Free Cellphones and Low-cost Broadband

Free Cellphones and Low Cost Broadband Are you one of the people who finds themselves unable, due to cost, to own a phone? Did you know that since the 1990s Uncle Sam, through the auspices of the FCC, has helped millions of Americans get low-cost phone service in their homes? This special program is known as the Lifeline Assistance program and, due to technological advances since its inception, has been expanded to include cellphones and/or low-cost broadband Internet services.

The addition of these services is most likely due to the high unemployment rate that has plagued our country for more years than we want to count. If you have not been affected by this, you may ask why that would make a difference. Well the fact is that, with new technology, employers are now seeking out potential employees through the Internet. To do this, the employer will begin an initial screening process that requires the applicant to complete an online employment application. One of the first things on this application will be a space to enter a phone number where the applicant can be reached for a phone interview.

In this day and age, this creates yet another obstacle for the unemployed since the future employer is seeking a number where the applicant can be reached 24 hours a day, no matter whether they are — at home or on the road. Fortunately, the government understands this and has updated its criteria for the Lifeline Assistance program to include cellphone service and/or a broadband connection.

So where do you apply for these programs and what do they provide?

Cellphone Service

Assurance Wireless, a subsidiary of Virgin Mobile and Sprint, offers a free phone and service:

  • Free phone
  • 250 free minutes of talk
  • 250 free text messages

Reachout Wireless, a division of Nexus Communication, offers a free phone and service:

  • Free phone
  • Amount of minutes is based on the state where you live.

Safelink Wireless, owned and operated by Tracefone, offers a free phone and service:

  • Free phone
  • Up to 250 minutes of phone, text, and international calling.

Unfortunately, not every state offers the free phone and free phone service. States that do not participate in the program are:

  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

You can receive additional information at the Free Government Cellphones link at the end of this article. This site will also inform you of other requirements as well as other carriers that offer free phones and available services.

Who qualifies for these programs?

There are two ways to qualify.

The first way is if you are currently receiving state or federal assistance. For example:

  • Food stamps
  • Public housing assistance
  • Medicaid
  • Section 8 housing
  • Supplemental security income
  • Home Energy Assistance programs
  • National school lunch
  • Other programs not specified

The second way to qualify is by household income. See the link below for information on the guidelines and pay attention to the specific guidelines by state. Generally, you can qualify if your income is at or below 135% to 150% (by state) of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, but may differ if you are disabled or over 65.

Free Broadband Service and Free Computers


Last year, to garner approval for Comcast to merge with NBC Universal, Comcast agreed to offer low-cost broadband services to disadvantaged families. This service is called Internet Essentials and offers broadband service for as low as $10 a month. The plan advertises that it has:

  • No price increases
  • No activation fees
  • No equipment rental fees

So how does one qualify for this $9.95 a month of Internet service and/or a low-cost (usually $150) computer?

  • You need to live in an area that is serviced by Comcast.
  • You need to have at least one child who qualifies for free or reduced school lunches through the National School Lunch Program.
  • You must not have been a Comcast customer within the past 90 days.
  • You must not have any overdue Comcast bills or any unreturned Comcast equipment.

Connect 2 Compete

Connect 2 Compete is a relative newcomer to the marketplace and is currently experimenting with a similar pilot program in the San Diego area. Connect 2 Compete is expected to expand its operations in the near future to include the entire country. Its low-cost package will also be offering broadband Internet services for families that have children who are receiving free school lunches.

If anyone knows of any other free phones or low cost broadband services that are being made available for disadvantaged families, please share the information with us.

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Hot Pepper Dave

Cellphone Jamming: Should It Be Legal or Not?

Cell Phone Jamming: Should It Be Legal or Not?We have all been in our favorite restaurant, at church, or maybe in the theater when someone’s cellphone has gone off. And whether the offending ringtone came from the Wizard of Oz, the Simpsons, or some other familiar source that might otherwise be entertaining and amusing, it was distracting, annoying, and even somewhat embarrassing in this context. To make things worse, the person receiving the call at this inappropriate time decided to go ahead and answer it without hesitation and proceeded to carry on a loud conversation with no regards to the others around them.

