Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cox makes agreement with ABC affiliate in northern VA, releasing consumers caught in middle


Cox Cable, which serves Falls Church and Fairfax County VA, announced an agreement with ABC affiliate WJLA finally, link here For a number of days, WJLA had been warning viewers that Cox customers could have an interruption in access to their station.

When consumers subscribe to cable services, they expect access to all major networks and systems. Consumers should not be caught in the middle of contractual disputes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NTSB wants to ban all commercial electronics use by vehicle drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board wants Congress or other federal regulatory agencies to ban all use of consumer electronics by drivers of motor vehicles, whether personal or commercial. 
 
The NTSB has no authority to impose such a ban, but its recommendations carry weight. On the other hand, many conservatives are likely to say that such regulations should be left to states. 
  
To its credit, the NTSB wants cell phones and perhaps iPad- like devices to detect whether being used in motion (over walking speed) and be able to differentiate between passenger and driver use.  It would allow 911 calls and GPS devices.
 
The NTSB recommendations would not allow exceptions for hands-free or Bluetooth use.  The NTSB says that cognitive distraction is the real problem.  Other devices, like iPads and Kindles, could not be used legally, either. 
 
Yup, the whole country should follow Oprah’s “no phone zone”.  But this goes further.
 
Consumer Reports has a good news story here.
 
I would wonder if this could affect what consumer electronics are allowed in cars, especially rental cars.  There are other kinds of distraction, such as eating, even sipping coffee.  Would CD and DVD players be an issue? 
 
Anderson Cooper did a report on distracted driving on AC360 last week (see TV blog Dec. 8).
I do not answer cell phone calls when driving unless I can pull over and stop.  If I do not pick up on a call, it is likely that I am driving.   Virginia bans cell phone use only in work zones but does ban texting. Maryland and DC ban all hand-held use. 
 
We might see more government statements about wireless radiation exposure and health in the future.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Liberal media asks questions about cell phone towers and WiFi and health; same questions about high tension power lines

There has been controversy recently about cell phone use, and people’s (especially children and teens) using them too close to the skull without a Bluetooth earpiece, or keeping them close to the body.  The danger may be greater in areas of weaker coverage.

Christopher Ketcham has a long and blistering but speculative article in Earth Island Journal, reproduced on AlterNet recently, “Radiation from cell phones and WiFi are making people sick—are we all at risk?”  (website url link).  This called the largest human public health experiment ever, 24x7.  Here’s the link.  The story starts with serious problems on a farm in Ohio in 1990 after an early cell phone tower was installed nearby.  I remember some concern over a cell phone tower going up near my apartment in Fairfax County VA in 1995, before there was much reliable information (either way) on any risk. 

But living hear power lines – especially the high voltage transmission lines running cross country, is also said to be risky for some distance near them.  Here’s a typical link,  or another one called “Power Line Fact” (link), and even the EPA admits to some risk (here). 

Can nearby power lines – that is, their induced magnetic fields – harm electronics like laptops or pc’s?  I’ve wondered this when driving with a laptop and stuck on a two-lane road on the same side as a transmission line for miles at a time.  But I’ve never really had a problem.  Does anyone know?

But back in the 1960s, there were complaints that home electronics in the Pittsburgh area were damaged by devices at a nearby military base.  

One would assume local zoning rules would preclude building residences in areas likely to have problems, but do we really have a handle on this? 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Verizon enters cooperative deal to cross-sell with major conventional cable providers

Cecilia Kang is reporting in the Washington Post Saturday morning on a cooperative deal  between Verizon Wireless and conventional cable services Comcast, Bright House and Time Warner, in various cities, to cross-sell each other’s services, in a manner that recalls the insurance market. The story is here

The companies will cooperate to offer package deals that offer Verizon for the wireless portion of their telecommunications. Some feel that this could cause Verizon to put less emphasis on its land-based optical FIOS, which some consumers feel is superior to conventional cable in reliability.  Others feel that cellular wireless, as opposed to cable broadband, should be developed further because it doesn’t depend on a physical infrastructure vulnerable to storms or perhaps sabotage (which would make cellular wireless a preferable link in future home security systems  -- Ackerman Securityt is already mentioning wireless monitoring in its television broadcast ads).   In the workplace, I have personally found cellular wireless to be reliable and effective.  

Kang said that some hope that the deal will mean that cable companies will not keep charging for unused extra channels.  

Some have questioned the possibility of anti-trust issues. 

I recall that in New York City, during the Verizon strike, people had trouble scheduling work or going to the major competitor, Time Warner, which news reports said could not keep up.

The New York Times has a story ("Media Decoder") about the deal by Brian Stelter, which characterizes the deal as acquisition of more wireless "spectrum" by Verizon.