers Netflix with no extra charges, that’s what customers will choose.

The beauty of competition is that you get network neutrality for free. AT&T cut long-distance rates in the 1980s when MCI and Sprint started competing fiercely. Calling from San Francisco to New York became cheaper than calling from San Francisco to San Jose, because California tariff prices were still highly regulated. The same thing happened to international rates once Skype offered voice and video connections free online. And it is no surprise that AT&T hurried to offer its own gigabit Internet connection in Austin, Texas, as soon as Google Fiber showed up. Now everyone in Austin has access to a fast lane.

And the rest of us? “At 25 Mbps, there is simply no competitive choice for most Americans,” Mr. Wheeler said in a September speech. Treating the Internet like a utility would ensure things stay that way.

The president might think he’s doing a favor for Americans, but utilities are utopias only on paper. With no competition to stimulate investment, capabilities will wither. Eventually a federal bureaucracy will be needed to help allocate the scarce broadband resources. In that vaguely neutral world, everybody gets access to the same resources. Well, except for the government—it of course will need special, superfast access. You want cheap, ubiquitous and naturally neutral broadband? Promote competition and outlaw utilities.


German politician Malte Spitz went to court in order to obtain all information that his cell phone carrier Deutsche Telekom had about his activity. The results astonished him. Over the course of five months, they had tracked his geographical location and what he was doing with his phone 35,000 times.

Working with the German newspaper Die Zeit, an infographic was created that shows Spitz’s activity across an interactive timeline. This screencast shows two days from it.

Via Die Zeit:

Most people’s understanding of what can actually be done with the data provided by our mobile phones is theoretical; there were few real-world examples. That is why Malte Spitz from the German Green party decided to publish his own data collected from August 2009 to February 2010. However, to even access the information, he had to file a suit against telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom.

The data, which ZEIT ONLINE has made available for download and acts as the basis for our accompanying interactive map, were contained in a massive Excel document. Each of the 35.831 rows of the spreadsheet represents an instance when Spitz’s mobile phone transferred information over a half-year period. Seen individually, the pieces of data are mostly inconsequential and harmless. But taken together, they provide what investigators call a profile – a clear picture of a person’s habits and preferences, and indeed, of his or her life.

This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.

The interactive can be viewed here.

Ericsson looks at India as export hub for networking gear

Telecom equipment maker Ericsson today said it was looking at making India a global export hub for networking gear from its Jaipur facility.

“We have recently increased capacity at our facility in Jaipur. In the future, we are looking at making this facility a global export hub,” Ericsson India President Fredrik Jejdling told PTI.

However, he declined to comment on investment details and timeline for commencement for exports from the unit.

Starting with wireline hardware manufacturing, it manufactures 2G and 3G equipment at the said unit.

Ericsson manages production lines providing equipment for radio access network, core network, transmission solutions and modules from the unit.

With the introduction of new technologies, including 3G and TD-LTE, in India, the expansion was done to extend our capabilities to better support our customers here. We can now look at exporting to other countries as well,“ Jejdling said.

The company has manufacturing units in Sweden, China and Brazil as well.
Did AT&T Lie to Your Representative? | Tim Karr


Earlier this summer 76 House Democrats were misled by AT&T.

They signed on to a letter circulated by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) that was so packed with AT&T talking points and spin that it’s worth wondering who really drafted the letter.

In it the 76 Democrats repeated AT&T’s argument that merging with T-Mobile is the only way that it can extend its mobile network to 97 percent of the population. They also signed on to the AT&T notion that this merger will “create thousands of jobs … which will greatly contribute to our continuing economic recovery.”

But here’s the rub. Neither of these claims is true.

An AT&T lawyer recently leaked a document that revealed AT&T can accomplish its network buildout for one-tenth the cost of acquiring T-Mobile. And despite AT&T’s insistence that the deal will spur job growth, the merger will cost an estimated 20,000 Americans their jobs.

Being wrong on the facts has never stopped AT&T’s relentless drive to get Washington to bless this disastrous deal. AT&T is hitting other members of Congress with the same misinformation, and the same AT&T lobbyists who misled the “Butterfield 76” are trying to drum up additional support for the merger.

