Tag Archives: Verizon

Hashtag Phonechoice

It is with deep sadness and frustration (and more that a little anticipation) that I announce that I am ending a 15-year relationship. This tumultuous affair has had its ups and downs and threats of breakups in the past, but as with all relationships, things have usually worked themselves out. This time, however, there will be no reconciliation. I am ending this poisonous relationship once and for all. I am leaving cell phone carrier Sprint.
Now I have to decide which of the other carriers I will trust to provide me excellent customer service, great coverage and blazing fast internet speeds on the most reliable network. I know how marketing works, so I know I cannot simply do a comparison shopping expedition. This will require research, of which I have already started, but also it will require an intangible. I have established a metric that I am curious to see who can best meet.
In this day and age of social media, I am going to see which of the carriers best responds to my situation. I work in a customer service industry, so I know a bit about this area and I fully intend on holding the carriers to a high standard. I have started a hashtag #phonechoice to see who best responds to my need for service. Follow to see who wins.
I am waiting guys. Come and get me.

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Does Technology Die?

I read a tech column that was posted on Yahoo about 15 devices that children born today will never know and it has followed a running trend in the field of technology writing that assumes wireless is the answer to all that ails the world.  This is a fallacy and a common mistake made by many who do not truly understand the limitations of the technology.  The article also makes some pie in the sky assumptions about where today’s tech—TV, computers, remote controls and optical discs—will go.
Wireless communication is a fabulous thing.  Being able to talk to people untethered, not chained to a wall or even to a building is a marvel of the modern age.  It wasn’t that long ago that if you had a long cord on your receiver that allowed you to walk around the room, you were living large.  Now you can talk to someone while walking throughout your house, outside to the drive way, getting into your car and even driving down the street (don’t talk and drive people).
Wireless internet on handsets is also fabulous.  Being able to lookup directions, settle arguments about trivia, find sports scores and now even watch streaming videos in the palm of your hand is quickly becoming commonplace.
These applications are the basis for techno neophytes to assume that everything needs to be wireless.  If watching a video on an iPhone is cool, then who could ever need or even want wires.  Surely those who make tech products understand that wires are dead.  But the truth is that wires are not dead and will never be dead.
While 4G LTE networks are making broadband speeds available to the wireless handsets, the speeds are nowhere near the speeds of which cable modems are capable.  Comcast offers 105 Mbps downstream and the fastest LTE network barely offers 10 Mbps (actual consumer speeds, not theoretical throughput).  That isn’t the only problem with wireless either.  In the wireless world there is a little discussed phenomenon known as frequency contention.  If you have too many wireless devices using the same frequency, they tend to get lost in the chatter.  It is kind of trying to have a conversation in a stadium where everyone is talking at the same time.  This slows down data transfer dramatically and high bandwidth uses get severely curtailed by packet loss.  Also, the more devices trying to connect to the same receiver also slows down data transfer.  Kind of like all lanes of a 5 lane freeway merging into a single toll booth.  Certainly, there are ways network designers can mitigate these problems, but the point is that wired connections are more stable and wired networks are far more secure and wired networks are always faster.
The writer of that article also maintained that remote controls will soon go the way of the dodo as capacitive touchscreens get big enough to become televisions.  I seriously doubt this will happen.  Two things will prevent the television from becoming a touch-controlled device: eye strain and fingerprints.  To interact with the television by touch, one must be so close that it becomes difficult to take in the whole picture, especially when the size of the TV is larger than 36 inches.  And who wants to constantly be windexing the fingerprints off the front of the set?  Kinect style motion capture and voice control may replace the push button remote, but not capacitive touch.  I have used my Kinect; I still prefer the remote control.
3-D TV will never become mainstream.  I realize that I am in the minority with this assertion, but trust me, no one wants to watch TV wearing glasses all the time.  If manufactures can develop a successful 3-D image that can be viewed without glasses, then maybe—and only if content producers are willing to invest in that technology to produce shows in that format, which they probably won’t.  We still have a lot of TV shows produced in SD and up-converted for HD sets, but they are not true HD.
The death of the PC will never happen, though the PC will not look like it does now.  Apple and HP have shown us where the PC will be going.  The desktop/tower/workstation will evolve into a slimline footprint integrated into the viewscreen.  Keyboards and mice will continue to exist for the same reasons that TVs will not go touchscreen.  People do not want to get too close to the monitor when the monitor is larger than 30 inches or so.
Optical Discs are falling out of favor for mainstream consumers in favor of streaming.  This is more convenient, to be sure, but streaming does not come close to the image quality of Blu Ray.  Streaming offers at best progressive scan DVD quality, which is not bad at all, but it doesn’t offer the immersive experience of watching a blue ray on a 52-inch or larger display.  Add the fact that owning a library of DVDs which one will always have access to is preferable to accessing content on the internet which may rotate the titles every few months (as Netflix and Xfinity do).  Having the movie archived to an optical disc in how true film buffs will continue to operate as long as discs are produced.  Hollywood is, sadly, the only entity that controls how long Blu Ray will last.
Technology is ever evolving, and new products are being developed every day and others are being improved.  And while many products have died (video tapes, laser disc, 8-tracks, etc) not everything that exists today will disappear.  Even the vinyl LP record, which people predicted would die when cassettes came out then again when CDs came out is still hanging in there in niche markets.  Yes, that means the record companies are still pressing new vinyl records.  So, while young people can dream of a day where there are no wires and everything fits in the palm of your hand and is controlled with a swipe of your finger, some things just won’t die.

