The dystopic fast lane future of the internet

The Verge has imagined what our not so distant internet future could look like with fast lanes and prioritized content … Your corporate internet nightmare starts now.

Recommended reading … get yourself aligned with just how bad things could get.  As I don’t currently subscribe to Comcast – nor to I even have the option – I’m curious how things will evolve for the smaller broadband providers like Cablevision.  So far they’ve been decent enough … but they are about to be considerably over run by a mega-corp producing, distributing and carrying what could be perceived as the majority of content we want.


Using McDonald’s as a Study Hall

not bad

interesting piece in yesterday’s WSJ on how lower income families are using the free online access via McDonald’s or other locations for school work. While many of us may have scoffed at McDonald’s having Wifi, it’s become an important “third place” for kids who need to get online for their school-work thanks to the limits of the digital divide. My kids are still too young to really need online access for school work and we also don’t have to worry about connectivity, but I really empathize here and would love to see a bigger initiative to provide real internet connectivity as a baseline utility rather than privilege as it is now. McDonald’s is not an ideal place to do school work … though I appreciate as well that in some cases it may actually be less chaotic than at home.


Photo Credit Shawnblog on Flickr


Cablevision – ABC = No Oscars and Millions of Pissed Consumers

We’ve officially lost ABC on Cablevision today.  Thanks Disney.  Aside from the Oscar blackout tonight, which upsets my wife more than anything, we’ll lose access to Lost as well the only other show we care about on ABC.

The question I have for ABC is this … If it’s really about the money, how are you able to justify the efficacy of the ads sold for the Oscars with such a substantial portion of the NY Metro removed?  Charging for what’s available for free over the air (if we all hadn’t switched to digital) is ridiculous and you should be ashamed.

Nokia and Skype – With an Open Phone it Won’t Matter

It was only a matter of time for carriers to make stink about the inclusion of Skype on the N97.  I had first read about the issue via Simon Judge and was surprised it had even take this long to be a public complaint.

Carriers will always hate things that compete with their bread and butter and when you look at the possibility of Skype operating as a voice over data service the carrier is reduced to a mere pipe.  From my perspective as an end user, I’m always looking at more opportunities for just this situation.  I don’t use any operator services currently other than the connection on on either my home broadband or mobile connections.  I have not purchased a phone from a carrier outside of the original iphone since that was released and before that it was years earlier.  When I moved to Cingular (now ATT) I only requested the SIM since I knew I knew I’d be bringing my own devices.

One might argue that Skype delivered pre-loaded on a device would greatly impact the conversion to use numbers and I can’t argue that, though I would suggest that the Skype base is strong and enthusiastic enough that installing it yourself – with or without the Ovi Store – is going to happen anyway.  As it happens there are already no shortage of VOIP options for mobile devices … Skype just happens to be BIG!

I hope Nokia does not back down on the potential for the partnership here.  If it’s really a mobile computer they are looking to sell, I should be able to use any compatible application I want to make the most of my purchase.  That is after all how computers work.

From the WTF are you thinking dept …

NO NO NO! So both the consumer and content provider pay … yeah – no thanks.

The BBC would have to pay ISPs to deliver iPlayer traffic under the government’s new internet policy recommendations. Say bye bye to HD BBC iPlayer.

Lord Carter, the Communications Minister, released his Digital Britain report yesterday, outlining the Governement’s plans for internet regulation in the future, and one of the key recommendations was to allow ISPs to charge for prioritising types of traffic. In other words, providers of bandwidth hungry services like BBC iPlayer would have to pay extra to guarantee that data would be delivered to users at a reasonable rate. Sounds like being held to ransom, if you ask us.

via Electricpig.

No Muni-Fi for NYC

To be officially confirmed later today, but apparently the Mayor’s office will be passing on lighting up the city. The plan is to instead focus on providing affordable access to everyone which is certainly an admirable goal.

According to a piece in Computerworld, the consultants have decided not to focus on a particular access technology, but are very interested in the $8 Million available from Verizon, Cablevision and Verizon to help fund the underserved initiative.

Now I don’t want to sound too ungrateful or suggest anything too out of line here, but the main providers of access in the city would stand to lose the most from a low cost / free wifi citywide network right? I’d have no need to connect to my cellular connection or pay more to my cable / phone provider to get additional out of home access. And someone does have to pay to maintain it …

I can’t imagine we are really even going to see that much progress with $8 Million in “free” money. No one burns money like our benevolent overlords talking about doing things rather than just getting it done.