AT&T’s believes that the truth doesn’t matter in a Washington where fact checking takes a distant second to check writing. read more

PCCW telecoms spinoff paves way for Li to pursue media dreams

But whether Li can become Hong Kong’s Rupert Murdoch remains unclear given the financial constraints of PCCW, stiff competition in the media industry, and regulations in Hong Kong and China that could tie his hands, industry executives say.Li, the younger son of Hong Kong’s best-known tycoon Li Ka-shing, is expected to expand his television business in Hong Kong and China in what’s left of PCCW Ltd, which consists of pay-TV operator Now TV, a solutions business and some property assets.He will be keen to delve into media-related business in China and expand the company’s Hong Kong footprint after PCCW obtains a free-to-air TV licence, which will help boost its TV advertising revenue, industry executives say.“Richard Li has always been more interested in media than the telecoms business,” said a banker in Hong Kong on condition of anonymity. “In his mind, it’s a valuable business, but whether the public will look at it the same way will depend on how much cash he can generate for the business."Although born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Li wants to be a self-made man rather than rely on daddy’s pocket.Li’s life has been nothing short of conventional. He worked shifts at McDonalds, according to some media reports, and has fathered three children with his ex-girlfriend, former Hong Kong movie star Isabella Leong.His career has had its share of ups and downs.He first ventured into the media business in the 1990s and made a huge splash in one of his early deals.The crew-cut, bespectacled executive started the satellite network Star TV in the mid-1980s which he sold to media mogul Murdoch for $950 million in 1995, just before turning 30. He used the money to set up a company that eventually became PCCW.In 2000, Li beat Singapore Telecommunications Ltd in a deal to buy Cable & Wireless HKT for more than $30 billion, aiming to create a telecoms powerhouse. However the deal proved too big for Li to swallow with the telecoms unit bleeding money for years.Hence Li’s decision to spin off and list the unit in the form of HKT Trust.Last month, PCCW issued a prospectus on the spinoff plan, aiming to raise HK$6.8 billion to HK$10 billion, assuming a minimum market capitalisation of HK$28.6 billion ($3.68 billion). PCCW will retain control of the trust by keeping an interest of 55-70 percent.Analysts say the high valuation and minimum market capitalisation restriction could be a stumbling block in the upcoming initial public offering of units in the trust."I don’t think the vote (by shareholders) is a problem,” said Macquarie analyst Lisa Soh. “What I think is a problem is the market cap restriction, because the current share price of PCCW alone would indicate that it’s not going to happen."PCCW shares ended up nearly 4 percent on Tuesday, taking the company’s market value to HK$21 billion, substantially lower than the projected value of its telecoms asset. Daiwa Capital Markets valued the remainder PCCW at about HK$23.5 billion if it offers a 30 percent stake.Under current volatile market conditions, PCCW will likely wait before setting a date for HKT Trust’s listing.If PCCW managed to raise more than HK$7.8 billion, it would likely use the proceeds to expand its business, apart from paying off the telecoms unit’s mountain of debt, the company said."Li’s focus will be on mainland China because he already has invested in PPstream, so I think Li is looking at the Hong Kong and China markets,” said Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Alan Kam.In Hong Kong, Li owns the Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal, although he will probably be unable to inject the asset into PCCW due to local media regulations.Therefore TV will be Li’s focus.PCCW is among the few TV operators that have already applied for a licence to provide free-to-air television services in Hong Kong, which will challenge the dominance of Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) .“Now TV is still very small and the free TV market is about HK$4 billion in terms of advertising revenue, and it’s dominated by TVB,” said Standard Chartered analyst Steven Liu. “If three more operators get licences, competition will be fierce."There could be more acquisitions in store, although Li will have to make a good sales pitch to convince PCCW shareholders, such as China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd . In 2006 China Netcom, now owned by China Unicom, objected to Li’s plan to sell PCCW’s core assets to U.S. buyout firm TPG and Australia’s Macquarie Group Ltd. . ($1 = 7.782 Hong Kong dollars)

Net Neutrality or Net Bureaucracy?

You guys realize this whole Net Neutrality debate has relatively little to do with the common user, right?

