Archive for the ‘telecom’ tag
It’s one thing as a consumer to go through the frustrating experience of calling for customer service and getting lost in a maze of “Press one for…” and “press two for…” and inevitably being sent to the wrong extension, misunderstood by a bot, or simply cut off and forced to repeat the process. But it’s another to encounter it as a reporter trying to get in touch with companies that make these so-called interactive voice-response systems. Each request made to speak with a living, breathing human for this story was met with a recorded instruction to leave a voicemail. In short, IVRs systems practice what they preach. “We purposely designed it to have bad customer service”
The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013.
How insanely misguided!
PayPal users, this is for you.
The payments company is rolling out an update to its user agreement that threatens to bombard you with “autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages” — and worse, by agreeing to the updated terms, you’re immediately opted in.
PayPal can even reach you at phone numbers that you didn’t provide. Through undisclosed means, PayPal says it has the right to contact you on numbers “we have otherwise obtained.”
A PayPal spokesperson said it’s the company’s policy to “honor customers’ requests to decline to receive auto-dialed or prerecorded calls.”
But PayPal’s new terms don’t make that very clear.
“If you do not agree to these amended terms,” the revised document says, “you may close your account within the 30 day period and you will not be bound by the amended terms.”
(click here to continue reading A horrible new PayPal policy opts you into getting robocalls – The Washington Post.)
If this does in fact become policy, and PayPal1 start robocalling, I may have to rip my phone out of the wall. If I start getting spam texts from PayPal2, I may have to join that class action lawsuit that’s being written right now3.
Here’s the offensive language:
You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained. We may place such calls or texts to (i) notify you regarding your account; (ii) troubleshoot problems with your account (iii) resolve a dispute; (iv) collect a debt; (v) poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, (vii) contact you with offers and promotions; or (viii) as otherwise necessary to service your account or enforce this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. The ways in which you provide us a telephone number include, but are not limited to, providing a telephone number at Account opening, adding a telephone number to your Account at a later time, providing it to one of our employees, or by contacting us from that phone number. If a telephone number provided to us is a mobile telephone number, you consent to receive SMS or text messages at that number. We won’t share your phone number with third parties for their purposes without your consent, but may share your phone numbers with our Affiliates or with our service providers, such as billing or collections companies, who we have contracted with to assist us in pursuing our rights or performing our obligations under this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. You agree these service providers may also contact you using autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages, as authorized by us to carry out the purposes we have identified above, and not for their own purposes. Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.
(click here to continue reading PayPal .)Footnotes:
Poor, poor lil’ Google. They are a billion dollar company, and yet they whine like this:
Google Inc. accused rivals Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. of waging an “organized, hostile campaign” against the Internet search giant’s Android mobile phone software, using questionable patents.
“They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices,” Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on a company website. “Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.”
The campaign against Android is being waged “through bogus patents,” Mr. Drummond wrote, adding that “Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on.”
(click here to continue reading Google: Rivals Are Ganging Up – WSJ.com.)
I’m too lazy to write up responses to Google’s questionable, ridiculous arguments, but luckily, smarter folk have already done so. Like John Gruber:
So if Google had acquired the rights to these patents, that would have been OK. But when others acquired them, it’s a “hostile, organized campaign”. It’s OK for Google to undermine Microsoft’s for-pay OS licensing business by giving Android away for free, but it’s not OK for Microsoft to undermine Google’s attempts to give away for free an OS that violates patents belonging to Microsoft?
Or Brad Smith of Microsoft:
Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.
Google whines some more:
A consortium that included Microsoft and Apple recently paid $4.5 billion for patents auctioned by Nortel, an amount that Google notes was “five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion.”
Daring Fireball again:
First, the “estimate” of $1 billion was partially set by Google itself.
Then when the auction actually started, it’s OK for Google to bid over $3.14 billion, but when Apple and Microsoft bid $4.5 billion, that’s “way beyond what they’re really worth”. And if these patents are “bogus”, why was Google willing to pay anything for them, let alone pi billion dollars?
