Category Archives: Telephony

Milking The Herd At T-Mobile

Cows - 600 x 456

T-Mobile is milking us dry, and that's no bull !

T-Mobile USA’s (aka Deutsche Telekom AG) catch phrase used to be “Get More”, before they dropped it (like so many dropped calls) for their “Stick Together” campaign.  Well, now it seems that their next advertising slogan might just be “Pay More”.

We know times are rough.  T-Mobile is probably hurting just as much as the rest of us.  Evidence the bad news they’ve included in customer’s bills over the last few months.  First, they made the decision to charge customers who wanted to continue to receive their call detail on each month’s bill.  I believe they are charging $3.00 a month for the privilege of seeing what they are charging you for.  Then they decided to charge an additional $1.50 a month for the privilege of getting a paper bill in the mail each month (isn’t it nice to know that T-Mobile is saving the lives of innocent trees).  After what must have been a torrent of subscriber defections to other carriers and complaints from customers who didn’t bolt, they dropped their plan to charge for paper bills (but they’re still charging customers who want to see the call detail on their bills).  Apparently, T-Mobile decided that trying to milk their customers with yet another new monthly charge was going to cost them more than they would have realized in additional income (see “T-Mobile Customers Demand Traditional Paper Bills” at dailyfinance.com).

T-Mobile’s latest bills have included a strangely vague warning to their customers that they may be paying more for minutes used beyond their calling plan’s allowance.  But they don’t tell you how much more they are charging per minute. If you are a T-Mobile subscriber, and you decide to dial 611 to ask them about the rate increase, better do it during the day.  T-Mobile used to provide customer service 24 hours a day, but now,  if you try calling T-Mobile at night, you’ll get an announcement telling you to call back during the day.  That brings to mind another possible advertising slogan T-Mobile might consider… “Pay More, Get Less”.

Why the lack of specifics regarding their rate increase ?  (they tell you to check out their website for details)  Well, it seems to us that T-Mobile, just in time for Halloween,  is trying to scare subscribers into moving to more expensive monthly plans.  Is it really necessary to raise what are already exhorbitant per-minute charges if you go over on your plan’s minute allotment.  We believe those per-minute charges were already in the range of 40 cents to 60 cents per minute, even before their recent increases.

Those folks at T-Mobile must also think their customers are a bunch of idiots.  Here’s how they broke the good news to customers, via an insert in their bills titled “An important message about your additional minutes”…

“T-Mobile is committed to providing you the coverage you need at the price you want.  Therefore, it’s important to tell you about a change to ensure you are on the plan that best meets your needs.  Starting on September 1st, the price for the minutes you use over the minutes included in your plan will increase for some rate plans.  Those rates apply to all additional minutes, including calls to voicemail and call forwarding.”


Don’t you love it how companies always begin their notices of price increases on an upbeat theme ?   How about leveling with the customer and starting off with something like “We have some bad news for our most loyal customers” ?

When we first spotted their billing insert, we thought that perhaps T-Mobile was increasing the number of minutes in their calling plans, or perhaps that they were lowering their charge for additional minutes.  Unfortunately, it was nothing or the sort, but it is certainly reassuring to know that T-Mobile is so concerned about us.  Why then all the secrecy ?  Why not just say how much they’re charging for additional minutes, right there on the billing insert ?  And the fact of the matter is that they can’t legally raise their rates without notifying their customers.  We guess that T-Mobile figures that this indirect method of notifying their customers of a rate increase fulfills their obligation to notify their customers.  How lame can you get ?

We wonder what little bit of good news T-Mobile might be planning to stuff into the envelope with your bill, next month.  How about charging a fee for speaking with a customer service rep, or charging you $1.00 every time you check how many minutes you have used up.  There’s probably dozens of ways they can come up with to squeeze more out of their customers every month.

