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News tagged: Oddities

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by Karl Bode 04:39PM Friday Feb 13 2015
We've of course noted at length how AT&T and Verizon have spent the last few years backing away from millions of DSL users they simply don't want to upgrade. These users aren't just in rural markets either; many reside in locations like Alexandria, Buffalo, Binghamton, and Boston. They're being hung up on because investors lack the patience to see a ROI on pretty much any additional fixed-line network investment these days, and wireless is a much more profitable endeavor -- even if it's still far from a fixed-line substitute.

Baltimore residents obviously aren't happy. But instead of plainly telling these users they don't want to pay for upgrades, the excuse du jour appears to be that these companies simply can't find the parts. At least that's the excuses carriers and carrier think tanks gave to the Baltimore Sun this week:
"It's not just the wires that are going bad, it's the switches," said Sherry Lichtenberg, the principal researcher for telecommunications at the Washington-based National Regulatory Research Institute. "It's really hard to find parts." AT&T officials have said the company sometimes has to scrounge on eBay for parts.
Of course many of these parts could be replaced with newer, better parts, but Verizon simply doesn't think Baltimore's worth it, and telling any of the cities Verizon's ignored for FiOS (or even improved DSL) upgrades simply isn't going to go over very well. Both AT&T and Verizon have been going state by state trying to argue that if regulators strip away all remaining regulations, consumers will be awash in a new generation of connectivity. That's again because "we want you to pay much more money for less reliable wireless data" probably isn't a good sales pitch.


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by Karl Bode 08:11AM Thursday Feb 05 2015
I'm just going to leave this here.


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by Karl Bode 05:31PM Wednesday Jan 28 2015
Just when you think you can go a month without a Comcast support horror story making headlines, a Comcast support horror story makes headlines. The Consumerist notes that one Comcast customer was surprised to see that his first name had been changed to "a**hole" when he received his monthly bill.
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by Karl Bode 09:14AM Tuesday Oct 28 2014
An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London was delayed over the weekend -- because one of the plane's passenger's freaked out over another user's Wi-Fi SSID. According to Los Angeles ABC affiliate ABC7, a passenger on the flight became alarmed after seeing another traveler's hotspot named "Al-Quida Free Terror Network." A flight attendant was alerted, and the plane was diverted and held three hours under "security threat" and ultimately delayed until the next day. "After further investigation, it was determined that no crime was committed and no further action will be taken," the airport said in a statement.


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by Karl Bode 08:15AM Monday Oct 27 2014
Viacom has taken their retransmission fight with Suddenlink to a new, decidedly more mutated, level. According to the Charleston Gazette, Viacom has taken to using actors dressed up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to shame Suddenlink at public events after the two sides couldn't come to terms on retransmission fees.
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by Karl Bode 08:24AM Wednesday Oct 01 2014
With Seattle city leadership complaining about the lack of broadband competition in the city and making noise about building their own networks, Comcast has taken to a unique approach to win the hearts and minds of the cities apartment dwellers. According to the local news outlets, Comcast has taken to throwing pizza parties to warm locals to their brand, insisting that if "we can we can get people in front of our products they can see the advantages we have over our competitors and learn to like those products."

Reddit users are having a little fun at Comcast's expense in regards to the new marketing strategy, offering up some pizza party advice -- Comcast style:
1.) Take all the pizza before it arrives.
2.) Call up the party host AS the pizza company.
3.) Inform them the pizza delivery is down between the hours of "Now till now+3 hours." But if they want to buy the pizza+hotdog bundle together for an additional 100 bucks, it'll increase their pizza delivery speed by 10 minutes.


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by Karl Bode 09:09AM Friday Sep 05 2014
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile's Isis NFC-based mobile payment service was already struggling, with many users either simply not interested in the idea of using their smartphone as a debit card, already using other services, or simply never having heard of it. Now things are more complicated, with the service suddenly sharing its name with a violent iraqi uprising dominating the newswires (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS).
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by Karl Bode 09:12AM Tuesday Sep 02 2014
SoftBank will take advantage of their new Sprint ownership stake by selling robots at Sprint stores sometime next year, notes Bloomberg. SoftBank's "Pepper" robot, available in Japan for 198,000 yen ($1,900), is about four feet tall, dances, makes jokes, and "estimates human emotions based on expressions" according to the report.

"We will sell Pepper in the United States within a year after gathering information in Japan," insists SoftBank robotics CEO Fumihide Tomizawa. "I won’t be surprised if Pepper sales will be half to business and half to consumers." There's no word yet on pricing for Pepper here in the States, though you can learn more about the robot here (the video of the June unveiling is worth a look).


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by Bill Neilson 10:01AM Friday Aug 22 2014
Chalk this up as yet another fine example of Cox Communications customer support. After a homeowner ordered Cox TV/Internet, a Cox employee came by the house to install the service.
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by Karl Bode 04:43PM Friday Aug 01 2014
Comcast was forced to cancel a promotional event at a Senator's home after the Kansas City Star pointed out the dubious ethics of a Senator directly helping sell Comcast services. According to the Kansas City Star, Comcast had planned to host an event at the home of Kansas Senator Julia Lynn to demonstrate Comcast's home security and home automation services.
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by Karl Bode 11:02AM Tuesday Jul 15 2014
Ryan Block and his wife Veronica Belmont simply wanted to cancel their Comcast service, but as the now-viral recording below illustrates, Comcast simply wouldn't allow it. According to Block, this call actually begins some ten minutes into the process of trying to get Comcast to cancel service.
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by Karl Bode 04:25PM Thursday Jul 03 2014
Not to be outdone by the family that sent money to Comcast for seven years for an alarm system that never worked, an 88-year-old woman in Florida has paid Comcast for TV service for thirteen-plus years -- without ever receiving a working signal. A local Florida news outlet (via the Consumerist) notes the woman's development switched from Comcast to Charter service (apparently included in her rent) back in October of 2000, but Comcast kept billing her $29 a month for the next thirteen and a half years. When approached about the error by her grandson Comcast initially said they'd only provide a six month refund ($174). Once the issue received news attention Comcast stated they'd offer a full refund.


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by Karl Bode 04:18PM Thursday May 29 2014
Comcast's latest Xfinity ad is raising some eyebrows among Reddit users. In it, a Comcast spokesman has random gamers try Comcast's broadband service, while claiming it provides the "speed real gamers need" while delivering lower latency and no buffering (we'll just ignore those Netflix issues). The problem? The game Comcast has supposed gamers trying in the ad (Trials Fusion) can't actually be played over the Internet.


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by Karl Bode 05:35PM Friday May 09 2014
"Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's internet slow and expensive forever' lobby," NeoCities creator Kyle Drake stated on the Neocities blog (via Ars). It's unlikely to bother the FCC, but the protest over the agency's latest neutrality failures is at least amusing. The full post is well worth a read.


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by Karl Bode 09:06AM Friday May 09 2014
Wireless hardware manufacturer MediaBridge recently thought it would be a good idea to legally threaten an Amazon and Reddit user for a negative review of one of their Medialink products (specifically this one). The result wasn't particularly surprising, with Redditors then flooding the company's products on Amazon (and some other, unrelated competing products) with one-star reviews.

While the original Reddit post and MediaBridge letter has since been deleted, MediaBridge told the user he was engaged in an "illegal campaign to damage, discredit, defame and libel Mediabridge and/or to engage in other tortious, wrongful, and/or illegal conduct directed against Mediabridge."

In addition to criticizing the quality and cost of the router, the user claimed MediaBridge was covertly selling another company's router under a new brand for significantly more money (which seems to be true), and faking Amazon reviews (something others have wondered about but doesn't appear confirmed).

In a statement, Mediabridge doesn't seem particularly apologetic for the fracas:
"It’s our sincere belief that reasonable people understand that not only is it within our rights to take steps to protect our integrity, but that it should be expected that we would do so when it is recklessly attacked. The reviewer has since changed his review completely to remove the libelous statements, but unfortunately not before having an army attack us on the internet."
In the end which would have been the more productive path from a brand perspective: offering the best products you can and treating consumers well while being honest? Or acting generally like a bully and threatening users simply for talking on the Internet?


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by Karl Bode 05:54PM Friday Mar 28 2014
An Indianapolis grandmother is telling local news outlets that someone has hacked into her AT&T U-Verse cable box, and has been sending lewd and suggestive comments to house residents. According to Indianapolis Fox affiliate Fox 59, police have visited the home and confirmed that someone has managed to gain access to the cable box and used it to type harassing messages to the residents (the full video has plenty of entertainment value). "I want this man out of my life," says the grandmother. "I want him to go to jail." AT&T says they're investigating the complaints.


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by Karl Bode 06:04PM Wednesday Mar 05 2014
For years now, the UK government has given lectures on Internet morality whenever and however possible, forcing ISPs there to implement pornography filters that force broadband users to opt out, frequently filter entirely legitimate websites, and can usually be bypassed by anyone with a modicum of technical know how. With that going so well, conversations are now currently underway in the to extend the porn filters to include government-determined "extremist content."

Given this righteous attempt to legislate morality, it's a bit ironic then that a scandal has broken out in the UK after Patrick Rock, a top aide to Prime Minister David Cameron and a chief architect of the country's porn filters, was arrested for possession of child pornography.
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by Karl Bode 07:27PM Tuesday Feb 18 2014
T-Mobile last week sent out an email promotion to Blackberry users urging them to upgrade to Apple's iPhone 5S on T-Mobile for no money down. It's really fairly tame fare for T-Mobile, whose CEO John Legere has been taking to Twitter the last few months to almost mercilessly mock competitors (with a special eye on AT&T) while engaging in some overdue industry price disruption.
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by Karl Bode 08:26AM Thursday Jan 16 2014
Two researchers recently discovered a way to send a text message communications using freshly-evaporated vodka. According to Ars Technica, the scientists used specific concentration levels of the vodka to represent bits 1 and 0, and then transmitted the lyrics of "O Canada" between two points twelve feet apart. A receiving unit was able to read out the message as it detected the concentration of vodka in the air rising or falling over time. While not likely to change your home communications anytime soon, researchers believe the "molecular communication system" could be used as a niche tool in nanotechnology, or in cramped spaces (allowing sewer robots to communicate).


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by Karl Bode 02:41PM Wednesday Jan 15 2014
While there's no shortage of studies examining consumer satisfaction, research firm Marchex has added a new wrinkle in analyzing which companies wind up with the most users swearing at them over the phone. According to the firm's latest study, satellite companies take top honors in being the most curse-inducing, with one out of every 82 calls resulting in users cursing at the company.
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