No one other than Nathan Myhrvold and his cronies sees the U.S. patent system as functioning properly, but Google’s hypocrisy here is absurd. Google isn’t arguing against a handful of never-should-have-been-issued software patents. They’re not arguing against patent trolls like Myhrvold and his shell companies like Lodsys — companies that have no products of their own, no actual inventions, just patents for ideas for products. They’re effectively arguing against the idea of the patent system itself, simply because Android violates a bunch of patents held by Google’s competitors. It’s not “patents” that are attacking Android. It’s competing companies whose patents Google has violated — and whose business Android undermines — who are attacking Android.
John Paczkowski adds:
Clearly, the company is taking a new tack here, framing the issue in its own way and, presumably, putting whatever lobbying and legal muscle it has into throwing out roadblocks. To wit, these few lines, also taken from Drummond’s post:
We’re encouraged that the Department of Justice forced the group I mentioned earlier to license the former Novell patents on fair terms, and that it’s looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means.
I bet you are. Particularly since you’re facing antitrust inquiries into your own core businesses. And in the end, that may be another purpose of this post: To show regulators that Google isn’t always the unstoppable juggernaut it is portrayed to be. Sometimes it’s the victim, or it would like to be viewed that way, especially by the FTC and the tough-talking judge presiding over its patent infringement showdown with Oracle. One last point: If the patents to which Google refers are “bogus,” why bother decrying them at all? Or, for that matter, trying to purchase them in the first place?
(click here to continue reading Google Rails Against Anti-Android Patent Purchases – John Paczkowski – News – AllThingsD.)
TechCrunch wonders why Google is so interested in patents now…
As you’ve undoubtedly seen by now, Google decided to go on the offensive today with regard to patents. No, they didn’t go after any company for violating their patents. Nor did they spend billions acquiring new ones. Instead, David Drummond, Google’s SVP and Chief Legal Officer, took to the Google Blog to lash out at Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and others for using “bogus patents” to attack their Android mobile platform.
But why now? In the past, Google has remained fairly mum on the topic. And they certainly weren’t calling out rivals by name. They’ve talked generally about the broken patent system, and even did a post explaining why they were willing to spend big money on the Nortel patents — for defensive purposes. But those approaches haven’t worked. Google is now arguably more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. And the stakes are about to go even higher.
When Google lost the Nortel bidding, they’re believed to have bid north of $4 billion before dropping out. Apple, backing Rockstar Bidco, eventually won with a bid of $4.5 billion. Now a battle for an even bigger treasure of patents looms.
(click here to continue reading Why Did Google Blog About Patents Today? Because The Nortel Loss Was Just The Beginning. | TechCrunch.)
Cell phones are in the news, as the latest scientific-related worry causer. Our media thrives on such scary stories, whether or not they are factually true or not. I wouldn’t throw out your cellphone just yet…
Basically, the WHO put cell phones into the Group 2B category, meaning they are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Aiiiieee! Sounds scary… except that word “possibly”, it turns out, needs to be understood a little more quantitatively.
I poked around some news sites (like CNN and MSNBC), and while they aren’t over-hyping it, in my opinion they aren’t being entirely fair, either. The claims I’ve seen from people linking cell phones to brain cancer make it seem as if the connection is obvious, but the results from the WHO make it clear that’s not the case. There might be a connection, but if there is it’s not terribly clear. I’ll note the studies only appear to cover a time base of ten years; it’s not possible to know what happens after, say 15 or 20 years. Even then, other environmental factors dominate such studies, making teasing out a weak signal very difficult.
You may also wish to note what other things are categorized as Group 2B possible carcinogens, including gasoline, pickled vegetables, and (GASP!) coffee. My opinion here is that while a link between cell phones and brain cancer cannot be ruled out, without a strong correlation and a numerical statement about the odds, it seems very unlikely to me that such a connection is something to worry about. I’m far more worried about the dingus in traffic in front of me gabbing to his friend on his phone and causing an accident than I am about me getting brain cancer from my own.
(click here to continue reading Why I’m (still) not worried about my cell phone hurting my brain | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine.)
Telephone booths, London, near Marble Arch. Mobile phones haven’t completely taken over Britain. You’d be hard pressed to find this many working public telephones in Chicago.
I’ve added about another 20 photos to my London Flickr set, if you’re interested.
Loved this quote about wardrobe choice in the middle of a long, interesting article about the fractious relationship between Apple and AT&T1. I’ve had a contract with Verizon previously, and the restrictions Verizon placed on the phone were ridiculous.