Long time T-Mobile subscribers might remember the pre-T-Mobile days, and perhaps even the pre-Voicestream days.  The T-Mobile U.S. cellular network started it’s life as “Omnipoint”, circa 1996.  (Does anybody remember Fred, the Omnipoint parrot ?  See Fred in this Omnipoint TV Commercial on Youtube.)  One of Omnipoint’s selling points was “No Contract Required”.  As any T-Mobile customer can tell you, that is not the case with T-Mobile.  But for T-Mobile customers who have fulfilled their contract (and maybe even for those who haven’t), all of  T-Mobile’s recent attempts to nickel and dime their customers to death might signal that it is time to move your mobile number to a different network, one that is more customer-friendly, and one that gives it’s subscribers a little more credit for being able to see through a thinly veiled attempt to increase profits.  According to this article at cellphonesignal.com, T-Mobile’s decision to increase their per-minute overage charges means that subscribers who are under contract can opt to terminate their contract without incurring an early termination fee (ETF), which just may be the silver lining in this network’s cloud.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, when is T-Mobile going to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis as it’s spokesmodel ?

– Routing By Rumor

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Companies In Mirror Are Closer To Bankruptcy Than They Appear !

Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

This article will be of interest to anyone replacing the rear view mirror in their General Motors (GM) or other vehicle, whether you are purchasing a replacement mirror from GM SPO, Gentex, Donnelly, or another manufacturer.

Installation information is included for Do-It-Yourselfers (DIY), including wiring harness connector pinout data.

Perhaps the most valuable tip we can give to a vehicle owner planning to purchase a replacement mirror is COMPARE PRICES !

The U.S. government can throw as many billions of dollars at General Motors as they wish, but they’re unlikely to change the fundamental problems at the automaker. Problems that have brought what was once a cornerstone of the American economy to the brink of extinction, dependent on a government bailout for it’s survival.

GM is not competitive for many reasons. They are hobbled by high labor costs. They lag in innovation, particularly in the area of electric and hybrid vehicles. In our opinion, they can’t compete with Japanese auto manufacturers on quality (or perceived quality) or customer loyalty. They’re certainly not competitive on pricing when compared to aftermarket parts suppliers. For most vehicle repairs, we think you’ll spend a lot less, and get a better job done at a private garage, then you would at a GM dealership. This might come as a shock, but in our opinion, Mr. Goodwrench isn’t.

As we’ve stated previously, we believe that their new vehicle warranty isn’t worth the paper its printed on. And GM seems to follow pricing policies usually associated with companies that sell hammers and toilet seats to the Pentagon.

Case in point…

Our GM vehicle was built with an auto-dimming electrochromic rear view mirror. Some rear view mirrors in late-model vehicles are marvels of modern technology, containing On-Star controls, handsfree cellphones, compasses, thermometers, back-up camera displays, garage door openers and other gadgets. But our mirror is just an auto-dimming mirror, with none of these other bells and whistles (see this NY Times article on these “bells & whistles”). On most of the auto dimming mirrors that we’ve seen in GM vehicles, after a few years of service, the magic liquid inside tends to leak out of the mirror. This either renders the dimming feature inoperative, fogs the mirror, or leaves it with an uneven or blotchy reflective surface.

For the past few years, the liquid crystal stuff (or whatever the chemical is) in our mirror has been leaking out, increasingly producing areas on the mirror’s surface that are either always clear or always dark. We finally decided to replace the mirror.

We checked with our friendly GM dealership’s parts department. They quoted us a price of $284.00 for a replacement rear view mirror, excluding the cost of installation.

Almost $300.00 for a rear view mirror ? Sounded awfully expensive to us, so we started to look at aftermarket mirrors. Virtually all American cars use a standard “wedge” type glass mount. The mirror attaches to a glass-mounted “button”, which hopefully stays attached to the windshield when you remove your old mirror from the vehicle.