Once, while riding a metro train in Washington, DC, my fellow passengers and I were subjected to a man’s loud, argumentative conversation on his cellphone that included what can only be described as “too much information.” As he kept raising his voice, it was impossible for anyone else on the train to communicate with one another or even hear destination announcements. Sadly, I’m sure this is an experience that’s all too common in public places around the world — and one that’s familiar to all of us. I (and, I’m sure, you) have often wondered if there’s any reasonable way to silence these inconsiderate cellphone users in a manner that’s not equally disruptive to others (like a well-placed pop in the chops might be).

It does seem that some people have resorted to what is called jamming. Jamming is a process by which an electronic device is employed to stop the transmission of cellphone signals. For some, this may seem like a violation of someone’s civil rights, but when does one person’s disrespect of others become a violation of their rights? If you feel that you have a right to talk to your date in a restaurant or to enjoy a train ride by reading your newspaper, you may wish to write your congressman/congresswoman and ask them to look into these electronic devices.

We do know that these devices are readily available from such places as eBay or other online websites with a statement or two that alleges that the devices are legal to use. On the other hand, the legality issue may not even be mentioned and it then becomes the buyer’s responsibility to determine whether the devices are legal or not.

On the FCC website, the federal agency describes in detail what cellphone jamming devices are and why they are not legal for use in the US. The FCC states in no uncertain terms that jamming devices are not allowed and proceeds to explain that it is illegal to block any type of signal to any of the following devices:

  • Cellphones
  • Police radar
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS

The issue has become such a hot button subject that the FCC is requesting public comment on whether any transmissions should be jammed, including cellphone or Wi-Fi signals. You can read the request for comment on the FCC website. One may recall that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) authorized the use of signal disruption during a protest, which brought the agency under severe criticism. While this is just one example of when jamming came under scrutiny, the importance of public input cannot be overstated. This means that this is your opportunity to respond with your opinion and I would recommend that you take the time to do so.

There are two opinions that side on the negative points of jamming electronic transmissions:

  1. Some feel that it is their ‘inalienable right’ to have coverage 100% of the time, everywhere they go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They also feel that their loud volume and babbling conversations need to be shared with the world, no matter where they are or who they may offend.
  2. Others have the opinion that jamming a cellphone may prohibit someone from calling 911 in case of an emergency or another problematic situation.

On the other side of the issue is the argument that if people cannot respect their fellow citizens enough to either turn off their phones or, at the least, put them on vibrate, jamming should be allowed. They believe that a vibrating phone would allow the call’s receiver to leave the area or to respond unobtrusively to the person calling them.

Another solution has been offered in a recent article at Underwire that claims to have demonstrated a new technology that causes a disruption in a person’s speech patterns. The device uses what is called Delayed Auditory Feedback — or DAF — to disrupt a person’s normal speech patterns by delaying the feedback they normally receive while speaking. The device, called SpeechJammer, is a prototype and is currently in the testing phase. The only known drawback is that the device must be aimed at the person in need of disruption to work.

Given this information, I believe that while it may be annoying to those of us who are forced to listen to the personal calls of others, resorting to any type of signal jamming is against the law. That means that, until the law is changed, you could be the one prosecuted for trying to enjoy a peaceful evening on the town.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

White Space Wi-Fi Coming to Wilmington, NC

The Federal Communication Commission [FCC] , which is currently headed by Chairman Genachowsk, has announced that the television “white spaces” will be open for Wi-Fi transmissions. While this might prove an advantage for those seeking additional Wi-Fi signals, television stations are increasingly alarmed that interference with these so-called white spaces could interfere with their television transmission signals.

So what are white spaces and how will this new system become fully operational? White spaces were created when the old analog television frequencies were terminated and then replaced with the newly required digital signals. For lack of a better term, these abandoned analog frequencies became know as white spaces. It was hoped, by those in positions of power, that these unsused frequencies could then be used to improve the current Wi-Fi system that we now have in place. Even at that time, however, the television industry registered complaints with the FCC stating that the use of these white spaces by others could interfere with its ability to maintain its current quality of television broadcast.

