"The problem is for telcos like AT&T, not the consumers using the free conference services. If we stop using them, then the telcos have to pay less and subsequently have less incentive to get the law changed. So actually, if Mike wants to get the problem fixed he should utilize it more."
Point taken. At the same time if lots of folks just stop using the service then FreeConferenceCall's income goes down and they have a lot less reason to be in business.
Again, Which 2007 FCC 'order' are you referring to specifically that you believe requires VoIP providers to connect calls to all 'non-fee-based' PSTN numbers? Please provide a link. Let's open this discussion to the reading of the specific ruling you are referring to, if I'm wrong you can point out to me exactly where I am getting it wrong.
"Besides, most of the time, the reason I'm using free conference calling services is because *others* use those and set up conferences that I need to call into. You do realize that people beyond just those who set up the call have to be able to call in too, right?"
Yes, I do realize that other folks setup conferences that you need to join. Perhaps you could encourage those folks to use another service. You have heard of a grass-roots effort, right?
You mentioned yourself in a previous post that MagicJack setup its own conference service, why not use that one?
Mike, which 2007 FCC 'order' are you referring to specifically that you believe requires VoIP providers to connect calls to all 'non-fee-based' PSTN numbers?
By the way, I think you are confusing POTS with PSTN. POTS = Plain Old Telephone Service, this is the analog type of service that you might get at home from a Bell operating company.
PSTN = Public Switched Telephone Network, this includes both analog and digital service, your home phone and T1 type service a business might use. While I have no proof, I'm quite sure that FreeConferenceCall uses T1 lines, not analog lines, so its PSTN not POTS.
To me, this gets back to all the discussion on your blog about business models. VoIP is a new innovative service and the folks doing are experimenting with new business models. If you require VoIP providers to play by the same rules as monopoly Telcos then they have less ability to innovate with business models because their costs go up substantially. If I were running FreeConferenceCall and there was a VoIP service (or more than one VoIP service) that provided calls into my service for free (where I as FreeConferenceCall get paid for the calls) I would have as many free accounts as possible and I would keep calls to my service connected 24/7 - those free VoIP services are a money printing machine for FreeConferenceCall.
The simple fact is that services like FreeConferenceCall are fee based, fee based to the Telco not the end user. Based on a 2007 FCC decision, Telcos have to accept calls placed from VoIP providers. In light of that the Telcos changed their contracts with VoIP providers to pass on the costs of the fee based calls like those to FreeConferenceCall. There is no requirement for VoIP providers to connect calls from end users to all numbers, VoIP providers do not have to assume the costs of those fee based calls.
Your position that VoIP providers should connect all calls does not make sense. The main difference between VoIP providers and traditional telcos is a monopoly. VoIP providers do not get monopoly access and thus do not play by the same rules as traditional telcos. The FCC has been really consistent about not placing undue regulation on VoIP services in order to allow VoIP service providers to experiment with new services and business models - and its working.
Time to stop complaining that you cannot have the calls you want for free. In fact, you are you so fixed on using hidden fee based services like FreeConferenceCall? Given your position it seems like the right thing to do is to NOT use FreeConferenceCall, time to stop supporting them. Time to start supporting another free conference service that does not have hidden fees.
I have to say Mike, I find your stance on this topic frustrating. I can't seem to get over it. Your position seems to be opposite of the things you talk about on this site all the time. Sounds like you feel *entitled* to call any phone number you want through a free service provided by Google that is not a traditional telephone service or even a modern replacement for a telephone service. In fact you feel that Google should be *required* by law to connect your calls even if Google has to absorb the high costs associated with connecting those calls. At the same time you talk about how you do not agree with the reasons for the high costs of those calls. Then you finish up with "Google is deceptively blocking calls without explanation".
Did you read the Terms of Service that came with your *free* use of Google Voice?
Do you expect Google to connect calls (free to you) to other numbers that have high costs associated with them like 900 and 976 numbers?
How do expect new business models and innovation to occur in an environment that forces high costs on new players in the market, players that are not given monopoly access to a market while their competition enjoys such monopoly access?
Sometimes your posts really do sound like "People just want stuff for free."
In a 2005 ruling on E911 the FCC says "The IP-enabled services marketplace is the latest new frontier of our nation’s communications landscape, and the Commission is committed to allowing IP-enabled services to evolve without undue regulation."
The FCC correctly put VoIP services in a category called IP Enabled Services and PSTN services in a category called Common Carrier Services. The FCC is giving VoIP service providers an environment free from heavy regulation in order to foster new and innovative technologies/services.
I agree that it sucks that Google and MagicJack would just silently start blocking calls - I never said they were right. It does seems like the situation did help spur those companies to provide their own competitive services - a situation that fosters innovation as more players are solving the same problem (think crowd sourcing, just a smaller crowd). The main point is that the market is open. MagicJack did not work so you tried Google, Google is not working out and I'm sure there are other VoIP providers to choose from. You have options, its not about who owns the wires/monopoly anymore. Customers will gravitate toward the service provider that has want they want.
This is an area ripe for innovation, not regulation. For example, GoToMeeting has a relationship with FreeConferenceCall.com. GoToMeeting offers both VoIP and PSTN connections into voice conferences - FreeConferenceCall.com accepts both VoIP and PSTN connections into the same conference. FreeConferenceCall.com does not seem to offer the VoIP capability to the public but perhaps via special relationships. Google and MagicJack could make similar arrangements and cut the Common Carriers out of the picture completely, thus eliminating the rural access fees. I suspect its cheaper for Google and MagicJack to create their own competitive services.
