Time Warner Cable gives up on metered billing – for now


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Time WarnerCable’s hasty retreat from a plan to charge broadband customers by the byte will delay but likely won’t kill efforts to replace all-you-can-eat plans with so-called metered billing arrangements. In the end, the company’s greedy rates, unpersuasive congestion arguments and relatively low threshold caps may have played a bigger role in derailing the plan than adamant consumer opposition to pay-as-you-go broadband at any price.

Still it’s unlikely that any large ISP will try to switch to cell phone-style billing again anytime soon.

“Time Warner Cable has raised the government and consumer flags too high for anyone else to do this anytime in the near future,” Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield said. “They created a PR nightmare for no reason.”

That proposal came as government agencies began taking steps to make broadband expansion part of the national economic recovery plan.

The two weeks of outrage that followed have made it clear that U.S. consumers do not want to have to calorie-count their internet usage, especially in age where users are adopting such bandwidth-hungry video innovations as the Roku box, Hulu.com’s online television shows and net-centered home media portals like Boxee.

Network congestion is a lie contrived for companies too cheap to construct adequate pipes to your digital hearth and home. If competition is available, they’ll manage to come with the bucks to offer affordable speed and bandwidth to consumers.

What creeps like Time-Warner have tried to do – is what always worked on ignorant pols and even more ignorant consumers before the Web got in the way. Now, we mostly have a picture of what tech exists down the street and across the pond – and we all know there’s no need to roll over and beg for overpriced scraps.

Twins rack up “hundreds” of parking tickets, beat the rap by blaming each other

Swiss officials say they are powerless to act against identical twins who have run-up hundreds of parking tickets and blamed each other for the offences.

They say they cannot punish Harold and Michael Lengen, 38, for parking offences committed while driving around Winterthur.

Police say that in the last year alone the twins have collected 29 parking tickets on a car which they both share.

But every time they refuse to pay them and tell courts that the other was driving.

Uh.. I guess powerless is as good a word as any.

China looks to regional consumers to redirect excess capacity


You get to shake hands with visiting out-of-work politicians
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

China is rebalancing its economy to focus more on domestic consumption than exports in order to achieve its growth target, Premier Wen Jiabao has said. Addressing an Asian regional forum in southern China, he announced a $10 billion fund for infrastructure projects in south-east Asia.

The Boao Forum for Asia has been dubbed the Oriental Davos

Nearly two dozen Chinese government ministers are also in Boao to debate with other delegates on how to manage beyond the crisis and what role the emerging markets can play in reforming the international financial system.

Mr Wen told more than 1,600 delegates at the convention centre that China’s stimulus package was “already paying off” and that the situation was “better than expected…Investment growth has accelerated, consumption has increased quite rapidly and domestic demand continues to rise,” he said in his keynote speech.

The concept of a Forum for Asia was born out of the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s. It has served as a platform for China to push for closer integration with its Asian neighbours on the one hand and continued globalisation on the other. It is also, Shirong Chen, BBC China editor, adds, an indication that China is firming up its image as a regional leader in the face of the crisis.

Which doesn’t sit too well with Japanese politicians. Not that they’re enjoying any comparative success.

Texan gets 8 years for gun smuggling to Mexican drug gangs


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A Houston man has been sentenced to just over eight years in prison for helping buy more than 100 military-style firearms, some of which ended up in the hands of Mexico’s violent drug cartels.

Prosecutors say John Phillip Hernandez was one of the main members of an organization of 23 people who purchased 339 weapons in a 15-month period. At least 40 of these weapons have been recovered in Mexico and three have been found in Guatemala, according to court documents.

Hernandez was sentenced after pleading guilty in July to one count of making a false statement to a federal firearms licensee.

Buying weapons is legal in Texas, but the purchaser must fill out a government form that indicates whether the purchaser plans to keep the gun for himself or give it to a third party. Hernandez claimed the guns were for himself.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner said Hernandez, 26, merited a stiffer sentence. “The defendant’s actions strengthened the drug cartels by arming them with arsenals that let them continue their criminal conduct,” Hittner said, and led to the killings of eight people in Mexico.

Throw away the key!

Over half of American voters used the Web to prep for 2008 election

More than half of U.S. adults used the Internet to participate in the 2008 election — the first time that threshold has been crossed. Some 55 percent searched for political news online, researched candidate positions, debated issues or otherwise participated in the election over the Internet, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.