In answer to the television industry’s concerns, the FCC was assigned the task of determining if the use of these frequencies could, in fact, hamper the ability of existing broadcast networks to successfully operate without interfering with their broadcast transmissions. While this may not be as big of an issue to those of us living in urban areas where cable is readily available, it can be of great importance to those of us who live in the fringe areas. By fringe area, I am referring to a rural area or any other area where Wi-Fi access is limited. I can recall a time when my family and I lived in a small town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California that was considered a fringe area. Being the country cousins, we were at a disadvantage to our city counterparts when it came to Internet access. At the time, it was quite frustrating to me to see my city cousins getting broadband with what I considered lightning speeds, while we were hobbled with a dial-up connection.

White Space Wi-Fi Coming to Wilmington, NCThis difference in connection speed resulted in some of the people I knew paying a premium rate to get a satellite Internet connection for a single computer. So, with this experience still fresh in my mind, I can only imagine how frustrated those in extreme rural areas must feel today when they hear how this new adaptation for using white spaces may trip up any hope that they may have had over being able to enter into the 21st century. Despite these concerns or possible disappointments, however, the FCC has made the decision to proceed with caution in assigning and using these white spaces.

By caution, I mean that the FCC intends to take baby steps in implementing the use of these white spaces. Its current plan is for a roll-out of services to begin on January 26, 2012, and only in Wilmington, NC, and its surrounding areas. To accomplish this trial, the FCC has limited its authorization to two companies. The first is Koos Technical Services [KTS Wireless], which has developed the hardware that the FCC has deemed to meet its guidelines for white space use. The second, Spectrum Bridge, developed the required software component needed to operate the hardware and was the first company authorized to administer the databases and assignment of frequencies. However, after Spectrum Bridge was on board, the FCC approved both Google and Microsoft to also administer the databases and assignment of frequencies.

As previously mentioned, the Wilmington, NC area will be the first test area for the new Wi-Fi on steroids. If the trial here supports the FCC’s initial hopes and confirms that the use of white spaces does not impact television transmissions, then the trial may be expanded to other areas. The FCC believes that this small area will give it the necessary statistics to ascertain if it can allow this new technology to roll out across the US without interfering with television broadcasts.

So why was Wilmington, NC chosen as the first test area for testing the white space spectrum? According to the StarNews Online, a local newspaper for the Wilmington area, the city was selected because there was an abundance of white space, a small population to deal with, and a large number of residents already using broadband. It should be noted that Wilmington may also have been chosen as a result of its inclusion in the 2008 study when consumers were required to change over from analog to digital television. That means that, once again, the residents of Wilmington will be under the microscope by the technology community to determine just how well white space can be utilized and if, in fact, the use of the white space will interfere with local broadcasting.

Now that I have covered all of the fluff that has come with the FCC’s announcement, it only stands to reason that it must have some valid concerns or why would it be taking baby steps in deploying the use of white space? We also should not find ourselves complacent just because Google and Microsoft have jumped on the bandwagon; this doesn’t mean that this new attempt at increasing the uses of Wi-Fi via the white space spectrum will be a shoe-in. However, I am of the belief that this experiment needs to succeed as we are quickly discovering that our current radio waves are now at a premium. Just think about it. We currently use this valuable resource for many of our everyday needs from opening our garage doors, remotely changing our television stations, and using our key fobs to open our vehicles. These are in addition to keeping us connected to each other, sometimes minute to minute, via radio, television, and Internet connections.

This basically means that as we continue to gobble up space and rely more on radio transmissions, our ability to utilize the spectrum for all uses will need to be expanded. One would hope that we, as a nation, are not putting all of our eggs in one basket and hoping that white spaces will work without a backup plan. One thing we know for sure is that our consumption and demand for bandwidth is not going away anytime soon. So, while the use of white spaces seems the most practical and easiest to use, if this experiment fails, what next?

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.

Comments welcome.

Will The FCC Ruling For An Open Internet Do More Harm Than Good?

There are two different opinions about the recent FCC ruling to govern the Internet and keep it open to all. Some believe that governmental intervention will do more harm than good. The other opinion is that if there are not regulations in place, companies such as Skype would be not be able to compete.

What was once described as a super highway of information has changed drastically during the past decade. We now have a multi lane highway that now allows users to stream video, download music, watch TV, make phone calls, conduct live meetings, and gaming, and what has taken the Internet by storm, social interaction aka Facebook.

