Capitalist conundrum: Free WiFi for EVERYONE or protecting profit margins of the 1%?
09:41 am

Class War


With the news that a five-member panel of the FCC are considering creating a series of super powerful free WiFi network across America, it’s to be expected that the corporate lobbyists for the $178 billion wireless industry are already working overtime to scuttle these plans.

Conversely, according to The Washington Post, there has been an equally aggressive push coming from tech giants like Google and Microsoft for free WiFi networks “who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor”:

The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.

The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.

If approved by the FCC, the free networks would still take several years to set up. And, with no one actively managing them, con­nections could easily become jammed in major cities. But public WiFi could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. The frugal-minded could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.

In a country where Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer and doesn’t really even pay a living wage, this sort of monthly savings for what has become a necessity of modern life would seen quite attractive for the common man. The costs are surprisingly minimal, too.

But what of the poor, put-upon media barons who won’t be able to continue sticking the masses with a monthly cell phone bill? Should the management and stockholders of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Intel and Qualcomm be disallowed from skimming around a hundred bucks a month from the bank accounts of the average American?

Of course, the wireless telecom and cable providers are determined not to let this happen. In a January letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the architect of this ambitious plan, and a powerful member of the Obama inner circle, several major companies argued that the government should concentrate on selling the public airwaves to private business, and raising money for the US Treasury that way, rather than going with the free WiFi for all, option.

They would feel that way, wouldn’t that??? LOL.

Naturally, the Republicans are lining up behind this ridiculously blinkered, backwards “free market” approach. Who can forget watching the Tea party dolts who were against net neutrality—because someone on Fox News told them it was something “socialist,” I guess—and braying like buffoons for the privilege of being able to give more power to the telecoms, even if it would mean seeing their own monthly bills rise... because, um, THEIR FREEDUMBS were apparently at stake.

This is a different kind of free market entirely that we’re talking about, one that could alter American lives in profound ways, spurring great innovation and perhaps even unprecedented high tech job creation. The saying goes that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but free WiFi is already occurring in New York City and parts of Silicon Valley. In January, Google announced that it was providing free WiFi for NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood (where Google is headquartered in Manhattan). Soon that will extend to indoor fiber optic wiring as well. Google also rolled out high-speed fiber-optic Internet coverage recently in the Kansas City area, with download speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second. That’s pretty good. In fact it’s approximately 200 times faster than your home broadband connection. It’s not five times faster, it’s 200 times faster. (So much for innovation among the cable companies themselves, eh?)

Google’s blazing fast fiber optic service is beginning to draw hi-tech start-ups to Kansas City. Who would have thought that would happen a few years ago?

Furthermore, the major wireless carriers own far more spectrum than would even be necessary to provide public WiFi, and it would also improve their existing wireless networks for their own consumers. The only downside for this is for a relatively tiny group of stockholders. The benefits for Americans overall? Well, they seem limitless in terms of what can be imagined from 2013.

Designed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the plan would be a global first. When the U.S. government made a limited amount of unlicensed airwaves available in 1985, an unexpected explosion in innovation followed. Baby monitors, garage door openers and wireless stage microphones were created. Millions of homes now run their own wireless networks, connecting tablets, game consoles, kitchen appliances and security systems to the Internet.

“Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” Genachow­ski said in a an e-mailed statement.

He’s 1000% right. Although not seeing the economic benefits flowing upwards at first may discombobulate their tiny brains, how idiotic would even Republicans have to be not to see the logic of this decidedly free market approach? If they balk, they need to be reminded of what the earlier—but far more technologically limited, pre-PC, iPad and smartphone, of course—Reagan-era changes in the management of the public airways wrought for the economy.

This is a real us vs.against them situation. The fattest cats versus EVERYBODY ELSE. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out. It’s an idea that’s time has come—IF NOT, WHY NOT—and I don’t think it’s going to go away until there’s free Wifi for all. The cat’s out of the bag and it ain’t going back in.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Google map view of the spreading riots in London
03:57 pm

Current Events


OK, so this is getting serious - very serious. The riots in London have now spread across an area roughly 40km by 30km. To see the actual Google map page, click here.

Thanks to Paul Shetler.


Scrap that - the rioting has now spread beyond the confines of the city, past the N406 ring road and into suburbs like Ealing, Romford and Croydon. And that’s not to mention riots breaking out in Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds. Keep looking at the Google Map for updates (zoom out if you want to see the chaos spreading around the country). This is going to be one interesting night…


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Bob Dylan: the new Billy Mays
04:01 pm

Pop Culture


“Subterranean Homesick Blues” and Don’t Look Back . Google Bob Dylan. He used to be a protest singer.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Do Androids Dream of Electric Lawsuits?

Isa Dick Hackett, daughter of Philip K. Dick, who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which Blade Runner is based on (although the title itself comes from William S. Burroughs), is claiming Google is using names taken from her father’s work to brand its Nexus One telephones. She is threatening to sue Google for infringement of intellectual property rights. Something tells me there is going to be a nice payday in this for her. Google IS using names from her father’s work:

She has sent a letter to Google demanding that the online giant changes the name of its new phone, which was launched as a direct rival to the iPhone.

She said: ‘Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later.

‘In my mind, there is a very obvious connection to my father’s novel. People don’t get it. It’s the principle of it.

‘It would be nice to have a dialogue. We are open to it. That’s a way to start.’

The new product is based on Google’s Android technology, launched two years ago as a way of gaining a share in the mobile phone market.

