Articles

10 Low-Cost Tips YOU Can Use for More Reliable Communications

By Tim Ruff, Telecom Recovery and edited by Sharon M. Wrobel, b4Ci Inc.

Is anyone really out of touch these days? From handheld devices to computer-based social networking to Fortune 500 companies, EVERYONE wants to connect. In fact, the ability for human beings to communicate with one another cuts to our very fabric. But what happens when networks and systems fail? What happens when our links to one another are severed due to natural disasters, human error or even intentional sabotage? These are the questions that the experts at companies like Salt-Lake City based Telecom Recovery Inc. ask all day long. According to their President Tim Ruff:

    “The funny thing about outages is their unpredictability. One California hospital had their copper phone lines stolen during the night, which Telecom Recovery quickly fixed. Even a popular episode of American Idol or the rush after a football game can cause enough congestion to overwhelm carriers’ lines.”

We recently reached out and touched Tim for his take on how to remain in touch, no matter what Mother Nature or our fellow humans throw at us. Rather than some lengthy compendium, Tim provided us with a handy list of things to consider when the dial tone stops, or when the signal bars disappear on your communication device. These 10 low-cost improvements are such that just about any organization can implement them to significantly improve their ability to recover from a communications outage or disaster. There are also a few hints here for the individual user as well. Therefore without further fanfare, here are (in no particular order of importance) the following ways you can protect your vital personal and business communications to make sure you stay in touch.

Mass Communication/Notification

1. Twitter/Facebook – These social networking tools are free, fast, simple and designed for mass communication, without the need to maintain lists of contact information.

2. Gather employee phone, email info – It can be a lot of work to gather and maintain a thorough list of everyone’s personal contact information, but it can literally be a life-saver when the time comes that you need it. Commercial mass notification systems require this information to work properly.

3. Emergency section on website – If your callers can’t reach you by phone or in person, they’ll likely try your website.

Outbound Calls

4. GETS/WPS Cards – Financial institutions, hospitals, utilities, disaster recovery companies and all governmental entities are eligible for these free yet powerful congestion-busting calling cards. Visit www.ncs.gov/services.html for more information.

5. Skype/magicJacks – There are times when voice is down but the Internet is still up, and these two low-cost VoIP powerhouses have literally millions of installations to prove that they work. Skype has the higher quality while magicJack has the lower cost. They’re so cheap, there’s really no reason not to get both.

6. Handheld satellite phone – In our opinion, every organization should own at least one hand-held satellite phone as a mobile last resort when phone and Internet networks have failed. A decent phone costs around $700 with monthly emergency plans around $40.

7. Voluntary reimbursement – Most employees own cell phones, it’s a good idea to put together a simple “Voluntary Reimbursement” agreement with them just in case you’re in a position where those phones are the only ones working.

8. Retain POTS lines – POTS means “Plain Ordinary Telephone Service” in other words, a land line. If the installation of digital circuits and/or VoIP service has displaced (or is about to displace) some of your traditional “POTS” (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, don’t let them all go! They won’t help after a cable cut, carrier failure, congestion or an evacuation, but since they’re line-powered they can help during a power outage or a phone system failure.

Inbound Calls

9. Call forwarding/diversion – The carrier can divert 90+% of local phone numbers and all toll-free numbers after an outage or failure, and it’s typically inexpensive to set it up. You’ll need a reliable place with sufficient capacity to divert the calls to, which can be a dilemma, and you’ll also need a solution for when the carrier is unable to forward because of network failure or congestion (such as a “Toll-Free Hotline”, discussed below).

10. Publish a “Toll-Free hotline” – Toll-free numbers are far more resilient than local numbers when properly configured. Proper configuration is useless, however, if no one knows the number to dial, so publishing the hotline both internally and externally on websites, intranets, newsletters, entrances, statements and more is critical. Once published, a toll-free “hotline” can not only provide a last-resort number for callers to attempt when other numbers are down, it can also powerfully augment other mass communication tools by quickly providing updateable recorded messages for the public, the media, employees, etc.

Other Considerations

Telecom Recovery has developed an interesting smart phone app that turns an iPhone or Android device into a satellite phone when it’s in or near the workplace. The company also touts the ability to recover 9-1-1 calls for failed dispatch centers and communities isolated by cable cuts and other disasters. For example, several small towns on the 395 corridor in California were repeatedly cut off after wildfires damaged their communications lines, resulting in interruption of 9-1-1 and other essential services. According to Tim, these issues were alleviated by implementation of smart technology changes by the towns, which Tim proudly proclaims included Telecom Recovery.
We hope you liked this article. Share your own comments and tips! Email Tim Ruff at truff@telecomrecovery.com. Sharon can be reached by emailing sharon@b4Ci.com. Thanks for reading.

