annoyances technology

Crowdsourcing In Overloading Cell Phone Providers

The inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama, aside from logistical issues, will create a communication nightmare. The anticipated 3 to 4 million people are expected to overload whatever networks Verizon and Spring might have available in Washington, D.C.

The problem with the cell phone companies is not that they can’t supply the pipe. I’m pretty sure they can. Even more so, I am pretty sure they will not only supply the pipe, they will be also ones reaping all the rewards (even undeserved ones). And I don’t even have problem with that.

The problem I have with cell phone companies is that the pipe is “just good enough”. There’s not much of an extra capacity, and too quick roll-out of an iPhone showed just that for AT&T. I am quite sure Verizon isn’t going an extra mile just to beat the competition in the peak demand game. So their pipes are also “just good enough”.

What I would like to see in a year or two is the constant 3G sign on my phone. Anywhere. Even in tunnels or just 50 miles outside of NYC. I want to see 3G everywhere in Brooklyn too, even on the subway as I go there. I also want this 3G to be real solid connection, not some flickering on-the-verge-of-breaking-up connection. One way or another I’ve seen Verizon and AT&T guilty of all of the above. This is not to start a holy war “Verizon vs. AT&T”, it’s just that cell phone providers have formed de-facto cartel with crappy phones, nonsense pricing models (5GB limit for cell phone broadband with $250 cell phone modem card? Puh-leese!) and questionable service quality.

Those of you who are going to inauguration – slip a note into Obama’s pocket: we need reasonable cell broadband structure. Now!

internet technology

They Choose Internet Over Sex – But Are They?

CNN has published a result of a survey, stating that any given day women will forgo sex for Internet in almost 50% of the chance. The argument is made that Americans rely on the Internet more and more each day. We’re hooked on ‘tubes.

My guess is that the survey was done online. It’s almost like the infamous online study by large Russian web-portal that clearly showed that 100% of respondents use Internet. Who knew? Given the state of the broadband in US, chances are – most people DO forgo Internet connectivity for other activities.

Those of us who live in well developed areas enjoy omnipresense of broadband. It is as if we almost bathe in it. In New York City I can enter almost any Starbucks and get online using either AT&T’s or T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi. In the college, where I take classes, I can hook up to their Wi-Fi network from almost every college building – even old once that college plans to vacate soon. And if that cafe on the corner, whose name escapes me, isn’t outfitted with own Wi-Fi by the owner, I can hook up my cell phone to my laptop via Bluetooth or USB cable and be online in less then 5 minutes. Or just check e-mail directly from my phone if needed.

Fast forward to rural areas, like my parents’ vacation home in upstate Pennsylvania, also known as upstate NY. Instead of 3G I usually see EDGE or even GPRS type of a signal. That means speeds around dial-up with the same kind of quality. Starbucks cafes are one per hundred square miles or at least one hour driving away. Pretty long shot for casual e-mail checking. Working from such a location is definitely out of the question. So I can hardly see that anyone from nearby population would forgo any kind of activity for questionable pleasure of waiting for contemporary web site to download. Various studies show the average size of a web page is anywhere between 150K to 300K. Add stuffers like banners, banner and statistics scripts, flash elements… just forget about it.

So while Google battles to get their content closer to subscribers by setting up caching servers on ISP’s own networks, maybe it’ll be a better idea to at least give those “forgotten” markets a chance to experience this content. They may still think Internet is a secret army project gone wild…


Conference Center Wireless Trickery

Wireless connectivity at hotels - Small business, marketing and web design blogThis Saturday is hard. Not only I had to get up at 7am – pretty early for me on any given day, let alone Saturday. I had to drive all the way to Long Island. As I am blogging this, I am sitting in the lobby on Long Island Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. This is March 2008 and it’s almost 30 miles from New York City. The cell phone even shows 3G network. Which I am comfortably using.

Guess what? The wireless internet connection that is redundant and free less then 30 miles from here costs $2.95 for 25 minutes, with $.25 each additional minute. Or you can pay $19.95 per 24 hours of wireless internet. It’s a same scam that other hotels running.

Imagine a hotel charging you additional money for using a water fountain. Or a restroom. Or timing you sitting in those supposedly comfortable chairs in the lobby. Two dollars per 30 minutes of sitting, after your time expires some hotel worker comes to your chair and throws you out unless you pay more money. Personally, I don’t see any reason why hotels wouldn’t do that.

One might argue that the infrastructure costs money. Sure it does, but I’d be delighted if someone would provide any real-world numbers as to how much hotels make off of the paid internet connectivity. And how much they loose. Being a small business owner myself, I am very conscious when it comes to additional and hidden charges. So if I would come up with the idea of having a seminar here or there, the fact that anyone coming to my conference (say it’ll last for 4 hours) would have to cough up anywhere between 12 and 20 bucks just to check their e-mail, take their notes online or blog about the event would be embarrassing.

Of course, it’s capitalism out there and people wouldn’t stop having meetings and conferences and seminars at hotels just because of outrageous prices for internet connectivity. Bus someone must bring hotel management up to speed with the outside world. Next time some doctor decides to have a meeting at a hotel’s conference center this Marriott may just be out of luck. Just because people use internet more then for 25 minutes at a time.