Dial Zero
A look at what's surprising, silly, scary or stupid in telecommunications and data

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ring tone sales decreasing

A couple of years ago, there seemed to be no upper limit to the sale — for $3 to $4 — of snippets of music that blast out of cellphones. Billboard magazine created a “hot ring tones” chart in 2004 to track their popularity, and at one point in 2005, analysts predicted an $11 billion ring tone business by 2010.

But the market changed in unexpected ways. For one, more phones were being made with the ability to create or record their own tunes. For another, record labels promoted so-called master ring tones — excerpts from the original pop recordings — for about the same price as the knockoffs but with higher royalty fees. And digital music stores like iTunes began packaging and selling ring tones alongside their 99-cent singles.

All three trends lessened the profitability of ring tone aggregators, like Jamba, the Berlin-based marketer behind the popular “Crazy Frog” melody. Jamba, known as Jamster in the US, is still selling ring tones, but it has expanded into music, video and information services as well as graphics and games.

Cheap chirps remain on the ascent in non-Western countries, said Paul Goode with M:Metrics, a market research company. But in most of the countries that M:Metrics tracks — Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy — the percentage of mobile phone subscribers buying a ring tone has fallen consistently.

Ring tones still get the occasional headline, as when the Dave Matthews Band finally authorized digital ring tone sales of its music, or when fans downloaded the “Why don’t you shut up?” retort from the prime minister of Spain to the president of Venezuela last month. (info from The New York Times)

Friday, December 28, 2007

GOP jammed Dems' phones in 2002 election

Prosecutors say the New Hampshire Republican Party paid telemarketing firm GOP Marketplace "to make repeated hang-up phone calls to overwhelm the phone banks in New Hampshire and prevent them from getting Democratic voters to the polls" on Election Day, November 5, 2002.

Six phone lines that were being run by Democratic campaign offices, as well as phones in the offices of the Manchester firefighters union -- which was also doing a get-out-the-vote campaign that morning -- were jammed by computer-generated hang-up calls that tied up the lines for 1-1/2 hours.

Voters' rights were violated as the "computer-generated calls went to lines set up for voters who needed rides to the polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont." The calls were "stopped after then-Republican State Committee Chairman John Dowd ordered a halt because of concerns about their legality."

Charles McGee, former executive director of the state Republican Party, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and served seven months. He also was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Allen Raymond, who was president GOP Marketplace LLC at the time, pleaded guilty to hiring a firm from Idaho to make the calls. He was sentenced to five months in prison.

The New Hampshire Republican State Committee, Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee settled a lawsuit brought against them by the Democratic party on December 2, 2006. They paid a $135,000 settlement. Democrats had originally sued for more than $4 million in damages. The NHRSC will pay $125,000 over five years and the RNC and NRSCC will each pay $5,000.

(info from The Washington Post & SourceWatch.com)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Man hospitalized after being attacked
for calling wrong number

A man in India was injured and admitted to a hospital when another person attacked him by hurling a big stone at his head.

According to Bhatkal rural police, Ram Naik lodged a complaint against Sateesh Devadiga who attacked him.

Naik was trying to call a friend, but by mistake his call got connected to the Devadiga house, where a woman answered and told him that he had reached the wrong number. Naik once again called the same number, and the call was answered by Sateesh Devadiga. Naik apologized and hung up.

Devadiga got angry and went to Naik's house, and pretending to be his friend, asked him to come outside, and hit him with a big stone. Police are investigating. (info & photo from SahilOnline)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Alcatel-Lucent fined for corruption

Money-losing telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent will pay a $1 million fine to resolve US Justice Department allegations it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The agreement marks the conclusion of a probe into whether Lucent Technologies (once the phone equipment side of AT&T) violated the law before its merger with French manufacturer Alcatel, when it provided travel and other items to Chinese officials and improperly accounted for certain expenditures.

The company will pay $1.5 million as part of a separate settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Competitors learn from Boeing internet failure

Airlines and service providers seeking to deliver Internet services to air passengers say they've learned from Boeing's 2006 decision to cancel its program.

Boeing's failed Connexion service was costly to install and operate, resulting in large expenditures before getting a single paying customer. An industrywide downturn triggered by the 2001 terrorist attacks made the system an even tougher sell to struggling airlines.

JetBlue Airways, American Airlines and Virgin America are today turning to air-to-ground connections to avoid Boeing's expensive satellite fees. The air-to-ground approach has its limits, though. It's useless for many international flights because of long stretches over oceans. And it hasn't been approved outside North America.

That is why Alaska Airlines, which has over-the-ocean flights to Alaska and Hawaii, is using a satellite-based system through Row 44 using an existing Hughes network, rather trying to assemble its own as Boeing had.

Panasonic Avionics took a similar approach in developing a service for Qantas and other airlines. Boeing leased satellite transponders from various providers whether it needed the capacity or not. Under its deal with Intelsat Ltd., Panasonic can buy capacity in smaller units until it needs more. Technology also has improved. Airplanes using Row 44's or Panasonic's systems don't need to carry as much weight as Boeing required, saving fuel costs.

OnAir, which recently started service on one Air France aircraft, is taking another approach: using existing cellular systems, including their technical and billing infrastructure. With an on-board cell "tower" certified by European regulators, phones won't emit strong signals and potentially interfere with the aircraft's navigational equipment trying to connect with a terrestrial tower.

Boeing had deals with major international carriers such as Germany's Lufthansa AG and Japan Airlines Corp., but large US carriers balked at investing in extra services. Boeing, which did not disclose how much it invested in the service, took a pretax accounting charge of $320 million in 2006. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Man calls 911 when wife shoots TV

A woman in Washington Township, Mich, was angry because her husband wanted her to turn up the heat and pulled out a gun and shot their flat-screen TV while he cowered behind a pillow.

Joseph Grucz called 911 Sunday night from their basement, and said, "My wife's got a gun. She's shooting at me." He told the operator that his wife Cheryl Grucz was angry because he wanted the heat turned up. She fired a round while he hid his head in a pillow, striking the plasma TV, then went upstairs.

"She's all excited about it because she's so cheap," the husband said. The wife, who had picked up another phone, told the operator she wanted to tell her side.

"I'm not going to hurt him. He has pushed me over the edge, that was all," Cheryl Grucz said, "He has had a stroke, and he's taking it all out on me."

"No I'm not," her husband said.

"Yes, he is," she told the dispatcher.

Cheryl Grucz was arraigned Monday on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, with a potential penalty of 10 years in prison. She also faces a felony firearms charge. The judge also ordered her to enroll in a domestic violence counseling program. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Google's cellphone software is buggy

Google claims its Android cellphone software will usher in a new era of wireless communications. But for developers like Adam MacBeth, Android has so far brought headaches and frustration.

MacBeth said he spent weeks trying to write programs for Google's much hyped mobile-phone software, but he found the developers' tool kit full of bugs. "Functionality is not there, is poorly documented or just doesn't work. It's clearly not ready for prime time."

Complaints about new software aren't unusual, but a sizable number of developers -- the very people Google hopes will add the bells and whistles to its software -- are complaining that the tool kit is plagued by errors. Google, they said, has been largely unresponsive. Google said the software kit it released last month amounts to an "early look" designed specifically to get developers started as soon as possible and to elicit feedback. The company said it is incorporating suggestions into new versions.

Android is at the heart of Google's attempt to develop inexpensive cellphones that can easily access the Internet. The company hopes these next-generation phones will significantly boost mobile Web usage and increase its ad revenue as a result.

Google released software tools to help developers write programs for Android, and the company said it would pay $10 million in prize money for the best programs. Rick Genter, a software engineer who is writing an Android application, said that while Google's mobile software is buggy, it isn't necessarily any worse than any other software at such an early stage. He said there should be plenty of time for Google to tidy things up before Android handsets hit the market next year. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Now it's Nortel's turn to sue Vonage

Earlier this year, telecom industry observers anticipated the demise of Internet phone service provider Vonage, as it got sued by Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Nextel.

In October, Vonage surprised everyone by settling the last of the lawsuits and it seemed to gain a second life. There was more bad news last Friday, however, as Canadian phone equipment maker Nortel Networks sued Vonage, claiming that it violated nine patents.

A Nortel spokesman said the lawsuit countered claims made by Vonage that Nortel had violated three of its patents.

Vonage was dragged into a legal battle after it acquired three patents from Digital Packet Licensing last year, according to Vonage spokesman Charles Sahner. DPL had filed a suit against Nortel in 2004 alleging violation of those three patents, so Vonage continued with the lawsuit. "Litigation is ongoing, and both parties have filed - and will continue to file - papers supporting their case," Sahner said. On the possibility of a settlement, he said: "We always prefer to settle disputes amicably whenever possible."

In this particular case, Vonage is pursuing the legal action, rather than getting sued. Sahner said Nortel's countersuit was a defensive move. (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cellphone spending likely to exceed wired lines

2007 is likely to be the first calendar year in which US households spend more on cellphone services than on landline telecommunications. The most recent government data show that households spent $524, on average, on cellphone bills in 2006, compared with $542 for residential and pay-phone services. By now, though, consumers almost certainly spend more on their cell phone bills, several telecom industry analysts and officials said.

