How much do I owe Verizon this month for a connection at a summer cottage I share with my siblings? $38.04. For not having service.
That breaks down to $12.70 for a suspended phone line, $9.99 for a suspended Internet connection, $5.50 for having them turn off our long distance service, and taxes. (They didn’t record my initial request in early October to turn off the Internet, rather than suspend it, but go argue.)
I’m only surprised Verizon isn’t charging me more per month for not having a higher level of service.
4. [NOTE: (These notes are in reverse chronological order. I have numbered them for your reading convenience.)I unlocked my Blackberry by calling Verizon support. I bought an Orange SIM card in a cigarette store in the Old City of Jerusalem for $10, plus $9 of calling time that times out in a week. So, I now have a working phone. It does not come with a data plan, however.]
3. [NOTE added minutes after the note right below this one: I'm on the phone with Verizon. It is indeed $20.48 per MEGABYTE. But wait...I am now talking with a tech support person who assures me that attachments don't count unless you actually download them. Well, that's something. She, however, is also telling me that the first two reps I talked with are wrong; in fact (says the tech support person), Verizon's international plan gives you 70MB per month for $100, and every megabyte after that is $20.48. That's still piracy, but the broadsword goes into you slightly more slowly.]
2. [Note added minutes later: Some other knowledgeable people tell me that Verizon must mean $20/gigabyte, not per megabyte. So, this may have been a mistake by the the service rep. I would happily take the blame for any misunderstanding, except that I confirmed that the rep said "megabyte" by inquiring, "PER MEGABYTE? PER MEGABYTE? ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!," to which he replied in the affirmative to the first two of the three questions.]
1. I’m going overseas tonight for a week. In the past, I’d call Verizon and have them switch service from my Droid to my previous phone, which was a Blackberry with “world phone” service. For $2/day, I’d get unlimited data access, so I could check my email and perhaps check the news on the Web now and then. (Believe me, on a Blackberry you don’t want to do a lot of heavy Web browsing.)
Today when I tried to make the switch, Verizon informed me that they have changed the plan, entirely for the benefit of their customers of course. So, now it’s $20 per megabyte. Holy crap! What kind of unearthly profit margin is that?
My knowledgeable friends tell me that that I should figure 50-100 emails per megabyte (although that number is conservative). So, no email for me. That’s what happens when the “free” market is so pwned that it laughs in the face of competition.
And these are the folks we’ve handed our Internet to? Great. Freaking great.
Rick Whitt, a Google lawyer and lobbyist, helped negotiate the highly controversial Google-Verizon framework proposal for Net neutrality. I got a chance to interview him and asked him about it:
Two notes: 1. I apologize for the awful camera work; I couldn’t see the screen of the device I was using, plus I suck at this. 2. I’ve known Rick for a few years and count him as a friend who I enjoy spending time with when I run into him.
On paper, Verizon’s Friends & Family program is sweet. We can list up to 10 telephone numbers we can call as much as we want without those minutes subtracting from the 2,100 minutes we pay for. (We have five lines.) Verizon also doesn’t count against those 2,100 minutes calls made to other Verizon wireless subscribers.
So, what one piece of information do you need in order to figure out which ten F&F to choose? You need to know which ten numbers outside the Verizon network you have spent the most minutes on. And what information can you not get from the Verizon site, from the person you chat with on the site, or the customer support person on the telephone? Yay!
The site lets you see calls ranked by minutes or expense within each telephone line, but not across all lines. Worse, you can’t tell if the calls are within the Verizon network. The telephone person I spoke with actually was quite kind and spent many minutes looking through our 40-page bill, pulling out useful information. But even she didn’t have the magic query that would answer the question. And it’s really not that hard a question for a computer to answer.
I’m sorry to say that the most plausible explanation is that Verizon simply does not want its customers to make effective use of the Friends & Family program it promotes so heavily.
American Public Media’s Future Tense has posted a looong post from me about the Googizon proposal. Here’s the beginning:
There is no denying that I am a Google fanboy. I postponed my technolust for an iPhone until I could get a Droid. I switched from the Firefox browser to Google’s Chrome. I use Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Docs, and Google Maps, and I’d probably use Google Bugle and Google Tattoogle, if such things existed. I bought into Google products in large part because they tend to kick butt, but I have put up with some frustrations because I believed that Google was on my side. Our side. “Where are the other big companies that are standing up for the open Internet?” I have asked in public more than once.
So, Google’s joint proposal with Verizon hurt. Has Google cheated on me? Were there others before Verizon? Did Google ever really love me in the first place?
It then goes through my attempt to understand a bunch of the issues.
According to a post by Carl Brooks at SearchCloudComputing, Verizon is making a major push to be the provider of health information exchange services:
The Verizon Health Information Exchange can be used by doctors and healthcare providers to store, manage and transfer patient information, including medical records, test results, medical images and more, all hosted on Verizon’s infrastructure.
The project is nothing if not ambitious. Verizon says it is ready to roll nationwide and can absorb as many electronic medical records (EMR) as are currently out there; there may eventually be one for every person in the United States. It may even offer personal health records (PHR) to its telco customers.