Maybe what you really want is not for Google to be treated like a Common Carrier but for IP Enabled Service providers to be required to interconnect calls with each other.
Mike, by your logic Google is a telco. If thats true then there is a solution to your problem. You can get one of the rural telcos as your service provider, as a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC). Since Google Voice has the local monopoly in your area it must allow the rural telco access to its wires that go to your house. So your provider is still Google Voice but you pay the rural telco for the service, so its the rural telco that now decides what numbers you can call. Problem solved - except that will never happen, Google is not an ILEC. From the link to the Washington Post article (going back to 2007), http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070302/073711.shtml, the FCC said that the rural telcos, which are ILECs, must connect calls that VoIP providers send to the ILECs. The ruling, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-07-709A1.pdf, says nothing of ILECs or VoIP providers connecting calls from their customers, the ruling is specific to ILECs accepting calls from VoIP providers.
As much as you do not like it, Google Voice is not a telco and is not regulated like one. Google Voice can block your calls as it sees fit. Google Voice at the moment is not a public service, it is an invite only private service. Honestly, I'm surprised by your stance on this issue. I thought you were for breaking down barriers to innovation. Requiring Google Voice to play by a bunch of broken telco rules that are based on a local monopolies, where Google has to pay to play, is a big barrier to innovation, a big barrier to offering you an innovative free service. I agree that the Free Conference Call situation/scam is not right but we should not force Google to be a part of it, we should fix that separately.
If DanC (above) is correct, the patents relate to multiple host computers connected via unicast networking. The patents are about creating groups of computers and sending group messages. Sounds like you are talking about a main-frame which is a single host. Not quite the same thing. Keeping data in sync between multiple hosts is not the same as having data on one host.
"$60,000 for the use of a single video of Bernie Madoff on a yacht for ~90 days of usage? Damn."
Yep that's a lot of cash, too much for a video. At the same time that is apparently what the market is willing to pay, capitalism at work. This video is a perfect example of the limited monopoly that copyright should be but is not. Basically no one cares about the video, this guy will never license it again (not that he'll need to), the value of the monopoly is transient but the copyright is not. Nonetheless I'm sure this dude will pursue and have taken down any copies available on the net. Copyright lasts way too long.
I have to agree with larry here, the industry seems to have some sense of entitlement to certain profits and ways of doing things. Things change, things that are out of our control like disruptive technologies. Those that do not adapt to the change get left behind.
While I do not agree with this article, Doctor Strange gets it wrong too. I understand that money goes into producing recordings. I understand that if you create a product you have control over where a sale occurs, when a sale occurs and how much the sale is for. At the same time if your product is not what the customer wants or is not at a price point the customer is willing to pay then you will not make a sale. The music/recording industry works hard to create unbalanced contracts with both artists and customers. Bands are given terms where they give up all or most of their rights for life in exchange for creating some recordings one time - sounds like a Faustian deal to me. Then after the recordings are produced they are sold at a price point that is exactly the maximum each market is willing to pay. This is a win-win situation for the music/recording industry while all other parties get a raw deal. In response to the raw deals artists charge more for live shows (and other scarce goods that are not the recordings they gave up their rights to) and fans buy fewer recordings and start sharing them. The music/recording industry has created a situation that drives artists and customers away rather than drawing them in and they feel entitled to do so in perpetuity - that is wrong.
Well in some cases, I am more than skeptical. Professional audio engineers are doing much worse now than they were 15 years ago. The kind of independently run recording studios that serviced the burgeoning punk and metal movements of the 80's are almost completely gone. And it is just going to get worse, as more and more of these unemployed engineers have to fight with all of the recent graduates of music tech diploma mills for the tiny handful of jobs left in the content industries.
Advances in technology have driven those independent recording studios out of business. Now more than ever everyone has access to affordable, high-quality, recording gear - most of it computerized and automated. Unlike punk bands from the 80s, today's punk bands can be their own 'independently run recording studio'.
I understand your point up to the last two paragraphs where you start making stuff up. Let's look at that $15 of disposable income again. It used to be that one could see a concert for about 2 to 3 times the cost of the album or CD, it used to be that the cost of the t-shirt was about the same as the cost of the CD. Now the concert ticket costs $90 and the t-shirt costs $25. The made up college student then has to go without music or beer for 6 months to see the concert and cannot afford the t-shirt. After forgoing entertainment for 6 months and then supporting the band directly the college student does not feel bad about downloading some of the bands tracks. We can all make up cute stories to support our ideas but those stories do not mean much.
Take a look at the music industry by itself, the cost of live performances has skyrocketed (not sure why so many folks are willing to pay the price) while the price of recordings may have hit the limit of what folks are willing to pay. This is in a way your broken window theory, live performances have eaten up the disposable income that would otherwise be spent on purchasing recordings. One part of the industry is eating into the profits of the other. On top of that, the price of recordings is pushed down, nearly to zero, by the infinite availability of recordings.
Even though recordings are essentially infinitely available, there is still demand for new and different recordings - at a higher level than ever. This clearly makes the case that artists, editors, producers and others that create music and recordings are in high demand. For the marketers and distributors however the landscape has change - the technology may be the cause but destroying or limiting the technology is not the answer. Its time to adapt to the new landscape, maybe that means marketing and distributing beer instead of music.
Ok, but is there a secondary market for this eBook? I hate the loss of control of the goods that comes with eBooks. I'm sure everyone reading this site has borrowed or lent a book. I finished reading an eBook I paid retail price for, why can't I lend it, sell it or give it to someone else?
The value proposition is out of balance with eBooks, until that is corrected they will never take off, even if they come with sound and video or whatever.