Telecom Recovery has customers in 40 states in just about every industry. Any organization that feels pain when the phones stop ringing can benefit from their service. Call 877-777-3520 or visit www.telecomrecovery.com for more info. b4Ci Inc. www.b4ci.com has specialized in Business Resumption and Disaster Recovery Plans for over 35 years. b4Ci is also a longtime Telecom Recovery customer and can be reached, no matter what, at (214) 888-1300.

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Are Web Streamers Dumping Cable? New study says YES.

More Content and Fewer Interruptions Equals a Better Viewing Experience. Economics May Be Only Secondary Concern.

By Leo A. and Sharon M. Wrobel

There is an interesting buzz on the Net these days and it’s bad news for the cable company. A study by The Diffusion Group (TDG) has found that a significant percentage of Netflix users (who stream content from Netflix to Roku, web-enabled Blue Ray Players, PCs and other devices) are in fact downgrading their pay-TV service.

TDG asked consumers about the probability that they would downgrade their pay TV service in the next six months - as in move to a lower tier of service, cancel some or all premium service, or both. It appears that in general, the percent willing to dump all or part of their existing cable service has risen from 16 to 32 percent in 2011 according to the study.

We’re not surprised. Cable is: (1) Overpriced and (2) More and more annoying to watch.

  1. While Web-based TV use continues to rise and greater choices of content become available, the price of this “new” technology has continued to fall. For cable however, it’s a whole other story. A recent report from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that during the last 10 years, the cost of cable and satellite services has increased by an astounding 43%. Ouch. During the same time period the content quality has dropped significantly and the number of commercials interrupting cable programming has skyrocketed.
  2. One aspect of the viewing experience apparently not covered in the study is the number of commercials. As a general rule, commercials are absent from online mediums but absolutely bombard most of the non-premium cable channels. People will pay to cleanse their viewing experience from interruptions, case in point the number of people who pay for satellite radio. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been lax in enforcing rules that prohibit advertisers from deliberately increasing the volume level on commercials. There have been rules against this for years. Whether due to lax enforcement or whatever, the practice has increased and only exacerbates the negative experience of the typical cable viewer.

These are but two of the reasons we are not surprised by this study.

In the past, Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the U.S., has argued that services like Netflix do not pose a direct threat to its cable offerings. By the same token Netflix has asserted that it is more of a “supplement” to pay TV than a replacement. TDG’s research data seem to contradict both assertions. People will dump cable and move to the web in large numbers for the reason cited above as well as due to other reasons. For example, 61 percent of heavy data streaming users in the study cited growing use of online video as the primary reason for their decision to (likely) downgrade cable service. Two-thirds of those cited Netflix in particular. Interestingly, only 24 percent of such users listed economic concerns as their primary motivation for downgrading, which points back to the quality arguments made above. $100 a month is a lot to pay for “Premium” programming only to be bombarded with asinine “Ab Blaster” commercials or to be told for the twentieth time that this month is Truck Month.

Whatever the reasons, they are generally good for Netflix and generally bad for cable. Netflix supports 23.6 million streaming video subscribers in Canada and the United States. Interestingly enough, the number of HBO subscribers on the other hand again declined to 28.6 million subscribers, the lowest total number of subscribers in 4 years. Some say that customers are now willing to wait for HBO shows to be released on DVD. More likely, many users (after years of watching HBO programs make their way to DVD, syndication and iTunes) will forego the HBO cable subscription in favor of more economical options online. This trend may accelerate as services like Netflix start to make new deals that eat into pay-TV market share. Even Netflix faces some uncertainty though. The contract with Starz Play reportedly ends in 2012, and the company is expected to pay more in general in the future for the rights to stream TV shows, movies and other content to its subscribers. Their CEO recently said it might pay upwards of $300 million a year to renew a licensing agreement for movies and TV shows with Liberty Media Corp’s Starz unit. That’s ten times the amount that Netflix paid Starz in 2008.
Netflix has become one of the most popular streaming video services in North America – and its stock price has soared. The company has been growing its customer base in Canada since introducing an unlimited streaming plan without DVDs in September 2010 and has rumbled about entering a “third country” according to what’s circulating on the web. It appears to us that for the time being anyway, web-based programming is where it’s at. All the more reason for Net Neutrality, as advocated by Login International. Watch for more on this topic in future articles.