Family of sci fi author Philip K. Dick to sue Google over name of Nexus One phone (Daily Mail)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Will Google’s new music app really be all that?
07:18 pm



The tech blogs have been abuzz for the last few days about Google’s new music service, which apparently will be powered by LaLa. The service is due to be officially announced on Oct. 18th at an event in Hollywood. So far the media has been mostly uncritical although it’s difficult to see why.

LaLa? Really? How underwhelming.

With Spotify, the peer-to-peer streaming service currently available in Spain, the UK, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and reportedly launching in the U.S. before the end of the year, the likely question in the minds of many tech watchers is “Why didn’t Google just buy Spotify?” Spotify is the gold standard of music apps. Picture iTunes—the user interface is very, very similar—except that it’s free and streaming, you need only listen to a 15- to 30-second commercial once every half-hour. There is also a pay variant of the service with no commercial interruptions and improved sound quality, although the free version will certainly suffice for most listeners.

Spotify, in a word, is awesome. Many Spotify users are reportedly even giving up illegal music downloads as a result of using the service. I set up a Spotify account via a UK proxy server earlier this year and was quite impressed at the streaming audio quality, ease of use and the absolutely massive song library. When their server finally detected I was outside of their operating countries after two blissful weeks and cut me off cold turkey, I wanted to cry. Does it have everything? Well, Spotify does lack the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but for the most part it’s pretty hard to stump, as even the most obscure performers are usually pretty well represented in its library.

LaLa on the other hand, has simply not become all that popular with the public and the catalog isn’t that deep. Just because a LaLa result comes up in a Google search hardly seems like a recipe for success. Like Rhapsody, Pandora and and the other streaming services, LaLa never really caught on with consumers in a big way. Sure the Google deal (Facebook, iLike and MySpace are reportedly along for the ride in some capacity too) won’t hurt the company, but it’s difficult to fathom why Google didn’t look into partnering the superior service, especially if the company will be competing against Spotify in the U.S. market within a matter of months anyway and with Microsoft set to launch what has been whispered of as their “Spotify killer” as well.

Among the mostly neutral chatter, snarky UK tech blog The Register had this to say:

Hyped overnight as a Google ‘Music Service’, what we see instead is set to be the most underwhelming launch in a long history of label-backed music flops. It’s barely a ‘service’ - merely a sorry widget that yokes a DRM-crippled version of LaLa’s already unpopular streaming offering with unsold Adwords inventory.

Instead of a text ad, a search for a music related keyword will show a widget. This allows you to listen to the song, according to Business Week - but only once. After that you pay to hear the stream at 10c a play. (You can also buy the song.)

Don’t all rush at once.

Cross posting this at Brand X

Image from Techcrunch

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Google’s inadvertent ‘secret society’
09:56 pm



Laurie Sullivan, reporting at Online Media Daily posts this amusing item about Google’s unintentional creation of what sounds to me like an Internet graffiti tool:

The Internet has a secret society. Anyone can join. It supports hidden messages. Those who want to belong need only download and install a special toolbar from Google that works in either Firefox or Microsoft Explorer (IE).

The toolbar, called Sidewiki, which launched in September, provides a venue for venting and posting derogatory comments on virtually any Web site that only those who install the toolbar can read. And although many realize that Google never intended that the toolbar be used for evil, some believe the Mountain View, Calif. company’s innovation could create a nightmare for marketers and Web site owners if they choose not to download and install the tool.

iCyte CEO Stephen Foley says it’s like painting on someone’s front door. The homeowner cannot do anything to prevent the damage, but uses their marketing dollars and time to clean up the mess. “Some might ask, well, can’t we just have transparency?” he says. “In this case, transparency has a deeper meaning. It means you have to declare your position. There are so many ways people can misuse this tool.”

Ya think? It seems preposterous that Google’s normally crack team of developers would not realize that they were unleashing a new gadget with the potential to turn the entire Internet into a widespread version of anonymous posting site 4chan, often referred to as the Internet’s collective id.

Examples abound of Sidewiki misuse. On the Go Israel website, someone using Google Sidewiki posted, “Yes, you too can join a country that has the highest abduction rate of female sex slaves in the world. Mossad doesn’t care so why should you! Regular Jews lived in peace with their Muslim friends until the Ashkenazi Zionist arrived.”

Just wait until the trolls at Free Republic get wind of this! Yikes!

Google gives participating sites the option to place their own “official” post on top of the public remarks, and offers a ranking system (i.e. voting) that pushes the cream to the top and theoretically allows the community to flag pornographic, disrespectful or potentially libelous posts. That’s the theory, at least…

Foley doesn’t believe that’s enough. He wrote a post in Google Sidewiki on Microsoft’s Web site titled “Has Google Started a War?” that discusses the ramifications of competitors taking swipes at each other’s Web sites, fundamentalists damning each other, and jilted lovers making their notes on the senior partners profile. “Oh, and do you think voting this down will help?” he writes. “We will just all head to the last Sidewiki to see where the dirt is. I am sorry Google but you are on a course of self destruct on this one.”

Today, Foley’s post ranks No. 24 with the highest positive score, but yesterday it ranked No. 1.

Foley’s post on Microsoft was just the beginning. Now he wants Google to change its policy and provide opt-in/opt-out features. It would allow owners to block anyone from posting comments on their Web site. So, he’s building a Web site set to launch at the end of the month. It will contain a petition asking the search engine to reorganize Sidewiki and make it an opt-in process.

Sounds like a plan, Google. A good one.

Cross posting this from Brand X

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment