Archive

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

AT&T and the word “Unlimited”

March 2nd, 2012 No comments

Weasel words may change the meaning of ‘unlimited’ in terms of a court’s interpretation of a contract but the categorically do not change the underlying truth that ATT chose a word they weren’t willing to have mean what it means.

—————————–

This word you keep using, ‘unlimited’. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

I have an unlimited data plan option on my iPhone. I have had this contract since shortly after the release of the iPhone in June of 2007. I stayed with AT&T to keep that grandfathered plan not because I needed it. Not because Verizon isn’t a MUCH more reliable cell carrier but because if you allow yourself to get on a metered plan, you fall to the mercy of your provider. To see how this is exploited, give this a read: http://blog.jonalper.com/2010/price-of-sms/.

The thing is, with telcos both wired and wireless, we have more rights than if, for example, they were a restaurant  deciding after we’d ordered the meal that they were charging for ketchup.  With a restaurant, we don’t like the food or the prices? Tough noogies on us for that check.We pay. We leave. We don’t come back. We don’t have any right to tell a restaurant how much they can charge all we can do is choose another and hope market pressures keep prices in check.

With telcos and cable companies we really don’t have that option. We can’t just pay and walk away to a better, cheaper alternative. They have near and sometimes literal monopolies depending where you live, whether your devices are locked to their service.

What we do have is this:

If you’re old enough, recall long distance charges before the government broke up the original AT&T. Now, because of the way spectrum is allocated (wireless spectrum is owned by the people and allocated to companies to sell us back services using that spectrum) and the way Cable Companies and Telcos get access to tearing up the roads and putting up poles

They get this access in exchange for the right to make money selling us connectivity. When we grant them this access to public (public means we own them all citizens own them and we ‘hire’ government to manage them for us) facilities as a way to let them turn a profit we must also demand they find a way to profit in a manner that serves the public good.

This isn’t some hippy-lefty-tree-hugger-99% thing. This is simple logic. They get the right to exploit public resources to make money and with those rights come responsibilities. It’s our job to make sure we get both what we pay for as customers and what we, as a country pay for when we allow them that access.

Today, ATT announced:

http://www.att.com/esupport/datausage.jsp

” Info for Smartphone customers with Unlimited Data Plans

Do you have an unlimited data plan? If so, we have information to help you manage your account if you use more than 3GB, which means you are in the top 5% of data users in our network. If you have a 4G LTE Smartphone with monthly data usage over 5GB, you’ll also be interested in this information. You can check your usage for this month by dialing *data# on your mobile phone.
If you have one of our tiered data plans, this information will not affect you.
Background: In response to soaring mobile broadband usage and the limited availability of wireless spectrum, we implemented a network management program back in 2011 to help ensure the best possible mobile broadband experience for all of our customers.

If you have a smartphone that works on our 3G or 4G network and still have an unlimited data plan,
• You’ll receive a text message when your usage approaches 3GB in one billing cycle.
• Each time you use 3GB or more in a billing cycle, your data speeds will be reduced for the rest of that billing cycle and then go back to normal.
• The next time you exceed that usage level, your speeds will be reduced without another text message reminder.
If you have a 4G LTE smartphone and still have an unlimited data plan, the same process applies at 5GB of data usage, instead of 3GB.
You’ll still be able to use as much data as you want. That won’t change. Only your data throughput speed will change if you use 3GB or more in one billing cycle on a 3G or 4G smartphone or 5GB or more on a 4G LTE smartphone.”

This is actually a loosening of what they’d allegedly been silently doing before capping at 2GB but now they’re on record.

In my “informed but not a lawyer” opinion:
A lawyer would say this is not within the legal definition of a “reasonable” interpretation of the word “unlimited”.

This is what a lawyer would call ‘breach of contract’.

As a citizen and co-owner with you all, My Fellow Americans, this is not what I want my government to allow them to do with our  spectrum, our rights of way under and over  our land.

So, what I’ll be doing, and what I recommend y’all do too is the following:

– Look into what it takes to file a small claims action in your state. Might win, might lose but either way, it will cost AT&T money to defend themselves or pay because they refused to.

– Go here and file a complaint: http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm

– Contact your representative and complain to them: http://www.house.gov/

Why do you care?

Very simple. If there is no such thing as an ‘unlimited’ plan for data services, wired and wireless, then there will be no “cloud”. There will be no ‘backup to a server’. There will be no “access my data from anywhere”. There will be those who can pay the metered fees and those who can’t. The digital divide will be a chasm. The telcos will be able to skim a piece of the action off everything you do. Netflix will be Netflix’s fees plus however much your ISP charges for having been home with the flu and watched more movies than last month. It will mean if you iTunes Match and want to listen to your music you may pay a bit more for the last few plays of that great new London Calling reissue.

This isn’t some small little narrow issue. This is about the future of the connected world. There is plenty of money to be made selling unlimited connectivity. Our job as customers is to simply make it too expensive not to.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

Macworld|iWorld thoughts and reminiscences

February 1st, 2012 No comments

Macworld|iWorld thoughts and reminiscences

There are several great articles reviewing last week’s Macworld|iWorld and I would urge you to read these two in particular:

Christopher Breen of Macworld.com’s “Macworld Expo is dead, long live Macworld | iWorld

And Ted Landau, of The MacObsserver’s “Macworld | iWorld Reinvents Itself

To those, I’d like to add this:

This year’s Macworld|iWorld was, and will be marvelous to me because it reminded me of QuickTime Live!

QuickTime Live! was managed by Paul Kent, the same person who’s been in charge of Macworld content for IDG for several years. QuickTime Live! was the drop-dead-best trade show experience I have ever had.