"There's a huge move of people giving up their land line service altogether and using cellphones exclusively," said Allyn Hall, consumer research director for market research firm In-Stat.

As recently as 2001, US households spent three times as much on residential phone services as they did on cellphones. But the expansion of wireless networks has made cellphones more convenient, and a wider menu of services, including text messaging, video and music, has made it easier for consumers to spend money with a cellphone.

When corporate cellphone use is counted, overall US spending surpassed land line spending several years ago. While there are roughly 170 million land lines in use nationwide, industry officials estimate there are close to 250 million cell phones. (These figures include residential and corporate use.)

Eric Rabe, senior vice president for media relations at Verizon, said the company's wireless revenue has grown between 15 percent and 20 percent annually for the last five years, whereas its traditional land line business has been flat year to year, in large part because more than 90 percent of US households already have them.

"As a company that once made the vast, vast majority of its revenue on phone calls, for 10 years we've been moving away from that and trying to re-establish ourselves in other businesses because we could see the traditional telephone was a mature business, it was not going to grow and indeed might even shrink," he said. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cellphone feature turns voicemail into text

Alltel is unveiling a new feature that uses voice-recognition software to allow cellphone customers to read their voicemail messages as text messages. Monthly fees for the Voice2TXT service start at $4.99, and users will still have the option to listen to the messages.

"It'll appeal to a broad customer base ... people who are in meetings quite regularly and can't take a phone call - it's very useful in those settings," said Wade McGill, Alltel's senior vice president of product management.

Alltel uses technology from Britain-based SpinVox. It will work on any Alltel wireless phone that can receive text messages, McGill said. "It was one of those services that once you get it, you don't want to give it up," he said, describing the reaction of a test group.

Alltel began offering the service in a soft launch Friday. To access it, customers need to reset their voicemail and greeting. After that, the voicemail text option will be available, McGill said.

SpinVox said its system -- which converts messages in English, French, Spanish and German -- eliminates the need to search for a pen to write down the details of a message or navigate through a voicemail service. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Phone problem affects
Minnesota schools & cops

On Tuesday and Wednesday, many callers to the Southwest Minnesota State University, the Marshall Law Enforcement Center, Marshall Public Schools and the city of Marshall received a recorded message that said the number was disconnected or no longer in service.

Calls from cellphones and outside of the city of Marshall were connected normally.

(info from The Marshall Independent)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Jackass movie to debut as download

In an experiment that tests consumer appetite for online movies, Paramount's movie, Jackass 2.5 is skipping traditional theatrical release in favor of online distribution. The movie is the second sequel in a franchise based on the MTV program that features violent, often stomach-churning stunts.

On Dec. 19, it will be available exclusively on Blockbuster's Website for free streaming, meaning viewers can watch but not keep the movie. Starting Dec. 26, the movie will be available for purchase on DVD at major DVD retailers, but rentals will be available only at Blockbuster. Starting Dec. 26, it will also become available for sale online at other outlets like iTunes. From Jan. 1, downloadable rentals of the movie will be available exclusively at Movielink, which Blockbuster bought earlier this year.

The move comes as the studios explore new media in the face of lackluster revenue in traditional outlets. Box-office sales are down about 7% for the holiday season. DVD sales are down for the year, dropping 1% so far in the fourth quarter.

If Paramount can show this tactic brings in revenue, it could become a template for movies aimed at young, Internet-savvy viewers. The movie will be promoted heavily online, including on Facebook. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bush has wrong number,
and uses phone upside down

Homeowners with crippling mortgage payments will have trouble getting help if they call a telephone number President Bush recommended last Thursday. He announced the wrong number.

“I have a message for every homeowner worried about rising mortgage payments: The best you can do for your family is to call 1-800-995-HOPE,” Bush said.

The correct number is 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

The wrong number Bush gave out belongs to the Freedom Christian Academy in Texas.

Of course, if "Dubyah" called either number, he would find it difficult to communicate, because the photo shows him holding the telephone handset upside down. He probably won't hear much by listening to the microphone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hearing the "call of nature?"
Cellphones can find a loo in London

A new service promises Londoners they'll save time looking for the loo. Westminster City Council, which covers London's bustling Oxford Street, the West End, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, launched "SatLav" - a toilet-finding service for cellphone users.

Tourists, theatergoers, shoppers and pub patrons in London's West End can now text the word "toilet" - and receive a text back with the address of the nearest public facility.

The system, which covers 40 public toilets, pinpoints the caller's position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost about 50 cents, and most of Westminster's toilets are free.

The council said it hopes the service will stop people from urinating in alleyways, saying some 10,000 gallons of urine ends up in Westminster streets each year.

Companies such as Vindigo Inc. in the US offers similar cellphone searches but SatLav is being touted as the first text-based toilet-finder in Britain. "It's the first fully managed service that we're aware of," British Toilet Association director Richard Chisnell said, praising the council. "Thank heavens for Westminster's public toilets," he said. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Criminals "confess" with phone photos

Last year, Morgan Kipper was booked on charges of stealing cars and reselling their parts. He declared his innocence, but his cellphone screensaver pictured Mr. Kipper behind the wheel of a stolen yellow Ferrari. Kipper joined a growing group of camera-phone owners who can't resist showing themselves breaking the law. "As a criminal defense attorney, it's very difficult when a client proclaims his innocence but incriminates himself by taking photos of the stolen items," says William Korman, the attorney who represented Kipper.

Cellphones, which often contain personal information like contact lists and call histories, have long served as a valuable police tool in criminal investigations. But the spread of built-in cameras is providing investigators with new ammunition, thanks to simple human behavior. Even criminals like taking photos of themselves, and the result in many police precincts is an unexpected windfall. In Nashua, N.H., one prosecutor estimates that cellphone photos provide useful evidence 40 or 50 times a year.

"We pray for those kinds of cases," says Debra Collins, an assistant state attorney in CT. Last spring, Ms. Collins obtained guilty pleas from two men who had used a friend's camera phone to record one of them igniting a car by tossing fireworks into an open window.

Camera-phone images frequently help win convictions in sexual-assault cases. "Once defense attorneys see them, they no longer quibble about the charges," says Gary Kessler, who teaches digital forensics in VT and consults for state police. University of Cincinnati criminal-law professor Mark Godsey says suspects give up their constitutional protection against self-incrimination when their own camera phones show them breaking the law. Mike Schirling, deputy police chief in Burlington, VT helped convict a juvenile on weapons charges based on cellphone images of him brandishing a rifle. "Drug dealers just naturally take pictures of their drugs and their money and their significant others," he adds.

Some criminals are nabbed for distributing their camera-phone shots over the Internet. Collins says she obtained restitution payments for dozens of residents whose mailboxes had been destroyed with baseball bats. The perpetrators -- local high school students -- had posted camera-phone pictures of the crime on MySpace.

Pamela Rogers, a Tennessee teacher went to jail for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student. She was released on probation after six months and ordered to avoid contact with her victim. But within weeks, she sent the boy a camera-phone video of herself dancing in a bikini.

The boy sent it to friends, and eventually it wound up in the hands of Bob Reno, a Michigan man who operates a Website called "Badjocks.com" that documents athletes' foibles. Reno, who had been covering Rogers's case, posted the video on his Website. After prosecutors learned of the video, Rogers's probation was revoked and she returned to jail. (info from William M. Bulkeley in The Wall Street Journal

Friday, December 07, 2007

In-flight email & IM coming to JetBlue

JetBlue Airways will start offering limited e-mail and instant messaging services for free on laptops and handhelds with Wi-Fi on one plane next week as airlines renew efforts to offer in-flight Internet access. Web surfing and e-mail attachments won't be permitted because of bandwidth constraints, and services will be limited to e-mail and messaging from Yahoo. Passengers can check other personal and work e-mail - but only on two BlackBerry models.

The JetBlue system is scheduled to make its debut Tuesday on Flight 641 from New York to San Francisco. The aircraft, an Airbus A320, is specially designated "BetaBlue" as it is used to test new entertainment services offered through JetBlue's subsidiary, LiveTV.

JetBlue will be using a wireless spectrum that LiveTV bought last year for $7 million. Because Internet access will use Wi-Fi and not cellular signals, the company said it does not violate federal regulations. Use of laptops and BlackBerry devices will still be barred during takeoff and landing. And the cellular portion of the permitted BlackBerry devices - the 8820 and the Curve 8320 - must be turned off during the flight.

American Airlines is among the carriers planning to test broader, fee-based in-flight Internet services in coming months. Some international carriers had started offering in-flight Internet service through Boeing, but the aircraft maker decided about a year ago to pull the plug on its Connexion service after it failed to sign on enough airlines. First announced in April 2000, Connexion suffered a major setback with potential US airlines after the 2001 terrorist attacks triggered an industrywide downturn. Boeing had deals with major international carriers such as Germany's Lufthansa AG, Japan Airlines Corp., Korean Air Co., and Singapore Airlines, but large US. carriers were reluctant to invest in the service. The Boeing system connected to the Internet via satellites. The JetBlue system will use about 100 ground towers - cheaper, but with less capacity.

Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's senior vice president for communications and communities, said the company built special, lightweight versions of its services to work on JetBlue. Chris McGinnis, editor Expedia Travel Trendwatch, said business travelers want in-flight access. He said the restriction to Yahoo e-mail could limit the system's usefulness, but passengers can forward their e-mail to a Yahoo account when traveling. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

AT&T hanging up on payphone business

After 130 years, AT&T will get out of the payphone business in 2008.

Most Americans, rich or poor, have iPhones, cellphones and BlackBerrys; and payphones have become increasingly scarce. AT&T operates 65,000 pay phones in the 13 states formerly served by SBC, which acquired AT&T in 2005 and took its name. Since 1998, the number of payphones in service has shrunk to about one million from 2.6 million. Not every major phone company has left the payphone market. Verizon still operates them in the Northeast, particularly in busy urban markets such as New York and Boston.

The first public pay telephone station was set up in 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. The first coin-operated payphone was installed in Hartford in 1889.

For decades, many Americans relied on them because of the expense and difficulty in obtaining reliable home service. Only after World War II did the telephone become a household necessity. For many years, AT&T was the dominant manufacturer of payphones. AT&T spun off its equipment-making division as Lucent Technologies in 1996, and in 1997 Lucent sold its payphone business to Elcotel.

Payphones found a place in popular culture. Clark Kent, alter ego of Superman, often changed into his Superman uniform in phone booths. Older movies showed reporters rushing into phone booths to report breaking stories. A movie called "Phone Booth" took place in a phone booth, with a man trapped inside by a sniper.

In the late 1950s, college students competed to see how many could cram into a booth. (The record is 25, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.)

AT&T will continue to sell wholesale payphone service to independent operators, and it expects them to pick up some of its business. (info from The Wall Street Journal, photo from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

T-Mobile will not sell unlocked iPhones

T-Mobile can sell Apple's iPhone exclusively locked to its own service, a German court ruled Tuesday, reversing an injunction last month requiring the company to sell an unlocked version in Europe's biggest economy.

The Hamburg District Court said Tuesday that T-Mobile could indeed sell the phone, coupled with a two-year contract, that could not be used on networks provided by rival wireless companies. The arrangement is similar to those Apple has with other carriers around the world. In the United States, AT&T is Apple's exclusive partner.

The company will stop selling an unlocked version but said that after customers' contracts expire, it will unlock their iPhone at no charge.

The iPhone made its German debut on Nov. 9 - available only with the two-year contract from T-Mobile. The German unit of rival Vodafone Group PLC (VOD) protested that at the Hamburg court. That court agreed, issuing an injunction barring T-Mobile from offering the iPhone tied to the minimum 24-month contract and from selling it only with a so-called SIM lock that prevents users from switching the device to any other operator's network.

T-Mobile had appealed, but in the meantime offered an unlocked version of the phone priced at 999 euros, or nearly $1,500, more than twice the 399 euro ($585) price of a phone sold in combination with the contract. (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Comcast, Cablevision & Skype
sued for patent violation

VoIP technology firm Klausner Technologies launched a legal broadside against three of the VoIP industry’s largest firms — Comcast, Cablevision, and Skype.

Klausner claims the companies’ voicemail-to-email systems infringe on Klausner’s visual voicemail patents. The company has already successfully litigated against Time Warner (for its AOL Voicemail) and Vonage. Both companies currently license Klausner’s voicemail technology.

According to Klausner, damages and future royalties from the suit are estimated at $300 million. The suit has been filed in a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. (info from TWICE)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cellphone not guilty in death; human being is

A death originally thought to have been caused by an exploding cellphone is now being blamed on a co-worker, who confessed to making up the story after accidentally striking the victim with a drilling vehicle, South Korean police said Friday.

The quarry worker, only identified by his family name Seo, was found dead Wednesday with a melted phone battery in his shirt pocket. Police and a local doctor who examined his body said a malfunctioning battery may have killed the man.

However, after an autopsy suggested damage to Seo's internal organs was too great to be caused by a cellphone explosion, police questioned the colleague who first reported Seo's death.

The man, identified only by his surname Kwon, told police that he accidentally killed Seo while backing up a drilling vehicle, acknowledging that the exploding cellphone story was fiction.

Kwon told investigators after the accident that he moved his vehicle to throw off police, but did not say he set the phone on fire.

Police said the phone was made by LG Electronics, the world's fifth-largest handset maker. LG said it knew all along that its cellphone was not the killer. "LG rigorously tests all the products not only for functionality and design, but safety as well," the company said. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Faster iPhone coming next year

Apple and AT&T plan to begin selling a version of the iPhone next year that operates on a wireless network for surfing the Internet at faster speeds. AT&T Chief executive Randall Stephenson said Wednesday that consumers could expect an iPhone that works on "3G" wireless networks sometime in 2008. Such a product would address one of the major shortcomings of the iPhone, for which AT&T is the exclusive wireless distributor in the US.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on Stephenson's statement, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs has previously suggested a 3G iPhone could be available next year as the underlying technologies that enable compatibility with the fast network become more practical. Jobs has said that the current generation of 3G chips drain battery power too quickly but that new ones will eventually overcome that problem.

The iPhone comes with a number of innovative features including a touch-sensitive screen and a more capable Web browser than is typically found on cellphones. But the device currently works on AT&T's slow EDGE network in the U.S., which limits users to browsing the Web at speeds comparable to dial-up Internet connections. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wacky judge loses job
for mass cellphone jailing

A Niagara Falls City Court judge who jailed 46 people who were in his courtroom when a cellphone rang, was removed from the bench Tuesday by a state commission.

Judge Robert Restaino "snapped" and "engaged in what can only be described as two hours of inexplicable madness" during the March 2005 session, Raoul Felder, chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, wrote in the decision to remove Restaino from the $113,900-per-year post.

A phone rang during a case in the courthouse that has a sign warning that cellphones and pagers must be turned off.

"Everyone is going to jail," Restaino said. "Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. You are all going."

When no one came forward, Restaino ordered the group into custody, and they were taken to jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were shackled and taken to another jail. Restaino ordered them released later that afternoon.

Restaino told the state panel he had been under stress in his personal life. His attorney said Restaino would appeal. (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Verizon will offer open access to network

In a major break with industry practice, Verizon Wireless said it will allow consumers to use any compatible cellphone on its network and allow open access to the Web and third-party applications.

It's is a reversal for the No. 2 US carrier, which is known to be particularly protective of its network, and an acknowledgment of the direction of the wireless industry. Google is spearheading a similar move with its Android open-standards software platform and already counts Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA as allies.

Devices would still have to be compatible with Verizon's technology, and for now, that excludes Apple's iPhone. Verizon uses a cellular standard called CDMA, which differs from much of the world and that of the nation's largest carrier, AT&T. Sprint is the other major wireless carrier that uses CDMA.

Verizon, AT&T and other carriers now sell phones and service as a package, limiting the types of devices customers can use. Carriers traditionally have decided what applications most consumers see on their cellphones, setting rules and negotiating fees for software developers to gain access. Along with Google's foray into the wireless industry and Apple's recent decision to allow third parties to develop software for its iPhone, regulators have been pushing for increased openness.

John Stratton, chief marketing officer for Verizon, said he envisions devices beyond the standard cellphone being created for the network. This includes gaming devices or appliances. "It's subject to imagination," he told reporters in a conference call. "It encourages anyone who wants to get in the game to get in the game."

Verizon's announcement comes just two months before the FCC auctions off a large chunk of lucrative radio spectrum, which wireless networks are based on. Whatever company acquires a swath of that airwaves will have to allow any phone and any software to operate on the wireless network it builds. Verizon Wireless had strongly opposed the rules requiring open access, as it had become known. But it had been one of the companies expected to ultimately bid for that spectrum, which would allow it to substantially bolster its national wireless network. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More bribery at scandalous Siemens

Scandal-scarred Siemens AG paid millions of euros in bribes to cabinet ministers and dozens of other officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya as it sought to win lucrative contracts for telecommunications equipment, according to a court ruling.

The ruling by a Munich court names four former Nigerian telecommunications ministers as well as other officials in Nigeria, Libya and Russia as recipients of 77 bribes totaling about €12 million, or about $17.5 million. Siemens accepted responsibility for the misconduct and agreed to pay a €201 million fine.

The court focused on bribes between 2001 and 2004 connected to Reinhard Siekaczek, a former manager in a telecom unit who spent 38 years at Siemens. Siekaczek has been indicted on embezzlement charges in the Munich court and is expected to face trial in 2008.

Siekaczek has told prosecutors that he knows about bribes beyond the three countries that were made with the knowledge of senior managers. That testimony could serve as a springboard for other criminal investigations and additional fines in other countries, including the US.