Our search for a replacement mirror lead us to products manufactured by two predominant manufacturers of automotive mirrors, Donnelly (now called Magna Donnelly?) and Gentex (see company info). It seems that Donnelly sells exclusively to automotive manufacturers (OEMs), and not to the automotive aftermarket. Gentex sells to OEMs (probably the vast majority of their business), but they also sell their products to aftermarket suppliers (in our case, through a distributor named Mito Corporation).

We ended up purchasing a brand new, in the box, Gentex electrochromic rear view mirror that is virtually identical to our vehicle’s original mirror, for under $70.00, including shipping ! That’s less than a quarter of what General Motors wanted for a replacement mirror.

When you consider the fact that GM certainly pays much less for mirrors than the RoutingByRumor Corporation does, that probably equates to a markup of 400%, 500% or more.   What word best describes that sort of profit margin ?  “Criminal”  might be a bit too strong.  How about egregious.  How about unconscionable.  How about stupid ?  How many businesses that try to fleece their customers are able to stay in business ?  It certainly seems to indicate that GM doesn’t make their money selling cars.  They make their money (or at least they did) by selling parts and service;  Service that we’ve never been very impressed with in the first place.

The only caveat is that we had to replace the wiring harness connector that powers the mirror, because the Gentex mirror uses a 7-pin connector, while our original equipment Donnelly mirror used a 3-pin connector (our vehicle does not have auto-dimming external mirrors, and the Gentex mirror we installed does not have a temperature or compass display). But replacing the connector was a quick and easy procedure. The hardest part was getting the old mirror off of the windshield. Maybe it helped that we popped our Stevie Nicks album “The Other Side Of The Mirror” into the CD player while we installed our new mirror. To quote Stevie, “This is me talking to you. This is me talking to ya”.

The Gentex mirror we purchased came with very limited hookup information. We found the following pinout data on the Web, and we’re guessing that this information will apply to all Gentex mirrors that use a 7-pin connector.

JST "VH" Series Housing (8-pin version shown)

JST "VH" Series Connector Housing (8-pin version shown)

If you’re trying to figure out what type of connector Gentex (and Donnelly) use on their mirrors, our research indicates that the 7-pin Gentex harness connector (as well as the 3-pin harness connector on our original Donnelly mirror) are “VH” series connectors, from JST Manufacturing. Their U.S. website is at www.jst.com. View JST’s data sheet for the VH series connectors here. These connectors (and the necessary crimp terminals) are available from Digi-Key.

We’re not sure if the wiring color coding is standard on all vehicles, so we would be more concerned with the function associated with each pin on the connector (pin numbers are molded into the connector housing on the wire-side of the connector, but you might need a magnifying glass to read them).

WARNING: Before you begin working on your mirror’s wiring harness, we strongly suggest that you either pull the fuse(s) that protect your accessories (ACC, RAP, ACC1, ACC2, etc., depending on your vehicle), as well as the fuse that protects your backup lamps. In lieu of pulling the accessory fuse(s), remove your key from the ignition and open a door to deactivate the Retained Accessory Power (RAP) circuit, if present and utilized by the mirror. If you really want to play it safe, disconnect your vehicle’s battery, following your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended procedure (for your safety). This will prevent you from blowing a fuse, should you inadvertently short or ground a lead while working on your mirror’s wiring harness.


PIN # …. HARNESS WIRE COLOR …………. FUNCTION

. 1 …………….. WHITE …………………………. +12v (SWITCHED B+)

. 2 ……………. BLACK …………………………. CHASSIS GROUND

. 3 ……………. LIGHT GREEN ………………… FROM BACKUP LIGHT CIRCUIT

. 4 …………….. GRAY …………………………… TO AUTO DIM OUTSIDE MIRROR

. 5 …………….. PINK …………………………….. TO AUTO DIM OUTSIDE MIRROR

. 6 …………….. DARK GREEN/WHITE ……… TEMPERATURE PROBE

. 7 …………….. BLACK/WHITE ……………….. TEMPERATURE PROBE

Notes:

At a minimum, you must connect pins 1 & 2 (+12V & ground) for your auto dimming Gentex mirror to operate.

