ethernet cableOh no, the government might make you treat all information that same? That’s a good reason to turn down stimulus money!

The other day we wrote how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was questioning ISPs about what moves they had made to deliver broadband to all of the citizens of the country.  The next stage is for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to submit their requests for portions of the $4.7 billion in grants earmarked to help them expand their infrastructure by August 20th, but some of the bigger companies are saying. “no thanks.”

According to The Washington Post (free subscription required) people close to companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are saying that the ISPs will pass on the funds due to Net Neutrality requirements attached to the money.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Net Neutrality refers to the concept that all ISPs must treat all data that crosses their network equally, no matter what type of information it is.  In other words, if you are making what the ISP would consider excessive Voice 0ver Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, they could throttle down your connection to downgrade your connectivity, but under Net Neutrality they would not be allowed to do this.

The FCC does have some rules already in place in regards to this, but they are well-known to be weak and lacking in teeth.  The new rules will be more stringent, and that is causing the larger companies to pass on the funds.  They say it is also partially because the providers are currently flush with cash of their own, but it is also well known that companies would rather avoid Net Neutrality at all costs so that they can continue to turn down your speed when they feel like you are transferring too much data.

Luckily this won’t kill the project, but it is certainly disappointing to those of us who support the concept of Net Neutrality.  If it’s illegal, fine, but you don’t know that until it’s downloaded.  Up until then it is just packets of information and it should all be treated equally, but it’s good for the consumers, so of course the companies want to avoid it.

Hopefully this will all get sorted out soon and the companies will get past their pride, but I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen any time soon.

Categories: Internet   
 

1 billion firefox downloadsIs there anything sadder than when a giant corporation has to be a sour puss over another business doing well?

In an interview with The Guardian, Amy Barzdukas, a general manager at Microsoft in charge of the company’s Internet Explorer browser, said that the recent announcement that Firefox has reached a billion downloads was “interesting math”.  She went on to say:

As with any marketing statement, I’d encourage people to be somewhat sceptical about large number claims.  It’s an interesting number and I have not seen the math [but] how many Internet connected users are there? 1.1 billion, 1.5 billion, something in that area.

Of course the implication here is that Mozilla is lying, but as I even said in my original post on this subject:

The number obviously represents total downloads and not unique users.  Heck, I alone have probably downloaded 30 or more copies of those one billion.

Do I really need to explain this any further? The one billion downloads is quite plausible, Mozilla never said it represented the number of users.

Of course, Ms. Barzdukus had some things to say about the company continuing to support Internet Explorer 6:

Asked if IE6 provided a good experience for web browsing, Barzdukas said that “I don’t think anybody would argue that”.

Oh, really?  So, the IE 6 No More movement is a figment of my imagination?  Even I have said the browser must die, but apparently I would say using IE 6 is “a good experience”.  All that said, she said that Microsoft planned to support the product through 2014.

Excuse me while I go cry in a corner.

Categories: Internet, Web Browsing   
 

ethernet cableAt long last the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally begun moving on the National Broadband Plan, but what is really going to reveal?

Back in April it was announced that the FCC was going to be launching a national broadband initiative, but as we talked about back then, it didn’t sound overly promising to us: The goals were unclear, the definitions were vague and it just didn’t seem to do a whole lot for the actual advancement of the broadband in this country.

Well, Ars Technica dug in to a press release from the FCC entitled “Columbia Institute for Tele-Information to Conduct Independent Review of Telecom Capital Expenditures to Assist FCC.” (PDF link)  (whoa… I think I just fell asleep)  Basically the FCC is asking ISPs what they are doing in the form of investments into their infrastructure.  While the companies are investing, it isn’t clear that they are investing correctly.  As Ars Technica points out, Verizon is deplying "fiber to the home" which runs fiber optic cable directly to your house giving you fell benefit of the speeds.  On the other hand, AT&T is deploying "fiber to the node" which means it is fiber optic only to your local node, and then coaxial or other connection to your home which will not allow you to use the full speed of fiber optic.

In short: even with the government watching over the shoulders of these companies, they are still doing it wrong and the country will continue to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes ot Internet connectivity.  Never mind that AT&T posted a $12.9 billion in profit in 2009 a which is up over 200% from the $4.8 billion they posted in 2005.  Oh goodness me, how silly of all of us to ask them to invest in their infrastructure in a sensible way when they are making so little money…

Categories: Internet   
 

Internet Explorer logoIt seems I’m not the only person calling for the death of Internet Explorer 6, now there’s a whole movement!

Last month I wrote a post about Internet Explorer 6 Just Won’t Die, and how as much as it is a horrible browser, people continue to cling to it for some unknown reason.  Well, as of late the hatred for IE 6 has grown to such proportions that there is now an organization of websites that is taking aim at killing off the browser once and for all.

IE6 No More is a loose coalition of web sites that are encouraging people to place a snippet of code in to their sites that will encourage visitors to change their browsers to IE 8, Firefox, Chrome or another browser of their choice.  So far the list of sites joining the movement numbers over 70 and includes such sites as Reddit.tv, Disqus, Justin.tv and many more.