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Filed under Society, Technology, Uncategorized

Clearing the Backup on the Information Superhighway

If you’re reading this, you have internet access. Chances are that you are paying an ISP for access to the internet (that or you are abusing your employer’s connection with personal business and shame on you for that). Internet usage has increased exponentially over the past decade as more and more people get online, many from multiple computers in the same home. Network usage has grown and is causing some congestion that forces companies to look hard at how to manage network traffic on their systems.

ATT reports that iPhone users download 20-30 percent more than other smart phone users. Sprint has put a maximum download limit of 5 Gigabytes in place and Comcast instigated a 250 Gigabyte cap. This brings up questions about bandwidth consumption with regard to ISP charges per usage. Providers are looking at trying to figure out how to generate revenue for access to the backbone pipes on a per user basis. What does this mean for you and me? It means that some people who download huge amounts of data—videos, disk images, programs, music etc.—will either dictate the price that everyone pays, or force the ISPs to alter their billing practice to a per-byte fee.

Now, this data load is not only individual users. ATT, Verizon and Comcast (and many others) are all sending huge amounts of data over their backbones with their digital video services. The demand for high definition content is growing faster than content providers can produce it. In fact, many shows that we watch on “HD” channels are not true high definition. It is merely the same SD feed up-converted to 720p resolution and sent out on an HD channel. In doing that, it takes more than three times the bandwidth to transmit as the SD feed. The network has to be upgraded to support these digital streams and the cost for that improvement has to be born somewhere.

For the video services, it is built into the fees you pay your provider. For the internet, however, they calculate it differently. In order to provide that 6-20 megabit-per-second connection speed, the network has to be managed. Those in support of net neutrality would assert that there should be no oversight of network traffic, that any and everyone should have the same access to the download pipe as anyone else. After all, they pay the same price. While this is a logical point, it is important to realize that some people use more than 1000 times the bandwidth of others. A sparse few people are causing some serious network congestion and forcing the providers to upgrade the equipment and infrastructure to ensure that the service levels across the board remain high. This costs money, which could cause increases in monthly subscription fees.

What we are left with are two options: increase monthly charges across the board, or implement a per byte charge system where your usage determines your bill. This harkens back to the old access structure where providers monitored your online time and charged a per-minute fee. I remember one time paying 80 bucks for 24k dialup to my provider. I was overjoyed when they went to 24/7 unlimited access. To be honest, I prefer unlimited access. I do not want my data usage monitored for billing purposes. I like knowing it is there if I need it, even if I don’t use it. It also makes budgeting easier.

Per-usage billing means the more you use it, the more you pay and makes sense from a business perspective. Those few who use 1000 times more than average will have a significantly higher bill than the rest—and that seems fair. It seems fair on the surface that those iPhone users who download more should have to pay more. It seems fair…but is it?

Cell phone companies used to charge per minute fees for all calls, but consumers forced them to unlimited plans. People want the ability to use their phone as often as they need to without worrying about a huge bill. The same is true for the internet. Access is what you pay for; the pipeline is just the way content is delivered.

Imagine if all roads in this country were toll roads. You would have to pay to go to work to earn the money to pay to go to work. Charging per byte fees to use the internet is like paying a toll to drive. You already pay taxes for your license and registration; shouldn’t that enable you to drive as much as you want? Shouldn’t your ISP fees enable you to surf as much as you want too?

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Filed under Media, Society