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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: August, 2012

POSTED: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 1:44 PM

The controversial deal involving Verizon, Comcast and other cable companies - under which Verizon and Comcast plan to market each other's services - won approval today from the Justice Department, albeit with conditions aimed at minimizing the damage to competition. Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, quickly signaled that his agency would likely go along.

The approval drew quick and sharp criticism from consumer groups such as Public Knowledge (see below).

Both government agencies said an earlier spectrum swap between Verizon Wireless and fourth-place carrier T-Mobile was crucial to making the deal work to benefit the public interest - a standard the FCC says it must meet to approve any spectrum transaction. The DOJ said:

POSTED: Thursday, August 9, 2012, 12:37 PM
Google will pay $22.5 million, a record penalty from the FTC but a pittance for the multibillion-dollar tech giant, for fibbing to users of Apple's Safari browser.

Google has agreed to pay $22.5 million, a record penalty from the Federal Trade Commission for violating previous promises but a pittance for the multibillion-dollar search behemoth, for fibbing to users of Apple's Safari browser about its online-tracking practices.

But the deal allowed Google - whose informal motto is "Don't be evil" - to deny that it did anything wrong, which was enough to cause one FTC commissioner, J. Thomas Rosch, to dissent.

What did Google do to stir the FTC's (mild) anger? The agency's announcement explains:

POSTED: Thursday, August 2, 2012, 2:52 PM

I rarely get spam calls or texts on my cell phone, but apparently I'm pretty lucky. A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which my colleague Sam Wood writes about here, says that two-thirds of cellphone users report having gotten unwanted marketing calls, and that two-thirds of text users have gotten cellphone spam.

Even worse, more than 1 in 4 smartphone owners report getting unwanted sales or marketing calls "at least weekly," and a similar proportion of texters receive spam messages with that same alarming frequency.

The report, which you can read here, also says many cellphone owners experience problems with slow downloads and dropped calls - the latter a complaint that goes back to the early days of cellphone adoption and that, to be fair, is correlated with our increased expectations for service quality. Still, more than a third of smartphone users, and 28 percent of all cellphone owners, report suffering dropped calls "at least weekly." More than 1 in 10 suffer dropped calls at least once a day - which is probably how I'd answer the question regarding my AT&T iPhone service.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 11:46 AM

Yes, it's far away in the middle of what East and West Coasters supposedly dismiss as "fly-over country." (Not that I actually know any of those people.) But as Rodgers and Hammerstein pointed out in song, everything was once up to date in Kansas City. Now, it promises to again get well ahead of the curve, thanks to Google's ambitious demonstration project: a regional fiber-optic network offering superfast broadband.

The debut is less than 40 days away, and there are some limits on how much the search giant is willing to expend. As its blog post last week pointed out, Google is carving the area into "fiberhoods," starting with Kansas City, Kansas, and then the larger Kansas City, Missouri. To gain connection to the high-speed network, each fiberhood will need a critical mass of preregistered subscribers. (What's a critical mass? It's unclear if there's a firm definition; some fiberhoods' goals are listed online at 10 percent and others at 25 percent.)

But Google's price list tells the real, disruptive story: three tiers, including one at the bottom that offers 5-megabit service for seven years in return for the $300 installation charge, paid up-front or over 12 months, $25 a month. That's right: the superhighway of the 21st century, essentially without tolls.

About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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