Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cell phone contracts leave consumers committed to inferior service, and some price hikes

The Red Tape Chronicles on MSNBC are reporting the latest incident of telecommunications “gouging”, in a story by Bob Sullivan, “Sprint raises fee, but won’t free users from two-year contracts”, link here. There is a good question as to whether carriers can legally raise incidental fees in the middle of contracts.

Verizon offered me a new “Obamaphone” – a “new” Blackberry in mid 2010, but it has turned out to be inferior -- and will remain so for me until mid 2012. The batteries wear out, and Internet drops off and has to be reset (you turn off all your connections and turn them back on), and is generally slower than “other people’s” at discos. And it doesn’t always display Mobile sites properly. For example, it doesn’t recognize Blogger sites converted for optional mobile display (Androids do recognize it).  It does recognize MLB (baseball),  CNN and most newspapers in mobile mode.  Verizon will let you raise your minutes allowance – that doesn’t depend on your equipment contract.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lightsquared says it has a revolutionary approach to cutting cellular wireless costs; talks with Time Warner

Here’s a Washington Times story today about LightSquared  (you know, E=MC-squared), which says it is close on a global wireless network which it says would be at least 30% cheaper for cell phone and Internet users, and supply Internet (through a kind of cellular wireless already popular with business) everywhere.  It claims that the network will not interfere with GPS and military devices, but that has been a major stumbling block so far.

The technology is based on an unused portion of the frequency spectrum. 

The company is located in Reston VA, near Dulles Airport.

The link for TWT story is here

There is also a story that Time Warner Cable is interested in acquiring Lightsquare.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Idaho, in mountain states, is the slowest in catching up on Internet connectivity

Rural mountain areas may still be lagging behind in efficient, stable Internet access, according to a story today in the New York Times by Katherine Q. Seeyle, “For Idaho and the Internet, Life in the Slow Lane”, link here.

It’s hard for telecomm companies to invest as much in providing speed and especially reliability in areas with such low population density and natural barriers.  There was a time when people in remote parts of the country experienced local self-sufficiency, with less expectation of contact from the outside world.  In mountainous or other remote areas, the Internet towers or cables are subject to the elements and to large wild animals.

So, do we have “My Own Private Idaho?”

Here’s a YouTube video by Save Rural Broadband, Montana:

Wikipedia attribution link for Idaho topographical map   (68 meg, very big file).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do major service provides use "too much" electricity?

James Glanz has a provocative story in the New York Times Business Day, Sept. 3, “Google details, and defends its use of electricity”, link (website url) here

The story had a picture of a server farm in Finland (a country on my own shortlist for destinations).  The company has enormous redundancy in its operations, which enable it to keep up its services even when there are local infrastructure disruptions (storms, earthquakes, etc), an important concept in efficient broadband – but here tackled at the content delivery level than the transmission itself.  (We could get into an elaborate discussion of all the OSI layers that they used to teach in telecommunications courses back in the 90s.) Other large providers, like Facebook, have similar redundancies, with emphasis on expansion in areas away from susceptibility to major disasters, and low cost  (maybe like interior North Carolina). 

There were some rather lame rationalizations in the article: it uses less energy to do a search online than go to the library to look things up, like I used to do in the 80s (I remember desperately looking through medical journals at the Texas Health Science in Dallas back then as the AIDS epidemic unfolded; how it has changed.)