Friday, April 13, 2012

In many states, telecom companies can or want the right to end landline service

Telecommunications companies are lobbying to have the right to end reasonably priced landline service to homes, at least in areas with good broadband and wireless coverage.

The basic story “Landline rules frustrate telecoms” appears in the Friday April 13 Washington Post, front page, link 

Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin already absolve telecom companies of responsibility for providing service in cell or broadband covered areas. Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi. Kentucky, and California have considered such measures.

There are concerns about low-income residents, and whether a cellular and broadband system could stay up during a terrorist attack or major catastrophe.

Telecom companies have been considering terminating service of those with many accusations of illegal downloading.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Major carriers will implement multi-step plan to discourage smart phone theft

The FCC and CTIA announced yesterday a major plan, taking into 2013 to implement a several-step plan to make stolen smartphones worthless to thieves so that consumers will not remain targets on streets.  Smartphone theft has sometimes led to violent crime.

Computer World has this account

There will be a database that catalogues every IMEI smartphone number, enabling remote shutdown.  Then carriers will provide users instructions as to placing secure passwords on their phones, and provide applications enabling remote disabling. This is more effective than just disabling SIM cards (as Verizon does now), because SIM cards (small cards which users insert into special slots in smartphones when purchased) can be easily replaced by thieves.

The plan would require consumer cooperation and a kind of “herd immunity”.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) explained the measure on his own site here.    He says he will also introduce a measure making it a federal crime to tamper with a phone’s IMEI number, which could still be attempted by thieves.  

Greshman College in the UK has this discussion on IMEI numbers.

See also earlier posting on this problem Feb. 10. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My own practical test of bandwidth rationing

Yesterday, I had an unusual problem with my Comcast Xfinity cable Internet, which leads to a router for up to five computers.  I had signed on to my main Dell laptop (Windows 7) using the router, and switched to the Verizon "new" iPad hotspot, which is 90% as fast, to give it some work.  I could not get the Dell to reconnect to the Internet on Comcast, even though the older Dell XP Tower next to it had stayed connected. Upstairs, I could not get the Toshiba notebook (also W7) to connect to Internet on it either, but the Mac book next to it would.  I wondered if there could be a problem with the router access, or the way it was assigning internal iP addresses.

Soon, however, I heard the access on the Tower "chime", which means that Comcast has reset the modem and high speed service, so it must have detected the problem.  Then it all connected.

As it happened, I installed Carbonite backup on my MacBook yesterday as preparation for a music project.  (I don't have a Lion OS late enough to use iCloud, and I'm not about to start replacing OS's on a whim.) That resulted in a 10 hour "initial backup" through Xfinity of 9 gig from the MacBook.

During that period, until almost the end, once again I could not sign on to Xfinity through my Dell laptop, although the older XP stayed connected.  Is this a matter of bandwidth management?  No complaints, because I just used iPad hot spot all day on the Dell (which has to be refreshed if you leave the computer idle and it goes to sleep).  Today it all worked as normal.

Picture: OK, I don't dust often enough. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

Smart phone video use is becoming expensive for consumers; pricing doesn't keep up with smartphone technology

Brian X. Chen has a major “Business Day” article in the New York Times Monday, “A Ballooning Megabyte Budget”, link here

The widening use of 4G phones has led many consumers to exceed their data limits quickly, and the telecommunications industry doesn’t seem to have a handle on how to price its services to match the explosion in mobile and cellular wireless technology.

It can cost about $100 to watch 5 films through wireless devices.  Cable-based services are generally much more generous with limits (or before starting to slow down data).  

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Don't let cell phone cramming even start!

David Segal has an important piece in the New York Times Saturday, “To Stop Cellphone Cramming, Don’t Let It Start”, link here.  The main problem seems to be that consumers unwittingly sign up for SMS (short message service) from less-than-reputable sources, such as “celebrity gossip”.  These may seem like spam.

Some message services, such as from your tax preparer when you file electronically, or warnings from the Weather Channel, seem to be legitimate (even if overdone sometimes).  You’d want to know if there was a tornado sighting in your area.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Telecommunications companies profit from police surveillance

Perhaps a peripheral issue in the Network Neutrality debate is the ability of telecommunications companies to make money by helping police track possible and actual suspects, sometimes without proper court supervision, as in this front page New York Times story April 1 by Eric Lichtblau. The title is “Police are using phone tracking as routine tool; cell companies profit; civil libertarians worry as surveillance skirts court oversight,” link here.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a Surveillance Self-Defense project here, and we will surely hear more about it in the future.