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DOJ SUES TO STOP AT&T/T-MOBILE MERGER – NOW WHAT HAPPENS?

On August 31, 2011, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed a suit in federal district court in the District of Colombia, seeking to have the court prohibit the merger of AT&T with T-Mobile. The suit alleges that the combination of the two companies would mean that “customers of mobile wireless telecommunications services likely will face higher prices, less product variety and innovation, and poorer quality services due to reduced incentives to invest than would exist absent the merger.” The suit specifically mentions that T-Mobile’s market strategy had been to be the “challenger brand” – bringing new prices and new innovations to the marketplace.

The immediate question arises – is this the end of the merger? As someone who has dealt with AT&T for many years, my prediction is no – the fight over the merger is just beginning. So what do I think AT&T and its opponents will do?

  • AT&T Will Not Just Walk Away from the Merger – As I understand the terms of the merger agreement, if the merger does not occur, AT&T has to pay a break-up fee of $3 billion in cash and AT&T would have to make other concessions to Deutsche Telekom worth an additional $3 billion, making the total break-up cost $6 billion. That’s real money, even to AT&T, and such a break-up would strengthen one of its main competitors. AT&T management will not surrender unless they see that the fight is hopeless.
  • AT&T Will Challenge the Government’s Case – The heart of the government’s case is something called the “Herfindahl-Hirschman Index,” or the “HHI.” The HHI measures how concentrated a market is – if there are a lot of small competitors in a market, the HHI is very low; if there is only one provider in a market, the HHI reaches its maximum of 10,000 points. Without going into a lot of detail, the general rule of thumb is that a market in which the HHI is between 1,500 and 2,500 points are considered to be moderately concentrated, and markets in which the HHI is in excess of 2,500 points are considered to be highly concentrated. If a merger will increase the HHI in a highly concentrated market by more than 100 points, the merger raises significant competitive concerns. The DOJ says that the AT&T/T-Mobile merger will raise the HHI in the top 100 markets in the country by anywhere from 127 points (in Toledo, Ohio) to 1531 points (in Honolulu, Hawaii). AT&T will counter with a bevy of top-notch economists who will say that the DOJ’s numbers were incorrectly calculated. The calculation of an HHI is more art than science and different experts can calculate it in a number of different ways. AT&T will also point out that the remaining carriers in the market are likely to be stiff competitors, with Sprint (in particular) being praised by AT&T for its competitive attributes.
  • AT&T Will Negotiate Behind Closed Doors – AT&T will seek out the key personnel within the DOJ to see if it is possible to settle this case. AT&T is likely to offer concessions in the form of spin-off of assets, transfers of wireless licenses, agreements to comply with “net neutrality” rules and other items that AT&T thinks the DOJ might want.
  • AT&T Will Attack the DOJ Through the Political Process – AT&T is one of the largest donors to politicians in the country. It is safe to predict that some of those politicians will attack the DOJ’s actions. They will mirror AT&T’s claims – that the merger will create jobs and promote investment in infrastructure. I would expect that there will be calls for investigations of the DOJ, congressional hearings, and even legislation that would either deprive the DOJ of the power to move forward on the case or that would de-fund any effort to prosecute the case by the government. The attacks will not only come from Republicans – some top-level Democrats will question the DOJ’s actions.
  • AT&T Opponents Will Join the Fray – Just as it is possible for AT&T to hire top-level economists to say that the DOJ’s HHI numbers are incorrect, so also AT&T’s opponents can hire other economists, who will say that the DOJ’s case produced HHIs that are too low. It is safe to predict that there will be a bevy of intervenors into the DOJ’s case, all presenting their own different “spin” on the merger.
  • AT&T Is Not Harmed by Delay – Antitrust cases take years – sometimes decades – to get resolved. AT&T makes plans for the very long term – it knows that it can out-last and out-wait most opponents. It can hope for a new administration to take office in 2013, with a new Attorney General with different standards for antitrust violations. In the meantime, it has effectively neutralized T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s current owners, Deutsche Telekom AG, have indicated that they do not plan to make any more investments in T-Mobile. Thus, AT&T has many of the benefits of the merger – one less effective competitor – without actually having to pay billions for the acquisition.