It’s not as though you or I are going to be paying the ISPs directly for access to bandwidth – it’s the websites. Websites, not individuals, will be the ones who see a barrier to entry in this ‘free market’ of pay-for-access Internet. I do not support FCC authority over the Internet, but lets stop pretending that it would somehow be better if we had “a la carte” instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Competition will ensure the best services rise to the top” – in this instance, I do not believe that is the case. “Competition” will flow from the currently-existing communications oligopolies, and those that 'rise to the top’ will only do so because they are already so entrenched in the business.

Unless each ISP plans to offer a 'free for all’ package along with their access, it is highly unlikely that the lay-user will ever come across start up or experimental websites. Where once a YouTube or a Google could be started in your garage and propagate based on its genuine mass appeal, innovation will now take a backseat to brand recognition and digital empire. The last 10 years of consolidation of Internet services within the hands of few tech corporations should paint that picture clearly enough.

There is a very big difference between you, the end user, paying Verizon for access to content on the web….and Joe Schmo of having to pay not just Verizon, not just Comcast, but every ISP individually for the ability to have their content seen by you. On top of paying for access, Schmo would also have to pay a premium for bandwidth if he expects his website to run smoothly. On top of that premium, Schmo would likely worry that his deal with Comcast might prejudice his services with Verizon being that the two ISPs are competitors.

One example of this already exists with Netflix. Last fall, we saw ISPs deliberately curtailing Netflix’ access to regular bandwidth; the video-streaming provider was held hostage by ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon until Netflix approached both with a deal for faster service. Predictably, Netflix also raised subscription fees to cover the costs of recovering previously-held network speeds. Vox advances one extrapolation of this phenomena:

Here, Netflix has paid to give its content priority over the content of its competitors (Hulu). Customers get an excellent experience, but accessing other web content whose hosts have not paid for special treatment may be cumbersome.

For the most part, this isn’t how the internet works right now. Currently, internet connections work on a first-come, first-served basis, with no one’s packets getting special treatment. And net neutrality supporters think that’s a good thing.

There are thousands of networks around the world. The miracle of the internet is that anyone can set up a web server, anywhere in the world, and instantly reach everyone else, no matter where they are or what network they’re using. But if broadband providers started dividing their networks up into fast lanes and slow lanes, things could get more complicated. To get satisfactory service for your website, you might have to negotiate fast-lane agreements with thousands of ISPs all over the world. Companies that don’t have the money — or the manpower — to do that would be at a competitive disadvantage.

Expecting a free market solution to come from current infrastructure is folly because the Internet is already dominated by large monopolies by virtue of the product offered. You don’t have multiple water companies in a town because the costs and practicality of establishing multiple, redundant waterpipes is greater than what we observe in a 'natural monopoly’. In Pennsylvania, electricity is provided to all citizens using the same powerlines; competing providers do not establish multiple, redundant lines to the same house. When you pay for electricity, you are choosing which company generates and transmits your electricity, but distribution of energy via powerlines is a natural monopoly. Until wireless electricity transmission becomes cost-effective, we unfortunately will not see these monopolies dissolve any time soon.

Access to the Internet works largely the same way. The consumer is paying for access to the 'pipes’; like the power generators, each ISP is offering the same service but with their own caveats, usually package deals for telephone, cable access, or larger bandwidth. The result is the same no matter which ISP you choose: access to the unfettered content of the world wide web.

Let me reiterate that I am not advocating an FCC solution. To be frank, I haven’t got a “solution” that wouldn’t require private companies being strong-armed by the government. The lack of Net Neutrality principles effectively give an advantage to internet service providers and telecom giants who are willing (and able) to make deals with ISPs. This obviously presents small companies with the disadvantage of operating on a slower network. Inevitably, a world without neutral principles wouldn’t reward the most innovative website with the best services but rather the companies that are best at making deals, or the companies with the most money.

There is one bright side to all of this, assuming we all remain the conscientious consumers that we claim to be; sugashane summed this up in his take on net neutrality:

So why do I not care what the FCC does? And why would I actually be in favor of the cable companies messing with bandwidth? Well, because I think that this bottleneck will give way to better, faster and smarter gateways to the internet & web. Something that everyone’s wanted but not had the motives to deliver.