Siemens, Europe's largest engineering company with revenue last year of €72 billion, manufactures everything from light bulbs to high-speed trains. When they carried out a dramatic raid on Siemens headquarters a year ago, German police focused on just €20 million in alleged fraud. The investigation quickly mushroomed into one of the continent's biggest bribery cases, triggering high-level arrests including Siekaczek, and the resignations of the chairman and chief executive earlier this year.

Siemens is being investigated on several continents. The company identified €1.3 billion in suspicious transactions worldwide between 2000 and 2006. The Munich court ruling lists bribes from €2,000 to €2.25 million steered by Siekaczek and colleagues to dozens of government officials in the three countries. Most of the money went to Nigerian officials. Siemens disclosed that wmployees are being investigated in China for alleged corruption at several business units, and revealed corruption probes by authorities in Hungary, Indonesia, Norway and Italy. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Monday, November 26, 2007

T-Mobile selling iPhone without contract

T-Mobile in Germany will sell Apple's iPhone without a contract to comply with a court injunction; but people who reject the two-year contract will pay more than twice as much for it. The company sells the iPhone for $1,477 with no contract, or just $590 with a two-year contract.

The iPhone made its German debut on Nov. 9 - available only with the two-year contract from T-Mobile. The German unit of rival Vodafone protested that practice at a state court in Hamburg. The court issued an injunction barring T-Mobile from offering the iPhone exclusively with the minimum 24-month contract, and also from selling it only with a "SIM lock" that prevents users from switching the phone to another network.

T-Mobile said customers can now also have the SIM lock on their phones removed - including those who have already purchased the iPhone. The company said it would abide by the conditions "until the legal situation is resolved" and would appeal the injunction and it also said it reserves the right to consider seeking damages. Vodafone said it wanted the issue settled.

Companies routinely offer phone discounts to customers who sign up for lengthy contracts. T-Mobile's popular Nokia N95 sells for as little as $295.63 with a two-year contract, or $916.60 without one.

Apple's strategy thus far had been to offer its iPhone through an exclusive mobile operator for each region: AT&T in the US, O2 in Britain, T-Mobile in Germany, and Orange in France. It also has issued software updates that have disabled the workarounds hackers developed to get the iPhone to work on other carrier networks. Apple faces two consumer lawsuits in the US that accuse the company of unlawfully restricting consumer choice by preventing users from unlocking their iPhones. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AT&T offers spy service for businesses

AT&T (formerly known as McCaw Communications) has introduced a nationwide program that gives owners of small- and medium-size businesses some of the same tools big security companies offer for monitoring employees, customers and operations from remote locations.

Under AT&T’s Remote Monitor program, a business owner could install cameras, door sensors and other gadgets at up to five different company locations across the country. Using a Java-enabled mobile device or a PC connected to the Internet, the owner could view any of the images in real time, control room lighting, and track equipment temperatures remotely. All the images are recorded on digital video, which can be viewed for up to 30 days.

The system can detect break-ins, verify insurance claims, alert an owner if a boiler breaks down, and monitor employees.

The program expands an AT&T residential initiative that began in late 2006 that offered limited remote monitoring and captured still pictures from a home. For businesses, digital video monitoring at multiple sites is added. Equipment costs range from $199 for a fixed camera starter kit in a single location to $349 for multiple cameras including ones that will pan or tilt. Monthly monitoring charges range from $9.95 for a single location to $39.95 for five locations.

The AT&T system is not foolproof, however. As a Web-based service, it is vulnerable to the loss of a broadband connection. If the system fails, the monitor would lose the ability to view locations remotely. ADT and Digital Witness’s equipment and services, while more costly than AT&T’s, are able to continue monitoring a business even if a broadband connection fails. (info from The New York Times)

Next new posting will be on Monday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

J.C. Penney to offer Black Friday wake-up calls

On top of their usual blitz of holiday ads in newspapers, on TV and on the Web, retailers are testing a new marketing medium this year: the cellphone.

Shoppers who sign up with Nordstrom or Wal-Mart, for example, will receive text messages with information on discounted merchandise and special sales. Best Buy is offering gift suggestions on its mobile Web site. J.C. Penney is going further, offering to make wake-up calls to early-bird shoppers eager to get a head start on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the frenzied holiday retail season. Many J.C. Penney stores will open at 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving.

Companies have begun using mobile phones to market everything from electronics to cars to apparel and footwear. Some retailers, such as Nordstrom, want to relay information only through text, while others, including J.C. Penney, are using mobile Websites to try to engage consumers.

A major challenge for marketers is deciphering how much cellphone advertising consumers will tolerate. J.C. Penney and others say they target only consumers who sign up to receive the messages, and even then are careful not to bombard them. Typically, the retailers send out text messages from once every few weeks to a few times a week.

Retailers are adding cellphones to their marketing playbooks at a time when the effectiveness of television ads is being questioned, as more viewers change the channel or fast-forward through the commercials. Marketers say they are encouraged by studies showing that about 80% of Americans use cellphones, and about 60% of those people text message.

"Kids may be the early adopters, but they're teaching their parents," said Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer for J.C. Penney. "We knew we needed some experience in this space. We didn't want to get caught flat-footed," he said.

J.C. Penney added mobile marketing to its holiday campaign based on the response it got from a back-to-school mobile-marketing effort this year. Aimed at teenagers and preteens, it included video clips, wallpaper for cellphones, ring tones, style advice and text-message alerts on new products.

For its holiday campaign, J.C. Penney created a mobile Website, along with its text-message system. On the site, consumers will find a gallery that includes images of 64 different gifts. Consumers can email images of gifts they like to themselves or friends. They also can download wallpaper, Christmas-themed ring tones and songs including "All That I Want" by The Weepies, which is featured in the company's TV ad. (info & photo from The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mis-sent txt msg brings cops seeking weapon

In Norway, Leif Ersland wanted to return a nail gun he borrowed, so he sent a text message to the owner saying "the gun is on the cabin steps."

The police quickly arrived at his home, because Ersland had tapped the wrong phone number.

Instead of the message going to the nail gun's owner, it went to a stranger, who called the police because she was suspicious about a possible gun deal.

Ersland was not home when the police arrived. His roommate, Hilde Pedersen, who knew nothing about the text message, faced a confusing 45 minutes of intense interrogation. "I was shocked to see them," Pedersen was quoted as saying. "I became even more shocked when I learned what they wanted. It was very unpleasant."

She said about a half-hour after the police left, they called her to say that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding about a message gone astray. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comcast sued for Web slow-down

A subscriber to Comcast's high-speed Internet service has sued the company for unfair business practices in interfering with file sharing. Jon Hart based his claims on the results of a recent investigation by the Associated Press that showed Comcast actively interferes with attempts of some subscribers to share files online.

Lawyer Mark N. Todzo of San Francisco, said Hart suspected before reading the AP report that Comcast was interfering with Internet traffic. "What the AP report did was just confirm that it wasn't just him who was suffering from the problem," Todzo said. Other users claimed they had seen interference with file-sharing. Subsequent tests by the Electronic Frontier Foundation confirmed the AP's tests, which showed that Comcast is causing software on both ends of a file-sharing link to believe the connection has been dropped.

A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars formally asked the FCC early this month to make Comcast stop interfering with file sharing. Two of the groups asked the FCC to fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber.

Comcast is the country's largest cable company and second-largest Internet service provider with 12.9 million Internet subscribers. The company denies it blocks file sharing, but it acknowledged that it delays some of the traffic between computers that share files, to improve the Internet experience for subscribers as a whole. A relatively small number of file sharers can slow down a network.

Hart's lawsuit alleges Comcast misleads customers by promising "mind-blowing" speeds and "unfettered access" to the Internet in advertisements, while hindering the use of certain applications. It seeks unspecified money damages. "This class action seeks to end (Comcast's) practice and seeks recovery of fees paid by customers who paid for services they did not receive." (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Order Chinese food from Mount Everest

China's largest cellphone service provider successfully tested a transmission station on Mount Everest on Tuesday, making it possible for climbers and those on next year's Olympic torch relay to make calls. China Mobile had to hire yaks and porters to help transport equipment up to the station site at 21,325 feet. Construction was "incredibly difficult" because the oxygen level was only 38 percent of what it would be on the ground,

The new station, along with two other China Mobile stations at 17,060 feet and 19,095 feet, would provide cellphone service along the entire Mount Everest climbing route. It would also be put into use during next year's Olympic torch relay, which will take the flame to the 29,035-foot summit.

A worker called the cellphone of China Mobile general manager Wang Jianzhou on Tuesday afternoon and had a clear signal. Immediately after the call to Wang, workers began packing away the equipment for the winter, Xinhua said. The station will be reassembled before the Olympic torch relay next summer.

An official with Tibet Mobile, the Tibetan subsidiary of China Mobile, said the station would operate based on the needs of mountaineers and scientists, Xinhua reported. It was not known whether the two other stations operate on a continuous basis.

Organizers of the Beijing Games plan to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history - a 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents. Taking the torch up Everest is technically challenging. Aside from the physical challenge of climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.

