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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Man arrested for non-emergency call to 911
and drug possession

Claiming to possess vital information for undercover detectives, career criminal John Hunter wanted police to pay him a visit -- so he dialed 911 to report two armed men selling drugs on South Beach.

Officers did not appreciate his phone call.

Miami Beach police arrested Hunter on Saturday night after getting an emergency call reporting "two black males carrying firearms and selling drugs."

Officers rushed to the reported location, but instead of the gunmen, they found Hunter, a felon with a string of convictions including drugs and theft.

"I called in the guns because I have important information for undercover officers," he told a police officer. Hunter's troubles didn't stop with the bogus call. He had one packet of suspected cocaine, one of suspected marijuana and 119 more packets of other suspected drugs.

Hunter "caused numerous officers to divert from other calls for service . . .due to the nature of the call," and faces one count of misuse of the 911 system, as well as four drug charges. (info and photo from Miami Herald)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Drunken woman driver calls 911
to report herself

Early Sunday, a woman in Wisconsin was able to give a detailed description of a suspected drunken driver and the suspect's vehicle to a sheriff's dispatcher, because she was calling from that vehicle and she was driving it.

The woman's boyfriend in the passenger seat suggested she call 911 to report her own drunken driving. He wasn't driving because he was too drunk.

The call came in on the Dodge County 911 line as a hang-up call from a cellphone. Dispatchers used a reverse 911 directory and called the phone, which was answered by a woman who identified herself as Patricia Dykstra. She said her boyfriend made her call, because "somebody seems to think I can't drive home straight." When the dispatcher asked her why, she said, "He seems to think I 'm too intoxicated to drive."

During a relatively pleasant conversation with the dispatcher, Dykstra gave her name, location and vehicle description before saying she should probably hang up because "I don't like being on the phone while driving."

Asked by the dispatcher if she had too much to drink, she said "I don't think so, ma'am." She said she was almost home and gave the intersection. Deputies went to her home, where Dykstra met them on the porch. She had consumed a six-pack of beer, she said, and her boyfriend a 12-pack. She was ticketed for drunken driving, her first offense. (info from Wisconsin State Journal)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not telecom, but a good story

Drunk drives lawnmower through snowstorm to liquor store.

A man was charged with drunken driving in Adrian, Michigan, after drinking two bottles of wine, and driving through a snowstorm on his lawn mower down the center of the street to reach a liquor store to buy more wine.

Police found Frank Kozumplik, heading for home on a John Deere riding mower Saturday night, with four bottles of wine in a bag.

He told officers that his wife had taken their car to work, and that the mower was the only way he could reach the store, two miles from home.

His blood alcohol level was 2-1/2 times Michigan's legal driving limit of 0.08 percent. Police arrested him and confiscated the mower. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burglar stays in house while victim makes two calls to 911

MEMO TO BURGLARS: after you take away your victims' cellphones, make sure they don't have any other phones.

Maryland police said a teen boy's calm and detailed 911 calls helped authorities catch a burglar at his home last Wednesday.

Curtis Wiggins and his younger brother were at home when the bad guy came to the front door and demanded to be let inside. The man said to open up the door or else. The boys said they didn't have anything, and didn't let him in, so he smashed a window pane and entered the home.

The boys ran upstairs to the bedroom, and the teen called 911 on a cellphone and gave a very detailed description of the intruder and stayed calm while the intruder burglarized the house. At one point, the burglar burst into the bedroom, saw Wiggins with the phone and said, "I'll take that."

The burglar then went downstairs and rummaged through the house while Wiggins used a landline phone to make another 911 call. When police arrived, they caught the suspect leaving the home with the stolen property, including the cellphone, and arrested him. (info from NBC4.com)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sprint sues four more over patents

Fresh off its legal wins over Vonage and Voiceglo (which no longer exists), Sprint Nextel is now suing four competitors for Voice over Packet (VoP) patent infringement.

The struggling telecom carrier said Thursday that NuVox Communications, Broadvox Holdings, PAETEC and Big River Telephone are infringing at least six of its patents. Sprint wants a court to award monetary damages and bar them from “ongoing infringement.”

"Sprint has invested a great deal in the technology covered by its VOP portfolio," said Harley Ball, vice president of intellectual property for Sprint. "We cannot stand by and allow others to use Sprint's innovations and discoveries to compete with Sprint and its strategic partners.”