This sort of service seems valuable. In fact, it’s so valuable that it makes me nervous that it would be in the hands of a telecommunications provider. For example, MedVirginia says that “its entire base of patient records will be stored with Verizon and delivered via the cloud.” Are we sure that this vital service should be a company that also sells access to the cloud? Will there be temptations for Verizon to use its ownership of the medical records infrastructure (“store, manage and transfer patient information”) to leverage its position as an access provider, or vice versa? Will medical images in Verizon’s vault arrive faster for Verizon’s ISP customers? Is that what we really want? Wouldn’t it be better for us all to have this service in the hands of someone who has zero interest in how we access that information? And I’m putting all of these as questions because I have vague suspicions but nothing more.
Paul Brigner, Executive Director of Internet and Technology Policy at Verizon, says what he would tell the Broadband Strategy Initiative: Build on our this country’s current success providing access to the Internet. Do no harm (= beware of Net Neutrality). And question the research that shows that America has fallen behind other countries in the ubiquity, price, and speed of broadband.
My Blackberry 8830 does what it needs to do. I can type on it. I can take it to Europe. With the Gmail app installed, I can read and delete emails and have them deleted from my gmail inbox. I an view web pages through a keyhole. I can recharge it off of my laptop. I can run the vaguely accurate Verizon GPS on it. I can fit a couple of downloads on it.
But I don’t love. I’m very glad to have it. But it does nothing for my hormone levels.
My eye now is roving. Verizon has announced it will be offering the Motorola Droid in November, which runs Google’s Android operating system. Unless there are some gotchas â€” if it has half of what we’re expecting, can we call it the Hemodrhoid? â€” I’m going to be explaining to my BBerry that the problem is really with me, not it, and then making the switch.
I don’t expect it the Droid to be as beautiful as the iPhone. Nor will there be as many apps. But, it will be beautiful enough, and as people write more skins for it, it may get better with age. And there are already more than enough Android apps, which is exactly how many I need.
Most of all, though, there won’t be an AppStore. The AppStore is the seductive angel of death for computing. It enables Apple to keep quality up and, more important, to keep support costs down. But a computer that can’t be programmed except by its manufacturer (or with the permission of its manufacturer) isn’t a real computer. The success of the AppStore is a gloomy, scary harbinger. From controlling the apps that can go on its mobile phone, it’s a short step for Apple to decide to control the apps that can go on its rumored slate/netbook device. And since so much of the future of computing will occur on mobiles and netbooks, this portends a serious de-generation of computing, as predicted by Jonathan Zittrain in The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.
So, some of my technolust for a phone I haven’t even seen yet is due to the political hope it promises. Rally ’round the Droid, boys and girls!
At last, that brave band of oppressed companies who have been granted near-monopolies to deliver over-priced, under-performing broadband to the entire USA (exempting the parts they don’t find particularly profitable) have managed to scrape together an organization to give voice to their position. BroadbandForAmerica.com is finally going to air their views about why de-regulated near monopolies are the best and only way to bring affordable, open Internet to everyone in the country â€” views that until now have gone unheard, except from their hundreds and hundreds of lobbyists. Why, the industry could barely put together a mere $765,000 to send to John McCain’s campaign!
The site itself seems innocuous. Their history of the Internet nods in some appropriate directions, including to Al Gore and to students who have innovated on the Net. (It oddly leaves out Tim Berners-Lee.) Of course, it’s actually a paean to private industry that cleverly equates the role of creative individuals who have contributed mightily for free and the incumbent infrastructure providers whose financial incentives lead them to prefer to tilt the field against cash-starved start-ups. The closest the organization comes to stating its actual intent is in the wording of the print ad they’re running. Hmm. On the open medium of the Internet the organization hides its purpose, but in the controlled medium of print, they come close to stating it. How unexpected!
So, welcome to the Web, BroadbandForAmerica. Now â€” after your long list of rules of discussion, followed by a forum that is only soliciting happy stories â€” how about engaging in some honest, forthright discussion?
According to Tim Poulus, citing DSL Reports, Verizon is acting as a wholesaler, allowing DSL Extreme to sell Internet access over Verizon’s FIOS fiber lines. So, if FIOS comes to your premises, you’ll be able to buy your Net access from DSL Extreme (under the name “Fiber Extreme) instead of from Verizon, and it will cost you less than getting access via Verizon: 50Mbps for $99 instead of $150. Verizon will continue to offer a bundle of Net, TV, and telephone at a bundled price. DSL Extreme does not mention Verizon or FIOS in its press release, which is impressive in its own way.
There are subtleties, and perhaps grossnesses, of this deal that I don’t understand. (For example, Tim writes: “This is a WBA (wholesale broadband access) deal, not unbundling (ODF access, which is not really an option on PON networks anyway)…”) But it sounds like a welcome development, since open competition (which this is not (?) because Verizon is picking one particular company to allow onto its fiber) would commoditize access, driving prices down. And it might tend toward neutral, open networks for the same reason that Web browsers want to show you every page you care to point at: Browsers â€” and networks â€” that don’t show you every page look broken.