One aspect of the IE 6 problem is corporate users that have no control over what browser they use at work, but the group has a message for those people explaining what they can do.

What about the corporate users?

It’s a pretty common question: “What about corporate users who don’t have control over their choice of web browsers? Aren’t a large majority of IE 6 users in that group?”

We don’t really know. It seems like the best data available as to what percentage of IE 6 users are forced by their company to use the browser is the Digg survey, which shows that 70% of IE 6 users are in this boat: http://blog.digg.com/?p=878. However, there’s no indication how representative that is of the web as a whole — it’s very possible those results only apply to Digg.

Either way, this initiative is targeted straight at those users. We’ve heard from several sources that many corporate IT departments don’t feel any need or urgency to upgrade, and receive very few complaints. We see this as a start — the more complaints the IT department gets (especially from the top), the more pressure they’ll feel to upgrade. Even if they can’t upgrade IE 6 due to legacy applications, they could always install a version of Firefox side-by-side and only use IE 6 for the legacy apps.

For the other subset of IE 6 users, this will be a great notice to let them know that their web experience is seriously degraded, and that they should strongly consider upgrading their web browser.

While we try to keep our code simple at StarterTech, we won’t be adding the code for now, but believe me that we fully support this movement and hope that you will give some serious thought to upgrading when and where you can.

Categories: Internet, Web Browsing   
 

mailIf you’re to believe senior officials at the United States Postal Service, we are in the end times and that nasty, evil Internet is to blame!

According to an article from The Washington Post, the United States Postal Service is seeing its volume drop off so fast that even after an increase in rates earlier this year, there will be a loss posted for this year.  To try to combat these losses the service is removing over 100,000 drop off boxes that receive less than 25 pieces of mail per day, cutting office hours, combining delivery routes, placing hiring and raise freezes and lobbying congress to let them reduce home delivery days from six days a week to just five.

While the tone of the article, and various statements by senior postal officials, all seem to point to the reason being the Internet and email, but I think that is disingenuous at best.  There is no denying that it is indeed having some effect as people are paying bills online, sending ecards as opposed to physical birthday cards and so on, but there are also a lot of financial reasons for people to no longer send mail.

Big Dogs, one of the advertisers here on StarterTech, has stopped mailing out printed catalogs citing printing and postage costs.  Banks are reducing mailing volume in droves, and are even mentioned in the original article we linked to as desperately trying to get away from sending any mail at all.  I can speak from a personal point of view that just yesterday the only piece of snail mail I received was my copy of The Wall Street Journal.  I can not tell you the last time I received only 1 piece of mail or none at all.  We normally are drowning in the amount of mail we receive here at the StarterTech office, but the volume has been steadily declining.

There is also the aspect that companies are making an effort to go more green, and any reduction in the amount of paper used is certainly a step in that direction.

Something the Postal Service needs to consider is that raising the price for postage while also reducing the number of services customers get for their money may also be a factor.  Reducing the number of delivery days?  That’s another factor that certainly will factor into how much people want to use the service.  ”Gee, I can send an email that will get there in seconds, or can I send it by snail mail and… oops, my drop box is gone… oops, my office closed before I got there… oops, it didn’t make it there before the weekend.”

Increasing prices will reducing services is not usually a formula for success when you have a competitor that is about as close to free as you can get.

Categories: Internet, Opinion   
 

compuserve 1980 adCompuServe has closed its doors after 40 years of online service.

Never heard of it?  Not surprising.  CompuServe started life in 1969 as a computer service in Cleveland, Ohio for Golden United Life Insurance.  It was built to help them with computing issues and they rented out time on their computers to other people looking for computing power.  By 1980 they sold the company to H&R Block who was looking to diversify their off-tax season earnings, and that was when things really took off.  (The ad picture to the right is from 1980, click on it to read the whole thing and read about this thing they called “Email”…)

In the mid-1980′s as more computers popped up in homes, such as the Commodore 64 and Apple IIc, more people began to get modems and they decided to try out this service that allowed you to do things with your computer outside of the home.  This was the first experience for many people with the world of online computing, including myself.  (71211,2513 was my member number)

CompuServe quickly gave us a hint of what was to come from the Internet in the future:

Online shopping – They had a shopping mall of big name retailers.

CB Simulator – Chat rooms in a very early form.

Forums – Message boards for just about any interest.

The services popularity waned in the mid-1990′s as regular Internet access became more prevelant, and AOL rose to power.  In the end, AOL actually finally ended up purchasing their competition and it just got quieter and quieter with each passing year.  There hadn’t even been a new version of the connection software since the late 1990′s, so it’s surprising to learn it really was even still in existence.