Looking back, it’s clear that the cracks in the Apple-AT&T relationship began forming as soon as Jobs announced the iPhone in January 2007. It was the first time the public got to see the long-rumored device — and, shockingly, the first time AT&T’s board of directors saw it as well. (Apple refused to show the phone to all but a handful of top AT&T execs before the launch.) The split only deepened from there. Apple and AT&T have bickered about how the iPhone was to be displayed in AT&T’s stores: Apple insisted the phone be presented on its own display stand, away from other models. They have even fought about wardrobe: When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”
(click to continue reading Bad Connection: Inside the iPhone Network Meltdown | Magazine.)
Also, kudos to Steve Jobs for telling the AT&T hack to piss off. Apple isn’t a servant to AT&T, if anything, they are equals, and one could actually argue that Apple is in the dominant position.
Solipsistic note – was recently at a high level meeting, and I wore a suit, sans necktie, and was happy when the room full of execs we met were all in business casual attire, and not a suit to be found. I don’t mind having to wear a suit actually, as long as I don’t have to put on a tie.Footnotes:
- SBC [↩]
Speaking of product launches, the Microsoft Kin has been discontinued after a whopping two months in the marketplace. Yikes. Sales must have been freaking horrible. Microsoft spent a lot of money developing Kin, and a lot of money advertising it. Who is getting fired tomorrow? Ballmer?
Amid anemic sales, Microsoft has decided to halt work on its Kin phone less than two months after the product hit the market. The social media-oriented phone will not make its planned European debut and Microsoft is shifting the entire Kin team to work on Windows Phone 7, the Microsoft smartphone operating system due out later this year. Andy Lees, who heads up the company’s cell phone efforts announced the move to Microsoft workers earlier on Wednesday, according to a source close to the company.
Microsoft confirmed the move in a statement to CNET.
“We have made the decision to focus exclusively on Windows Phone 7 and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned,” the company said. “Additionally, we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.” The Kin, which made its debut just two months ago at an event in San Francisco, was the result of several years of work by Microsoft and stemmed from its 2008 acquisition of Sidekick maker Danger. However, despite a few innovative features including streaming music and a Web-based companion site, the Kin phones were criticized for missing key features, such as a calendar, as well as because the monthly fees for the phone were as high as more capable smartphones, such as the iPhone and Android-based devices.
(click to continue reading Microsoft pulls the plug on Kin | Beyond Binary – CNET News.)
Unfortunately, the goobers at AT&T were overwhelmed with the amount of pre-orders, and couldn’t handle 600,000 hits on their servers. Amazing, really, how poor AT&T’s website is, especially since this is the fourth iPhone they’ve sold. Didn’t they remember what happened for versions 1,2, and 3? I tried to pre-order my iPhone 4 upgrade about 50 times yesterday, and never got very far in the process.
This morning around 9, I tried a last time, and all went smoothly, if a little slowly. I can’t really be mad, the thing is just a fracking gadget, but still, I wasted a lot of time repeatedly entering my ten digit phone number, my billing zip code, and the last four digits of my Social Security number, only to watch the gophers at AT&T churn, and fail to process the request.
Apple Inc. said it took pre-orders for more than 600,000 of its new iPhone 4 on its first day of availability, amid strong demand that overwhelmed computer systems and resulted in “many order and approval system malfunctions.”
The company said “many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties, and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock.”
AT&T Inc. said Wednesday it had stopped taking advance orders for the iPhone 4 just one day after orders started, citing inventory issues and unexpectedly high demand.
The carrier is suspending the orders “in order to fulfill the orders we’ve already received,” it said in a statement. It might resume taking pre-orders before the June 24 launch, depending on inventory, AT&T added.
The suspension comes a day after a crush of traffic paralyzed AT&T and Apple’s Web sites on the first day of pre-orders, leaving many unable to reserve the new iPhone ahead of time while some customers inadvertently ended up on others’ account pages.
(click to continue reading Apple, AT&T Cite Record iPhone Sales – WSJ.com.)
Not surprising, especially after the court ruling saying the FCC was over-stepping its authority.
F.C.C. Is Expected to Make Push to Regulate Broadband – NYTimes.com: ” The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will try to regulate broadband Internet service despite a recent court ruling that the commission had limited powers to do so.
Two F.C.C. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, will announce Thursday that the commission considers broadband service a sort of hybrid between an information service and a utility and that it has sufficient power to regulate Internet traffic under existing law.
