by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 3rd 2011 2:54am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 17th 2010 8:30am
from the yeah,-good-luck-with-that dept
However, before people get too alarmed about all of this, and start demanding "net neutrality" laws, it's worth taking a step back and recognizing just how unlikely it is that proposals like this ever get anywhere. Would the various mobile operators like to do this? Sure. In fact, for years, they tried to resist more open systems by totally locking down their handsets. Even with so-called "smartphones," the experience was entirely controlled (with tollbooths) by the mobile operators. And what happened? Almost no one used them. It wasn't until Apple broke down that wall (though, it set up its own, slightly more open wall) that smartphone usage really took off. And, these days, with even more open Android systems growing, more people are moving to those as well.
Will some mobile operators sign up for a DPI system like this? Maybe. I can certainly see some of them testing it out. But, I can't see it ever actually catching on. While the operators will claim that this will allow for "cheaper" plans for low level users, history has shown that they don't really mean that. The goal is to get the higher level users paying through the nose. And that won't work -- because people have already learned what can be done with mobile broadband on a device, and simply won't agree to go to a system that charges like this. It's a pipedream for some DPI companies and some mobile operators, but the likelihood of it actually becoming the norm seems pretty damn low.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 3rd 2010 3:59am
from the broadband-caps dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 11th 2010 10:54am
from the pay-more,-get-less dept
After searching and being unable to find it, he began an online chat with a Verizon rep (included in full after the jump below) where he discovered that the upgraded plan was for twice the data... but for more than three times the costs: 10GB for $199. And overage rates? On that plan, they're knocked up to $0.25/MB. As Pangolin notes, why would anyone pay for that, when they could just buy two or even three of the regular MiFi plans, and get a ton more data transfer and significantly lower overage fees even if they did go over. Verizon's answer? "Sorry."
For what it's worth, as Pangolin notes, there's no info online about a higher capped plan, and I contacted Verizon Wireless PR to ask them if such a plan existed. I got back a non-answer, pointing to the webpage showing the 5GB cap. So I asked again. And got no answer. So I asked again. And got no answer. On the fourth try, I was finally told that such a plan does not exist. Yet, if you look around many others have been offered the same plan, and various websites have reported on it as well. So, it sounds like Verizon does offer this oddly priced plan that makes no sense... but just doesn't want to admit it. It makes you wonder why they even bother at all.
In what world does it make sense to charge significantly more for less on an upgraded plan? Full transcript of the chat after the jump...
by Dennis Yang
Wed, Jun 2nd 2010 7:29am
from the no-longer-to-infinity-and-beyond dept
AT&T's motive behind this switch (beyond the obvious of boosting profits) is to attempt to address the network capacity issues that it has been experiencing, of late. As anyone on AT&T can attest, performance of the AT&T data network is far from stellar. The adoption of smartphones like the iPhone have made the internet a truly useful part of the mobile experience, and as such, data use on the AT&T network has risen dramatically as a result. Clearly, AT&T was not able to properly plan to handle the increased demand on its network, and as a result, is claiming it needed to respond by throttling the usage. Of course, one might argue an alternative would be to invest more in capacity, but that gets in the way of that boosting profits thing.
Amusingly (but not surprisingly), AT&T is trying to play this whole thing up as a big benefit to consumers:
"Some customers, up until now, have been hesitant to sign up for a $30 monthly data plan" for unlimited access, says Ralph de la VegaFair enough, but just because some people have been hesitant to sign up for the unlimited data plan doesn't mean you should do away with it altogether.
That said, there are actually a few things that AT&T has done right with this announcement. It's surprising that they are actually offering a cheaper tier for limited data -- something that they had not offered before. Also, with the limited plans, they have introduced a system of alerts that will notify users when they are near their caps. And, existing users with unlimited plans can continue as long as they want, without the tethering option, of course.
Even so, throttling usage could put a damper on the explosive growth of smartphone usage that we have seen in the past few years. There is an added cognitive transaction cost whenever a limit exists, so, by introducing these limits, AT&T has effectively made the iPhone less appealing. Recently, when asked about AT&T's capacity issues, Steve Jobs said "things, when you start to fix them, get worse before they get better. That's what I'm told. And if you believe that, things should start getting a lot better soon." It sounds like Jobs knew what was coming.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 12th 2010 1:30pm
from the open-wifi-is-illegal? dept
Germany's top criminal court ruled Wednesday that Internet users need to secure their private wireless connections by password to prevent unauthorized people from using their Web access to illegally download data.This is backwards in so many ways. First, open WiFi is quite useful, and requiring a password can be a huge pain, limiting all sorts of individuals and organizations who have perfectly good reasons for offering free and open WiFi. Second, fining the WiFi hotspot owner for actions of users of the service is highly troubling from a third party liability standpoint. The operator of the WiFi hotspot should not be responsible for the actions of users, and it's troubling that the German court would find otherwise. This is an unfortunate ruling no matter how you look at it.
Internet users can be fined up to euro100 ($126) if a third party takes advantage of their unprotected WLAN connection to illegally download music or other files, the Karlsruhe-based court said in its verdict.
"Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorized third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation," the court said.
by Karl Bode
Fri, Apr 23rd 2010 4:33pm
from the your-phone-bill-should-not-require-a-second-mortgage dept
"The ugly truth is that upon investigating the issue, I found a number of things could have been done by Verizon to protect me as a consumer. They may not mention them outright, but they are there. The fact that these things were not done can only lead me to assume that Verizon would rather their consumers "understand" as little as possible about their TOS.'"