We’ll see Google’s Project Loon, Google Fiber, Facebook’s Internet broadcasting Drones, PCell, 5G wireless, 10G wireless (SOON!). Everything’s going mobile, it’s going handheld and it’s going wireless/cellular. So who cares what the antiquated land-line companies want to do? Just like how the print media and the television companies are desperately clinging on to what’s left. Why? No one even wants that’s obsolete crap anymore. We have blogs and youtube!

The glimmer of hope here is that we will begin to see decentralized solutions coming into the fold. Ideas like the mesh network and wireless transmission will lead the way into a freer, more open society with uninhibited access to all information, all the time.

Device is a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop and smart TV in one

Owning a number of different devices can often mean having to regularly transfer data between them to keep them synced, or storing private information in the cloud. Offering a truly connected alternative, Seed is a set of mobile and computer products that use the processing power and data of a single docked smartphone. READ MORE…

Will further privatization of telecoms in Belarus succeed?

After a deal in 2007 when state stake in the pioneering GSM-operator velcom was sold for around $560 million, followed in 2008 by a hugely successful off-load of 80% in a “poor archiver” BeST for $600 million Belarus is now seeking to give up a 51% in the biggest (by the number of users) mobile operator in the country - MTS.

State is willing to get enormous $1 billion (or more, depending on the results of the auction on December, 1) for the asset, but analysts say that selling party is somewhat “overoptimistic” on a deal. Price being too high is not the only problem: even more significant one could arise if state would run into a conflict with the holder of 49% in JV MTS (MTS-Belarus) and the MTS brand itself - russian telecoms giant OJSC “MTS” (MTS-Russia) controlled by JSFC “Sistema”. MTS-Russia was willing to grab control in the JV by bying out at least 2% it needed to control the company. But negotiations were anything but fruitful. Another round occured this winter-spring, where parties again could not split the difference 


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Really, Verizon?

Called @Verizon ’s small business line. 5 minutes of phone-tree later, I said  “I need to figure out what’s attached to each of these account numbers.” “Ok, you’re going to have to call Large business support. This is small business support.” “OK, can you transfer me?” “Well, no, but here’s a number.” O.k., why can’t the nation’s biggest PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER transfer a call? So I call their Large Business Support line. Navigate their phone line, and, according to my cell’s call log, spend the next 31:22 minutes on hold. That’s how you treat your LARGE BUSINESS customers?! Finally get through, tell the lady I need to see which T1s and which phone #s are attached to each Account ID. To which she quickly says “oh, that could take a little while. Let me give you an email address so you can send that in.” WTF? Why can’t you just look it up? Ridiculous.
Did President Obama Just Break the Internet?

So President Obama has announced that the Internet should effectively be regulated as a public utility along the lines of the old-time Ma Bell phone system. He’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify internet traffic from information services (or Title I services under current Communications Act rules) to telecommunication services (or Title II services).

Obama is old enough to know better. If you think cable companies and internet service providers (ISPs) absolutely suck at customer service (and they pretty much do), they’re simply faint echoes of the old Bell system, which set the standard for awfulness. “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company,” joked the comedian Lily Tomlin back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Public utilities and government-granted monopolies — the only sort that actually stick around for very long — are rarely famous for their customer service and innovative practices. “The Phone Company” was enough of a cultural shorthand for all that was bad, rotten, and bureaucratic in American life that it was the super-villain in the 1967 black comedy The President’s Analyst. As bad as Comcast or Verizon might be, things can always get worse — and likely will if federal regulators gain more control.

Obama is acting in the name of “Net Neutrality,” keeping the Internet free and open, ensuring that user access to legal content and sites isn’t blocked, and protecting against a long parade of potential horribles that have failed to materialize in the absence of the new regulations he is championing. He and other proponents of Title II reclassification such as video-streaming juggernaut Netflix are particularly exorcised at the possibility of Internet “fast lanes” through which ISPs would charge companies fees to deliver their content to users. All data should be treated equally is the rallying cry of Title II proponents. Anything less, they charge, is a form of censorship.