Not all Gentex mirrors or all vehicles will utilize all pins, but we believe pins 1 – 5 should be functional on all Gentex mirrors. If your experience differs, please let us know by posting a comment to this article.

Pin 3 is used to clear the mirror when the vehicle is placed in reverse. (DO NOT connect pin 3 to ground, since this will blow a fuse (or possibly damage your mirror) when you put the vehicle into reverse gear.)

Pins 4 & 5 are used to control outside mirrors on vehicles equipped with auto-dimming outside mirrors.

Pins 6 & 7 are used on mirrors that incorporate a temperature display. If a temperature probe is connected, either lead from the temperature probe can be connected to either pin.

Of course, your best source of information is your vehicle manufacturer, or the manufacturer of your new mirror. The above information is believed to be correct, but we take no responsibility for its accuracy.

A Volt-Ohm meter is an indispensable tool for any installer, and we recommend that you use one whenever working on your vehicle’s electrical system.


In our opinion, the auto-dimming feature of the Gentex mirror performs as well as, or better than, our original equipment Donnelly rear view mirror, even taking into account how it operated when our vehicle was brand new. We saved more than $200.00 by not buying the mirror from GM, and probably much more than that, if the dealership would have installed the new mirror for us. The Gentex mirror we purchased appears to be manufactured in the U.S.A. (see this article about their Zeeland, Michigan plant & headquarters buildings), and came with a three-year warranty. We said the Gentex mirror “appears” to be made in the USA, because the only indication we were able to find was the letters “U.S.A.” on the carton label in 2-point type. Not “Made In U.S.A.” or “Assembled In U.S.A.”. Just “U.S.A.”. We’re left to guess that Gentex may be embarrased to admit where the mirror is manufactured. If their products are indeed made in the USA, why don’t they state that fact prominently on the carton, with “MADE IN U.S.A.” clearly visible, like they are proud of it !

We always welcome the opportunity to buy products made in America. We think that buying American made goods, and supporting American workers, is the best way to repair the failing U.S. economy. The U.S. Government’s economic stimulus plans certainly won’t do that.

Let’s hope that if we should ever have to file a warranty claim with Gentex or Mito (their aftermarket distributor), that they honor their warranty better than General Motors has, on the numerous occasions that we’ve had problems with GM products.

As an aside, here’s an article we stumbled upon about another Gentex product, designed to solve one of nighttime driving’s most annoying and dangerous problems.

So the question we are left to ponder is this… Why does General Motors think it can gouge consumers for replacement parts ? If you said “because they’re General Motors”, think again. In our case, they couldn’t. And when you consider the fact that they are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, begging for federal bailout money, it’s clear to us that their policies, including their pricing policies, are a failure. All of the GM dealerships that have gone belly-up, and those who continue to struggle to survive, in an American new car market that has all but evaporated, are testament to their failed business model. And of course, the decrepit U.S. economy doesn’t help either.

Ya know, our mention of Stevie Nicks’ album “The Other Side Of The Mirror” is quite appropos, because when our GM dealer gave us their price for a new mirror, we suddenly recalled the advice that Alice received from the Mad Hatter… “Better run for your life”.

– Routing By Rumor Continue reading

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Amazon Web Services… Not Quite “Five Nines” Uptime !

…Not five nines,

…or four nines,

…not even three nines (99.9% uptime) !

If you tried to visit some of the Web’s most popular sites for a good part of the day yesterday, July 20, 2008, you were likely disappointed. Sites like WordPress (where this blog is hosted), Twitter, SmugMug and others, were impacted for hours yesterday because they depend on Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), which went down. Apparently, even some Apple iPhone applications were impacted by the S3 outage. It was the second time in less than six months (the previous outage occured on February 15) that AWS (Amazon Web Services) has experienced a major failure.