So how will it all be resolved? While I think a settlement between AT&T and the DOJ is possible, I think it more likely that this case will fester in the courts for at least until next November’s elections. After that, it depends on the President and the Attorney General.

Comments? Questions? Contact the author at ed@popelawtx.com

About the author – Ed is an attorney in private practice in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience dealing with AT&T and the Bell companies as a regulator, working for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and two tours at the Public Utility Commission of Texas as well as being General Counsel/General Regulatory Counsel for an entrepreneurial telephone company headquartered in Dallas. You can learn more about Ed at www.popelawtx.com

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Has the AT&T T-Mobile Merger Fizzled Out For Good?

by Leo A. Wrobel, Sharon M. Wrobel and Eddie M. Pope, Esq.

While you were relaxing and enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey you may have missed one of the most important technology news stories of the year – the apparent scuttling of the AT&T / T-Mobile merger. As of this date the two companies still maintain that they intend to salvage the $39 billion deal, but analysts say the firms are unlikely to win the required regulatory approval. AT&T withdrew its merger application from the FCC last Wednesday, November 23. It also announced it was setting aside the money necessary to pay the "break up fee" it will owe T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) if the deal ends up imploding.

The fact that AT&T is taking a $4 billion charge in the fourth quarter of this year seems to indicate it will breach its promise to close the deal by September 2012. Finance people close to me who know more about such things though tell me that things charged off now can easily be reversed later if situations change. In fact, AT&T has said it will reapply for the merger at the FCC, and who knows what shape the deal making will take.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski first made his position known in a document he circulated to fellow commissioners last Tuesday, November 22. Genachowski recommended sending AT&T Inc.'s proposed merger to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for review and a full hearing. That's what the FCC does when it opposes a an action. The point was obviously not lost on AT&T who reacted quickly.

According to FCC analysis and reports the merger would result in higher prices for consumers, less innovation, less investment in the U.S. and fewer U.S. jobs. The review also cast suspicion on AT&T's assertions that “only” the merger would allow it build out "4G" high-speed wireless Internet access. The FCC concluded that AT&T would probably build out its network anyway, if for any reason to remain competitive with Verizon. These and other points were described in a 109-page report posted recently on the FCC web site. In addition to being uncharacteristically critical of AT&T, the report concluded that the combination of two of the nation's largest wireless providers (#2 AT&T and #4 T-Mobile) would indeed harm competition, do little to expand high-speed Internet access (despite AT&T's claims) and would not lead to more jobs. The FCC analysis, took six months and was based on more than 200,000 pages of documents.

The FCC and the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) – the latter of which only a month ago filed an antitrust suit opposing the merger - must both approve the deal. FCC officials have already stated they will provide their analysis and reports to the USDOJ, which could complicate the suit for AT&T. Assuming that AT&T wins the antitrust suit anyway, or that it reaches a settlement with the USDOJ, it can apply again later for FCC approval. If they do though, the six-month or longer approval would start over from the beginning. That means that optimistically, even if everything goes perfectly for AT&T, the merger would be in 2013 assuming it happens at all. Since the merger will probably not be completed by the September 2012 drop-dead date, large financial penalties ensue to AT&T. It might be the largest divorce settlement seen in technology circles in a long time.

Late last Wednesday both companies filed to abandon their FCC merger application. The FCC has now allowed them to withdraw the application without prejudice, which means they can in fact re-file it again in the future. In joint statements quietly released Thanksgiving Day (while financial markets were closed) the companies said they would try again for the FCC's approval another time. In the meantime we will continue to monitor this case and report back to you on any major changes. Thanks for reading.

About the Authors

Leo A. Wrobel has over 35 years of experience with a host of firms engaged in banking, manufacturing, telecom services and government. An active author and technical futurist, he has published ten books and over 700 trade articles on a wide variety of technical subjects. He can be contacted with questions or comments via http://www.tlc-labs.com or by calling (214) CALL-LEO. (214-225-5536)

Sharon M. (Ford) Wrobel is Vice President of Business Development for Dallas-based b4Ci Inc. She has published over a dozen trade articles. Sharon is also the managing editor and a contributing author for Technical Support Magazine found on the NaSPA website at www.naspa.com. She can be reached at sharon@b4ci.com.