CompuServe was where I cut my teeth in the online world, first logging on in September 1986.  It prompted me to buy my first scanner, a Logitech handheld black & white that you had to drag over a picture by hand very slowly.  I spent many late nights trying 20 – 30 times to get my Commodore 64′s 9600 baud modem to connect to their server, with that blasted beeping/hissing sound coming out like the worst sound in the world.

Those were the days, and I owe it a lot: for giving me a taste of what was to come, and even making some friends in those forums that I have to this day.  So long, CompuServe, you were a dear friend.

Categories: Internet   
 

google chrome logoChrome, the web browser by search engine giant Google, has finally left the Beta stage with its latest release.

Google Chrome has already found a small, but very loyal, following of fans for its stability and general rendering speed.  Now it has come out of its Beta stage, and the new version 2.0 feels even faster with its page loading speeds.

If you are surprised to learn that version 2 is out, that is the one place we at StarterTech feel that Chrome falls a little short: No notifications of updates.  To learn if there is a new version of the browser, you need to click on the wrench in the top right corner, and then click on “About Google Chrome” to see if there is a ner version for you to download.  It’s a bit counter intuitive as opposed to Firefox giving you a pop-up notice everytime there is a new version.  The Chrome system isn’t quite as user friendly, but it does work.

This is apparently one of the steps in Google moving all of their products out of Beta at long last so they can be accepted by corporate clients, and it’s about time.

Categories: Internet, Web Browsing   
 

rupert murdochIt would seem that Rupert Murdoch feels the time has come for people to stop freeloading on the Web.

Perhaps due to an astronomical drop in News Corp profits ($216 million last year down to $7 million this year in year-over-year reports), founder Rupert Murdoch announced via a conference call the Guardian was on, that within the next 12-months he expects to be charging for access to his corporations news websites.  

It seems that his thinking is based on one lone example of success, that being of the Wall Street Journal website.

That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience.

What he seems to be forgetting is that the New York Times used to charge access for their website, but they are now an open site with ad-support.  While the Wall Street Journal is enjoying success, it is also highly specialized news source, and not a generalized newspaper site like those of Mr. Murdoch.  Unless he can find some miraculous way to get every current free news source to charge for access at the exact same time he starts charging for his, he will find himself a very lonely individual with a huge lack of subscribers.

While what he says makes some sense, what he is missing is that people will simply turn to the numerous free resources that will still remain online before they pay for that exact same information.  While there is no doubt that print newspapers are suffering, going to subscription based online sites is not the answer.  All it will do is drive people away from your site, and with reduced visitors, the sites will look less appealing to advertisers.  It is an almost guaranteed lose-lose situation at this point.

There is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch is a smart man, just look at the media empire he’s built, but it is obvious that he is another in a long line of people who doesn’t get the inner workings of how the Internet works.  The genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago, and subscriptions are a thing of the past, so best of luck to him on trying to shove it back in to its bottle.

Categories: Internet, News, Opinion   
 

virgin media logoJust when you thought the United States was catching up to the world in Internet speeds, we fall behind again.

We recently reported on Optimum Online offering 101 Mb/s broadband in the New York City metro area.  That still stands at the current fastes speed in the United States, but now it seems that Virgin Media in the UK is ready to test out speeds of 200Mb/s, making them the fastest home service in the world.

It looks like 100 lucky subscribers in Ashford, Kent are getting to be part of the pilot program, which is planned to last for six months.  They will be doing shakedown tests on delivering 1080P HD content via the net, 3D video, doing home surveillance and more.  After the trial period is up, Virgin Media will analyze the results to see if the system held up and how it may be applied to potential customers.

This is just mind boggling speed seeing as the StarterTech office is running at 8 Mb/s, and that is high for the national average.  Hopefully this sort of technology will become more common here in the United States at some point, but, for now, congrats to those lucky folks in the UK that are in the program!

Categories: Internet   
 

optimum_logoIt seems that there is one Internet service provider (ISP) that is capable of getting it right.

On may 11th, customers of Cablevision’s Optimum Online service will have the ability to subscribe to a new high speed service that offers 101 Mbp/s for the shocking price of $99.95 a month.  To make it even more of a slap in the face to some other ISPs out there, such as Time Warner, this will be an uncapped account, meaning that you can download as much as you like per month.  Uploading will still be significantly slower than your downstream speeds, but it will still be difficult to argue with 15 Mbp/s when uploading your latest cat video to YouTube.

We have been very harsh on boradband Internet providers lately, especially with the story of municipalities are having to take over broadband access so their citizens can afford it, but this is a definite step in the right direction for ISPs.  The price is still a bit steep compared to other countries for 100 Mbp/s service (okay, 101 Mbp/s), but when you compare it to the $140 a month some companies charge for 50 Mbp/s service, this is like a dream come true.

Unfortunately this service is pretty much limited to the New York City metropolitan area, but with one ISP taking this bold step, it will hopefully bolster customers of other providers to speak out more about how they will no longer stand for their exorbitant prices. Now… to find an apartment in Manhatten for StarterTech to move in to…

cablevision-map

Categories: Internet   
 
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