Let’s leave aside the inconvenient fact that reclassification under Title II wouldn’t actually prevent “paid prioritization” deals, that ISPs are constantly managing online traffic in all sorts of ways to keep users happy, and that the FCC’s legal standing to regulate the internet is far from a settled matter. The real question is whether experiments in delivering content and services would necessarily be bad for the rest of us (I write as a Netflix subscriber, the editor of web and video sites, and an Internet junkie).

The answer is no. Clemson University economic historian Thomas W. Hazlett defines Net Neutrality as “a set of rules…regulating the business model of your local ISP.” The definition gets to the heart of the matter. There are specific interests who are doing well by the current system and they want to maintain the status quo via government regulations. That’s understandable but the idea that the government will do a good job of regulating the Internet (whether by blanket decrees or on a case-by-case basis) is unconvincing, to say the least. The most likely outcome is that regulators will freeze in place today’s business models, thereby slowing innovation and change.

That’s never a good idea, especially in an area where new ways of bundling and delivering content are constantly being tried. It’s a historical accident that cable companies, who back in the day benefited from monopoly contracts with local governments, have morphed into ISPs. That will not always be the case, as the rise of Verizon (originally a phone company) and Google’s rollout of its own fiber system, attest. Just a few years ago, the FCC frowned on the cell-phone company MetroPCS’s discount plan that allowed access to the World Wide Web but denied users multimedia streaming. The FCC and Net Neutrality proponents thought that was a bad thing. Customers on a budget had a different opinion.

According to the FCC’s own findings, the speed and variety of American Internet connections are growing substantially every year. Despite claims that monopolistic ISPs don’t have to listen to customers, 80% of households have at least two providers that can deliver the internet at 10Mbps or faster, which is FCC’s top rating. It’s in the increasingly intense battle over customers that a thousand flowers will bloom; all sorts of interesting, stupid, and dumb innovations will be tried; users will be empowered; and tomorrow’s Internet will look radically different from today’s.

And maybe, just maybe, customer service will be light years better than what was offered by the phone company of Obama’s youth

Is It Possible To Completely Opt Out From Cell Phone Directories?

While I was working in my Canadian telecoms company, many of my friends asked me whether we sell their personal information to third parties. I was really surprised with the question and I was sure that it was forbidden and that we don’t do such things. I asked them why do they think so and they presented me a few websites which upon a small fee let them find their personal information by their cell phone numbers. I really didn’t know what to tell them, so I just asked my boss about such cell phone directories. He told me that telecoms have nothing to do with them and that they do not resell any customers’ data since this is not in accordance with their privacy polices. I learned that the data is bought from for example big online retailers or collected during sweepstakes. Then such information is assembled and published in a form of a cell phone directory.

I told this to my friends and their first question was how to remove their personal information from such data base? I knew the answer, because I asked my boss about this as well. The method is really simple but requires a lot of effort and time. At first you have to find out which companies have some records about you which will take a lot of time, since there are dozens of websites offering people and phone searches. It will not possible to check all of them without paying, so I think a good practice here will be of course not to pay them, but just send an opt-out letter. If they don’t have your data, they will do nothing, but if they have, they will have to handle it.

Once you have the list of websites which might offer your personal information you should check their FAQ or information section and find how to file an opt-out request. Usually this can be done by e-mail or fax and requires sending some paperwork. When a company receives such a request, it has around 30 days to remove all your personal information from their databank. If they don’t do it, you can try to ask them why it hasn’t been done yet. If they still neglect to do it, you can take some further steps in order to make them do what you asked them for.

If you manage to reach all of the companies which bought your information, you should be successfully removed from their records within 30 days. However, you should always read what you accept since next time when you do some shopping in the Internet, you can again agree to resell your personal information.

Rented smartphones for tourists offer free international calls and unlimited internet access

Tourists who don’t travel abroad often can sometimes face steep price increases for making phone calls and texts if their tariff doesn’t include international minutes and roaming charges come into effect. Bearing this in mind, Hong Kong-based handy is leasing smartphones out to visitors, pre-loaded with free calls, 3G internet access and apps to help them navigate their destination. READ MORE…