The F.C.C. decision is likely to be seen as a victory for content companies like Amazon.com and Google, the owner of YouTube, which do not want Internet service providers to have the power to charge them for access to customers or for faster download speeds.
The phone and cable companies that provide Internet service have said they have no plans to do so, but that could change.
(click to continue reading F.C.C. Is Expected to Make Push to Regulate Broadband – NYTimes.com.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if a telecom corporation decided to step up their plans to charge Google or similar heavy consumers of bandwidth extra. Why not test it out before the FCC says they cannot do so? Plus once such a tiered setup exists, there would be some inertia against changing it.
On Thursday, Mr. Genachowski is expected to assert that the agency, under its powers to regulate phone service, is permitted to require broadband service providers to follow certain transmission guidelines, including safeguarding privacy, not discriminating against certain types of content providers, offering service to rural customers at the same rate as urban customers and providing access to people with disabilities.
His decision would appear to have the backing of some important lawmakers.
On Wednesday Representative Henry A. Waxman and Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that oversee the F.C.C. wrote to him saying, “it is essential for the commission to have oversight over these aspects of broadband policy” and that they were prepared to consider legislation to provide it. The F.C.C. apparently will not seek to enforce the vast authority it has over telephone utilities in which it can regulate rates.
Consumer groups hailed the F.C.C.’s intentions after word of Mr. Genachowski’s planned announcement leaked Wednesday.
Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, which promotes open Internet policies, called it “a welcome announcement” that would help protect consumers and expand broadband access and adoption in the United States.
Even after the F.C.C. lays out its authority, there are still potential speed bumps in carrying out its policy. The five-member commission must vote on the approach, which will be put out for public comment and revision before final rules are set. The process could take months and may be subject to legal challenges.
A few interesting links collected February 23rd through February 24th:
- Gapers Block: Rearview – Wednesday, February 24 2010 – photo by Seth Anderson – whoo hoo
- Steny Hoyer Passes Public Option Hot Potato Back to Senate, Obama – The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been engaged in a game of kill the public option hot potato for awhile. Now, there seems to be some efforts to possibly blame the failure of the public option on the House Democrats. Clearly, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wants no part of the blame, and has passed the hot potato right back to the White House and Senate Democrats. After all, the House did pass the public option once already
- MagicJack dials wrong number in legal attack on Boing Boing Boing Boing – Gadget maker MagicJack recently lost a defamation lawsuit that it filed against Boing Boing. The judge dismissed its case and ordered it to pay us more than $50,000 in legal costs.
How long ago were these browsers even current on a Mac? 10 years ago?
The link to Netscape is defunct, of course.
I tried my best to avoid using scatological comments when filling out the survey, but found it difficult at best.
Godz, do I despise AT&T aka Southwestern Bell aka SBC
Internet Explorer 3.0 was released in 1996 for Windows, in 1997 for Mac.
If you are curious, the survey link is here
We made the mistake of signing up for a Business Class VoIP service being offered by AT&T last spring, but they were not able to figure out how to actually install it before we cancelled it. Unfortunately, even though we were never actually customers, the AT&T Deathstar continued to bill us, and eventually sent their attack hounds to harass us. After many many many hours of discussion with various AT&T minions, our bill is apparently forgiven. But now they want to know how we feel about them? Ha. Seriously, we spent at least 100 hours of our time fighting with AT&T to cancel our non-existent account, after spending about 50 hours trying to set up the VoIP system. I do not how AT&T stays in business, inertia I suppose. That, and the massive investment in phone lines around the world: most American telecom providers end up leasing AT&T wires and conduits.
David Pogue on how Verizon screws their own customers with bogus data charges:
“Here’s how it works. They configure the phones to have multiple easily hit keystrokes to launch ‘Get it now’ or ‘Mobile Web’—usually a single key like an arrow key. Often we have no idea what key we hit, but up pops one of these screens. The instant you call the function, they charge you the data fee. We cancel these unintended requests as fast as we can hit the End key, but it doesn’t matter; they’ve told me that ANY data–even one kilobyte–is billed as 1MB. The damage is done.
“Imagine: if my one account has 1 to 3 bogus $1.99 charges per month for data that I don’t download, how much are they making from their 87 million other customers? Not a bad scheme. All by simply writing your billing algorithm to bill a full MB when even a few bits have moved.”
