Verizon iPhone Shows You Can’t Win: Carriers Hold the Cards – Wired News

On February 7, 2011, in Latest News, Videos, by nadia

The launch of the iPhone on Verizon adds to the mountain of evidence that you just can’t trust wireless carriers. On the day that iPhone preorders began last week, Verizon quietly revised its policy on data management: Any smartphone customer who uses an “extraordinary amount of data” will see a slowdown in their data-transfer speeds for the remainder of the month and the next billing cycle

The launch of the iPhone on Verizon adds to the mountain of evidence that you just can’t trust wireless carriers.

On the day that iPhone preorders began last week, Verizon quietly revised its policy on data management: Any smartphone customer who uses an “extraordinary amount of data” will see a slowdown in their data-transfer speeds for the remainder of the month and the next billing cycle.

It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch. One of Verizon’s selling points for its version of the iPhone is that it would come with an unlimited data plan — a marked contrast to AT&T, which eliminated its unlimited data plans last year.

Verizon incidentally announced a plan for “data optimization” for all customers, which may degrade the appearance of videos streamed on smartphones, for example.

Verizon didn’t send out press releases to alert the public of this nationwide change regarding data throttling and so-called “optimization.” The only reason this news hit the wire was because a blogger noticed a PDF explaining the policy on Verizon’s website, which Verizon later confirmed was official. Obviously it’s bad news, so Verizon wanted to keep a lid on it.

And here we thought Verizon’s network technology was better-prepared than AT&T to handle a big crowd of iPhone customers. While our initial tests showed that Verizon was better at making and holding phone calls, its data speeds are slower than AT&T’s. The company must be worried about the effects of an influx of iPhone customers — otherwise, why would it throttle bandwidth like this?

“We’ve been working on this for a very long time,” John Stratton, Verizon’s CEO, said during the Verizon iPhone press conference last month. “We expect unprecedented demand, bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before. We feel good about being able to handle it.

Working on what for a very long time? A plan to handle a flood of new data-heavy customers by slowing everybody down? Brilliant.

The throttling policy will impact only a small number of users: Verizon claims only the top 5 percent of data hogs will be throttled. (AT&T also previously claimed that a small number of users were hogging a massive amount of network bandwidth before it dropped unlimited data.) But the “optimization” method involves caching less data and resizing video, which “may minimally impact the appearance of the file as displayed on your device” — and that affects every Verizon customer.

That’s an abuse of the word “unlimited.” Sadly, this Orwellian use of language is becoming a common practice in the broadband arena. Comcast used to promote unlimited data as well, but customers reported their service was cut off after exceeding an invisible limit; the broadband provider later switched to monthly data caps.

Actions such as data throttling are symptomatic of an ugly truth about the broadband industry. Internet providers would much rather slow everybody down than invest in more hardware to support more customers.

“ISPs have a vested interest in trying to extract as much money as they can and changing the net’s architecture to bring them more profits,” Wired.com’s net neutrality expert Ryan Singel recently wrote. “They would rather do that than add more infrastructure to handle the growing traffic.”

Meanwhile, Verizon is advertising an unlimited data plan for the iPhone — which appears to give it a leg up against AT&T, who discontinued unlimited data in 2010 and transitioned to a tiered pricing structure.

But just like AT&T, Verizon plans to switch to tiered pricing in the future, according to Stratton. Verizon’s unlimited data plan, available for a limited time, is just another example of bait-and-switch.

AT&T gets most of the heat because independent tests have shown that its network is less reliable than Verizon’s with handling phone calls. But at the end of the day, we’re dealing with the same evil.

AT&T increased the early-termination fee last June from $175 to $325. Guess what? Verizon, too, doubled its termination fee, to $350.

Verizon used to have a popular “new phone every two years program,” in which customers would receive juicy discounts on new phones every two years as a reward for staying loyal. Days after the Verizon iPhone was announced, Verizon discontinued the discount program. Tough beans.

But above all, Verizon’s data throttling is shady in areas where even AT&T can’t compete. Even when AT&T had unlimited data, the company did not practice throttling, and an independent test showed its unlimited data was truly unlimited.

Transparency is going to be the key issue with data-throttling. How much data is too much? How will Verizon notify customers when they’ve surpassed the limit? How much will they be slowed down?

If Verizon isn’t transparent on each of these issues, the company could quietly slow down anybody’s transfer rates just to cram as many iPhone and Android customers on its network as possible, to maximize profit without doing what it should do: invest heavily in network expansion to provide the fast, reliable network it promised to everybody.

Given its actions, Verizon may be better at holding phone calls, but as a broadband company it sucks at keeping promises.