About the Co-Author:
Eddie M. Pope is an attorney in private practice in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience dealing with AT&T and the Bell companies as a regulator, working for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and two tours at the Public Utility Commission of Texas as well as being General Counsel/General Regulatory Counsel for an entrepreneurial telephone company headquartered in Dallas. You can learn more about Ed at www.popelawtx.com.

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Is the Tablet Causing the Death of the PC?

Microsoft Needs to Step Up in the World of Sleek, Portable Computing 

In 2010, Apple revolutionized the electronics market with the introduction of the iPad, a wireless touch-screen tablet allowing users to read books, play games, and surf the web with the swipe of a finger. At that moment, the world of portable computing was turned upside down as developers scrambled for a piece of the tablet pie. Today, though the iPad continues to reign supreme, tablets from the likes of Motorola, Acer, Samsung, Toshiba, and the anticipated Amazon Fire are popular options for those looking for a computing option that’s larger than a smart phone and more convenient than a laptop. In the world of tablets and smart phones, where does the PC fit in? Tech Expert Karl Volkman weighs in on why the introduction of tablet computing may kill the PC market.

As the prevalence of sleek, wireless devices grows, the desire to tote a bulky PC or to take up home space with a large, wired desktop decreases at a rapid rate. Though Apple has been quick to set the tone of the tech world with its feather-light laptops (the MacBook Air weighs in at less than 3 pounds) and sleek desktop units, it’s their iPhone and iPad that have truly changed the industry. As of July 2011, iPhone and iPad sales made up for the majority of Apple’s revenue, a direct indication that computing is heading towards small, portable and wireless at an increasing speed. Competing companies have been quick to throw their hat into the ring, introducing their own take on the tablet and showing consumers that they’re ready for the next step with new models and competitive pricing. Microsoft suffered a recent setback with the internal killing of its Courier Tablet, a dual-screened model that could be controlled by the swipe of a finger or a specialized pen and resembled a small notebook. The tablet would have also featured an e-reader component, a market that Microsoft has yet to dip into, but the device was killed off due to supposed “creative differences” within the company.

“The longer Microsoft waits, they run the risk of releasing a product that has already been done, instead of one that is innovative and exciting,” says Volkman. “If they want to stay relevant with consumers as technology moves forward, they need to pick up the pace.”

To speak with tech expert Karl Volkman about how tablets may be killing the PC, please contact me directly.

Best,

Lindsay

About SRV Network, Inc: SRV Network, Inc. is Microsoft Gold Certified partner that offers a variety of IT services, including a variety of flexible service packages that meet any client requirement, from as-needed technical help to intensive, regular on-site work. They work with all technology platforms and have a broad expertise in a wide variety of technology solutions. They specialize in Network Design and Implementation, Network Maintenance and Monitoring, Disaster Recovery and Prevention and IP Telephony. Please visit www.srvnetwork.com for more information.

Lindsay Rafayko
Empower Public Relations | Senior Publicist
625 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 2500
Chicago, IL 60611
O: (312) 854-8819
C: (312) 316-3840
LRafayko@empowerpr.com
www.empowerpr.com

 

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Jones International University announces launch of MBA in Information Security Management-Cyber Security Program at Billington CyberSecurity Summit WEST

With growing global cost of cybercrime, MBA program addresses need for trained cyber security experts.

DENVER, Colo., (November 9, 2011) — In response to the growing threat of attacks on cyber networks, Jones International University® (JIU®) created an MBA program with a focus in Information Security Management-Cyber Security to be launched at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit WEST. The five Cyber Security courses in the JIU MBA specialization are designed to provide background on the growing need for and issues associated with information security. Distinguished advisory board members for the MBA program include Major General USAF (Ret.) Dale W. Meyerrose, VP and GM, Cyber Integrated Solutions, Harris Corporation, Thomas K. Billington, CEO, Billington CyberSecurity, and David Aucsmith, Senior Director, Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Government.

This program arrives in concurrence with a recent study by Symantec that estimates the global cost of cybercrime at $114 billion annually. Additionally, Ponemon Institute, an Internet security research firm, estimates that 2011 security breaches so far have cost U.S. companies $96 billion and security incidents among 24 key U.S. government agencies have jumped more than 650% in the last five years.