While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China's often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control. (Info from The Associated Press. Photo from Daily Mail)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Soon u can txt 4 pza

Pizza chain Papa John's is about to start taking orders via text message. Customers first create an account online where they save as many as four favorite orders that include any combination of pizza, sides and drinks, as well as a delivery address or carry-out information and payment type. Once that's done, customers can send a message at any time using shorthand "FAV1," "FAV2," "FAV3" or "FAV4."

The company hopes that text-message ordering will provide a new way for it to hit customers with coupons and updates on new menu items. Another catch: text-messaging is not free.

The chain trails Pizza Hut and Domino's in the pizza-delivery sector, and has a much smaller ad budget than its rivals. As a result, it has long had to rely on stunts and new technology in its marketing. It was the first of the three to introduce online ordering in 2001 -- Pizza Hut and Domino's only rolled out the service nationwide this past summer -- and some 20% of Papa John's orders now come via the Web.

In 2005, Papa John's launched a successful stealth attack on Domino's during an episode of "The Apprentice." Domino's had the rights to be the exclusive pizza advertiser nationally on the broadcast. Papa John's made an end run by buying ad time in local markets during the show that promoted a meatball pizza, a similar product to the one featured on "The Apprentice." It was a public-relations coup for Papa John's, attracting next-day coverage in dozens of newspapers around the country.

"We are smaller. We have to be more nimble," says Jim Ensign, vice president of marketing communications for Papa John's. The marketing battle among national pizza chains has heated up as growth in the category has slowed. Pizza sales in the U.S. grew only 2.9% last year to $28.5 billion. Pizza Hut had 18% of the market last year, while Domino's had 11%; Papa John's had 6.9%. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Regardless of the novelty and convenience of ordering with a text message, in the opinion of your editor-and-pizza-maven, Papa John's pizza SUCKS. If you want good pizza, go to New Haven County, CT, and find a place that spells it apizza (pronounced "ah-beetz").

Monday, November 12, 2007

After US flop, Disney to enter cellphone biz in Japan

Walt Disney Co. is planning to start a cellphone service in Japan next spring with Disney-branded phones and animated content, by teaming with Japan's third-largest mobile operator, Softbank.

Back home in the US, Disney last year began offering a similar service, called Disney Mobile, which used Sprint Nextel's network. Disney is ending the service at the end of this year after having trouble finding outlets to sell its phones and services.

The Japan deal will differ from the effort in the US, which had Disney simply leasing bandwidth from Sprint Nextel, and running the entire operation. Disney will provide Softbank with content and marketing power, and provide input on phone design. Softbank will handle back-end operations, including billing, customer service and sales of the phone through its retail outlets in Japan.

In Japan, the top three mobile operators have been engaged in a price war, but consumers have been paying some of the highest rates in the world. The government has been pushing to aid competition by approving new wireless licenses, and last year made it easier for customers to switch services by letting them keep their phone numbers. Authorities also have been encouraging partnerships such as the one between Disney and Softbank.

In Japan, Disney is likely to target children and families as well as the strong base of Disney fans -- mostly young women. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Plan for nationwide WiMax net is unplugged

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are scrapping their agreement to jointly build a nationwide high-speed wireless network based on WiMax technology. The two companies signed a letter of intent in July to pursue the partnership, which they hoped to finalize within 60 days. The complexities of the transaction and the departure last month of Gary Forsee as Sprint's chief executive officer made it too difficult to reach a final pact.

The unraveling of the preliminary agreement is a blow to Clearwire. The company, founded by cellphone pioneer Craig McCaw, has staked its future on WiMax, a longer-range cousin of Wi-Fi that can theoretically provide wireless broadband access from laptops and cellphones at speeds comparable to what cable operators provide.

The agreement called for the companies to share costs on a network that would reach 100 million people by the end of next year, with each side providing roaming rights to the other's customers. Sprint said it planned to spend about $5 billion on the network through 2010. The carrier has given no indication that it will halt its WiMax plans altogether. Interim CEO Paul Saleh has said the company remains committed to the technology.

Any slowdown in the rollout of WiMax by either Clearwire or Sprint would negatively affect companies that are backing the technology, including Intel, Motorola and Samsung. Some of those companies may provide financing for Clearwire to help keep its WiMax project on track.

It isn't clear whether Sprint and Clearwire will pursue another arrangement. The companies control complementary swaths of radio spectrum around the country and are the only two US carriers pursuing WiMax.

In recent weeks, Sprint's board considered a variety of options with respect to the Clearwire partnership, including the idea of spinning off Sprint's WiMax unit and merging it with Clearwire or bringing in a consortium of strategic investors to help finance the project. Any significant transaction would likely have to wait for Sprint to hire a new CEO. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NYC may reward good students with cellphones

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he was considering a proposal to give some city students free cellphones and to reward high performance with free airtime, but emphasized that he had no intention of lifting the ban on phones in schools.

“It’s something we’ll take a look at,” the mayor said of the proposal being pushed by Roland G. Fryer, a Harvard economist who joined the Education Department this year as chief equality officer. Dr. Fryer is also the architect of the city’s plan to pay cash to students in several dozen schools who do well on standardized tests, a step connected to the mayor’s broad antipoverty efforts that give families money as a reward for certain behavior. Dr. Fryer spoke of the cellphone plan during a lecture to his undergraduate economics class last month.

Mayor Bloomberg suggested that the plan would not necessarily collide with the ban, which has come under continued attack from parents and politicians in the city because the phones would not be used in schools.

“Right now you can — if you have the money — you can pay for your own cellphone and use it outside of school,” the mayor said yesterday after giving a speech on land use. “We have no jurisdiction nor any interest in prohibiting your using a cellphone outside of school.”

Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, who sponsored a bill to try to loosen the cellphone ban by requiring schools to allow students to carry phones to and from school, said the proposal was “almost funny. The fact that they even would think that this might be a powerful incentive for students is delicious,” Mr. Fidler said. “It’s a clear indication that people at a level below the mayor and the chancellor realize that this is a vital piece of technology.” (info from The New York Times)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bum breaks into church for phone sex

Isn't the 11th Commandment thou shalt not use the church's telephone to call a sex hot line? A homeless man has been charged with breaking into a church in Valley Cottage, NY by picking a lock so he could call for phone sex.

The man, James Macnair, was arraigned Monday night on charges of burglary, possession of a burglar's tools and petty larceny. He admitted he had sinned before, breaking into the Elim Alliance Church days earlier for the same reason.

A church treasurer found Macnair on the phone both times, police said. The first time, when he was in an office, she told him to leave; but the second time, when he was in a basement area used as a nursery for children, she called 911.

Macnair, 35, was being held without bail Tuesday at the Rockland County jail and was due back in court Wednesday. (info from The Associated Press)

COMING SOON: Google at the gas pump

Lost drivers soon will be able to Google for help at gas stations. As part of a partnership to be announced today, Google will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the US beginning early next month.

The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, include an Internet connection and will display Google's mapping service in color on a small screen. Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station's owner. After the driver selects a destination, the pump will print out directions. Eventually, Gilbarco Veeder-Root hopes to enable motorists to type in a specific address and get directions.

Gilbarco Veeder-Root will initially offer the service in about 3,500 gas pumps and expand based on retailer demand. Unlike most of Google's services, this one won't include ads bringing the company income. But participating retailers will be able to make extra money from other merchants that offer coupons on the service.

Making maps available at gas pumps appealed to Google because the company wants to make its services available whenever and wherever people need them, said Karen Roter Davis, a principal business development manager for Google.

Calling up a map at a gas pump should be particularly popular among motorists who are too stubborn or embarrassed to pull over and ask someone for help, she said. "This will be sort of a Googley, more stealthy way of getting directions." (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's official: GooglePhones are coming

Confirming rumors, Google said Monday it is developing a free cellphone software package so it can more easily peddle ads and services to people who aren't in front of a PC.

While the announcement ended months of speculation, the first phones equipped with Google's "software stack" won't be available until the second half of 2008. Google won't be making the phones, nor does it plan to have its brand on the devices. Instead, it will work with four manufacturers who have agreed to use Google's programs in their phones. Consumers will have to buy new phones to get the Google software.

Even with its market debut months away, Google's software looms as a significant threat to other mobile operating systems made by Microsoft, Research In Motion, Palm and Symbian, which is owned by Nokia, and several other major phone makers. Because Google's software will be free, it could undercut rivals who charge phone makers to install their operating systems. It also promises to make smart phones less expensive since manufacturers won't have to pay for software.

Google's system will also be based on computer code that can be openly distributed among programmers. That, Google hopes, will encourage developers to create new applications and other software improvements that could spawn new uses for smart phones. A development tool kit for working on the new platform will be released next week.

So far, Motorola, Samsung, HTC and LG have agreed to use Google's software in some phones. The list of wireless carriers that have agreed to provide service for the Google-powered phone in the United States include Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile in the US. China Mobile, Telefonica in Spain and Telecom Italia have signed on to provide service outside the US. They are among a Google-led group of 34 companies that have formed the Open Handset Alliance. Other key players include chip makers Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Broadcom and Nvidia. Some key details, like pricing and how many phones will be shipped next year, have yet to be worked out.