Is your phone Born Free?

Nokia Nseries - Open to Anything

Walt Mossberg has a great piece (Free My Phone!) up on All Things D, which is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in the mobile industry.

While he’s not saying anything that we (you gentle reader) have not heard or discussed, to hear it from someone with as much consumer clout as Walt Mossberg is something worth noting.

A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.

Whether you are a consumer, a hardware maker, a software developer or a provider of cool new services, it’s hard to make a move in the American cellphone world without the permission of the companies that own the pipes. While power in other technology sectors flows to consumers and nimble entrepreneurs, in the cellphone arena it remains squarely in the hands of the giant carriers. [All Things D]

Interestingly there’s no mention of Nokia in the piece, just that Apple was able to sell the iPhone without the carrier getting inside. This is not entirely correct, there are no ATT apps or services, but there are limitations in what the iPhone can really do…. VOIP anyone? We can argue there are no applications later.

When I was in San Francisco last week the topic of unlocked phones came up and Bill Plummer suggested the phrase Born Free instead of unlocked. The term unlocked implies that the device was actually locked at one point and is now no longer that way. The Nokia N-Series devices are largely sold direct in the US – without a carrier contract and without carrier involvement on any level.

It took me a moment to appreciate that this is not just semantics, but truly an important difference. There are not too many manufacturers offering open devices… Palm has previously sold a GSM Treo without a carrier and I believe Motorola is starting to offer a device or two.

Clearly buying an open device is not something the average consumer seeks today. Devices are not subsidized so they cost more on the surface and you typically cannot use carrier services like music and video. Since I don’t use any of those services anyway. I literally just want open access to the network.

Without a carrier getting in your way, it’s easy to add your own content, browse and customize the device the way you want AND most importantly use things that were intended to be used in full. You simply pick a GSM carrier add your SIM and are all set. Should you choose to switch carriers, you are free to do so (outside of any contract term of course) and use the same device with another carrier.

The carrier BS has progressed to a point that goes well beyond reason and basic business and can only be seen as driven by greed. It hurts the consumer and I think will start to hurt the carriers as people become more savvy to the experience they could be having. There’s absolutely no reason for matters to be as locked as they are and I will advise those who ask to buy open to keep the as much of the power in the hands of the consumer.

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T-Mobile, You used to be cool, what happened?

T-Mobile used to be cool. They were one of the first carriers in the US to offer the opportunity to use unlocked phones and they also were very early in WiFi deployments, tested Dual-Mode Services and even invested in VOIP company JahJah — Amazingly this coolness has been lost and while the left hand has been exploring the potential for advanced voice services, the right hand has begin smacking themselves back into the traditional and anti VOIP line.

If you’ve been an active follower of the working anywhere ethos, you’ve certainly used a TMO Hotspot here or overseas and probably used a VOIP service there as well… Today, though VOIP has become an issue for TMO in the UK and they are actually blocking it’s use on their networks – though cellular today, it could escalate to blocking VOIP over WiFi as well.

In case you missed the news recently TruPhone is rolling out a new version of their service. TruPhone offers a software download which enables users of WiFi enabled Nokia devices (N and E Series) to make VOIP calls over WiFi and now even 3G data. This is a great boon for the active traveller, caller and just someone looking to cut down on their monthly minute allocation. T-Mobiel has taken a remarkably active stance against Truphone and is blocking calls between their network and TruPhone, thus making themselves an island I would not want to be trapped on.

Here are some core FACTS worth noting:

  • T-Mobile has refused to interconnect with mobile VoIP provider Truphone: T-Mobile customers making a call to Truphone’s number range (07978 8xxxxx) will not be connected.
  • T-Mobile refuses to interconnect with operators offering VoIP as a matter of policy.
  • However T-Online Ventures, the venture capital arm of T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom, has just invested in VoIP provider Jajah; T-Mobile connects with BT Fusion, a VoIP service; and T-Mobile has also announced a trial of a VoIP service in USA and Germany.
  • T-Mobile is required to ‘make calls or otherwise transmit electronic communications to every normal telephone number’, which it has refused to do in the case of Truphone and other VoIP operators.
  • The other four UK major mobile network operators – 3, O2, Orange and Vodafone – all interconnect with Truphone, leaving T-Mobile isolated on this issue.
  • T-Mobile’s current adverts display the slogan “Setting the internet free”.
  • Currently a ‘beta’ service, Truphone’s is prevented from launching fully until the 07978 8xxxxx number range is fully interconnected. Beta service customers are presently unaffected by this issue.
  • Other mobile operators have employed different methods to prevent VoIP uptake. There has already been the well-publicized removal of internet telephony functionality from Nokia’s popular N95 handset by Vodafone and Orange, and new data tariffs published by Vodafone that mean customers using VoIP will be charged more than for web browsing or email.