The suit marks the second VoP infringement allegation of 2008. Verizon earlier this month sued Cox Communications, claiming illegal use of its VoIP technology. Such cases are likely to increase as packet-based technologies mature and rivals eye each others’ growing sales numbers.

Sprint last September won $69.5 million from Vonage, which now licenses Sprint’s VoP technology and paid Sprint another $80 million. The Voiceglo case goes back to 2006. Sprint and Voiceglo didn’t disclose how much Voiceglo agreed to pay for licensing rights. Voiceglo closed in March, 2007. (info from Phone Plus)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sprint closing 125 stores, firing 4,000

As its downward spiral continues, Sprint Nextel plans to fire 4,000 people and close 125 retail locations to prepare for an expected slowdown in subscriber growth and revenue. The job cuts and store closings aim to cut $700 million to $800 million a year in labor costs starting at the end of 2008. The company said it will book a charge in the first quarter to cover severance costs, but did not disclose the amount.

Sprint said it will also close 4,000 of its 20,000 third-party distribution points, such as stalls inside other retailers. This represents 8 percent of its 1,400 company-owned shops. The company also said it could record a charge in the fourth quarter of 2007 for what's known as "goodwill impairment," reflecting the decreased value of its assets and share price. Sprint finished the year with 53.8 million subscribers.

The announcement follows several quarters of poor performance. Sprint has had trouble attracting new subscribers while facing growing customer service complaints. The troubles prompted the company to oust Chief Executive Officer Gary Forsee and replace him with Dan Hesse, the former CEO of Sprint spin-off Embarq.

The company's struggle dates back to Sprint's 2005 acquisition of Nextel, which left it with incompatible networks, technical glitches, a customer base filled with credit-compromised subscribers and a dubious marketing effort. Besides the layoffs and closings, Hesse and his staff are considering consolidating the company's operations at its operational headquarters in Kansas.

Another pressing issue is whether to continue a planned commercial rollout next year of the company's WiMax service, which has been criticized within the industry as too expensive and experimental. The stock plunged $2.69, or 23.3 percent, to $8.88 in morning trading, falling as far as $8.85. That was Sprint's lowest share price since October 2002. (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Printed wrong number sends gov's callers
to sex line

A Maryland man who called the governor's office to discuss mortgage foreclosure realized he probably wasn't talking to a government employee when the woman who answered greeted him with "Hi, sexy."

Pete Pritchard of Calvert discovered the number for the governor's office is misprinted in the latest edition of the Armstrong Telephone Co. phone book. The printed number leads to a phone sex service. The previous edition had the same mistake. Pritchard wonders if he's the first person in two years who ever called the governor's office by using that directory.

An phone company executive said the directory information comes from a third party source not controlled by them and that the error will be addressed in a message included with February bills. (Info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Man jailed for calling 911 about IRS

Douglas J. Smoot was being held in the Madison County Jail in Indiana late Friday on $5,000 bond on charges of intimidation and harassment, after he repeatedly called a police dispatcher to complain about the Internal Revenue Service.

According to police, Smoot called the emergency center and began cursing at dispatcher James Janes, calling him names and complaining about the IRS.

Officer R.S. Richwine called Smoot and told him not to call the dispatch center unless he needed police help. Smoot threatened to hurt Richwine. After that call ended, Smoot called Janes back and threatened to hurt him.

Officers then drove to Smoot’s home, and when they tried patting him down to see if he had any weapons, he struck Richwine. Smoot was then taken into custody. Magistrate Stephen Clase arraigned Smoot on the intimidation and harassment charges and ordered him to be taken for treatment for his mental health issues, and then to be brought back to the jail. (info from Anderson IN Herald Bulletin)

Monday, January 21, 2008

911 operator found guilty of neglect

In a first-of-its-kind criminal case, a Detroit jury convicted a 911 operator Friday of ignoring an emergency call from a 5-year-old boy seeking help after his mother collapsed.

A jury found Sharon Nichols guilty of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, after a five-day trial and three hours of deliberations. She also faced a criminal charge in the same case that a judge dismissed

Sherrill Turner was dead by the time police arrived Feb. 20, 2006. The case marked the first time nationwide that a 911 operator had been charged with a crime in mishandling a phone call, attorneys and a top 911 official said Friday.

"I hope that it makes every 911 operator in the city and across the country think real hard before dismissing a call as a prank," Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lora Weingarden said outside the courtroom. "I'm thrilled with the verdict."