Based on what we’ve learned so far about S3, our best guess is that yesterday’s outage was caused by a software bug, a human error of some sort, or as was the case in their February outage, some set of conditions that occured within their system that overwhelmed their ability to handle traffic (interestingly, the latest problem occured early on a Sunday morning… not exactly a time when you would expect a peak load on their system). We view a malicious attack on the service a less likely cause, and hardware or connectivity problems a very unlikely cause. S3 is a decentralized system designed to survive the loss of some of it’s components and still operate normally. In many widespread telecom or network failures suffered by providers and carriers in the past few years, the cause has often been determined to be software related or human error (like a construction crew cutting a fiber optic cable they didn’t know was buried there).

As an aside, here’s some articles about human error that has caused some major outages…

Optus cable culprit found

The Backhoe, The Internet’s Natural Enemy

Cut in Fiber Cable Disrupts Internet Traffic Nationwide

The Backhoe: A Real Cyberthreat

The S3 outages bring to mind another concern among people responsible for the operation of the Internet itself. One of the services that the Internet is built on is DNS (the Domain Name System). The DNS system is what allows your computer to find a website such as this one, from among the millions of computers and websites on the Internet. There is concern among some that even though DNS functionality is spread across many servers on the Internet, in a hierarchical system, that a widespread DNS failure could occur. This would cripple almost all Internet traffic. Worst of all, if there was a major DNS failure, you might not be able to get to this blog ! Heaven forbid.

S3 is a “cloud” storage service. Internet-based computing resources are collectively referred to as cloud computing (see this Businessweek article on cloud computing). In cloud computing, resources that were traditionally located, say, in a company’s data center (disk storage, application software, servers, etc.) are offered by service providers via the Internet. Cloud computing is a relatively new paradigm, and problems similar to what Amazon has experienced are sure to make CIOs and IT managers hesitant to rely on the cloud when they can provide computing resources locally and have greater control over them.

Almost by definition, services offered in the cloud must offer high availability. The uptime standard that is generally used in the telecommunications and computing industries for critical systems is “five nines“, or 99.999% availability. That translates (approximately) to less than five minutes downtime a year, and generally does not include scheduled service outages. In the United States, the public telephone network operated by the Bell System was consistently able to achieve five nines reliability (so Ma Bell wasn’t that bad to us after all, may she rest in peace). Clearly, Amazon’s S3 service has failed this benchmark. It doesn’t even appear that AWS has achieved two nines availability (less than about seven hours downtime per month) this month. That’s utterly dismal performance that is unacceptable for critical systems, and it does not bode well for Amazon’s future in the cloud, or for cloud computing in general.

Interestingly, Amazon’s S3 SLA (Service Level Agreement) states that users are not entitled to a service credit unless their uptime drops below three nines (99.9%) in any month, and even if they fail to achieve two nines (99% uptime) in a month, they will only give users a 25% credit. They must not have a lot of confidence in their ability to provide four nines availability (less than one hour a year of downtime), which Amazon states is one of the design requirements that S3 was built to provide. And if they don’t meet their service levels, will they give their customers a refund? No. It appears all they will offer is a credit to be applied to future service. Not good.

But don’t expect disgruntled S3 customers who have been impacted by Amazon’s Simple Storage System outages to issue press releases critical of Amazon. Paragraph 4.2.4 of their customer agreement specifically prohibits that unless you get their permission first. Incredible.

With an SLA like Amazon’s, and especially because of their outages in the past few months, we might be inclined to use a service such as S3 only to store backup files. We don’t feel that the service is reliable enough to be used to support a live website or other mission critical systems. And even if Amazon had a 100% uptime record, there’s always this to worry about when deciding if you want to depend on services in the cloud (and to think that you were worried about the Y2K problem!).

Perhaps cloud computing is an idea whose time has not yet come.

– Routing By Rumor

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Hey Verizon… When Will FiOS Be Available In My Neighborhood?