Except as a consumer, it's his responsibility to read the find print on his contract and understand the limitations and penalties of his plan. The user studied the charges, spoke with representatives -- even seemed to have at least a base understanding of what he was going to be charged per kilobyte -- and then chose to use expensive 3G data on an overseas trip anyway. Consumer responsibility and research plays a big part of the equation.
That said, we've been saying for a long time now that these bills demonstrate the fact that carriers aren't doing a particularly good job making service limits clear or educating customers. Many consumers (more than you would think) can't tell the difference between a kilobyte and a lemur, and Verizon's math skills on this front aren't always reliable to begin with. While most carriers have some kind of mechanism in place to help notify users of excessive usage, carriers haven't done a great job notifying users when their bill starts to go nuclear (like many credit card companies do when a large charge appears on your card) or making overages clear. Fortunately, carriers often agree to slash these bills -- but usually only after they receive media attention.
In the UK, where they've seen the same kind of insane 3G bills, regulators have jumped in and addressed the problem by first capping roaming charges -- but then by also requiring (as of July 1) that carriers allow users to set a monthly maximum cap that limits how much they can spend on data each month. Consumers get an automated alert as they approach 80% of that total, then their service is temporarily suspended when the user crosses the spending cap. If users don't choose a limit, a limit of $68 per month is set for them (that's only data and doesn't include voice minutes or other bill totals). Of course here in the States carriers aren't going to want to voluntarily employ tools that reduce how much money they can make off of confused users, and will fight any regulation that limits how much they can charge. So nothing changes, and story after story emerges about users whose phone bills resemble the GDP of small countries.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 8th 2010 6:40pm
from the science? dept
Firstenberg "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections, which trigger a severe illness," says the request for a preliminary injunction. "If (Firstenberg) cannot obtain preliminary relief, he will be forced to continue to sleep in his car, enduring winter cold and discomfort, until this case can be heard."
by Derek Kerton
Thu, Jan 7th 2010 5:00pm
from the open,-but-not-that-open dept
At a FierceWireless panel during the CES show today, panelists from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile discussed the progress the embedded sector has seen over the past year and is expected to show in 2010. Embedded wireless, from a consumer electronics perspective, means factory installing a cellular radio into a (non-phone) device. The devices range from the obvious Netbooks and Kindles, to the less obvious cameras and media players, and more. The panelists were keen to point out that in the past year, the pieces of the puzzle all fell into place -- what had been lacking was affordable embedded modules, strong data networks, and flexible enough rate plans that didn't try to capture $60 a month from every device. I would agree that the carriers have finally become eager to consider a range of pricing models, all in the past year. From ad hoc daily netbook connection fees, to the integrated pricing seen on the Kindle, the Nook, and Garmin Nav devices, we're finally seeing some flexibility in the way carriers charge for data access. It's about time, too: for too long mobile data followed the $80 Rule, where the only way to get cellular data was an $80/mo lengthy contract.
As an example of the changes from just the last year, Verizon Wireless previously offered just a $60/mo contract for laptop connectivity, where now they sell a prepaid day pass, a week pass, and different tiers of subscription plans. That's good progress, but market forces are going to demand a wider range of solutions, and at more reasonable discounts for lower tiers. For example, how long will the market support Verizon's 5GB/mo subscription at $60 and their 250MB plan at $40? The lower plan is 5% of the throughput at 66% of the price! Clearly, there is room for these prices to move a little more.
An interesting point raised by Sue Marek of FierceWireless was whether embedded connectivity deals like that on the Kindle relegate the carrier to dumb pipe status. After all, when a great embedded wireless user experience is created, the carrier becomes invisible. Good question, but I think the answer is no. The carrier becomes a white label partner, but not a dumb pipe. That's because, so far, most of these deals have involved cooperation between the CE vendor and the telecom operator, in order to make the activation seamless and simple for the user. The carrier has been integral to the development, activation, and service management. That trend is likely to continue for the reason I explain in the following paragraph.
Consumer Electronics makers, like Garmin, could just put a GSM radio in their devices and say "connect to your choice of service provider by inserting your SIM". However, the cellular module costs are hovering just under $100, and that's a big nugget to add to the Bill of Materials on any CE product. And the CE makers know that they have leverage, since they have the ability to steer their customers onto a specific wireless carrier, and that any carrier will be attracted to a block of new subscribers. Guess what happens... that old, familiar word, subsidy. If Garmin chooses to partner with a specific carrier, the carrier will pay for the opportunity and in effect subsidize the device's radio. This brings down the cost, and the MSRP of the product, which in turn helps Garmin and the consumer. For this reason, until the radio modules are very cheap (like Wi-Fi modules are), we will generally see embedded wireless tied to a specific carrier.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 5th 2010 2:10am
from the it's-a-start dept
Still, if we're talking about freeing up spectrum, shouldn't things go a bit further? We still have a situation where the FCC doesn't just allocate the spectrum, but also decides what it must be used for. We'd be much better off, and have a lot more competition, if companies were free to make use of spectrum in the way they felt could bring the best return -- and that companies who were granted spectrum rights also had the right to then resell those rights. While I'm still hopeful that new technologies will make spectrum scarcity a thing of the past, we still haven't seen enough evidence that the technology really works. So, in the meantime, the better solution is to get more spectrum on the market, and stop putting limitations on how it can be used.