The caller, Robert Turner, now 7, said he also was thrilled. Reached by phone Friday night, he said he would forgive Nichols if she apologized to him. "She was mean to me. She didn't send help," he said. "I would forgive her if she wanted to talk." He said he thinks about his mother every day. "She was the best," Robert said. "I really miss her."

The case stems from an emergency call Robert made after his mother fell unconscious in her Detroit home. Nichols dismissed the call as a prank. Authorities later determined that Sherrill Turner, 46, died of complications from an enlarged heart. The boy called 911 at 5:59 p.m. and told Nichols, "My mom has passed out."

On the 911 audiotape played in court, Nichols is heard threatening the boy, "I'm going to send the police to your house and find out what's going on with you." Asked why she did not request a police car, Nichols testified she believed the call to be a prank and was trying to get Robert to admit it. Robert testified Tuesday that Nichols hung up on him. Nichols testified that the boy hung up on her. (info from Detroit Free Press)

Friday, January 18, 2008

In DC, you can call 911 if you want 311,
for a while

When you need emergency help in the nations's capital, as in most parts of the US, you dial 911. However, the 911 agents also handle calls to 311, which is now used for police non-emergencies like filing police reports, which takes agents away from emergency work.

In the near future, dialing 311 will get you to the Mayor's Call Center and their trained operators will handle police reports, as well as city service calls like abandoned cars and houses, illegal dumping, leaf collection and graffiti removal.

The move will completely free up 911 operators to handle residents' emergency calls when they want police, fire, or EMS response to physically show up where immediate help is needed.

If you call the wrong number, you will be transferred. The new 311 call duties have not taken effect yet. (info from WJLA TV)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

There may be no bidders at FCC air auction

Federal regulators' assumption that telecom companies would leap at the chance to buy airwaves in an auction, may be collapsing less than two weeks before the auction begins.

The recent demise of the most likely new bidder, start-up Frontline Wireless, which pushed for the nationwide license, means that the likelihood of a new national wireless competitor has dropped. FCC officials are hoping for the best, noting that big carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless could potentially bid for the discounted airwaves, which include conditions requiring the winner to share its wireless network with emergency responders.

214 bidders qualified for the auction, expected to raise at least $10 billion. Google and big wireless companies including AT&T will likely focus on larger regional blocks, which could be put together to form a national wireless network. Less than two weeks from the auction's Jan. 24 start, however, there may be no company coming to claim the discounted airwaves. The deadline to apply for the auction closed well before word of Frontline's closing became known.

If the $1.33 billion reserve price isn't met, FCC officials could be put into the uncomfortable place of re-auctioning the spectrum, possibly without some or all of the stringent conditions that it has imposed on the airwaves.

Frontline, led by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and venture capitalists John Doerr and James Barksdale, hoped to bid on the 10 megahertz of spectrum set aside by the FCC for joint use by the private and public sectors. The company was unable to raise enough capital to make the $1.33 billion minimum bid. It isn't clear who else might be seriously contemplating it.

The auction involves airwaves now being used by broadcasters for analog television. Next year the US is scheduled to change to digital-only broadcasts, which take up a fraction of the current space.

Congress set aside a large section of the airwaves for the use of public-safety groups, but building a network to take advantage of the extra airwaves was estimated to cost up to $10 billion. The FCC adopted a plan to offer a discount to a company willing to give first responders priority access to the network during emergencies. Addressing concerns about selling government property at a discount, the FCC adopted stringent new rules on the spectrum, which may have scared off investors and bidders. The winning bidder would have to put up a $128 million nonrefundable down payment.

If no bidders reach the minimum price, the FCC has options including awarding the airwaves to the highest bidder. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

AT&T is replacing batteries that might explode

In the latest setback to AT&T's effort to roll out Internet-based TV service, the company is replacing 17,000 backup batteries nationwide after a few exploded or started fires.

The batteries were installed in outdoor cabinets that hold equipment for AT&T's U-verse TV service. In two instances, exploding batteries damaged surrounding property. In two other cases, batteries caused small fires, which were quickly extinguished. No one was hurt in the fires or explosions, AT&T said.

The batteries were made by Avestor, a Quebec company that went bankrupt in 2006 and has since closed. AT&T (formerly known as Indiana Bell and McCaw Cellular) wouldn't disclose the cost of the batteries or replacement effort. Some analysts said they expect the situation to set the company back a few million dollars. The batteries will be replaced as quickly as possible, AT&T said.

AT&T has experienced a number of problems and delays in rolling out U-verse, but most have been software related. The battery issue won't affect TV service, the company said. At the end of the third quarter, AT&T had 126,000 U-verse subscribers and expects to have 1 million by the end of this year.

AT&T was first alerted to a battery mishap in October 2006. The company hired an outside firm to evaluate the danger presented by the Avestor batteries and learned the risk was as low or lower than similar batteries used by municipalities and other phone and cable companies, AT&T said. "However, these batteries no longer meet performance requirements," AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said. "There have been several of these incidents, and that's unacceptable." (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sprint to fire a few thousand more people

Sprint Nextel plans extensive firings as newly installed Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse seeks to show investors a new commitment to efficiency and cost discipline.
The scale of the firings isn't clear, but they are likely to be in the range of a few thousand, apparently. The company, which has about 60,000 employees, let 5,000 workers go last year.

Sprint, the nation's No. 3 wireless carrier by subscribers, is among several US companies that have said the country's housing crunch and economic downturn have taken a toll on their business. But the cutbacks appear to be a response to Sprint's generally poor operational performance in the past year, not a result of a slowing economy. Sprint, which has 54 million wireless customers, is lagging far behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless in subscriber additions and is suffering from poor customer service.

Hesse stepped into the top job in December amid deepening investor unease. Formerly CEO of local phone company Embarq -- a Sprint spin-off -- he immediately set out to tackle some administrative issues that had not been addressed since Sprint's 2005 acquisition of Nextel.

Beyond the layoffs, he and other top executives are evaluating a plan to consolidate the company's headquarters to streamline decision-making. To date, the combined company has used Nextel's former offices in Reston, Va., as its official headquarters and a base for about 4,500 employees, while keeping a large operational presence of roughly 13,000 employees in Kansas.

Many Virginia-based employees are worried by the prospect of a headquarters relocation. But it appears that only a few hundred top managers and executives will have to move. The fact that top executives haven't yet united under a single roof has become a symbol of the troubled integration of Sprint and Nextel and a continuing internal cultural rift. No final decisions have been made on the headquarters consolidation. (info fro mThe Wall Street Journal)

Monday, January 14, 2008

NJ official says deregulation
would raise phone costs

The deregulation of phone service in New Jersey requested by Verizon and Embarq would result in increased rates and a decline in service, a state official said last Thursday.

Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, provided written testimony to the Board of Public Utilities asking it to deny requests by the telecommunications companies that would brand their retail residential and business services as "competitive."

The BPU can deregulate a service if it finds that there is enough competition. Such a designation allows companies to set what they consider to be their own fair prices in the free market. But the rate counsel says that since Verizon and Embarq provide 83 percent of the phone service in New Jersey, residents won't see much benefit.

"People looking for basic landline services or Lifeline (emergency) services don't have any real choice but to go with Verizon or Embarq," Brand said. "There is no real competition, and the (BPU) should not abrogate its obligation to ensure affordable phone service for these consumers."

According to the BPU, Basic service rates for residential customers could increase from $8.95 per month to more than $30 per month, costing the estimated 1.3 million residential customers who buy only basic service more than $312 million. Single-line business rates could increase from $15 per month to more than $35 per month, costing 60,000 single-line business customers more than $19 million. About 500,000 Lifeline Assistance customers could see their rates increase to $30 per month from the current top rate of $2.50 per month.

Rich Young, a spokesman for Verizon, dismissed the rate counsel's numbers as "doomsday predictions." "The fact is competition in New Jersey is flourishing in 2008, and it's only poised to grow," Young said, adding that consumers can choose from dozens of traditional landline companies, wireless providers and Internet phone service providers, such as Vonage and Skype. Verizon has 4 million retail lines in New Jersey. Young said that number has decreased monthly, in part, due to competition.

Embarq, operator of United Telephone Company of New Jersey, has 116,000 residential lines in the state, but would have almost double that amount if not for competition, according to written testimony the company gave to the BPU in December.

Tom Allibone, a New Jersey director of the consumer-advocacy group Teletruth, said the deregulation of telecommunications companies in 1996 has only led to increases in phone fees for customers - and not the expected decreases resulting from new competition. "People are looking for cheaper services, more services and reduction of costs," Allibone said. "I have to agree whole-heartedly with the rate counsel on this matter." (info from Press of Atlantic City)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Man calls 911 after microwaving his hand

An Idaho man who believed he bore the "mark of the beast" used a circular saw to cut off one hand, then he cooked it in his microwave oven and used his remaining hand to dial 911 for help.

The man, in his mid-20s, was calm when Kootenai County sheriff's deputies arrived at his home Saturday. He was held in protective custody in the mental health unit of Kootenai Medical Center.

"It had been somewhat cooked by the time the deputy arrived," sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger said. "He put a tourniquet on his arm before, so he didn't bleed to death. It was not immediately clear whether the man has a history of mental illness.

The Book of Revelation in the New Testament contains a passage in which an angel is quoted as saying: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God's fury." The book of Matthew says: "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

(Not telecom, but it's a great story)

They must have watched "Bernie."

Men transport corpse to cash his check

Two men wheeled a dead man through Manhattan streets in an office chair to a check-cashing store and tried to cash his Social Security check before being arrested for fraud.

David J. Dalaia and James O'Hare pushed Virgilio Cintron's body from the apartment that O'Hare and Cintron shared, to Pay-O-Matic, about a block away. Witnesses saw the two pushing the chair with Cintron flopping from side to side and the two men propping him up.

The men left Cintron's body outside the store, went inside and tried to cash his $355 check. The store's clerk, who knew Cintron, asked the men where he was, and O'Hare told the clerk they get him.

A police detective who was having lunch at a restaurant next to the check-cashing store noticed a crowd forming around Cintron's body, and it was immediately apparent to him that Cintron was dead.

The detective called police officers at a nearby precinct, and then emergency medical technicians arrived as O'Hare and Dalaia were preparing to wheel Cintron's body into the check-cashing store. Police arrested Dalaia and O'Hare there.

Cintron's body was taken to a hospital morgue. The medical examiner's office told police it appeared Cintron, 66, had died of natural causes within the previous 24 hours. Dalaia and O'Hare, both 65, were being held by police and faced check fraud charges. (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

4th largest phone company
is a cable tv company

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced that Comcast recently jumped ahead of Embarq -- a Sprint spinoff-- to become the fourth-largest residential phone service provider in the US.

Comcast has signed on 4 million new VoIP customers in just over two years, according to Roberts, and hired nearly 12,000 employees to help manage the service. The company says it will invest $450 million in its digital voice service in 2008.

Also, Comcast is planning to roll out:

* Caller ID to the TV and PC.
* SmartZone Communications Center – a central online location where customers can use "viewable voicemail" to listen to calls or forward them like email, send and receive email and remotely program their DVRs.
* Enhanced Cordless Telephone – that will enable users to check email and voicemail, send instant messages and access a “universal” personal address book as well as a yellow pages directory. (info from Wired)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Town losing devilish phone digits

After decades of living with what Mayor Scott Walker calls a stigma, residents of Reeves, Lousiana are getting a new telephone exchange, one without the biblical connotations attached to their current 666.

Residents and businesses can change the first three digits of their phone numbers from 666 to 749. "This is a very, very religious community," Walker said.

There are three churches in town, and fewer than 450 homes, he said. In the Bible, 666 is depicted as the mark of the beast, and those taking the mark would be associating themselves with Satan, he said. "It's been a 40-year battle" to change the number, he said.

This year, after a resident contacted the mayor with questions about the prefix, Walker said he polled residents and found overwhelming support for a change. He worked with the phone company, CenturyTel, and the state Public Service Commission among others to make the change. He said he began publicizing the option Sunday, addressing first the local churches and then reaching out to local media.

"It's been a black eye for our town, a stigma," he said. "I don't think it's anything bad on us, just an image." Walker said one of the biggest hangups he's had, both as mayor and as a lifelong resident of Reeves, is the reaction he's gotten when giving people his number. He describes it as a pause, followed by the admonition: "Y'all have to change that."

"That's what we're trying to get rid of," he said. "This is a good town. We're good Christian people."

The exchange code for Reeves is not being "changed" from 666 to 749. Both codes will be available. CenturyTel is going to give customers the option of changing their telephone numbers. They'll have a three-month free period to change their numbers. After then, CenturyTel will charge a fee. There is no guarantee that customers' last four digits will remain the same when changing from 666 to 749, although the customer can request it. (info from The Associated Press & Telecom Digest)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cell phoning could cost commuters 20 hours per year

Drivers talking on cellphones are probably making your commute even longer, according to a new study.

Motorists yakking away, even with handsfree devices, crawl about 2 mph slower on commuter-clogged roads than people not on the phone, and they just don't keep up with the flow of traffic, said study author David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah. If you commute by car an hour a day, it could all add around 20 hours a year to your commute, Strayer said.

"The distracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions," said Strayer, whose study will be presented later this month to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. "People kind of get stuck behind that person and it makes everyone pay the price of that distracted driver."

Strayer's study, based on three dozen students driving in simulators, found that drivers on cellphones are far more likely to stick behind a slow car in front of them and change lanes about 20 percent less often than drivers not on the phone.

Overall, cellphone drivers took about 3 percent longer to drive the same highly traffic-clogged route (and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium congested route) than people who were not on the phone. About one in 10 drivers is on the phone so it really adds up, said Strayer, whose earlier studies have found slower reaction times from drivers on the phones and compared those reaction times to people legally drunk.

Combine those factors and Strayer figures distracted drivers are adding an extra 5 to 10 percent of time to your commute. It's simply a matter of brain overload. Your frontal cortex can handle only so many tasks at one time, so you slow down, Strayer said.

What happens to students in a simulator may not translate to real world conditions, said Anne McCartt, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Further, she said the study itself points out how distracted drivers are slower, but is short on calculations on just how it affects other drivers. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Google backs freebie Frisco Wi-Fi again

A Silicon Valley startup is promising to blanket San Francisco with free wireless Internet service, reviving a crusade that crumbled last year after two much larger companies, EarthLink and Google, scrapped plans to build a network.

Meraki Networks, whose financial backers include Google, hopes to complete the ambitious project within the next year by persuading thousands of San Francisco residents to set up free radio repeaters on their rooftops and in their homes.

The system envisioned by EarthLink and Google would have required installing transmitters on street poles and other public property, a more expensive strategy that also involved more bureaucratic red tape and political haggling.

Since starting its tests about six months ago, Meraki has given away about 500 repeaters -- enough to provide Wi-Fi access to about 40,000 people. After raising an additional $20 million from venture capitalists, Meraki decided it had enough money to set up free Wi-Fi in San Francisco's remaining 47 square miles. Meraki probably will have to give away 10,000 to 15,000 repeaters.

Finding that many volunteers willing to set up repeaters may be difficult. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to help "publicize and grow the network without the bureaucracy and politics that challenged our last effort to bring free Wi-Fi to San Francisco."

Meraki, which developed from a doctoral project at MIT, is using San Francisco as a showcase to demonstrate its communal approach to Wi-Fi. The company hopes to make money by selling its technology in less-developed countries looking for inexpensive ways to provide Internet access. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Not about telecom, but a great story

Cop accused of paying woman for sex, with wife's clothing

According to an search warrant affidavit, Austin, TX, police officer Scott Lando hired Denise Pfeifer for sex while investigating a report that she was assaulted, sometimes meeting her while on duty and at least once taking her to his house.

As part of her payment, Lando opened his wife's closet to the woman, allowing her to take a pair of black Harley-Davidson leather boots that were still in the box, jewel-studded jeans and a pink and yellow top. Lando told Pfeifer his wife "would never miss" the clothes." Pfeifer also used the family's Whirlpool bathtub.

Pfeifer told investigators that Lando took her on shopping trips to Wal-Mart and a shoe store, and paid for a meal at a restaurant.

Police said that Lando, who has been an officer for five years, has been placed on paid leave pending criminal and internal affairs investigations. Lando's attorney said his client denies having a relationship with Pfeifer.

Pfeifer was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 on five charges of burglary. She was released on parole in March 2004 but was sent back to prison for probation violation. (info from the Austin Statesman)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Vonage-Nortel suit ends with patent licensing, not dollars

Vonage and Nortel settled their patent litigation, allowing cross-licensing of three Nortel and three Vonage patents, and dismissing claims relating to past damages and other patents. The agreement doesn't call for payments by either company.

The companies will cross-license technology used to make emergency calls and dial 411. Vonage won't have to pay Nortel for any alleged unauthorized use of its technology.

Vonage entered the battle with Nortel after it acquired three patents from Digital Packet Licensing. DPL had sued Nortel in 2004 alleging violation of those patents, so Vonage continued the lawsuit. Nortel countersued, claiming Vonage violated 13 patents, and asked that Vonage be kept from using the technology.

Despite having now settled all of its legal battles, Vonage still faces many challenges as cable companies roll out phone services and consumers increasingly use cellphones in place of landlines.

Last year, Vonage agreed to settle four other patent suits, and to pay AT&T $39 million, and Sprint Nextel and Verizon a total of $200 million. (info from The Wall Street Journal)