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Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com

Continue reading here: Verizon iPhone Shows You Can’t Win: Carriers Hold the Cards – Wired News

Abortion Debate Returns to Capitol Hill as Lawmakers Weigh New Restrictions – Fox News

On February 5, 2011, in General, Latest News, Videos, by nadia

The frontlines of the abortion debate are moving back to Capitol Hill , as lawmakers push for action on several bills that would strengthen restrictions meant to prevent federal taxpayer dollars from funding the procedure.  Republicans are trying to juggle the abortion issue as they wage a separate, and more high-profile, battle in Congress over spending. Several prominent GOP lawmakers have proffered ambitious plans for cutting the federal budget ahead of a showdown vote over raising the national debt, a moment which could set the tone for their new House majority.  But the lawmakers are using their early days in power to simultaneously tackle an issue which was, for the most part, on the backburner during the campaign season. Abortion-rights groups have been hammering the sponsors of the proposed legislation, and that fight is sure to escalate with hearings coming up next week on at least two new anti-abortion bills.  “This debate is just getting started,” NARAL Pro-Choice American President Nancy Keenan said in a statement.  One of the bills, N.J

The frontlines of the abortion debate are moving back to Capitol Hill, as lawmakers push for action on several bills that would strengthen restrictions meant to prevent federal taxpayer dollars from funding the procedure. 

Republicans are trying to juggle the abortion issue as they wage a separate, and more high-profile, battle in Congress over spending. Several prominent GOP lawmakers have proffered ambitious plans for cutting the federal budget ahead of a showdown vote over raising the national debt, a moment which could set the tone for their new House majority. 

But the lawmakers are using their early days in power to simultaneously tackle an issue which was, for the most part, on the backburner during the campaign season. Abortion-rights groups have been hammering the sponsors of the proposed legislation, and that fight is sure to escalate with hearings coming up next week on at least two new anti-abortion bills. 

“This debate is just getting started,” NARAL Pro-Choice American President Nancy Keenan said in a statement. 

One of the bills, N.J. Republican Rep. Chris Smith’s “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” was the subject of searing criticism from NARAL and others over the past week. 

That proposal would effectively make permanent a string of separate restrictions, including the so-called Hyde Amendment, which have to be renewed periodically by Congress. Abortion-rights groups oppose the bill but took very-public exception to a provision that said women who are the victims of “forcible rape” would be exempt from the law. Advocacy groups questioned whether a woman who was the victim of date rape or statutory rape — in the case of a minor — would fall outside that description. 

After heavy media coverage, Smith backed off the “forcible rape” language Wednesday but stood by the bill as a whole. He accused critics of trying to distract attention and stoke a controversy to sideline the bill. 

“Overwhelming majorities of Americans do not want their tax dollars used to pay for abortion,” Smith said. “Some have twisted this language to undermine our efforts stop taxpayer funding for abortion.” 

The bill’s critics were not appeased. 

“The fact that it took weeks of public outrage before the new House leadership was shamed into giving up on its efforts to redefine rape to deny women access to abortion shows how out of touch they are with the values of the American people,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. 

Smith’s bill is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning. The next day, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hear Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts’ “Protect Life Act.” 

That bill is aimed at making sure federal funds do not go toward abortions and abortion coverage under the new health care overhaul. Many Democrats say that’s already the case, since under the law federal dollars can’t be used for abortions and insurance plans that take in federal money are required to keep that money separate from any funding for abortion services. 

The Pitts bill, though, would impose several extra restrictions, including a requirement that certain plans offer a version of coverage that does not include abortion coverage. 

Separately, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is trying to push to the House floor a proposal that would end federal family planning grants for abortion providers — a measure targeted at Planned Parenthood. A Pence aide told FoxNews.com the congressman is working with leadership and the relevant committees to make that happen. 

Though the proposal was flying under the radar as of a week ago, it gained attention this past week after an anti-abortion group released a string of undercover videos similar to the ones that brought down ACORN. The group, Live Action, released footage showing local Planned Parenthood workers appearing to give advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to obtain services for underage sex workers. Live Action first released a video from a Perth Amboy, N.J., clinic, and followed it up with a video from Richmond, Va., and then more videos from three other Virginia clinics. 

Smith, who is also one of 154 co-sponsors on Pence’s bill, applauded the New Jersey attorney general for subsequently ordering a review of the Perth Amboy incident. 

“This seems to be yet another reason to believe that Planned Parenthood is more interested in promoting its abortion business than it is in obeying laws that protect minors from sexual exploitation,” Smith said in an e-mail to FoxNews.com. 

Planned Parenthood fired the manager shown in the Perth Amboy video. But it accused Live Action of using “dirty tricks” to smear the organization. 

“Falsely claiming sex trafficking to health professionals to advance a political agenda is an astoundingly cynical form of political activity,” the group said in a statement. The organization announced more than a week ago that it was concerned visitors claiming to be involved in sex trafficking might be part of a “hoax.” It claims to have alerted law enforcement to the visitors. 

Accurate or not, the videos helped fuel a debate on the Hill that was already resurfacing. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said on her Facebook page that in light of the videos she would introduce her own bill to block funding. A number of pro-life groups are trying to organize in support of Pence’s bill. 

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and dozens of other lawmakers also wrote a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius complaining that Planned Parenthood clinics in his state were using videoconferencing methods to dispense the abortion pill RU-486. King said in the letter that taxpayer dollars must not be used to support “telemed abortions.”

Continue reading here: Abortion Debate Returns to Capitol Hill as Lawmakers Weigh New Restrictions – Fox News

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