Weekly output: wireless plans (x2), broadband infrastructure, ATSC 3.0, wireless discounts

BARCELONA–I arrived here Saturday morning for my fifth Mobile World Congress trade show. Most of that afternoon was spent wandering around Barcelona and trying to stay awake, while today involved a series of press events scattered around town. The show formally starts tomorrow morning, which is also when I start owing copy to various editors. I’m here through Thursday morning, so if you have questions about upcoming (non-Apple) smartphones, this would be a good time to ask them.

2/20/2017: Unlimited-data plans, WTOP

This interview was supposed to happen, as my conversations with Washington’s news station usually do, over Skype. But the app kept dropping the call within seconds of my clicking to answer it, so the producers punted and called my cell phone instead. Microsoft, please try to make Skype less painful to use.

2/22/2017: Broadband companies can’t build out their networks, and it’s hurting consumers, Yahoo Finance

Not for the first time this week, I got to revisit a topic I’d first covered in any detail several years ago.

Screenshot of story from NYT iPad app2/22/2017: Picking a New Phone Plan? Here Are Your Best Bets, The New York Times

The NYT’s Brian Chen interviewed me, in my role as maintainer of the (Times-owned) Wirecutter’s guide to wireless service, for this story breaking down recent changes to the big four carriers’ rate plans. The analyst he talked to gave recommendations I wouldn’t agree with, but on the other hand Chen gave me the last word in the story.

This, incidentally, represents the second time I’ve been quoted in the Times and the first time I’ve been quoted correctly. That other time happened in 1993, when the NYT’s Frank Prial wrote a feature on how Georgetown University had changed since Bill Clinton’s undergrad days. He interviewed a bunch of students at the Georgetown Voice’s offices and attributed a quote from somebody else (I’m guessing then-photo editor Darren Carroll) to me.

Lest it seem like I’m complaining about my treatment by Timesmen, I should note that looking up that 24-year-old story also led me to a few NYT pieces about my dad’s exploits playing football for Columbia University, including this section-front story about his game-winning field goal against Brown. Yes, they spelled our last name correctly.

2/23/2017: The FCC just gave you a reason to hold off on buying a 4K TV, Yahoo Finance

This post provided this week’s other stroll down memory lane. (Does this column I wrote just after the end of analog broadcasts in 2009 suggest a certain amount of built-up cynicism?) I’m cautiously optimistic about the coming, voluntary transition to “ATSC 3.0” broadcasts. I’m also content in my decision to hold off on buying a new TV until it includes a tuner for this new broadcast standard.

2/26/2017: The hidden wireless discounts you might be missing, USA Today

If you use AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, you may be able to chip 10 percent or so off your bill by taking advantage of your connection to an employer, a school or an association.

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Yahoo.

When I saw the surprising news that longtime New York Times personal-tech columnist David Pogue was leaving the paper to head up a tech-news site at Yahoo, I figured the next details I’d see about his new venture would come on my one-time rival’s Twitter feed–or maybe at Jim Romenesko’s journalism-news site.

Yahoo Tech logoInstead, I heard about it from Pogue himself when he asked if I’d be interested in joining this operation. A few weeks of e-mails and phone calls later, you can now see my byline atop a lengthy guide to Facebook’s privacy and security settings at Yahoo Tech’s holiday guide–a preview of what will open in January.

I’ll be writing a weekly column about tech policy in all its forms. By that we mean not just the laws and regulations enacted in Washington, but the terms and conditions that companies enforce on their customers and each other–as well as the norms we come up with on our own.

I’ll be doing this on a freelance contract basis, not as an employee, so you can still find me at USA Today’s site on weekends (now with an extra disclosure sentence when I need to critique one of Yahoo’s consumer services). I’ll also continue writing for most of my other current outlets if they can continue to put up with me.

One, however, will get unfortunately squeezed out: my year-old gig blogging about tech-policy issues at the Disruptive Competition Project. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to unpack issues like the smartphone subsidies, retransmission fights and e-book DRM, but I would be bonkers not to take a chance on writing about them before an immensely larger audience.

At Yahoo Tech, the CMS seems non-toxic, we should have a lot of latitude to experiment with different kinds of reader interactivity, and I’ll be writing alongside some talented people (including my friend Dan Tynan). And Yahoo as a company is not only putting serious resources into getting “original voices” on its site but looks a lot less lost at the plate. Letting its subscription to the CEO of the Month Club lapse in favor of giving Marissa Mayer the job seems a good call.

Finally, after having competed with Pogue for so long, it should be fun to cooperate with him. David’s long been an astute judge of user interfaces and user experiences (I’m still kicking myself for not thinking to start a campaign to end useless voicemail instructions), he’s willing to wade into comment threads whether they’re supportive or not, and he’s a legitimate showman who has literally made tech coverage sing.

I just hope this new gig doesn’t require any singing from me.