Some of the major ISPs have decided that they have the right to throttle back access for some users. They have also chosen, on their own terms, who should have total access to the Internet pipeline and who shouldn’t. To be fair, there are in fact some users who are broadband hogs, spending their entire life downloading music, videos, and other content. To limit what they see as abuse, some of the major ISPs have throttled back on the amount of data some users can download.

One of the other issues involve companies such as Skype that allow phone calls to be made via the Internet. In theory, an ISP could provide limited access for a competitor’s product, while promoting and controlling their own applications. Some of these ISPs are now trying to control TV programming transmissions via the Internet and how it will be delivered to you and which devices will be supported.

There is little doubt in my mind that the major ISPs aren’t concerned about you and me, instead focusing their attentions on the almighty dollar. We have seen how greed nearly brought down own entire financial system. One can only guess how the major ISPs could actually strangle Internet access and control what we do on the Internet.

Most of us do not like the government to interfere in any business activities. However, sometimes a small dose of regulation is needed to keep the playing field level for all.

What do you think? Will the FCC ruling on an open internet help or hinder our Internet experience?

Comments welcome.

FCC document in .pdf format – Open Internet – 194 pages

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC approves net neutrality rules today, that basically aim to prevent Internet providers from discriminating against legal content.

Net neutrality advocates have argued for a long time that these laws would prevent Internet providers from blocking competitive content, charging for faster connections to certain sites, and other scenarios. While the order does prevent fixed broadband providers from blocking access to sites and applications, the rules are different for wireless providers and not clear.

About 80 net neutrality advocates and organizations signed an open letter to the FCC calling for what they announced as “real net neutrality.”

Harold Feld of Public Knowledge wrote:
On every single important and controversial question on what an ‘open Internet’ actually means, — such as whether companies can create ‘fast lanes’ for ‘prioritized’ content or what exactly wireless providers can and cannot do — the actual language of the rules is silent, ambiguous, or even at odds with the text of the implementing Order.

Along with Harold’s post the open letter argued that this net neutrality order leaves wireless users out in the open and vulnerable to blocking and discrimination.

Wireless companies have seen a problem with the rule. Verizon in particular released a statement that argued government intervention, was the wrong way to go and can destroy the “open web.” Supporting them, Senator Mitch McConnell said that net neutrality would harm investments, bring innovation to a halt and destroy jobs.

Politico reported that after the FCC approved the rules, the Republican party started planning out its repeal, and even though the rules have been approved it is not clear that the FCC even has the authority to enforce the new laws. When the law was brought up last April, the U.S. appeals court ruled that the FCC could not stop Comcast from controlling user traffic of peer-to-peer downloading.

The Google-Verizon Proposal Is Nothing More Than A ‘Proposal’

The sky is falling crowd has been having a field day since last week, when it was announced that Google and Verizon were in the process of some type of a deal. The rumors were flying that Google [once again], was going against their ‘do no evil’ mantra. Today the two companies announced their proposal for a direction that the Internet and FCC should take.

But this is exactly what the announcement was. A ‘proposal’ not a secret behind the door deal designed to sabotage net neutrality. But more like recommendations that could open the dialogue and provide congress with a direction to take and hopefully protect all consumers as well as service providers.

But the task is not going to be easy. With the authority of the FCC in question following a court decision in favor of Comcast, congress is going to have to address this and other issues.

If you haven’t read the Google-Verizon proposal, check out the link below.

Share your thoughts with us and let us know what you think.

Comments as always are welcome.

Source – Google

Is It Time For All Cell Phones To Be Unlocked?

During the past few weeks we have been captivated by the reception problems that Apple says all cell phones exhibit. Whether this is true or not is up for debate. But one fact about the cell phone industry no one can dispute is the way cell phones have been locked to a specific carrier. There is once again a movement that is trying to get the FCC to unlock all cell phones and let the consumer decide which carrier they wish to use. In a recent article it stated that:

For more than a year, the FCC has been examining exclusive contracts after members of the Senate Commerce Committee urged the commission to review the issue. Handset providers and carriers offer their phones on different levels of exclusivity with Apple’s iPhone offered only by AT&T in the U.S. and other carriers having different degrees of exclusivity for mobile phones from a variety of providers.

The RCA has hammered away on the issue for years, arguing that rural consumers in particular often can’t get the phones they want and have to pay high rates for what is available for them.

