Weekly output: Ajit Pai’s agenda, inflight WiFi, Clinton-era telecom policy, cord cutting, electronics ban

This week has me headed to the Bay Area to cover Google’s I/O developer conference. If you have questions about Google’s intentions for its Web services, Android, Chromebooks, or any of its other products, now would be a good time to send them my way.

5/8/2017: Trump’s FCC chief looks to expand broadband internet access, Yahoo Finance

I’ve beaten up on FCC chairman Ajit Pai many times already, but this recap of his speech last Friday at the American Enterprise Institute had me in a somewhat forgiving mood. I don’t like scam robocalls any more than he does, and this talk was nothing like the red-baiting denunciation of net-neutrality regulations I’d watched last month.

5/11/2017: How Gogo will transform your Wi-Fi experience in the sky, Yahoo Finance

Here’s my recap of Tuesday’s Gogo flight that showed how inflight WiFi doesn’t have to be terrible–unless airlines screw up anyway. If you’d like more technical details about Gogo’s souped-up “2KU” satellite-linked system, read my fellow passenger Seth Miller’s writeup.

5/12/2017: The Trump administration gets the history of Internet regulations all wrong, The Washington Post

Six years and 25 days after the Post last featured my byline, I wrote another story for the paper. This was originally going to be an item on the PostEverything blog unpacking Ajit Pai’s inaccurate praise for 1990s telecom regulation. But after a John Oliver rant about net neutrality and multiple rounds of editing, it became a broader take on the history of open-Internet policies and found a spot on the front of today’s Outlook section.

If you read this piece in the first few hours it was up Friday, you probably caught it citing an older FCC statistic about the state of competition among Internet providers. Conservative analyst Richard Bennett tweeted out my failure to include the latest, less-depressing stats (they may have been posted after I started writing this), and I only spotted that after seeing this guy had added me to a Twitter list named “open piracy”–a notification Twitter’s “quality filter” showed while hiding the more-relevant tweet calling out my error. Anyway, I e-mailed my editor about the problem, he fixed it, and I left a comment advising readers of the change.

5/12/2017: Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 05-12-2017, Financial Review

I talked with host Sinclair Noe about the ups and downs of cord cutting, the subject of a Yahoo Finance post last week.

5/13/2017: How a wider laptop ban could threaten your safety and data, Yahoo Finance

I take this story somewhat personally, since if the Feds do expand the current laptop ban, my trans-Atlantic travel habits will ensure I’m hurt by it. And since it looks like my next trip to Europe will be this year’s edition of the Viva Technology Paris conference, I may get to experience any such ban in one of the EU’s worst places for passenger queues: Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle airport.

Advertisements

Weekly output: DSL speeds, Uber economics, Windows 10 setup, tech policy in 2017

Merry Christmas! Today is five years and a day from the start of my USA Today column. They never did get around to putting a “#Help” title on the column (though I still use that on my invoices) and they’ve cut back on its length (shrinking its share of my income), but they have kept running it and paying me for it within two weeks of each invoice, which is what counts.

12/20/2016: FCC study shows DSL is terrible, but it doesn’t have to be, Yahoo Finance

This study came out at the start of the month, but it took me a little longer to consult some experts about the potential of digital-subscriber-line connections to compete with cable and fiber. It’s there, but not if phone-based Internet providers choose to forego investing in it. If those same ISPs–hi, Verizon–also forgo expanding fiber into new markets, we have a bigger problem.

yahoo-uber-study-post12/21/2016: 3 ways Uber can help its drivers, Yahoo Finance

Years ago, a mobile-development shop called Proteus had space in a building across the street from the Post, and I’d occasionally lean on its CEO Patrick McQuown for background guidance about the business. Years later, I’m finally quoting him directly in his role as a professor at Brown University who just published a study of the economics of Uber from a driver’s perspective.

12/24/2016: You’ve got a new PC. Now what?, USA Today

When I wrote about Windows 10’s Anniversary Update this summer, a few readers got on my case for not covering their concerns about privacy in Win 10’s operating system. I read up on the subject and took detailed notes as I set up a couple of different Win 10 tablets from scratch, and this column resulted.

12/25/2016: A 2017 tech-policy forecast: Washington slams the ‘undo’ button, Yahoo Finance

I am not optimistic about the state of tech policy under President Trump, and I’ve yet to hear anybody advance a cogent explanation of why I should feel any different. Congress’s history of failing to reform laws that govern law-enforcement access to stored e-mail privacy and enable patent trolling doesn’t improve my forecast.

 

I see you all have some questions about your “cable modems”

After I filed my latest USA Today column–a reminder that it’s still generally a waste of money to rent a cable modem–one of my editors said they would play up the post. He and his colleagues may have used some sort of cheat code, as the column has drawn more feedback than almost anything else I’ve written for USAT since starting this column at the end of 2011.