Verizon Communications is sure taking it’s sweet time rolling out their “FiOS” fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) fiber optic service.

Chances are that you just found this page on my blog by doing a search on “When is Verizon FIOS going to be available in my area?”, or “How long do I have to wait for FiOS?” or “When can I get Verizon FiOS?” or “I’m still waiting for Verizon FiOS” or “Can I get Verizon Fiber Optic Internet Service At My Address?” or something similar.

FiOS is still not available where I live. With all the buzz about Internet2 and Web 2.0, I sure wish they would get moving, so I don’t miss out on all the fun. Even the squirrels around here are waiting for FiOS (see why).

Speaking of squirrels and Verizon, we think a good advertising slogan for the telco giant might be “Once a Verizon Customer, Always a Verizon Customer” (read why). It reminds us of the lyrics from Hotel California by the Eagles… “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Sort of like marriage vows. Till death do us part. Or like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, where some tormented soul rips their phone off the wall, throws it out the window, and it still keeps ringing. Maybe it’s why Verizon Wireless adopted the slogan “We never stop working for you”.

FiOS is still not available to the majority of Verizon customers. Fiber-optic service can provide very high-speed, broadband Internet connectivity, traditional voice phone service and television programming, all over the same cable.

While Verizon won’t be offering anything close to the maximum possible speeds over their FiOS network (especially to residential customers), I’ve wondered what the theoretical maximum speed might be. Fiber-optic Wide Area Networks (WANs) are currently capable of speeds measured in Gigabits per second (1 Gigabit = 1 Billion bits). I believe the fastest service Verizon currently offers to residential FiOS customers is a paltry asymmetrical rate of 30 Megabits per second downstream, and 5 Megabits per second upstream (1 Megabit = 1 Million bits). Of course, how much can you actually eat? How much is too much?

The fastest optical circuits currently deployed commercially are SONET OC-768 circuits that can carry almost 40 Gigabits/sec. There is a SONET OC-3072 standard, not currently implemented, which would provide almost 160 Gigabits/sec of bandwidth !!! At those speeds, I think the telephone poles may ignite.

For readers unfamiliar with Verizon, it is a huge telecommunications company in the United States that provides land-line and wireless phone, Internet and “cable” television service. The silly name Verizon rhymes with “horizon”, rather than being pronounced something like “Very-Zone”. I’ve always thought it was a real big mistake for such a large organization (made up of the former “Baby Bells” or RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) and other regional phone companies, that have been around as long as they have, to choose a nonsense name that many people did not even know how to pronounce properly. Alexander Graham Bell must be spinning in his grave. Verizon Communications includes the former Bell Atlantic companies (New Jersey Bell, Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania, Diamond State Telephone and the four Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Companies (C&P (District of Columbia), C&P Maryland, C&P Virginia, C&P West Virginia), as well as the former NYNEX (New York & New England Telephone), GTE and MCI companies. How’s that for corporate mergers! Verizon operates in much of the United States and has more than a quarter-million employees. You’d think a company with that much money could come up with a more innovative corporate logo than this…

verizon-logo-470x310.jpg

Reminds me of an old riddle… What’s black and white and red all over? (No, it’s not a sunburned penguin.) As bad as Verizon’s logo is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the logo of the former Lucent Technologies, known widely in IT and telecom circles as “The Flaming *******” (Sorry, this is a family blog. You’ll have to use your imagination). I wonder if the same person designed both of these logos. Maybe Alcatel bought Lucent just so they could get rid of this horrific logo…

lucent-logo-460x360.jpg

But I digress.

If you are still served by Verizon’s old copper “POTS” phone lines (they’re so 20th century), and you’re trying to find out when FiOS service will be available in your area, good luck. It’s easier to get the private phone number of the President of the United States, than it is to pry that information out of Verizon. Then again, perhaps even Verizon doesn’t know the answer.