As it turns out, my correspondent is quite correct. My last couple of Verizon phones did indeed have non-reprogrammable, dedicated keys for those ridiculously overpriced “Get it now”-type services that I would never use in a million years.
At about the same time, I got a note from a reader who says he actually works at Verizon, and he’s annoyed enough about the practice to blow the whistle:
“The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I’ve had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I’m sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.
“Every month, the 87 million customers will accidentally hit that key a few times a month! That’s over $300 million per month in data revenue off a simple mistake!
[Click to continue reading From the Desk of David Pogue – Verizon – How Much Do You Charge Now? – NYTimes.com]
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were telecom corporations that tried to grow their customer base by being nice to them? Ha, not bloody likely. The US telecom corporations seemingly attempt to be a bigger dick than their competitor, a veritable battle to the bottom. Meh, a pox on all their houses.
The more Verizon gouges, the worse it looks. Every single day, I get e-mail from people saying they’re switching at the first opportunity, or would if they could. In time, the only people who will stay with Verizon are people who have no coverage with any other carrier.
Every company’s dream, right? A base of miserable customers who stick with you only because they have no choice.
David Pogue has a long list of issues that could be discussed at the Senate Commerce Committee hearings about cellphone exclusivity contracts. Questions such as: why is text messaging charged at such a higher rate than email messaging? and my pet peeve: why is there that annoying 15 second automated voice before you can leave or listen to a voicemail? So irritating.
The carriers can’t possibly argue that transmitting text-message data costs them that much money. One blogger (http://bit.ly/gHkES) calculated that the data in a text message costs you about 61 million times as much as the same message sent by e-mail.
15-SECOND INSTRUCTIONS This one makes me crazy. When I call to leave you a voicemail message, the first thing I hear, before I’m allowed to hear the beep, is 15 seconds of instructions. “To page this person, press 5.” Page this person!? Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize this was 1980! “When you have finished recording, you may hang up.” Oh, really!? So glad you mentioned that! I would have stayed on the line forever!
And then when I call in for messages, I’m held up for 15 more seconds. “To listen to your messages, press 1.” Why else would I be calling!?
(Yes, there are key-presses that can bypass the instructions. But they’re different for each carrier. When you call someone, you’re supposed to know which carrier that person uses and which key to press? Sure.)
Is this really so evil? Is 15 seconds here and there that big a deal? Well, Verizon has 70 million customers. If each customer leaves one message and checks voicemail once a day, Verizon rakes in — are you sitting down? — $850 million a year. That’s right: $850 million, just from making us sit through those 15-second airtime-eating instructions.
And that’s just Verizon. Where’s the outrage, people?
[Click to continue reading David Pogue – Cellphone Gripes Worthy of Congress’s Time – NYTimes.com]
There are other topics too, like the subsidy game (once your contract is over, you don’t get a reduction in your monthly bill, even though your bill helped lower the cost of your phone for 24 months or whatever). Of course, the telecom corporations are huge donors to Congress, so the odds of meaningful consumer-friendly legislation emerging from the Senate Commerce Committee is slim to none.
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has discovered a new business model: demanding payment for ringtones. Would be very surprised if the public ridicule of their new bold assertion doesn’t ring out from every quarter. Ridiculous.
[ASCAP’s] latest move is to claim that legally purchased ringtones on mobiles phones, playing in public places, represents a public performance for which it is owed royalties. Songwriters and music publishers already are paid royalties on ringtone purchases, but ASCAP is claiming that buying the file is entirely different than “the performance” (i.e., the phone ringing).
In the EFF’s response to ASCAP, it notes that copyright law makes a specific exemption for performances made “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage.” ASCAP counters that even if that’s true, only the owners of mobile phones can make that assertion, but the mobile operators (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) still need to pay up for performance rights because they are commercial entities, even if the use of the phones is not. The EFF goes on to point out how this reasoning does not mesh with the law, the case law, or the intended purpose of copyright.
On top of this, even if, in some bizarre, twisted interpretation of the law, a ringtone playing on a phone was a public performance, how would it be the mobile operators’ liability to pay? That would be like saying that Apple should pay ASCAP royalties because songs it sells on iTunes could potentially be played through speakers publicly somewhere. Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving ASCAP ideas…