Goodbye the evil empire?

I’ve become more and more concerned about posting on facebook, and being part of a massive data collection and analysis machine

A wordpress question to my blog followers, both by email, and especially on wordpress. Do you use any of the following reasonably new wordpress features?

If yes, can you post a link to your blog below. I’m looking for some examples. Why?

serveimageI think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become more and more concerned about posting on facebook, and being part of a massive data collection and analysis machine. So I’m looking for ways to post the same sort of content I would post on Facebook, here. The main problem is I don’t want to clutter my blog post page with daily links, youtube videos, soundcloud and mixcloud audio etc.

It did think about adding an additional page, and adding an RSS feed to the page to pull saved links from paper.ly, instapaper, shareaholic, pinterest and so on, I’ve got a basic page going here, but there is no obvious way to control the RSS update frequency. I can’t add plugins to my site as it is hosted on wordpress.com. While it is a premium site, no plugins can be added.

I can subscribe via the sidebar to an RSS feed, but thats not really desirable, unless anyone knows how to increase(significanty) the size of the sidebar in the twentysixteen theme. So, what I’m looking for is examples, got one?

Post a comment below. I’ll add your blog to my blogroll, and if there are any really good examples and you are willing to share “how-to’s” via email or similar, I’d be willing to make a paypal or amazon gift card payment.

Dear Time Warner Cable

wpid-wp-1446745456076.jpgI keep getting these marketing letters from Time Warner. It appears they’ve got nothing better to do than review my account… trying to sell me on a 300Mpbs upgrade.

I sent a response today by USPS. I doubt they’ll stop sending, so at least I can post the response here and get some mileage from it 🙂

Thank you for your letter. If you were really reviewing my account you’d see I’m only have a 50Mpbs modem for my existing 100Mpbs service. It works fine.

Want me to upgrade? Provide a free modem for my existing service. Thanks. Mark Cathcart.

 

Can’t get enough Fiber

So, it’s formally announced, Google Fiber is coming to Austin in 2014.

This is potentially a great announcement. The focus will be on the speed, which in my view is wrong. It should be on the affordability and open access. For the most part, as I’ve blogged numerous times, Time Warner Cable is more than fast enough for most homes, its just uncompetitively priced for most, and not affordable for many.

I’ll be especially interested to see how they do this, right down to if they lay new cables underground, using existing or new carrier pipes; hopefully it wont just be more optical cable strung between poles. Obviously what will also bet interesting is the plan, which neighborhoods first etc. The devil is in the detail though, here are some of my first thoughts on it.

  1. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there is nothing revolutionary about google fiber. Many communities already have this sort of speed, it’s just not from google
  2. When and if it arrives in the ’04, it will come with a bunch of infrastructure that will require users to give up more data on themselves and what they do, what sites they visit etc. How much should google know about you?
  3. On the plus side its competition for TWC, which if you’ve been following along, is what I’ve been campaigning for, writing letters, making calls.
  4. They have a free offering. How this is used, who it is made available too is key; with more and more services going online we can’t afford a class of citizens who are denied access. Should we look for ways to subsidize the install/sign-up fee?
  5. If they just string fiber optic cable between existing polls, boooo. On the other hand, if they do it right and runs the optical fiber(glass cable) underground, are you ok with them digging up the streets. I am. We need to get all the cables underground to improve service, reduce maintenance costs, and get rid of the visual mess it creates.
  6. If you just have a one or two wireless devices, you are unlikely to notice the speed-up, and thats OK. Sure there are new standards that will enable a wireless device connect to the Internet at a theoretical speed that matches your Internet connection, as others have pointed out, Wireless N can already exceed the basic TWC services. Except for multiple people gaming, a couple of HD movies streaming though, you’ll be hard pushed in most homes to notice the difference.
  7. Start downsizing your TWC services now, I effectively shaved $60 off my monthly total bill for TV, HBO, Internet access, TWC need to understand that they can’t depend on the fact y’all have too much money and are too apathetic to go through the change. Lets create some real competition…

It’s no coincidence then AT&T, apparently smarting from the widely leaked google announcement, I can’t even get their service on my urban, less than a mile from city hall street, despite the fact they have two poles and cables on my block, responded by saying “we invest more than any other public company.”. Not here you didn’t.