Old coax cable close-upAmong the 100-plus comments and 40 or so e-mails I’ve received since this piece went up Monday morning, the most common queries addressed Internet services that don’t involve any cable-television infrastructure.

AT&T’s U-verse was the most frequent subject of readers’ curiosity, followed by Verizon’s Fios and then CenturyLink’s digital-subscriber-line offering. I didn’t cover them in my cable-modem column because they all branch off the telephone evolutionary tree–AT&T and Verizon use fiber-optic lines built on top of their phone networks, while CenturyLink’s DSL relies on traditional copper phone lines. None depend on the local cable plant; all compete with it at some level.

Am I going to write back to all of these readers to explain that they’ll see my column is properly framed once they understand some first principles about telecom? No.

Many normal people just don’t classify their home Internet service by which regulated local monopoly began building out its infrastructure decades ago or how how high its wires go on a utility pole. The problem isn’t that some think of their phone and cable companies as functional equivalents, it’s that too many others can’t because only their cable operator delivers both television and high-speed broadband.

Besides, AT&T’s policies about U-verse hardware are interesting enough–especially compared to Verizon’s–to justify a follow-up column. Look for that this weekend.

Weekly output: police body cameras, mobile battery life, online publishing, DSL modems

It’s not Christmas yet, but I can see it before me. Which is another way of saying that I need to finalize my CES schedule, book my Mobile World Congress flights, and figure out where I’m staying for SXSW.

12/9/2014: 3 Questions to Ask Before Putting Cameras on Cops, Yahoo Tech

This column got a spot on the Yahoo home page, resulting in a flood of comments and a round of e-mails I wish I’d answered already.

Kojo Nnamdi Show mobile battery life12/9/2014: Powering Our Mobile Devices: How to Boost Battery Life, Kojo Nnamdi Show

I talked about what can prolong the time before your phone’s next meeting with a power outlet. My interlocutors: host Kojo Nnamdi and C|Net executive editor Ian Sherr,

12/11/2014: Mistakes made in online publishing, HHS Digital Council

News organizations have often chosen poorly when picking online publishing systems, so I had to accept a friend’s invitation to discuss that history before a group of digital-media managers for various branches of the Department of Health and Human Services.

12/14/2014: Weak Wi-Fi drags down DSL? Try moving the modem, USA Today

This column, like others, started with a call from a friend who had a technical question (in this case, about being able to replace an aging Verizon DSL modem with one that might get a WiFi signal to all of a house). That’s why I’m glad I write a Q&A column: It lets me monetize the inevitable tech-support queries from pals.

Weekly output: Apple coverage, Xbox One, CTIA, MVNOs and the lack of broadband wholesaling

A long weekend is a good way to end a second workweek spent mostly out of D.C. (I did get home from CTIA in time to sleep in my own bed Thursday night, except it was Friday morning by the time our weather-delayed flight pulled up to the gate at National.)

5/20/2013: Looking for love, or a business icon to shower with adulation, BusinessJournalism.org

My old Post colleague Phil Blanchard writes a column for the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, and in this week’s post he quoted my thoughts what makes so much Apple coverage vapid and vaporous.

5/21/2013: Xbox One: So That’s Why ‘Xbox’ Sounds So Vague, Discovery News

Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One don’t-call-it-a-game-console has the ambitious goal of becoming the new interface for TV, but how will it do better than the last big-name attempt to get the cable or satellite box out of the picture–Google TV?

USAT CTIA report

5/23/2013: At CTIA, smaller phone vendors take center stage, USA Today

This is my first–and, if there’s any justice in the world, my last–piece to be illustrated with a photo of Jennifer Lopez. (Credit for that goes to Verizon Wireless, which announced a marketing deal with her Viva Móvil phone-retail chain at CTIA.)

As you can see in the comments, one of the vendors I mentioned either gave me the wrong info about its water-resistant treatment for phones or I misunderstood them–it’s not quite clear which. I invited their PR guy to leave a comment about those while I forwarded his request for a correction, and he surprised me a bit by accepting the invitation.

5/24/2013: Wireless Says “MVNO” To Resellers, Residential Broadband Just Says No, Disruptive Competition Project

I was struck by how many interesting resellers of the major carriers’ networks showed up at CTIA, and then it hit me: Why is this kind of wholesaling so common in wireless and so rare in residential broadband? I asked around and came up with a few theories that may explain it.

I’d usually have my USAT Q&A listed here, but they’re holding that for Monday. I trust you all can hold out that long.

On Sulia, I posted a bunch of items from CTIA: for instance, Lopez’s appearance, a Bluetooth-controlled deadbolt lock, and the absence of most big-name vendors. I also noted how Flickr’s otherwise-welcome changes can leave Flickr Pro users feeling a little unloved and–D.C. commuters take note–reported that non-Verizon phones now work in a lot more of Metro’s underground stations, maybe all of them.