Long complaining about the “digital divide” that exists between rural and urban America, RCA has argued that the end result for consumers of exclusive handset provider-carrier deals has been that consumers must “pay a premium price for the handset because the market is void of any competition for the particular handset.”

If you live in a rural area of the U.S., where AT&T doesn’t provide service, you cannot use an Apple iPhone. While Apple is pleased that it has sold three million iPhones in three weeks, those sales could explode if the phone were unlocked.  Having once lived in a rural area in which AT&T did not provide service, the availability of any type of a smart phone was non existent for many of us.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – InformationWeek

MIT – Broadband In U.S. Is Not As Bad As Government Says

I have always believed that it is difficult to determined what causes broadband speeds to be slow, but that it is not always the fault of your ISP. In fact a recent report by MIT seems to confirm this and that broadband speeds in the U.S. are better than what the government thinks it is. The FCC has even concluded that that consumers receive just about half the speeds that their ISP’s advertise. So who is giving us the correct facts?

I believe that both the folks at MIT and the FCC are correct. There is not going to be an accurate speed test because the information highway is a real highway of sorts. Like most highways, speeds are going to fluctuate depending on the amount of traffic at any given time. I recall many a time sitting on highway 101 just outside of San Francisco at a dead stop. I always enjoyed looking at the speed limit sign, since it was rare one could even reach that speed. The exception was at 3:00am in the morning on a Sunday.

In a recent article at the Popsci site it also stated that:

The Federal Communications Commission released a National Broadband Plan back in March, which included the frustrating and surprising statement that most Americans’ broadband speed is half what service providers advertise.

But it might not be that bad after all, MIT researchers say — most Internet measuring methods underestimate the speed of the access network. That’s the part of the Internet ISPs actually control.

Slowness can often be attributed to home networks, users’ computers, and ISP servers instead, say MIT scientists Steve Bauer, David Clark and William Lehr.

In one example, Bauer ran a speed test on his home computer in Cambridge, Mass., using a test server in New York. Most of the time, he was getting rates close to those advertised by his ISP. One afternoon, the rate fell precipitously, and Bauer realized his ISP had re-routed his connection to a different server because the New York server was overloaded. The nearest free server was in Amsterdam — explaining why the speed dropped so much.

This rerouting of traffic will have an adverse affect on speeds, but the MIT testing also showed:

In the study — conducted by MIT labs which receive funding from telecom companies — the authors analyzed a half-dozen systems for measuring the speed of Internet connections. They underestimated the access’ networks speed for a variety of reasons, an MIT news release explains.

For instance, the FCC study analyzed data for broadband subscribers with different tiers of service. The analysis didn’t know which data corresponded to which tier, so they assumed the tier could be inferred from the maximum measured rate, MIT says. But in reality, the lower-tier subscribers sometimes ended up with better data rates than they paid for. The study the FCC relied upon misclassified this, the researchers say — good service on a cheap tier was classified as lousy service at a higher tier.

We have all experienced a slow down of the Internet. But is it the Internet that is slow? Our own network at home? Our ISP? What about the time of day, or day of week and so forth? Any one of these or a combination of these can have a dire affect on the speeds we are able to obtain.

What do you think?

Comments welcome

Source – Popsci

Apple iPhone & Their Secret Stuff – But Is It Really A Secret?

Apple has sent a letter to the FCC telling the governmental agency that there is more to the Apple iPhone than what the public knows.  In the letter Apple goes on to state that it would like the FCC to freeze photos of the iPhone for at least 45 days. The letter also states that:

“Although Apple has begun to market the device publicly, these documents reveal technical and design information that has not been publicly disclosed in such marketing and that is protected by Apple as confidential and proprietary secrets.”

The really big secret seems to be that Apple has kept hidden that the newest Apple iPhone will have 512 MB of RAM, more than double what its predecessor had. I’m excited.  If you want to find out any secrets about the Apple iPhone, just head into any bar in Redwood City, California and some Apple employee will spill his guts. LOL

Comments welcome.

You can view all of the secret documents here. You may be disappointed at what you see. I was.

Apple Needing To Relax Software Limits

There should be an image here!In Apple’s ongoing effort to remain king of their mobile empire,there is a growing concern that they need to relax their software limits and restrictions. In short, it’s bordering on the ridiculous.

The complaints about Apple seem completely insane just a few years ago, but with the success of their mobile business. The FCC has issues with that they deem to be Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.

Then there is Apple’s advances in the advertising space. Most noticeably, the mobile ad space. Obviously there is already competition with Google here, but it’s still a concern about where Apple is headed.

FCC Survey Confirms 30 Million Americans Have Suffered ‘Bill Shock’

In a recent survey the FCC has discovered a shocking reality of life with a cell phone. One in six cell phone users are going to suffer from ‘bill shock’ when their monthly charges increase substantially by exceeding their plans’ limitations. The FCC also has learned that over one half of cell users do not understand early termination fees and for broadband users, this number increases to over 70%.

The report also states that:

The FCC has been proactively working to clear up consumer confusion surrounding bill shock, ETFs, and other issues.  Last August, the Commission launched a proceeding to examine ways to empower consumers to make smart, informed decisions when it comes to communications services.  In January 2010, the Chiefs of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus sent letters to the major wireless carriers to learn more about their early termination fees. And as one of the first initiatives undertaken by the FCC’s Consumer Task Force, in early May the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a Public Notice asking about possible solutions for bill shock.

The survey released today supports the agency’s efforts by supplying essential data about the consumer experience. The survey notes that 83 percent of adults in this country have a cell phone, and 80 percent have a personal cell phone (i.e., one for which their employer does not pay the bill). It also asked about cell-phone coverage: 58 percent of cell-phone users say they are very satisfied with the number of places they can get a good signal.

The survey finds that of the 30 million Americans who have experienced bill shock:

  • 84 percent said their mobile carrier did not contact them when they were about to exceed their allowed minutes, text messages, or data downloads.
  • 88 percent said their carrier did not contact them after their bill suddenly increased.

Shocking, just utterly shocking! How about this, people? Get a prepaid plan and avoid any kind of shock at all. We certainly don’t need any more governmental regulations. For you broadband users, ask your carrier how much the early termination fee is. DUH! Take responsibility for your life.

This reminds me of when the airline flight attendants need to explain to us how to snap and unsnap our seat belts. How about this? If you don’t know how a seat belt works, maybe you shouldn’t be flying by yourself! LOL

Comments welcome.

Source – 5/26/10,  FCC Survey Confirms Consumers Experience Mobile Bill Shock and Confusion About Early Termination Fees.

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Here Is How The FCC Gave The Keys To The Kingdom To Hollywood

The FCC is going to allow the Hollywood movie folks to control your set top box in what it cites as being a move to prevent piracy. Here is how it is going to work. The movie people want to add additional revenue to their coffers by showing their movies on satellite and cable TV, before the movie is released to DVD. This would position the viewing of the movie between the time it is shown in theaters until the time it makes its way to DVD.

So the FCC is going to grant access to the digital output of set top boxes to limit or to prevent copying by the viewer. A recent article stated:

The order concerns an anti-piracy technique known as “selectable output control.” For a movie made available before its release on disc, a studio will be able to instruct pay-TV operators to turn off the analog connectors on viewers’ set-top boxes, transmitting the movie only through encrypted digital outputs. Analog connectors have rudimentary anti-piracy controls at best; encrypted digital outputs, such as HDMI with DTCP, can be programmed to bar or limit copying.

A 2004 FCC rule had forbidden pay-TV operators from using selectable output control, largely out of concern for the millions of early digital-TV buyers whose sets don’t have encrypted inputs. But the commission had also said the prohibition could be waived for a new Hollywood business model.

As for the harm to consumers, it’s hard to see how anyone is hurt when programs are made available in additional ways in a format that only some people can access. That kind of thing happens any time a new technology is introduced — witness HDTV and Blu-ray discs, for example. And the FCC smartly barred studios from turning off analog outputs for more than 90 days on any given title, to avoid the possibility of consumers who rely on older TVs and conventional DVD players from being cut off completely.

Though some may disagree with my assessment, I personally believe that allowing access to any set top box could one day allow Hollywood to control or limit even access to legitimate devices in legitimate ways. Allowing Hollywood and the record industry too much control over our lives is not going to be beneficial to the consumer.