The official launch of the JIU MBA in Information Security Management program will occur in conjunction with the Billington CyberSecurity Summit WEST to take place December 5, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Billington CyberSecurity Summit WEST brings together leading U.S. civilian and defense sector cyber security experts, including Senator Michael Bennet, Representative Mike Coffman, Department of Homeland Security Director Richard Marshall, and FBI Deputy Assistant Director Michael Welch, that will provide key insights into critical cyber security issues surrounding cyber networks, mobile, and cloud.  Registration for the Summit is currently open to the public.

“According to remarks made by President Obama, ‘America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cyber security… this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation,’” noted Richard Cox, President of JIU. “We developed this MBA program as a response to the growing demand for cyber security experts in various fields of business.”

The JIU MBA in Information Security Management program coursework will help students develop practical information security programs that include the people, process and technology components essential to any effective management program. The courses also provide students with practical experience in risk assessment and management, business continuity planning, and incident response from an information security management perspective.

“In keeping with JIU’s mission to help students find success in a world of incessant cultural and economic change, we developed this program for general managers whose responsibilities encompass corporate security and information risk management as well as those working as chief security officers” stated Richard Thompson, Dean, JIU School of Business.

For more information on the JIU MBA in Information Security Management–Cyber Security Program, visit the program information page at www.jiu.edu/schools/business/mba/information-security-management. Information on the Billington CyberSecurity Summit West can be found at www.billingtoncybersecurity.com/summitwest/.

# # #

About Jones International University®, Ltd. (JIU®)

As the pioneer in online education, Jones International University, offers an unparalleled online educational experience that provides essential tools and strategies for career starters, career changers, and career advancers around the globe. JIU offers an array of online undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees and professional certificate programs in the fields of business administration, education, and business communication and employs some of the greatest minds from many of the world’s leading universities.

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Judge Issues Stay in AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Antitrust Case

As anticipated, on December 12, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and the Department of Justice jointly requested a stay of the DoJ's lawsuit to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Federal District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle granted the stay until Jan. 18. AT&T and T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) will file a status report by January 12, which will include "discussion of whether they intend to proceed with the transaction at issue in the litigation, whether they intend to proceed with another transaction, the status of related proceedings with the Federal Communications Commission and their plans and timetable for seeking any necessary approval from the FCC," the joint filing said. We will keep you in the loop as developments continue.

Leo A. Wrobel
Principal
TelLAWCom Labs Inc.
http://www.tlc-labs.com
(214) 888-1300 Office
(214) CALL-LEO  Mobile
(888) 775-1520 Fax

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More Able to Take a Bite Out of Apple

Drop in Prices Increases Accessibility of Apple Products

As Apple products begin to lower in price, consumers that were once turned off by the price tags that Apple laptops and gadgets carried are now able to swoop them up at prices that match, if not beat, competitors. Tech Expert Karl Volkman comments on Apple’s recent pricing strategy and how it’s affected pricing in the technology industry as a whole.

Apple products like the iPad, iPod, and iPhone have quickly made their way from extravagant accessories to daily necessities, spawning numerous copycats in the form of tablets and smart phones that, though able to compete initially, are falling by the wayside at an increasing rate. Analysts say that Apple’s ability to utilize its growing manufacturing scale to lower costs on parts vital to their products is a key factor in the aggressive pricing approach it’s taken on over the past few years. The shift in pricing has had a ripple effect on the tech industry as a whole, leaving rivals scrambling to meet or beat what Apple has to offer in price, functionality, and design. For example, the recent release of the iPhone 4S saw over 4 million units sold in the first weekend, a record sale for any phone, with a base price of just $199. This is a far cry from the original iPhone released in 2007 which was accompanied by a whopping $499 per unit price tag. Competing phones, especially those running Google’s wildly popular Android operating system, continue to sell at a rapid rate, though buyers tend to find themselves reaching deeper into their pockets for the purchase.

“Especially in the 1990s, Apple products were seen as overpriced and flashy, making it difficult for them to compete with PCs which were far cheaper,” says Volkman. “The recent price cuts are a sign of increasing power for Apple, not distress. Their products have come down to a price-level that allows them to actively compete with their counterparts on a level that is causing pricing structure of the tech industry as a whole to rethink itself. Apple is really the leader when it comes to how gadgets like tablets, smart phones, and even laptops are priced.”

To arrange an interview with Karl Volkman about Apple’s drop in prices, please contact me directly.