So, I had an idea… Are you a Verizon customer that already has FiOS service available in your neighborhood (regardless of whether you personally subscribe to it) , or have you learned that it’s coming by a particular date? If so, post your information as a comment here, and I’ll organize the comments into a searchable file.

Please provide the following information; Your state, your city or town, your area code + the first three digits of your phone number, and the date FiOS became available or will be available, plus any pertinent comments, such as “My entire town now has FiOS service”, or “Only the South end of town currently has FiOS”, or “It’s only currently available in the downtown area”.

If enough people submit info, I might even create a website with the information.

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The National Do Not Call Registry – An American Success Story

Ah… Peace and quiet. Brought to you by your friends at the United States Federal Trade Commission via their National Do Not Call Registry. Undeniably, one of the greatest inventions since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.

Americans who have registered almost 150 million phone numbers on the DNC Registry can’t be wrong. People were fed up with what the telemarketing industry had done to the telephone system in the United States. Families were being harassed every day of the week by telemarketers who would ring your phone all day long, usually hanging up without saying a word (known in the industry as “abandoned” calls), usually the result of the irresponsible use of predictive dialing. Even if they did stay on the line long enough to speak to you, nobody wants to be annoyed twenty times a day by unsolicited sales pitches. If this occurred on your home phone, it stole your time and your peace of mind. If the calls came in on your cellphone, they also stole your money, since most cellphone subscribers pay for all incoming calls.

The telemarketing industry succeeded in hijacking the American telephone network, arguably the most reliable and most advanced telecommunications network in the world. The statistics are as staggering as they are disgusting. Companies out for a quick buck were abusing the American public by putting in place infrastructure at nearly 9,000 call centers around the country that could dial hundreds of millions of calls per day, many of which would be abandoned. If you or I constantly placed calls to strangers and hung up as soon as they answered, I can assure you the police would be knocking at your door in no time. Yet here was an industry (outbound telemarketing), which, according to this 2002 document at FTC.gov, employed over a half-million individuals (in outbound telemarketing alone) and which was expected to grow to over $400 Billion a year (by 2006), doing essentially the same thing, but on a grand scale… and getting away with it. I think the telecom carriers that provided facilities and calling capacity to these telemarketers are just as culpable as the ISPs and bandwidth providers that profit from the activities of spammers, turning a blind eye to the problem in the name of profit.

Indeed, placing your number on the Do-Not-Call Registry does work. Unsolicited calls to RoutingByRumor’s phone numbers have been virtually non-existent since they were added to the DNC list. And when that rare unsolicited telemarketing call does come in, I do two things. I inform the caller that the number they dialed is on the DNC Registry, and I file a complaint with both the FTC and my state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

If you haven’t done so already, add your number to the do-not-call list. You can join the Do Not Call Registry here. You’ll be glad to know that since the government recently decided to make the National Do Not Call Registry permanent (see this article and read the legislation here), your number will not be dropped from the list after five years, as was originally planned. You will not have to re-register a phone number you’ve already placed on the Registry.

Fortunately, the free-for-all is over. The greed and irresponsibility of telemarketers and the businesses that employed them has destroyed their industry. While the law still permits unsolicited telemarketing calls in some cases, such as on behalf of political campaigns, charities and for telephone surveys, hopefully those loopholes will soon be eliminated. Now all those former telemarketers can look for legitimate, respectable jobs.

Maybe what the world needs now is a Worldwide Do-Not-Email Registry that will do for the spam problem what the Do-Not-Call Registry did for the phone system in the United States.

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Is Using Somebody Else’s Wi-Fi Connection a Crime?

wi-fi.jpg

Admit it… Many of you have done it. It’s easy. There’s little chance of getting caught, and who doesn’t like getting something for nothing?

I’m talking about freeloading or piggybacking on your neighbor’s Wi-Fi connection.