TWC Shift upgrade costs to customers

Those of you like me who’ve not been able to get a decent alternative Internet provider might want to check your bills.

Starting November, TWC added a $3.95 Internet modem rental charge. They did this even though many of us have had the same modem since the service was installed, in my case 6-years ago.

There is a class action lawsuit about this, they feel its unjustified price gouging; TWC claim its for maintenance and support, and they are now doing what the other companies have always done. This is of course total BS and exactly the behavior you’d expect from a monopolist, or at best a duopolist and is one of the reasons why even in urban America we are slipping further and further behind, the focus is on financial engineering rather than product engineering.

TWC do offer you the ability to purchase your own modem online from a very limited set of approved modems, then you register with them and they will remove the $3.95 fee. However, this is likely to come with its own problems, when you have problems with their service. In an age where everything is going integrated for simplicity and reliability, it makes no sense for TWC to do this as it will almost certainly increase their costs.

On reflection though, I’ve realized this isn’t a modem rental fee at all. It’s a surcharge on people who don’t read their bills, don’t buy to buy their own modems, and ultimately it is a back handed way for TWC to pass the cost of upgrading modems to the customer rather than absorb it themselves. In the future, rather than have to upgrade their modems, they’ll just tell you to get this feature, you need to buy a new modem. It gets them out of the purchase and support of the modem, it also gets them out of sending someone out to upgrade/replace the modem.

A cheap Internet Modem can be bought for as little as $29.99; the TWC approved modems are surprising all $59.99 and more expensive. Given TWC’s enormous purchasing power, and the very cheap, limited functions modems they supply, they can probably get modems for less than $10 each. Assuming you pay the $3.95 for 3-years, you’ll be paying circa $150 for that same modem. TWC will be raking in another $500 million, to $1-billion per year, for little or nothing.

But that’s still not the point. The point is that in the future, when TWC is dragged screaming and shouting to provide the kind of bandwidth that is common, cheap, and comes with a free modem in most western countries, TWC will just tell you, you have to upgrade your modem if you are an existing customer.

I’ve kept a spreadsheet of charges I’ve paid for utilities since I moved to Austin. Yeah my property taxes have gone up, by otherwise all my other charges have increased only marginally. My monthly TWC bill bill though has gone up on average $40 per month for no discernible improvement in service. In total since I’ve been in Austin, with a total of less than $200 spent on movies, over 6-years I’ve paid Time Warner Cable nearly $14,000 US Dollars. That’s huge, it’s expensive, and it’s increased significantly in the last 12-months.

I got on their support chat system last night to find out why. It tooks me two full hours to get the answers, you can read the full transcript here. The summary follows, written by me and agreed by a TWC Supervisor, Melva F.

  • TWC feel I have an excellent deal on Internet speed; I feel its overpriced for what I get;
  • TWC suggest the only way to reduce the bill is for me to buy my own modem; I feel this is a penalty on a loyal customer who has paid over $10,000[closer to $14,000] in fees, on time, for not buying my own modem;
  • TWC are unable to remove the basic cable channels I don’t use; [and allow me to keep HBO which I do watch.]
  • TWC confirmed that the modem will still be used for phone service if I cancel Internet, but I won’t pay the $3.95 rental fee for that [same] modem;
  • I’ve spent 75-minutes on chat, got pretty much nowhere it terms of understanding how to reduce my monthly bill without cancelling my service

Melva F.>That is correct. Everything that you’ve mentioned above is correct.

So there you have it, legalized highway robbery. If you read the full transcript you’ll learn that sometime last year, I was put on a promotional rate that apparently included Showtime in additional my regular HBO, that expired after 12-months and now I’m paying an additional $10 for that; $3.95 Modem surcharge, and then a rate hike of some $15, add other random fee increases and taxes, and bingo, that covers my $40 increase per month.

Now the question is, what to do about it. My immediate reaction is to cancel my contract entirely but that has practical issues.