Friday, March 30, 2007
"Our offices are closed because everyone is at the donut shop," said the audio file. Stu Gallaher, city business administrator, said Wednesday the file was quickly removed when city officials learned about it.
Gallaher said it was accidentally left on the site by former Fire Chief Frank Chisesi, who had been hired to improve the city's Internet offerings. Chisesi said he had placed several audio files on the site but they did not work and he thought he had deleted them.
Firefighter Terrance Hand e-mailed the link to city officials and the media, saying it was "not flattering" to the 911 call center, police or firefighters and seeking an apology. He said his only reply was from Councilman Dan Corpora.
Corpora said he intended to look into the posting, "and rectify any situation that would allow that to be put on the Website." (info from The Associated Press)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The two sides disagree sharply about which company faces more pressure if the deadline passes without a deal. Simonson suggested not much will happen, other than that Nokia could start setting aside royalties that otherwise would have been paid to Qualcomm. But Louis Lupin, Qualcomm's general counsel, promises trouble: expanding the current litigation to new patent lawsuits. They would target Nokia products that can't now be attacked because they are covered by the licensing agreement. Qualcomm will seek injunctions to stop Nokia from shipping cellphones that infringe on the patents, and also seek damages.
"Whether they pay us in April or next year when we get a damages award -- we are going to get paid," Lupin said. Nokia has "vastly more exposure than we do" in terms of the revenue that could be interrupted by court injunctions against selling cellphones, he added.
Simonson noted that Nokia also could seek injunctions against sales of Qualcomm chips that use Nokia patents, battles that take place on a country-by-country basis. Qualcomm gets a greater percentage of its revenue in the U.S. than Nokia, Mr. Simonson noted, making the potential risks from an injunction by U.S. courts greater to Qualcomm.
The crux of the dispute is Nokia's contention that it is not fair for Qualcomm to keep charging Nokia the same royalty rate for WCDMA handsets -- the most popular variety for third-generation cellphones -- as Qualcomm did in the existing agreement. That deal was reached at a time when Nokia had fewer relevant patents of its own that should offset Qualcomm's, Simonson said. Qualcomm's Mr. Lupin countered that his own company's patent position has also gotten stronger over the years. Consequently, there is no reason for Nokia to get a rate reduction. (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Unlike a standard set-top digital video recorder which allows TV viewers to store and play shows when they like, a server-based DVR ("network DVR") would allow a customer with a digital set-top box to record and play in the same way, with the programs being stored in remote servers maintained by Cablevision.
Several studios and cable networks sued Cablevision, saying the company didn't get their permission to rebroadcast the programs.
Cablevision argued that because the control of the recording and playback was in the hands of the consumer, and not Cablevision, the devices were compliant with copyright law. Cablevision said its DVRs were comparable to VCRs, which the Supreme Court said did not infringe on copyrights because it was the home viewer who used the videotape machines for personal use.
Cable companies have been eager to experiment with server DVRs because the technology could greatly increase their ability to add DVR customers, who pay a monthly fee, without having to provide new set-top boxes for each one. Those boxes can cost up to several hundred dollars each. (info from The Associated Press)
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The ruling follows an earlier jury decision that found Vonage guilty of violating three of seven Verizon patents. Vonage was fined $59 million and ordered to pay royalties on future VoIP business.
Following that decision, Vonage stated that the injunction would not take effect immediately and that “customers will see no change in their phone service.”
The court will hear a stay argument in two weeks. If the court rebuffs Vonage’s attempt, the company plans to seek a stay through the Federal Circuit Court of appeals. "Our fight is far from over," said Mike Snyder, Vonage, CEO. "We remain confident that Vonage has not infringed on any of Verizon's patents — a position we will continue vigorously contending in federal appeals court — and that Vonage will ultimately prevail in this case."
“It’s a tough break for a company that doesn’t seem to catch a break,” said Stephan Beckert, research director, TeleGeography. It remains an open question whether the legal onslaught will substantially cripple the company or force them to the negotiating table with Verizon, he said. A larger issue could be the nature of Verizon’s patents, according to Beckert. Depending on the specific technology at issue, other VoIP providers could be vulnerable to similar lawsuits. (info from TWICE)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Washington is "the only city . . . that every senator and every member of Congress has a vested interest in seeing that it works properly, that water works, sewer works," he said.
The result? Phone calls deluged the office of Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) after a local blog challenged him to live up to those words and urged local residents to call him immediately with concerns, big and small. D.C. inhabitants phoned Boustany's office to complain about potholes, schools, rats, garbage collection and streetlight repair.
Boustany's office was taken by surprise. Boustany was a victim of mistaken identity.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) actually made the statements. C-SPAN misidentified the speech-maker during a live telecast, and the blog repeated the error.
When the blog corrected the mistake, DC residents started complaining to Gohmert’s office. (Info from the Washington Post, photo by Brad Kemp/the Lafayette Daily Advertiser)
Friday, March 23, 2007
Moto now expects a first-quarter loss in the range of seven cents to nine cents a share. Analysts were expecting earnings of around 17 cents a share, about a third lower than the same period last year. The company said it expects the mobile-device division, which accounts for more than half of the company's business, to incur a loss in the first quarter.
Moto said the lower sales volume was due to its decision to shift focus from building market share to improving margins. As a result, it decided not to match price decreases from competitors, primarily in emerging markets. Until recently, the company was gaining market share steadily on Nokia, the largest cellphone maker.
A big question for the company is how it will follow up the Razr, the best-selling cellphone of all time. Moto has had a difficult time selling its new Razr family of phones at premium prices, because they look like the original Razr, which is now available for less than $50, or even for free.
Gregory Q. Brown, president of the Moto networks and enterprise business, will become president and chief operating officer. Thomas Meredith was named acting chief financial officer, succeeding David Devonshire, who is retiring April 1. (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Thursday, March 22, 2007
In 2003, Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission tried to register Vonage as a phone company, which would have subjected it to state rules and rate regulations. A federal judge barred Minnesota from doing so, and a year later, at Vonage's request, the FCC ruled that the company's services could not be regulated by the states. Regulatory agencies in several states, including Minnesota, appealed.
The Appeals Court agreed with the FCC's determination that the nature of VoIP telephone calls allows customers to place "home" phone calls from nearly anywhere, irrespective of state lines.
Vonage CEO Mike Snyder said the decision was good for the company's subscribers. "It allows Vonage to continue growing our business unfettered by outdated pre-Internet regulatory structures."
Burl Haar, executive secretary for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, said officials there believe Vonage should be viewed as a phone company, and may appeal the new decision, possibly to the US Supreme Court. (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A slew of recent reports suggested that Google was shopping a phone design to potential mobile phone manufacturing partners in Asia. Samsung was widely rumored to be Google's manufacturing partner; a photo published on the Engadget blog, which purported to be a prototype, showed a sparse touchscreen design similar to the iPhone.
In a note to clients, cited by Reuters, London-based phone analyst Richard Windsor wrote: "Google has come out of the closet at the CeBIT trade fair admitting that it is working on a mobile phone of its own. "This is not going to be a high-end device but a mass-market device aimed at bringing Google to users who don't have a PC."
A US venture capitalist, Simeon Simeonov, wrote in a blog post earlier this month that there was "a team of about 100 people at Google working on the Google Phone." Simeonov said his "inside source close to the company" described the device as being a "BlackBerry-like, slick device". He added a number of recent mobile-related acquisitions made by Google backed up the rumors.
But all of these rumors now appear to be quashed. The search giant said it was more logical to form partnerships with existing handset makers instead. This brings back memories from a year ago when Google was said to be building its own line of computers. Those reports were soon proved false, and the product Google was working on turned out to be a free software pack. info from the Sidney Morning Herald)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
About 30 percent of taxpayers are missing out on the simple $30 to $60 refund, according to the IRS. Yet, it's available to virtually every American who has paid for telephone service over a 3-1/2-year period.
In response to a law suit, the IRS is returning telephone excise taxes that people should not have been charged on phone bills. People get the money back only when requesting it on a tax return, and even tax preparers have missed out on this no-brainer refund, according to the IRS. (The tax was originally a "luxury tax" to finance the Spanish American War in 1898, and stayed in place for over 100 years.)
The oversight underscores the fact that not all tax preparers are as equipped as individuals might think to handle taxes. And, in the worst of cases, they can get individuals into trouble.
Although some tax preparers are missing out on the telephone tax refund, others are being overly aggressive with it — promising clients refunds of hundreds or thousands for their telephone service, rather than the standard refund of $30 to $60.
Taxpayers can claim an automatic $30 to $60 refund, depending on the number of exemptions they are eligible to claim. They also can claim the actual amount of excise taxes paid after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006, if they can document it with old phone bills. (some info from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press) (illustration from antiquemapsandprints.com)
Monday, March 19, 2007
All over the country, schools are putting in automated phone systems that can quickly place thousands of recorded calls. Originally intended to notify parents of emergencies, more and more automated messages are about routine matters, ranging from stern warnings about talking in class to how to dress for tomorrow's pep rally. One automated calling company lets teachers pick from 600 canned messages, including one that says a child is a "pleasure to have in class" and another saying he or she has "been late to class five or more times."
But snafus in some systems across the country have resulted in parents being bombarded by calls five nights a week. Schools send endless repeats of the same messages, or place calls at 2 a.m., or send updates about kids who don't even go there.
At the beginning of the school year, John Mallinger got an auto-call from his daughter’s school in Texas, and he feared there was an emergency. Then he got another call and worried again. When he got the third call, he knew what was coming: yet another recorded message informing him that his 7-year-old's school-lunch account was down to $1, even though the girl doesn't buy lunch.
Schools rushed to embrace emergency-notification phone systems in the wake of 9/11. Teachers see the calling systems as a way to meet parents' demands for greater communication, and the systems have an advantage over live calls. A parent can't talk back to a recorded message about a kid's math grade. (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Friday, March 16, 2007
The new service, called TiVo Mobile, requires a software download. It works only on certain Verizon phones, such as the LG Chocolate, with the Get It Now feature, and costs an extra $1.99 per month.
HOWEVER, if your cellphone has web access, you can use the TiVo website to program your recorder, and not pay anything extra to Verizon, or to Sprint, or to AT&T.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Talk Abroad Travel Phone works on a prepaid basis, allowing customers to buy or rent a phone and then pay in advance for minutes. The service will work in more than 100 countries, and has a UK-based number that customers use no matter where they go.
To use the service, people can buy a phone with a special SIM card, or just buy the card and snap it into their own phones. It is compatible with several hundred carriers around the world.
While Disney and ESPN have offered branded cellphone services with leased network service from Sprint Nextel, Nat Geo will only provide its name and advertising, which significantly reduces risk.
Customers can buy the specially designed National Geographic phone, made by WP Phones, for $199. Customers in the US can also rent the phone, which costs $49 for one week to $129 for two months. The phone uses GSM, the most widely used standard in the world. Customers who already have a GSM phone that is unlocked -- or not affiliated with a particular carrier -- can buy a SIM card that snaps into their phone to get the service.
There is strong interest in the service among professional mountain climbers and tour guides, according to Markus Hutnak of Nat Geo. He said the service also can help parents keep in touch with children studying or traveling abroad. "Whether the kid decides to pick up, that we can't really control." (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Ramona Williams was busted for possession of drugs with intent to distribute, according to Police Lt. Mike Woodruff. Woodruff's number was in her son's phone because the son was arrested previously on drug charges.
"She was looking through her son's cellphone directory and found my number," Woodruff said. "Her son had told her that if she ever needed help with anything to give me a call. I think she misunderstood. She thought she was talking to a drug dealer."
Woodruff played along and set up a meeting between Williams and an undercover officer. Williams and Tony Whitt, who also allegedly participated in the meeting, were arrested Saturday night. (info from The Associated Press)
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Bruce Gabbard, a 19-year employee, said he wanted to tell his side of events. Gabbard and his supervisor were dismissed after the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas told the retailer he was looking into possible violations of federal law in the alleged wiretapping.
After a flurry of articles about Wal-Mart's employment and benefit practices appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere, Gabbard said, he took it upon himself to find out if any of the newspaper's information was coming from internal sources.
Gabbard was a member of Wal-Mart's Threat Research and Analysis team, a group of about 20 employees in its information-systems division. He and others would sweep rooms for electronic-listening devices and do "forensic" data gathering for use in court cases.
Wal-Mart was widely criticized after a memo appeared in the Times detailing options the company was considering to control health-care costs. The memo proposed that the retailer cut costs by discouraging unhealthy people from applying for jobs, and proposed physical activity in all jobs to discourage the infirm from applying. It suggested that Wal-Mart arrange for "all cashiers to do some cart gathering." (from The Wall Street Journal)
Monday, March 12, 2007
Can a punch in the nuts sell headsets? Maybe so.
Headset maker Plantronics has a new website, www.TheCubeFarm.com, with some wonderfully sophomoric, gross, offensive, funny short videos, that gently promote the use of wireless headsets.
Unless you're brain-dead or an old prude, you'll laugh your ass off. "Ouch," "Urinal Mishap," and "Office Cowboy" are particularly good. Take a look, laugh, tell your friends; and maybe some of you will get motivated to buy Plantronics wireless headsets. Maybe you'll giggle every time you see the name Plantronics. It's an interesting experiment. Either outcome is OK with us. We like giggles, and Plantronics headsets.
Plantronics has been making headsets for years, and supplied the headset that carried the most famous misquote in history, the one that should have been heard as "...one small step for a man...," when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969. It's a bit weird to see a serious NASA contractor emulating Saturday Night Live goofballs, but we congratulate and encourage them.
CLICK here to read Michael's review of a Plantronics wireless.
Friday, March 09, 2007
In addition to the damages, Vonage will have to pay a royalty of 5.5% of its future revenue for any ongoing infringement. Vonage plans to appeal the decision.
Vonage still faces another patent lawsuit from Sprint Nextel, and must deal with increasing competition from cable providers that are entering the phone business.
During the trial, Verizon said Vonage violated several key patents it holds at the core of Internet calling, as well as basic features such as call forwarding. Verizon said it has lost hundreds of thousands of customers as a result of competition with Vonage. Vonage denied the patents were valid, and said it wasn't infringing on them anyway. The jury held that all the patents were valid, and said Vonage infringed on three of five.
The court must still decide whether to grant Verizon's request for an injunction that would force Vonage to halt infringement. Vonage has said it would develop a technical workaround to keep operations if the court rules in Verizon's favor. (info from The Wall Street Journal)
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Under federal and state law, a telephone conversation may be recorded if one party has given consent. Since Wal-Mart policies state that all electronic communications of employees using Wal-Mart communication systems are subject to monitoring and recording, Wal-Mart employees are considered to have consented to the monitoring and recording of their calls. Therefore, Wal-Mart says the bugging did not violate any laws.
However, apart from monitoring call center calls for quality assurance, it is Wal-Mart’s practice to record calls only in cases of high risk to the company or its employees, such as suspected criminal fraud or security issues; and requires written permission from the legal department. These recordings were not authorized and were in direct violation of Wal-Mart policy. Wal-Mart said that no approval was sought and, if sought, it would have been denied.
The company also discovered that the same technician had intercepted text messages and pages, including communications that did not involve Wal-Mart employees, another violation of compaly policy.
Wal-Mart also took disciplinary action against two managers for failure to carry out their management duties, strengthened its policies and controls surrounding the monitoring or recording of communications, and physically removed the recording equipment from the system. Any future use of this equipment will be under the direct supervision of the legal department.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The agency released new rules that aim to standardize the process for new entrants to the video market to get licenses. Since new entrants use Internet technology to provide video service, the FCC also hopes its new rules will speed up broadband deployment.
In most states, companies wanting to enter the video market must apply for a license from local governments, a process that phone companies have complained is costly and time consuming. The new rules state that local authorities must decide on a franchise application within 90 days; if they don't meet the deadline, the license will be automatically granted. In addition, local governments can no longer make extraordinary requests (i.e. bribes) for the deployment of hardware or for requests unrelated to video service.
The rules are likely to be challenged by state and local authorities. The rules were voted for along partisan lines, with the three Republicans defeating the two Democratic Commissioners.
"The sum total here is an arrogant case of federal power riding roughshod over local governments," said Democrat Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. (Info from The Wall Street Journal)
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie, a recipient of some of the grants improperly accounted for, stepped down as chairman of RIM. He and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, who also received options, agreed to pay about $4.25 million each "to assist RIM in defraying costs" from the board probe and restatement. Balsillie said the accounting issue slipped by management amid the company's quick growth
RIM said all options granted before late February 2002 and approximately 321 grants made between that time and August 2006 were improperly accounted for. The 321 grants represent approximately 63% of the grants made by the company after Feb. 28, 2002. Correcting the accounting likely will cut earnings up to the end of RIM's fiscal year 2006 by $250 million, a much larger restatement than investors had expected. In September, RIM indicated it would have to restate $25 to $45 million.
The improprieties identified by the board included the practice of backdating options -- that is, pretending they were issued at an earlier time than they actually were, when RIM's share price was lower. Such backdating can increase the payoff for recipients by setting an artificially low strike price, increasing the gain when the options are exercised. About 140 companies are under investigation for backdating. (Info from The Wall Street Journal)
Monday, March 05, 2007
The number of employees working in Chinese call centers is likely to rise between 22 percent this year (to 158,000), while in India, the workforce could grow 16 percent (to 312,500. China seems particularly competitive in the call-center area, with hourly costs per employee of just $3.62, compared with $4.24 in India and $18.46 in Singapore.
As things stand today, India is the global leader in outsourcing services, including software development and call centers, employing some 350,000 people in an industry that earned $6.7 billion in the year ended March 2005. India's global leadership in outsourcing is so far undisputed, Callcentres.net says, but its position may gradually be challenged because of rising costs.
While China is widely characterized as being up against the formidable challenge of an Indian workforce with far better English-language skills, Callcentres.net research appears to debunk this. As many as 93 percent of centers in China require at least a proportion of their agents to speak English to customers, while 29 percent of call centers in China service international markets, compared with 33 percent in India, according to the research firm.
"The world is becoming flat," said Francis Scricco, senior vice president of Avaya, which has just set up an "intelligent communication center" in China. "More and more international corporations are entering the Chinese market, and more and more Chinese companies are expanding to other markets," he added. (from Telecom Web)
Friday, March 02, 2007
The need to correct errors, which Nortel insists are not significant this time and only involve moving around how some $261 million is reported, has forced the company to delay its quarterly and annual results.
"This is certainly not what we want to be announcing," CEO Mike Zafirovski told less-than-amused analysts in a conference call during which they had expected to hear financial results for the last quarter of 2006. However, Nortel Executive Vice President and CFO Peter Currie insisted the restatement of its results for 2004, 2005 and the first nine months of 2006, with "adjustments" to periods prior to 2004, will have "no material impact" on those fourth-quarter 2006 results when they finally are announced.
The Nortel CEO, who was brought in to help fix the accounting scandal that rocked Nortel in April 2004, tried to minimized the situation. "This restatement is different in magnitude and reasons" from previous ones, Zafirovski said in his conference call. He insisted the errors are really just "part of previously reported internal control deficiencies." Still, he said, "clearly I'm not pleased that we have to restate."
Nortel blames its latest accounting embarrassment on "third-party actuarial calculation errors embedded in Nortel's North American pension and post-retirement plans, and revenue incorrectly recognized in prior periods that should have been deferred to later periods." (Info from Telecom Web) (Graphic from Villaume Associates)
Thursday, March 01, 2007
- In 1996, only 28 percent of public library systems offered public Internet access. Today, nearly all library buildings offer public computing, and 14 million Americans regularly use these computers at no charge.
- In 1994, only three percent of instructional classrooms were wired. As of 2003, the figure was 93%.
- Between 1998 (when the E-Rate launched) and 2003, statistics show that classroom Internet access disparities between rural, urban, and suburban schools and high and low-poverty districts have been dramatically reduced.
E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $2.25 billion annually. This system follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation.
Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent based on local poverty levels. Schools and libraries must pay the undiscounted portion of their telecommunications bill themselves.