The fact is that if you do some wardriving you’ll see that many, if not most wireless networks are unsecured. That means they’re not encrypted, and anyone with a laptop computer, Wi-Fi enabled cellphone or other Wi-Fi device can associate their device with someone else’s network. Some network owners don’t mind others piggybacking on their Internet connection, but many others do. It’s probably a case of not being savvy enough to secure their Wi-Fi access point, since wireless routers’ factory default usually provides an open (unencrypted) connection.

Unless the network is intentionally being made available for public use, (and many are) is it illegal to use someone else’s service? It probably depends where you live. In the United States, there have been some prosecutions of Wi-Fi piggybackers, but laws relating to this practice, if they exist at all, vary from locality to locality.

It is possible to positively identify unauthorized users of a wireless network. All it requires is a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and some off-the-shelf software to capture and analyze the packets being transported across the network.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the IT guy in me says that you should always secure a wireless network, not only to prevent theft of your Internet service, but to protect the computers on your network. On the other hand, the idea of neighbors cooperating with neighbors and providing community access to the Internet is very appealing to me also.

Some US cities have deployed open, public-access Wi-Fi networks, and many others are in the planning stages. I think these projects are great. New technologies, including Wi-Max, promise to accelerate the deployment of wide-area wireless networks. With more Wi-Fi enabled devices becoming available, including cellphones, having ubiquitous wireless coverage will be more and more important to the public.

Boston has it’s Main Streets Wi-Fi Initiative. NYCwireless is deploying public Wi-Fi in various areas in New York City. Wireless Philadelphia is connecting Pennsylvania’s largest city. Many municipal Wi-Fi initiatives have run into trouble, though. These include projects in San Francisco, California, and Houston, Texas.

Do you have a success story about a municipal Wi-Fi project? Post your comments here.

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Filed under Cellphones, Consumerism, Free Stuff, Home, Life, Money, News, Routing by Rumor, Technology, Telephony, Your Money

If You Liked “Tokyo Rose”…

Have the military, political leadership and media in America all been infiltrated by foreign agents? What the hell is wrong with everybody? In previous wars, at least up until World War II, it was considered treason to consort with the enemy, or to provide them with support, comfort, or a platform for their propaganda. It was considered unpatriotic, even illegal, to discuss details of any military operation. Does anybody remember the admonition “Loose lips sink ships”?

Why does the United States government permit, even support with their own statements, the broadcasting and other dissemenation of videos, audio recordings or any other propaganda released by terrorists? This is not journalism. This is not a free speech issue. We are at war. Thousands of Americans have died on and since September 11, 2001 at the hands of terrorists that would like nothing more than to kill every American man, woman and child.

Could you imagine a U.S. radio or television station broadcasting the propoganda of Tokyo Rose or Adolph Hitler during World War II? It would have been considered treason. Those responsible would have been hung or treated to a firing squad. Most of these terrorists are not heads of state, diplomats, elected officials or even dictators. They are shadow figures that may or may not even exist in reality. Their only means of getting their message out is to issue press releases from clandestine locations, and hope that the media propogates their message and assists them in their recruiting efforts. Without a stage and an audience, they would be largely insignificant. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us”.

Why does the United States military release casuality reports on a daily basis? Is it so the enemy will know how effective their attacks have been? Is it done to boost the morale of those trying to destroy us? When U.S. servicemen are missing, why is the media allowed to broadcast the details? So the enemy can search for them and kill them or take them prisoner?

Certainly, the world has changed since the 1940’s. Anybody with a cellphone, a camcorder or a computer can effectively broadcast whatever message they have to the rest of the world. We should not be providing assistance to those who are seeking to destroy us, by helping them get their message out, or by letting them know how effective their efforts might be.

Pogo

Click on the illustration above to visit the official Pogo website.

Click here to learn more about the real life “Tokyo Rose”, Iva Toguri D’Aquino

 

 

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Filed under 9/11, Cellphones, Iraq, Journalism, Military, Politics, Routing by Rumor, Telephony, Terrorism, War