The CEO of Truphone, James Tragg said “T-Mobile will argue that it is not ‘blocking’ Truphone but is merely negotiating on price. T-Mobile receives 35p per minute from its customers but is offering only 0.21p per minute to Truphone even when Truphone’s costs are 9p per minute to terminate the call.

While I recognize that T-Mobile is a global company with views that may vary a bit by country, this stance is sure to extend into other regions soon enough. My advice is to switch and let them know just how ridiculous this attitude really is. The users can be in control, rather than the networks. We are willing and able to purchase advanced devices and have the right to use them. In this case voice is being used as a data service and if you buy an unlimited data plan, we should be able to use it. The walled garden approach has held excitement and innovation back long enough.

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Nokia Legal Strikes within YouTube… removes a disassembly video?


I am not sure how this in any way this falls under DMCA legal jurisdiction, but blog buddy ThoughtFix had a video removed from YouTube. Apparently, Nokia did not like how he PURCHASED an N800 and the proceeded to take it apart and put it back together again. I thought it was a cool video and so did much of the enthusiast community.

It’s not like this is some secret or stolen pre-release hardware. There’s little to no documentation in the box so it would be hard if not impossible to say this violates some BS user agreement upon purchase.

I hope much like Stefan’s legal trouble, that the right people are reading and can help call the dogs back into the house!

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Boing Boing: MPAA: it’s OK to copy movies if you keep them in a vault

A classic double standard… whatever they need to work for them. The MPAA is the worst of the worst.

MPAA: it’s OK to copy movies if you keep them in a vault

During the Q&A at last night’s screening of Kirby Dick’s “This Film is Not Yet Rated,” Dick recounted the story of how his film was unlawfully duplicated by the MPAA’s ratings board. He submitted one copy of his movie to the MPAA, extracting a promise that no more copies would be made — the MPAA’s own anti-piracy materials describe making a single unauthorized duplication as an act of piracy.

Once it got out that the MPAA had made its “pirated” copy of Dick’s movie, one of the MPAA’s lawyers called Dick up to admit that the cartel had indeed made an infringing copy, but not to worry, “The copy is safe in my vault.”

At this point, I raised my hand and asked if Dick thought anyone caught downloading movies from the Internet could get off the hook by saying, “Don’t worry, I keep my copies safe in my vault?” [Boing Boing]

“even a moron”

Gotta love Apple’s attitude toward the ridiculous lawsuit from Apple Corps, The Beatles record label.

Giving opening arguments on Thursday, lawyers for Apple Computer asserted the company’s right to distribute music through its iTunes music store, rejecting claims by The Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. that doing so violated a 1991 trademark agreement.

According to the Associated Press, Apple lawyer Anthony Grabiner said the “distribution of digital entertainment content” was permitted under the agreement, in which the two companies promised not to interfere with the other’s business.

Grabiner said “even a moron in a hurry” could distinguish between the computer company’s online music business and a record label like Apple Corps.

“Data transmission is within our field of use. That’s what [the agreement] says and it is inescapable,” he said.

In his own opening arguments on Wednesday, Apple Corps’ lawyer Geoffrey Vos said Apple Computer’s music distribution business “was flatly contradictory to the provisions of the agreement.”

Vos argued that while Apple Computer is perfectly entitled to produce programs like iTunes, it should stay out of the music business if it uses the logo, a cartoonish apple with a neat bite out of its side, the AP reported. [AppleInsider]

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Mossberg on DRM

Walt Mossberg on DRM. Amen brother!

For some activists, the very idea of Digital Rights Management is anathema. They believe that once a consumer legally buys a song or a video clip, the companies that sold them have no right to limit how the consumer uses them, any more than a car company should be able to limit what you can do with a car you’ve bought.

But DRM is seen as a lifesaver by the music, television and movie industries. The companies believe they need DRM technology to block the possibility that a song or video can be copied in large quantities and distributed over the Internet, thus robbing them of legitimate sales.

In my view, both sides have a point, but the real issue isn’t DRM itself — it’s the manner in which DRM is used by copyright holders. Companies have a right to protect their property, and DRM is one means to do so. But treating all consumers as potential criminals by using DRM to overly limit their activities is just plain wrong.

Let’s be clear: The theft of intellectual property on the Internet is a real problem. Millions of copies of songs, TV shows and movies are being distributed over the Internet by people who have no legal right to do so, robbing media companies and artists of rightful compensation for their work.

Even if you think the record labels and movie studios are stupid and greedy, as many do, that doesn’t entitle you to steal their products. If your local supermarket were run by people you didn’t like, and charged more than you thought was fair, you wouldn’t be entitled to shoplift Cheerios from its shelves.

On the other hand, I believe that consumers should have broad leeway to use legally purchased music and video for personal, noncommercial purposes in any way they want — as long as they don’t engage in mass distribution. They should be able to copy it to as many personal digital devices as they own, convert it to any format those devices require, and play it in whatever locations, at whatever times, they choose.

The beauty of digital media is the flexibility, and that flexibility shouldn’t be destroyed for honest consumers just because the companies that sell them have a theft problem caused by a minority of people.

Instead of using DRM to stop some individual from copying a song to give to her brother, the industry should be focusing on ways to use DRM to stop the serious pirates — people who upload massive quantities of music and videos to so-called file-sharing sites, or factories in China that churn out millions of pirate CDs and DVDs.

I believe Congress should rewrite the copyright laws to carve out a broad exemption for personal, noncommercial use by consumers, including sharing small numbers of copies among families.

Until then, I suggest that consumers avoid stealing music and videos, but also boycott products like copy-protected CDs that overly limit usage and treat everyone like a criminal. That would send the industry a message to use DRM more judiciously. []

Perhaps a blog maintaining a list of all the DRM enabled content would be good… that way consumers could more easily steer clear from frustration and of course help stick it to the man. 😉

The Business of Propoganda

I just read a pretty fascinating NYT Cover Story on how our current administration is utilizing video news releases and and fairly extensive distribution network to assist networks and local affiliates, not too mention the American public in understanding current events. It’s actually pretty sickening and makes me think we live in a socialist country where news is fully controlled. In this case though it seems many stations are not even aware (so they say) of the source and if they are, they simply cut it out or re-edit so it looks like they did the work.

It’s hard to fault the government for wanting to get their message out… though the method is highly suspect. At least there’s a whole generation of people not getting their primary news from TV…

Mark Cuban Rocks the Broadcast Flag

Mark Cuban makes some excellent points in his latest post…

So if one of the networks threatens to pull their HD signal because of the broadcast flag… call their bluff.

The same applies to the Movie Industry. MPAA has been quoted as saying that “without the flag, high value content would migrate to where it could be protected.” Yeah right. Just like the music industry switched their content back from CDs to cassette tapes and LPs. I havent seen a movement on the part of the music industry to switch from DVDs and their digital image back to VHS… “where it could be protected”. The movie business complained about DVDs and threatened to not support them…. until they started making more money from DVDs than theatrical release.

Protect the MPAA members from themselves and their lies. Its all BS. Call their bluff.

We dont need the broacast flag. It accomplishes absolutely nothing other than to set a precedent that the content industry can intimidate the FCC….

That said, although the broadcast flag is bad for consumers in every possible way, it would be great for my content businesses. HDNet Films, 2929 Entertainment, Rysher Entertainment, The Dallas Mavericks, HDNet Productions,, every single content entity I have would benefit from the broadcast flag. Not because it would protect content, it wouldnt. Content doesnt need any special protections. There are enough laws on the books regarding theft that no special content laws are needed.

They all would benefit because we wouldnt use the broadcast flag. While the big networks would create confusion and anger with their customers, our businesses could be the knight in shining armour and provide content in exactly the means consumers want it, unencumbered and available to watch, where and how they like. [Blog Maverick]

FCC shot down

Still to be determined whether this will stick and change the Flag countdown for July, but good news for consumers for the moment….

“You crossed the line,” Judge Harry Edwards told a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission during arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Selling televisions is not what the FCC is in the business of,” Edwards said, siding with critics who charge the rule dictates how computers and other devices should work. []