Comments welcome.


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New FCC Proposal – Universal Set-Top Box For TV And The Internet

The FCC has made a proposal that could, if passed, have a significant way in which we consumers could receive TV and Internet services in the future. According to the chairman of the FCC, the proposal would be for a universal set-top box, which the consumer would purchase. The new set-top box would provide both television and Internet services in one device. The benefit of one single set-top box is that it could be used, even when the consumer changes service providers.

As with any proposals coming from the FCC that could spur competition, the big boys in television and Internet services could fight the plan. In fact I would be so brazen to state that they would fight the changes. LOL

In addition a recent article also states that:

“We think the FCC wants to lay the groundwork for over-the-top video to potentially impose some competitive pressure on pay TV providers in the future,” said analyst Paul Gallant of the Concept Capital research firm. That policy could help Internet TV providers like Netflex, Apple, Google and Amazon, he said.

“The idea of accessing the Internet through the TV screen is certainly attractive – so attractive, in fact, that the marketplace already appears to be delivering on that vision without any help from the government,” McDowell said. “A quick Internet search revealed more than a dozen different devices available to consumers who wish to bring some or all of the Internet to their television screens, ranging from specialized web video products and software applications to elaborate home theater PCs and even online gaming consoles.”

While I applaud the FCC and their efforts to provide the consumer with the best possible options for television and Internet services, the reality is that the big cable, satellite & Internet providers have political clout. Unless we see changes in Congress with new representatives who will be actually representing the people, I seriously doubt this proposal will fly.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


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FCC Not Hampered By Recent Court Ruling – Plans On 60 Regulations To Bring Broadband To All

It does not appear that the FCC is letting a recent court decision against the agency and is proposing some 60 regulations to provide broadband services to all in the U.S. Some feel that the FCC could face an up hill battle in their goal to bring broadband services to low incomes families as well as service to rural areas.

In a recent article it stated the following:

The court ruling jeopardizes parts of the FCC’s plan, including subsidies for broadband, and the agency should bring Internet service under rules used for telephones, the advocacy group Public Knowledge said in an e-mailed statement.

Subjecting Internet service to telephone rules would have “far-reaching and destructive consequences,” including lawsuits, AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. said in a Feb. 22 letter to the FCC.

It would seem that the large Internet providers are circling the wagons to try and stop broadband for all. It seems these large corporations do not want the U.S. to be part of the 21st century, as other countries continue to pull ahead in the services being offered.

I personally believe that these companies do need to stop the FCC so that we can continue to lag behind and keep the Internet in the hands of only those who can afford it. These conglomerates need to raise rates as well, throttle back on services and milk every dollar they can out of the consumer.

Of course I do not believe any of what I just said, but it is safe to predict this is what most likely will happen.

Comments welcome.


Comcast vs FCC – It Isn’t About Free Speech It Is About Economics

When is our U.S. Congress going to wake up and get off of their butts to handle the broadband and net neutrality issues once and for all? In the recent court decision against the FCC and their right to regulate Comcast, it is not just a FCC vs Comcast situation. It is a United States of America problem that hinders our country from competing with the rest of the world. It is the problem that our major telecommunications entities are not going to provide services to all of America and not just where the money is.

In a recent article it also states that:

Comcast and the other carriers will be emboldened to continue what they’ve started: the subjugation of America’s broadband future to their interests and those of their entertainment industry partners and subsidiaries. Our second-class status in broadband will soon be even worse if they get what they want: turning the Internet to a television-on-steroids system where control is in the middle, where the edges of the networks — that is you and me — do what the center tells us we may do.

The cable and phone companies have built networks from the favored position of having been government-granted monopolies. They are an effective duopoly — wireless providers can’t provide the same bandwidth and they are trapped by the oligopoly (carrier owned, to a major extent) in the backbone networks — and they are going to use it for their benefit, not ours.

Some are saying that this is just another example of more government control. That the government is going to try and control free speech by hindering Comcast and the way they do business. I respect those opinions and usually I also am concerned about to much government in our lives. But we are in competition with all of the world when it comes to the Internet. We need to be able and provide access for everyone in the U.S. no matter where they live.

If this wasn’t the case than rural America should still have dirt roads whilce the major cities enjoy freeways.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.