Diversifying into cellphone software could open more digital doors for Google to build upon the trove of information that it has collected about its users' personal interests so it can profit by showing more appealing ads.

Google is framing its move into cellphones as a breath of fresh air in a market where innovation has been stifled by the restrictive platforms adopted by the leading wireless carriers and phone manufacturers to maximize profits. With nearly 3 billion cellphones already on market, Google wants to ensure people are able to use its search engine and other services, such as e-mail and maps, on mobile handsets just as easily as they can on PCs.

Wall Street is betting that Google's mobile software will enable the company to make more money from showing ads. Since details about Google's cellular plans began to dribble out in early September, the company's shares have surged by about $200, or nearly 40 percent. Google's stock price hit a new high of $726 in Monday's morning trading before falling back to $722.42, up $11.17 for the session. Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Sandeep Aggarwal predicted Google will harvest as much as $4.8 billion in annual revenue from the mobile market two to three years after its software first appears in cellphones. Aggarwal raised his 12-month target for Google's stock to $850, up from $745. (Info from The Associated Press)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Apple limits iPhone purchases

Apple no longer accepts cash for iPhone purchases and now limits sales of the cellphone to two-per-person in a move to stop people from reselling them. Previously, there was no cash restriction and the purchase limit was five.

"Customer response to the iPhone has been off the charts, and limiting iPhone sales to two per customer helps us ensure that there are enough iPhones for people who are shopping for themselves or buying a gift," Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said. "We're requiring a credit or debit card for payment to discourage unauthorized resellers."

More than 1.4 million iPhones have been sold since it debuted on June 29, according to Apple. It should be a hot gift for the holidays.

Apple thinks some people already have purchased multiple iPhones to resell, including those looking to modify, or "unlock," the phones so they work on networks other than Apple's carrier partner in the US, AT&T (formerly known as McCaw Cellular and South Central Bell).

Apple estimates that buyers of 250,000 of the iPhones sold so far intended to unlock them. Apple's attempts to prevent "unlocking," which included a software update that blocked the workarounds hackers had developed, have frustrated users and led to lawsuits. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alcatel-Lucent whacks 4,000 more employees

Telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent said Wednesday it is canning another 4,000 employees to cut costs after reporting a loss of about $373 million for the third quarter. The job cuts are in addition to the 12,500 announced in February and will help save an additional $578 million by 2009, the company said. Together, the cuts amount to 20 percent of the 82,500 work force employed by Alcatel and Lucent when they combined. The company has shed 5,000 workers this year.

Alcatel-Lucent's share price has dropped over 39 percent so far this year, as the profit warnings scared off investors. CEO Patricia Russo, under pressure to produce better returns, called the latest results unsatisfactory. She said the French-American manufacturer's chief financial officer will soon step down. Russo denied reports that she had been given an ultimatum by the board, saying it is "fully supportive" of her plans to expand the current three-year, $2.45 billion cost-cutting program.

Three profit warnings this year have put pressure on Russo, who took over after France's Alcatel SA acquired US-based Lucent Technologies, formerly part of AT&T (the real AT&T, not the new AT&T, which is really SBC).

Russo's new "three-point action plan" will streamline the core carrier business, create a more "offensive market strategy" by focusing on higher-margin businesses, and simplify management, she said. A seven-person management committee is being charged with implementing the plans.

The announcement came as Alcatel-Lucent reported a third-quarter net loss of $373 million, compared with a pro forma profit in the same period a year ago. The loss is slightly larger than analyst's expectations. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pat Robertson urges AT&T boycott over Halloween events, plans exorcism

Right-wing televangelist Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson has called for a month-long nationwide boycott of AT&T because of the company's Halloween promotional activities yesterday.

AT&T provided free pumpkins to customers who came to its stores wearing Halloween costumes, gave out candy and cider, and had "bobbing for apples" contests with Apple iPhones as prizes. AT&T employees wore Halloween costumes, and stores have Halloween decorations.

Robertson is opposed to abortion and gay rights, and tried unsuccessfully to become the Republican party's nominee in the 1988 presidential election. He is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but no longer has an official church role. His media and financial resources make him an influential force for conservative Christianity in the US.

Robertson -- founder the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Christian Coalition, Operation Blessing and Regent University, and host of The 700 Club TV show -- said "it is disturbing, shocking and insulting that a company like AT&T, that is such an important part of the fabric of American culture, made a deal with the Devil to increase its business. Halloween, despite its apparent playfulness, is a pagan celebration that glorifies Satan and the Underworld, and should not be endorsed, celebrated, or treated lightly by AT&T, or by any person or business. Halloween has no place in American churches, our schools, our offices, our stores, or our homes."

In a press release from his office at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, Robertson continued, "I call on all good people of faith to refuse to make any new purchase from AT&T in November, and to restrict their use of AT&T products and services to emergency use only, for the entire month."

"AT&T thought they could use Diabolical means to build their business," Robertson explained. "We will show AT&T's directors and shareholders that it is time to rely on Jesus, not Satan; and we good God-fearing Christians will use our economic power, and the power of God, to drive the Demons out of AT&T."

Robertson concluded, "I will personally visit AT&T headquarters in San Antonio, Texas to conduct an exorcism, and will use the power of Jesus to cleanse this powerful corporation that has strayed from the true Christian path. It is an offense to all God-fearing, church-going American citizens, that a company located in a city named after a Saint, could be in a partnership with the Devil. The beloved Saint Anthony of Padua has miraculous powers to recover things lost, and we will seek the aid of Saint Anthony, in the City of San Antonio, to recover the Christian soul of AT&T."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Free pumpkins, candy & iPhones at AT&T today

AT&T is celebrating Halloween by giving free pumpkins to customers who purchase cellphones or sign up for U-verse TV service, or add a year to existing cellphone or U-verse contracts -- if they come to an AT&T store today wearing a Halloween costume.

Some AT&T stores will host parties with costume contests and games such as bobbing for apples.

An Apple 8 gigabyte iPhone with accessory pack will be awarded to the person at each store who can grab the most apples floating in a tub of water, with his or her teeth, in 60 seconds, while blindfolded. The national champion will get lifetime free cellphone service in addition to the Apple iPhone.

Halloween candy and apple cider will be available for visitors at all AT&T stores, with no purchase or costume required.

According to company spokesman Bobby Pickett, "We are trying to establish in the minds of consumers that we are the new AT&T, and want to do things differently, and have some fun. Our employees will be in costume, and we'll have candy for trick-or-treaters. If this promotion goes well, we'll have special events on other holidays, too. Maybe we'll give turkeys on Thanksgiving, or candy and flowers on Valentine's Day. Lots of people are on the verge of getting a new phone, or are nearing the end of their contract, and the holiday give-away provides a friendly way to encourage them to visit AT&T now."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GooglePhone announcement could be soon

Google is close to unveiling its long-planned strategy to shake up the wireless market, people familiar with the matter say. The Web giant's ambitious goal: to make applications and services as accessible on cellphones as they are on the Internet.

In a move likely to kick off an intense debate about the future shape of the cellphone industry, Google wants to make it easier for cellphone customers to get a variety of extra services on their phones -- from maps to social-networking features to video-sharing. To get its way, however, the search giant will have to overcome resistance from wireless carriers and deal with potentially thorny security and privacy issues.

Google-powered phones would have applications like Google Maps that are already in some handsets. Google is trying to loosen the grip wireless carriers have over the software and services consumers can access on cellphones. Carriers have considerable clout, especially in the US, where they control distribution of phones to consumers through their retail stores.

Within the next two weeks, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services that would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year. In recent months Google has approached several US and foreign manufacturers about the idea of building phones tailored to Google software, with Taiwan's HTC Corp. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. mentioned in the industry as potential contenders. Google is also seeking partnerships with wireless operators. In the US, it has the most traction with T-Mobile.

The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.

Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.

Google's push comes as carriers are under pressure on other fronts to relax their hold on the wireless market. They face litigation over "locking" of phones, which prevents people from transferring devices from one provider to another.

Google helped push through controversial rules for a coming spectrum auction at the Federal Communications Commission that would result in a new cellular network open to all devices and software applications, even those not favored by an operator. Google has said it will probably bid for the frequencies. (info from The Wall Stree Journal)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just like Comcast:
Verizon sales up, profits down

Verizon, the nation's second largest telecom company, on Monday reported that third-quarter earnings fell by a third from a year ago due to tax charges. Verizon earned $1.27 billion, or 44 cents per share, in the July-September period, down 34 percent from $1.92 billion, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue came to $23.8 billion in the period, up 5.8% from $22.5 billion a year ago.

This year's figure includes a charge of 16 cents per share for taxes related to a minority investment in Italian cellphone carrier Vodafone Omnitel, and 3 cents per share in other charges. Excluding those charges, earnings would have been 63 cents per share, beating the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial by a penny a share.

Last year's earnings figure includes a number of businesses that have since been sold or spun-off, including the high-margin Yellow Pages business. Excluding those businesses, earnings in last year's second quarter was 53 cents per share.

Verizon shares rose 14 cents to $45.74 in morning trading Monday. The stock has risen steadily from a 52-week low of $33.98 set last November, as investors have gotten over their skepticism of Verizon's expensive fiber-optic buildout plan.

Verizon's major growth driver, cellphone operations, added 1.6 million customers, for a total of 63.7 million, just behind AT&T's 65.7 million. While Verizon has generally been slowly closing the gap with the larger AT&T (formerly known as McCaw Cellular and Barnaby), AT&T pulled ahead this quarter with an assist from Apple's iPhone, for which it is the exclusive carrier.

Verizon's other growth engine, though still much smaller than wireless, is the fiber-optic network that it is building to replace its copper phone lines. It added 229,000 fiber-optic subscribers during the quarter, up from 203,000 in the second quarter. It connected 202,000 subscribers to the TV service, FiOS TV.

At the same time, the wireline division continued to lose regular phone subscribers at a much faster rate - 3.7 million in a year. (info from The Associated Press)

Sprint Nextel will provide unlocking software when customers quit

Sprint Nextel wireless subscribers may no longer have to buy new phones if they jump to new companies. As part of a proposed class-action settlement, Sprint agreed to provide departing customers with the code necessary to unlock their phones' software.

That would allow the phones to operate on any network using code division multiple access technology, or CDMA. Competitors using that technology include Verizon and Alltel, although the Sprint handset would still have to meet those networks' technical standards to work. The codes won't work for Sprint's Nextel phones, which use iDEN technology, and don't allow switching to AT&T or T-Mobile, which use "GSM" technology.

Sprint made the offer as part of the proposed settlement of a 2006 California class-action lawsuit accusing it of anticompetitive practices. Plaintiffs claimed the software "lock" forced customers wanting to switch carriers to have to buy a new phone, throwing up a barrier to competition. A similar lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County, Fla., and is covered by the proposed settlement.

On Oct. 2, an Alameda County Superior Court judge gave the settlement his preliminary approval. A final approval hearing hasn't yet been scheduled, said Sprint Nextel spokesman Matt Sullivan. "We believe this settlement is fair and reasonable," Sullivan said, adding that the company denies wrongdoing and settled the suit "so we can continue to focus on our business." Sprint doesn't expect to pay any financial damages as part of the settlement, other than possible legal fees.

Sprint will share the unlocking code with all current and former subscribers once their phones are deactivated and their bills are paid. The company also will add information about the locking software and how to obtain the unlocking codes in the list of terms and conditions of service given to new customers, and instruct its customer service representatives on how to connect a non-Sprint phone to the Sprint network. The settlement covers customers who bought a Sprint phone between Aug. 28, 1999, and July 16, 2007.

T-Mobile is facing a similar class-action lawsuit in California. Users of the iPhone, which is locked to the AT&T network, filed two separate lawsuits last week against the carrier and Apple Inc., claiming its use restrictions and a software upgrade that disables unlocked iPhones constituted unfair business practices. (info from The Associated Press)

Woman busted for online harassment
of ex boyfriend

Pilar Stofega, a woman in Waterford CT, has been charged with using the Internet to try to get revenge on an old boyfriend by breaking up his marriage. She was charged with second-degree harassment and breach of peace after she created phony profiles of the former boyfriend's current wife on adult Websites, with the wife's phone numbers and high school picture.

According to court documents, Stofega said she did to it "to be vindictive, knowing that the profiles would create marital problems." The plot came to life when strange men started calling a Waterford woman's house over the summer, saying they had seen her profile on an adult Website.

The man Stofega had dated eight years ago used his own computer to investigate and discovered someone had created a profile for his wife on several Websites. He was able to find out that the person behind the phony profiles of his wife was Stofega, whom he dated in 1999. He passed the information on to Waterford police, leading to her arrest.

Stofega was at the house when police served the warrant. She provided a sworn written statement in which she admitted to intentionally creating the profiles in the victim's likeness on the Websites. (info from The Associated Press)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Web slowdown pisses-off senators

Two Senators on Friday called for a congressional hearing to investigate reports that phone and cable companies are unfairly stifling communications over the Internet and on cellphones.

Sens. Byron Dorgan and Olympia Snowe said the incidents involving Comcast, Verizon and AT&T (formerly known as SBC, Cingular, McCaw and Armando), have raised serious concerns over "power to discriminate against content." They want the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to investigate whether such incidents were based on legitimate business policies or unfair and anticompetitive practices, and if more federal regulation is needed.

"The phone and cable companies have previously stated that they would never use their market power to operate as content gatekeepers and have called efforts to put rules in place to protect consumers 'a solution in search of a problem," they said in a letter to Sen. Daniel Inouye, the committee's chairman.

An Associated Press report detailed how Comcast interferwd with file sharing by Internet subscribers. The AP found instances where traffic was blocked or delayed significantly. Comcast (the nation's second largest Internet provider) acknowledged delaying some subscriber Internet data, but said the delays are temporary and intended to improve service for others.

Verizon Wireless in late September denied a request by Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to use its mobile network for a sign-up text messaging program. The company reversed course just a day later, calling it a mistake and an "isolated incident." AT&T reportedly changed a service agreement that previously permitted AT&T to cancel accounts of Internet users who disparage AT&T.

Several lawmakers, including Dorgan, earlier this year introduced legislation promoting "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet traffic be treated equally by carriers. Equal treatment of traffic is long-standing practice on the Internet. The legislation is a response to suggestions by phone companies that they would like charge Websites extra for preferential treatment of their traffic. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Vonage settles Verizon patent suit;
AT&T suit still pending

Vonage, the beleaguered provider of Internet-based telephone service, said Thursday it has settled a patent lawsuit brought by Verizon for up to $120 million. The lawsuit, along with two filed by other phone companies, had cast doubt on Vonage's future.

After setbacks in the litigation with Verizon, which began in June 2006, Vonage put $88 million in escrow. The settlement caps any payouts Vonage will make on top of that amount at $32 million. If Vonage wins a re-hearing on either of the two patents at issue, its total payout will be $80 million.

The settlement was announced just after the stock market close, which saw Vonage shares down 6.2% at $1.50. In after-hours trading, Vonage stock jumped 67% to $2.50.

In March, a jury held that Vonage had infringed on three patents and awarded Verizon $58 million in damages, plus a royalty on future revenues. In September, an appeals court sent the remaining two patents in dispute back to the lower court for retrial.

"This settlement removes the uncertainty of legal reviews and long-term court action and allows us to continue focusing on our core business and customers," said Vonage attorney Sharon O'Leary.

The settlement is a major step forward for Vonage, which earlier this month settled another patent dispute with Sprint Nextel for $80 million. Thsee settlements do not end Vonage's legal troubles. AT&T sued Vonage last week, also for patent infringement.

Vonage had a substantial war chest, from an initial public offering last year at $17 per share that raised over $500 million. The legal challenges scared customers and stalled Vonage's growth. It now has about 2.5 million subscribers. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comcast profit off 54% on sales rise of 21%

TV, internet and phone service giant Comcast reported today that its third-quarter profit fell 54 percent and new customer additions slowed, amid intensified competition. Shares dropped more than 7 percent in morning trading.

Comcast earned $560 million, or 18 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30 compared with $1.22 billion, or 38 cents, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue rose by 21 percent to $7.78 billion from $6.43 billion a year ago.

The decline also reflected a comparison with year-ago results that included $669 million in one-time gains related to Comcast's purchase of Adelphia's cable assets and a swap of cable systems with Time Warner Cable. Excluding these gains, Comcast would have seen profits rise by 2 percent from last year's $548 million in adjusted earnings.

Looking ahead, Comcast said it expects a softening economy, an accelerated exit from its circuit-switched phone business and increased competition to affect fourth-quarter results. Comcast said phone companies have ratcheted up promotions as they lose customers to Comcast's digital voice service. Satellite TV providers have done the same as consumers leave to snap up Comcast's discounted triple play package of video, Internet and phone.

For the third quarter, revenue generating units, a key measure of cable subscriber growth, fell 6.7 percent to 1.4 million. It is the first quarterly decrease in at least 3 1/2 years.

Comcast added 489,000 new digital video subscribers in the quarter, down 12 percent from last year, to 14.7 million customers. The number of digital video customers is a subset of basic subscribers, which fell by 65,000 to 24.2 million. A year ago, basic subscribers rose by 11,000. However, the company pointed out that 61 percent of basic subscribers have upgraded to digital, up from 50 percent a year ago.

Comcast attracted 450,000 new high-speed data customers, down 16 percent from a year ago, for a total of 12.9 million. As for its phone service, digital voice added 662,000 consumers, up 36 percent from last year, to 3.8 million. Comcast's circuit-switched phone service, which the company is exiting, lost 138,000 subscribers for a remainder of 304,000. High-speed data revenue fell, however, to $42.86 a month, from $43.29 a year ago, reflecting the bite from promotional Internet packages touted by the phone companies. (info from The Associated Press)

Cellphone growth is slowing, but over 80% of Americans have cellphones, including babies.

The cellular industry showed signs of maturity in the first half of 2007, when penetration grew to an all-time high of 80.5 percent of the total US population, while the number of net new subscribers fell for the second consecutive year, CTIA statistics show.

The number of net new subscribers (after churn) fell 10.8 percent to 10.5 million in the first half of 2007 following a revised 4.7 percent decline in the year-ago period, the association said. That followed three years of double-digit percentage-rate surges. Nonetheless, this year’s 10.5 million first-half gain was the fifth largest first-half gain in the industry’s history, the statistics show.

With the additional 10.5 million subscribers, the subscriber base grew to 243.4 million at the end of June, up 10.8 percent from June 2006’s 219.7 million.

80.5 Percent Penetration: The subscriber-base expansion put the cellular penetration rate at the end of June to 80.5 percent of all 302.2 million men, women and children living in the United States. That’s up from 73.4 percent at the end of June 2006, 65.6 percent at the end of June 2005, and 57.7 percent at the end of June 2004. The cellular population exceeded half of the US resident population for the first time at the end of June 2003, when the penetration rate hit 50.9 percent.

Double-Digit Revenue Gains: Like maturing baby boomers entering their prime earnings years, the cellular industry earned more money in the first half, when total voice and data revues grew 12.3 percent over the first half of 2006 to $67.9 billion. The growth rate exceeded the first-half 2006 growth rate of 8.6 percent, which marked the first-ever single-digit percentage gain in first-half carrier revenues. First-half gains in previous years were 13 percent in 2005, 19 percent in 2004, and 12.7 percent in 2003.

Average June bills were up slightly despite a double-digit gain in the amount of time that subscribers talk over their phones, the statistics show. Wireless subscribers used more than 1 trillion minutes of talk time in the first six months of 2007, up about 18 percent from 850 billion minutes during the year-ago period. Wireless data revenues in the first half hit $10.5 billion, up 63 percent from the first half of 2006 to account for 15.5 percent of all wireless service revenues, up from 11 percent in the first half of 2006, the association said. (info from TWICE)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

AT&T TV customers lost service Sunday

U-verse television customers of AT&T (formerly known as SBC, Southwestern Bell, Cingular, AT&T Wireless, McCaw Cellular, BellSouth, Southern Bell, South Central Bell, Southern New England Telephone, Pacific Telesis, Pacific Bell, Nevada Bell, and Francine) lost service around the country on Sunday.

Outages occurred from California to Connecticut early Sunday morning. AT&T was able to restore some local channels and popular cable news and sports networks within a few hours, but full service wasn't restored until Sunday night. Some customers had to reboot their "cable" boxes to get service restored.

The cause of the disruption remains under investigation. The company is reviewing its customer service policies after some users complained on Internet forums that they were unable to get customer service help when they needed it Sunday.

The outage is the latest glitch - and among the highest-profile - for U-verse, which uses a relatively untested technology to deliver television over a high-speed Internet connection. The early rollout of the product, which AT&T is hoping will help it fend off cable companies now selling phone service, was plagued by delays and questions about the software, provided primarily by Microsoft.

The service had just 3,000 customers at the end of 2006. Since earlier this year, AT&T had been ramping up service, with 100,000 customers signed up by September. It's now available in 33 markets. AT&T sees U-verse as critical in its effort to slow desertions by traditional phone customers and to win new customers. (info from The Associated Press)

Cablevision's founding family can't buy it back

Cablevision shareholders rejected on Wednesday a $10.6 billion bid by the company's controlling shareholders, the Dolan family, to take the New York-area cable TV/telecom provider private.

The deal had faced opposition from large shareholders, proxy advisory firms and Wall Street analysts who said the company, which owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the New York Knicks, should have a higher value than the $36.26 per share the Dolans had agreed to pay. Cablevision's CEO James Dolan announced the results of the vote and said that the family was "disappointed" that the transaction wasn't approved, but added that his family saw it as a "vote of confidence in the prospects of Cablevision." The Dolan family controls about 65 percent of the company's vote through a special class of shares with powerful voting rights. James Dolan's father, Charles Dolan, is the company's chairman.

The defeat leaves Cablevision to continue as a stand-alone public company, a prospect that Dolan had acknowledged last week was a possibility after Cablevision's largest outside shareholder, fund manager ClearBridge Advisors, said it would vote against the deal.

The Dolans have tried several times over the past two years to take the company private, but couldn't agree on terms with a two-person committee of independent directors on their board. This May they finally got board approval to buy out public shareholders. One of the conditions was that the deal be approved by a majority of the shares held outside of the family. That prospect became increasingly doubtful as opposition to the terms grew. Besides ClearBridge, fund manager Mario Gabelli came out against the deal.

"Our valuation indicates that there's too much left on the table," Gabelli said Tuesday. "From our end, we don't want more money. ... We want to be part of the buying group." In a regulatory filing, Gabelli, who controls 8.3 percent of Cablevision's stock, said he would go to court to seek a higher price for his shares if the deal went through. His funds were prepared to exercise an appraisal right, which would force a court to determine the value of the stock and award the holder the difference if the figure was higher than the final offer.

Ironically, the Dolans' effort to take Cablevision private foundered because of the company's success. A highly regarded cable operator with customers in affluent areas around New York, Cablevision has been a leader in introducing highly profitable new services such as high-speed Internet and digital phone service that runs over cable lines. (info from The Associated Press)

Verizon fined for disconnecting heavy users

Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a fine and reimburse users who were disconnected for "excessive" use of a cellular broadband service that was marketed as allowing "unlimited" use, New York's state attorney general announced Tuesday. A nine-month investigation found that Verizon disconnected 13,000 subscribers for exceeding an undisclosed monthly usage cap.

Under the settlement, Verizon will reimburse the terminated subscribers for the cost of the laptop cards or laptop-connected cellphones they bought to use the service. The company put the cost at around $1 million. It will also pay $150,000 in penalties and costs to the state.

The prosecutor's office said the company voluntarily stopped disconnecting customers based on their data usage in April.

Verizon's user agreement for the BroadbandAccess plan prohibits continuous streaming of audio or video and peer-to-peer file sharing, all of which generate heavy traffic. It also reserves the right to disconnect or slow down traffic for anyone using too much data, but since this spring, the cap has been explicit rather than undisclosed: 5 gigabytes of data per month.

The agreement says the plan is only to be used for Web surfing, e-mail and corporate intranet access, activities that are unlikely to generate 5 gigabytes of traffic in a month.

"We are pleased to have cooperated with the New York Attorney General and to have voluntarily reached this agreement," said Howard Waterman, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. "When this was brought to our attention, we understood that advertising for our NationalAccess and BroadbandAccess services could provide more clarity." (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Facebook sued for wrong number texting

Facebook, the popular online social network, is being sued by a woman who alleges it has profited from its members sending thousands of text messages to cellphone users whose numbers previously belonged to other people.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in a San Jose federal court, highlights the confusion and frustration that can arise when phone numbers are reassigned after a customer's service ends.

Plaintiff Lindsey Abrams alleges she began receiving unsolicited text messages apparently intended for an unidentified Facebook member shortly after she received a new mobile number from Verizon in November 2006. The messages included explicit language and unsettling remarks, according to the suit. She alleges she was charged 10 cents per message and told she couldn't block the Facebook texting without blocking mesages she did want to receive.

The lawsuit, which her lawyer will seek to have certified as a class action, contends other consumers with recycled phone numbers have been besieged with unsolicited Facebook text messages containing party invitations and unwanted sexual advances. Young children have been among the recipients of the unauthorized Facebook messages, the suit alleges, creating "frightening and dangerous" situations.

Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney representing Abrams, said he hopes to force Facebook to take steps so its roughly 47 million members won't be able to send text messages to recycled phone numbers. "There are things that Facebook could be doing to prevent this from happening," Adelson said. "Hopefully, this suit will give them the incentive to stop it." The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, October 22, 2007

AT&T to offer over-priced music downloads

AT&T (formerly known as SBC and Cingular and Larry) today announced a deal with digital music provider Napster (formerly known as Roxio, not the original Napster started by nappy-headed Shawn Fanning) to enable cellphone customers to download more than 5 million songs over the air, beginning in November.

AT&T Wireless customers will be able to preview songs and purchase and download the music they like with their cellphones. People can get five songs each month with the Napster Mobile Five Track Pack for a "discounted" price of $7.49, or buy single songs for $1.99 each.

That's more than twice what it costs to download a song from iTunes or Wal-Mart; and Napster's PC-based download program costs $9.95 per month for unlimited music. Earlier this year Sprint cut the price for its cellphone downloads from $2.49 to 99 cents because hardly anyone was buying.

Apple appears to be in no hurry to offer iTunes music downloads direct to its iPhones, perhaps because of the slow speed of AT&T's "EDGE" wireless data network.