QuickTime Live! was a small event held, if I recall correctly, for three years before it was merged into and ultimately digested by WWWDC.

Sure, there were ‘vendor-driven’ how-to sessions (and some good ones too!) and there was an exposition hall with products and tools you could see, touch and discuss with their makers but the ‘expo’ was hardly the main thrust. The expo portion was sort of a ‘visual aid’ and a ‘chance to do some business’ but it was the sessions, the content and the social interaction that defined the show.

Sessions were great. Yes, some were WWDC-like in that they were ‘how-to’ sessions run by a tool-maker (including Apple). Sessions like those are important and happened and I think will continue to happen at Macworld|iWorld. But, and probably in part by dint of Apple’s QuickTime Team being smaller than Apple as a whole and, frankly, exceptionally kind and smart folk, there was a looseness, a comfort level in those sessions you rarely see at WWDC (except from Sal Soghoian  who always manages an epic, enlightening and endearing WWDC presentation)

WWWDC, is an Apple Developer Relations event. The conference is toeing the corporate line and has a *necessary* agenda about not just what but how. Apple isn’t typically inclined to get into matters of content and entertainment goals. They are there to teach and evangelize ways of working that advance the platform in specific ways. They are there to sell and teach at the same time. Apple’s WWDC audience is overtly the developer community and covertly the press and Wall Street. That’s not to say WWDC doesn’t have ‘fun’ but it’s always a managed sort of fun.

QuickTime Live! was special to me because the general thrust of the sessions was much more self-critical, self-effacing and, in many cases, driven by the theme of ‘project post mortem’. “Here was a project I worked on and here’s what I learned that might spare you some heartache” was the undercurrent of most of the sessions (and all of mine). People were honest about their experimentation. Presenters were keen to teach *and* learn.

QuickTime Live! (at its best) happened at The Beverly Hilton in LA and combination of Paul’s brilliant management setting the above general tone of the sessions and a quirk of architecture led to what I have called the “lobby bar phenomenon”.

The ‘lobby bar’ was just a bar with an adjacent ‘conversation pit’ where attendees used to informally convene share projects, ask advice, boast of success or admit failure. It was located in a way that, like Moscone West’s floor lobbies, all traffic had to flow past it.

The interaction in the lobby bar was social and it encouraged people to engage as peers. Yes there were parties. Yes there were Krispy Kreme Donuts in in the mornings but what happened there was an almost continuous collaborative conference session with fluid topics driven by what was just presented in a formal session moments before and what the community shared enthusiasm and interest in as it happened to just pop up. The communities and conversations formed around shared areas of interest and experience and they happened across industry, national and cultural boundaries.

QuickTime Live! was a profoundly special experience for me because it fostered meaningful community, knowledge sharing and a deep sense of camaraderie in the attendees. People I met taught me things, introduced me to people I later hired to consult on projects I was working on and, I hope, learned from the sessions I presented.

The QuickTime Developer community didn’t just go to see the latest toys and tools. We didn’t just go to take or teach a class in a technology or tool. We went to move relationships from virtual spaces (list-servs and web sites) to real face to face interaction. We went to spend time with like-minded people we liked and respected. We went to teach, learn and collaborate and have fun working. I do mean working. While there were parties at QuickTime Live!, they were hardly the main point.

We went with questions and came home with ideas.

The Macworld|iWorld I enjoyed this year embodied that spirit. You could feel it in the sessions, at the tables in each floor’s lobby at Moscone West. You could feel it at the musical performances, the art exhitions and at the sessions.

I saw people seated around tables in the lobbies really talking to each other. Saw them not just resting their pounding trade-show-feet or post Cirq Du Mac hangovers but talking, sharing, introducing each other . I ran into old friends, was introduced to new ones, connected with the faces to match the Twitter handles. I saw small companies showing their products. I was able to make designers and developers of those products smile genuinely when I told them what I loved about their products or react to what they demonstrated with feedback and ideas. I was able to ‘do some business’ on the show floor. I was able to discover new things. I wasn’t getting yelled at by Power Computing. I wasn’t getting ‘spun’ by Apple.

My session, though more sparsely attended than I liked,  had people with great questions.

I was there too briefly. I wanted more.

The way I see Macworld|iWorld evolving based on what I saw this year will move even more toward my QuickTime Live! ideal. I am really looking forward to next year!

Disclosure: I have been an attendee and usually speaker at Macworld Expo every year but one for close to twenty years. I was a speaker at all but the first QuickTime Live! and even did a ‘day keynote’. I’ve watched Macworld Expo show go from happening twice a year on the left and right coasts (and Japan and UK) to just once a year in San Francisco. I was there for the move from Boston to New York and back to Boston. I have been involved through at least two different management entities being in charge. I have had the good fortune to work pretty closely with Paul in the past and even served on his Macworld Expo Customer Advisory Board. I have ‘skin in this game’ and I care but I mean it… Macworld|iWorld was and will be something special.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

SOPA/PIPA Blackout Protest Day

January 18th, 2012 No comments

The timing is terrible for me to have the time to write a proper post. In short, SOPA and PIPA are a bad thing for freedom and the Internet and the American public needs to make sure neither become law. I may not have time to write a long post but I made the time to call my reps.

For now, some links:

SOPA Resistance Day begins at Ars

LA Times:Where’s my Wikipedia? SOPA, PIPA blackout coming

Mashable: Why SOPA Is Dangerous

Why SOPA Threatens the DMCA Safe Harbor

No Flying Cars – Technology wins and losses – Harvard Law School Blog Post

Call, speak to person, don’t just click some online petition. Call, write a paper letter. Be impossible not to notice.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook