Welcome to the Apr 18, 2015 issue of
CompuNerds.Net-News (←home page)
Comcast, in order to win approval for its bid to aquire NBC Universal in 2011, started its "Internet-Essentials" program that provides basic Internet service at just $9.95/month for "low-income families." The problems with it lie in the definitions: "basic" is "up to 5 Megabits download speed and up to 1 Megabit upload speed. That would be about normal for 15 years ago, but is painfully slow today, in 2015, when many people want to stream videos and music: the FCC recently adopted 25 Mbs as standard download speed. And Comcast defines "low-income families" as a household having at least one child enrolled in the school lunch program. This excludes the majority of low-income people: it does nothing for millions of workers at minimum-wage jobs, or for disabled or retired people barely scraping by on Social Security payments.
Now Comcast is trying to win FCC approval for its proposed merger with Time-Warner Cable, and the FCC wants Comcast to expand "Internet-Essentials" to be more inclusive of low-income Americans, but Comcast won't budge from its position. The underlying question is: "Why does Internet service cost $70, $90 or over $100 per month? How can they charge that much?" The simple answer is: "Because they can." Our Internet connection when we lived in Moscow, Russia cost us about $7 per month, and the company's costs - mainly for servers and switches - were similar. When an ISP (Internet Service Provider) adds TV or telephone to the bill, they typically bump up the cost by at least $20 for each service. But what does it actually cost? Our magicJack Internet telephone service costs us about $3 per month, and that company is still making a decent profit. So I have to conclude that ISPs in the United States are making tons of profit. Internet-Essentials is very likely more than breaking even for Comcast, but they would rather have customers paying $70, $90 or over $100/mo. Why? Because you will pay it.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Childlessness is hereditary: if your parents didn't have childen, chances are you won't either.
But what happens when the government intervenes in the marketplace, and either forces private business to lower prices on some of its products or services, or forces them to pay more to their employees? McDonald's has installed 7,000 touch-screen cashiers in Europe, and can easily do the same here in the U.S. if their workers continue demanding $15 per hour for their unskilled, entry-level jobs. Let's face it, Fast Food Workers Don't Deserve $15 an Hour to Flip Burgers, and That's OK, says the headline of another article. If some workers do actually get their pay bumped up th $15/hr., many others will get their pay bumped down to $0/hr. - they'll be out of a job. Businesses must make a profit to stay in business, and I'm OK with that, just as long as it's a reasonable profit. But fast food outlets don't make the exhorbitant 400% markup on their products and services that the Internet Service Providers do.
Last week I decided to save some money on my monthly cellphone bill when I found a 5-inch Android phone on the Tracfone website for $150. I said to myself: "Self, could you perhaps find if for less on Amazon?" And sure enough! The same phone cost just $120 on Amazon! My Google Nexus 4 cost three times that much three years ago. It was state-of-the art then, 4G network, nice camera and all - a big improvement over the Tracfones I had been using for several years. And I was relatively flush with cash, working part-time then, along with my retirement income. But the Google Nexus 4 wouldn't work on the Tracfone network, so I switched to T-Mobile's $33 per month plan. As time passed and I realized that I simply didn't use the device that much as a phone - mainly I use it for reading books, checking email, looking at the news and weather, etc. while connected to WiFi - so why should I keep paying for 100 minutes of phone service that I almost never use? Usually my usage was about 20 minutes a month. So I popped for this new Alcatel One-Touch Pop Icon with a quad-core processor, and the monthly connection charges are about $7.50.
When I ordered it, I was a little concerned about whether the 5-inch screen would make the phone too large for my pocket, but when it arrived and I held it up to my old 4-inch Google Nexus 4, it turned out to be just 0.2" longer and 0.1" wider. Alcatel does this by shaving down the blank space at the top and bottom of the screen about 0.6". The camera is great, and the audio output is much better that the Google phone - I had trouble hearing phone calls on my old phone. So now I'm saving about $26 each month, plus any unused minutes or data usage roll over to the next month with Tracfone, compared to losing T-Mobile's unused services each month. And I checked prices on e-Bay for used Google Nexus 4 phones: $135 to $150. So I should be able to sell my old phone for what my new phone cost! Can you beat that? How about adding magicJack for $3/mo. and getting their free smartphone app for your phone so that you can make unlimited phone calls to the U.S. and Canada without using any Tracfone minutes?
The Security Blurb:
In the article Cisco posts kit to empty houses to dodge NSA chop shops you can read how Cisco has evaded the NSA's interception of networking equipment so they can plant a "beacon" in it that will "call home" - Cisco simply ships the equipment to a fake address instead of directly to a country such as Syria. Then the recipient picks up the shipment in, let's say, Italy or Germany and sends it on to the desired address. The German Der Spiegel newspaper reported one of Edward Snowden's revelations about how the NSA had implanted a "beacon" in an Internet router being shipped to Syria where it was installed as part of Syria's Internet backbone and also handled Syria's GSM mobile network - a real windfall for the NSA. But now such countries are requesting U.S. tech manufacturers to ship orders to fake addresses in other, friendlier countries. What this also means is that such countries will likely choose to order tech equipment from non-U.S. companies, so the NSA is damaging the U.S. economy by its surveillance.
The goal of our CN.Net-News is to share information that we think you'll find helpful as you wrestle with that little monster on your desk or at your side, your computer, tablet or phone. And we aim to present this information from a Christian worldview. Thanks for your time!
"Dr. Bob the CompuNerd"
Robert D hoskEN
See the "nerd" in my name? (It helps if you're a little dyslexic!)
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p.s. We just learned that our grandson's robotics team won 12th place in the world for robotics programming! Congrats, David!