New forms of Internet communication such as blogs, social-networking sites like Facebook and video-sharing sites played a prominent role, the nonprofit group said. Among its findings:

* 45 percent of Internet users watched online videos related to politics or the election;

* 33 percent of Internet users shared political content with others;

* 52 percent of those on a social network used it for political purposes.

The Internet has grown steadily as a source of political news since 2000, when 11 percent of voters went online to keep up with political developments. That figure now stands at 26 percent. Among young voters and those with broadband connections the Internet has eclipsed traditional media like television, radio and newspapers, the survey found.

If you have any smarts at all, you can use the Web to fact-check some of the more or less political claims made, as well. True Believers are exempt from this procedure, of course.

Apple outranks their competitors in customer service


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

When it comes to customer service, PC manufacturers aren’t held with quite the same contempt as cable companies, health insurers and Internet service providers –- but they don’t have much to brag about, either.

Forrester Research’s 2008 customer experience index, a survey of some 4,500 consumers, ranked the PC makers slightly above companies in those other industries but below such perennial headaches as the wireless companies, airlines and credit card issuers.

Today, the research firm broke out its specific findings on PC makers, and the news was good for Apple and bad for everyone else.

Apple notched an 80 percent, or “good” rating, in Forrester’s customer experience index, which is an average of responses on topics like whether companies meet customer needs and make products that are easy and enjoyable to use.

Gateway scored a 66; Hewlett-Packard, a 64; and Compaq (a brand owned by H.P.), a 63 — scores that Forrester considers “poor” rankings in the customer experience index.

Dell got a miserly 58 percent, a “very poor” rating.

Bruce Temkin, vice president at Forrester, said the PC industry indeed bombed in the survey, but the low ratings were mostly driven by consumers’ views about Microsoft’s Windows ecosystem.

Though I spent decades in several Microsoft environments – cripes, I’ve been online since 1983 – I bought my first Mac, a Mini, just to experiment with OS X. Everything Forrester details matches my experience, from unboxing to style, from ease of set-up and use, to what little customer service I’ve needed – and the way it was handled. Which is why I gave away my last laptop, last desktop PC.

I loaded Ubuntu before I gave them to friends.

Waking up Canadian!

Over the last eight years, of course, I thought about this pretty often. My kin up on PEI say they’ll all swear I was born up there. Though my father’s generation all worked hard at swearing they were all born down south of the GWN.

It surely must be nice to be a citizen of a land that doesn’t think it owns the world.

Is it OK for a library to lend a Kindle?


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As a few more libraries begin lending the Kindle, the ebook reading device from Amazon, the company continues Kindle 2 Libraryto offer ambiguous messages regarding its policies. Asked by the Howe Library, Hanover, NH, if it was OK to lend a Kindle, an Amazon support staffer said yes—and the library has proceeded to do so, with much positive response.

However, another support staffer told blogger Rochelle Hartman that the Amazon Terms of Service bar lending of Kindles. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener confirmed to LJ—as he did last year—that the policy bars library lending, but “we don’t talk about our enforcement actions.”

In practice, that apparently means that Amazon doesn’t pursue enforcement, given the negative public relations impact from going after libraries, coupled with the potential ambiguity of the Terms of Service, which bar a user who wishes to “sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party…”

Maybe Amazon didn’t contemplate library lending, White noted, but the Kindle has been on the market for a year and a half now. “Amazon is missing a great opportunity,” White observed. “If Amazon donated Kindles to public libraries, many patrons would discover that they love this newer technology and would then purchase a Kindle for personal use.”

Sounds like Amazon is almost as dumb as the RIAA. Except I don’t find that believable. Then, what could be the source of all this reader unfriendly paperwork?

You know the answer as well as I do. Amazon’s fracking lawyers.

McCain campaign manager says GOP should back gay marriage


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A key architect of Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign has urged conservatives to drop their opposition to same-sex marriage.

In a speech Friday to Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group, Steve Schmidt said allowing same-sex marriage is in line with the conservative credo of keeping government out of people’s private lives.

“There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage,” Schmidt, who was McCain’s campaign manager, told the group. “I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one’s liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage. In a marriage, two people are completely responsible to and for each other.”

He added: “If you are not willing to accept and faithfully discharge those responsibilities, you shouldn’t enter the state of matrimony, and it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if you’re straight or gay. It is a responsibility like no other, which can and should make marriage an association between two human beings more fulfilling than any other…”

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