Best,

Lindsay

 About SRV Network, Inc: SRV Network, Inc. is Microsoft Gold Certified partner that offers a variety of IT services, including a variety of flexible service packages that meet any client requirement, from as-needed technical help to intensive, regular on-site work. They work with all technology platforms and have a broad expertise in a wide variety of technology solutions. They specialize in Network Design and Implementation, Network Maintenance and Monitoring, Disaster Recovery and Prevention and IP Telephony. For more information please visit www.srvnetwork.com.

Lindsay Rafayko
Empower Public Relations | Senior Publicist
625 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 2500
Chicago, IL 60611
O: (312) 854-8819
C: (312) 316-3840
LRafayko@empowerpr.com
www.empowerpr.com

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MU Engineers Developing Military Applications for Smartphones

Story Contact: Steven Adams, AdamsST@missouri.edu, 573 882-8353

Forphotos available with this release, please click here.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Tracking military targets? The University of Missouri’sCollege of Engineering has an app for that.

Engineers from the MU College of Engineering, withfunding from the U.S. Army/Leonard Wood Institute, haveenhanced popular smartphones to be able to find and track targets. In addition,the engineers have developed ad hoc networks so that soldiers can relaysmartphone information without using the internet.

“The goal of the project is to provide the exact location of a remote target, through either sound or sight,” said Yi Shang, professor of computer science. “The Android phones and iPhones have powerful processors, which allow us to write complicated programs. Each smartphone has a camera, amicrophone, GPS, a compass, an accelerometer, and several other sensors that we can utilize. Plus, these phones typically support three kinds of wirelesscommunication: Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular.”

Shang has worked for ten years in wireless sensors, but has recently begun working with smartphones just as consumers would buy them, “off the shelf.” Collaborators Wenjun Zeng and Dominic Ho, MU professors of computer science, brought expertise in mobile networking, multimedia and signal processing, and haveturned the phones into powerful tools for soldiers in combatsituations.

“Imagine a team of soldiers in the field,” said Shang. “They see a distant enemy target, but lasers used to provide guidance to the target may be visibleto the enemy. With our smartphone-based system, team members could take picturesof the target and obtain a GPS location, which can be relayed via wirelessnetworks to interested parties.”

In addition, the researchers have developed a sound-based localization methodfor dark or urban environments. A group of soldiers could record a sound andshare it, and software would allow the soldiers to determine the location of thesound source.

There are civilian applications to this technology as well. Emergencyresponders could use the software to identify a location or direct traffic, ortourists could use the application to identify an unfamiliar object or buildingwith the exact location.

“The technology is still in the early stages of development, but it holds alot of promise,” said Shang. “If we can achieve our goals, the application willbe a very useful tool for our soldiers and the general public.”

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Note: Research was sponsored by the Leonard Wood Institute in cooperationwith the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and was accomplished under CooperativeAgreement Number W911NF-07-2-0062. The views and conclusions contained in thisdocument are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representingthe official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Leonard WoodInstitute, the Army Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government. The U.S.Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmentpurposes notwithstanding any copyright notation heron.


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NET NEUTRALITY Rules being decided today will affect YOU.

by Leo A. Wrobel

It’s a foregone conclusion I suppose. Come up with anything as far-reaching and powerful as the Internet and someone will try to corner the market. Someone will try to control it. We have discussed Net Neutrality, and what we all stand to lose not only financially, but in terms of national competitiveness, if the wrong entities gain control of the Internet. The “wrong” hands can manipulate and control the Internet to their financial advantage rather than for the common good.

Network Neutrality is the principle that affirms that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies whether the user is large or small.
Net Neutrality protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service without interference from the network provider. It espouses the notion that a provider’s job is to move data, not to choose which data to move.

    At the turn of the century, high-speed Internet access service was present in about 2 percent of American homes. Today, that figure stands at nearly 60 percent. No other technology even comes close to competing with this pace of adoption -- not the telephone, television, the automobile, cable TV, cell phone, or even the computer itself.
    (Callout above)

Without the concept of Net Neutrality, innovation would be stifled and access to information would be restricted. Consumer choice and free speech will be sacrificed to the financial interests of a few large corporations who would for practical purposes “own” the Internet. For an inkling of what this could be like, imagine your cable company had total control of the Internet. Consumers would have to choose from their menu. Consumers will have to pay their prices.
Comments of Free Press before the Federal Communications Commission, January 14, 2010.

Too much control in too few hands creates other problems too. Consider the whole issue of who controls the media in the context of Net Neutrality. According to one source, the Media Reform Information Center http://www.corporations.org/media the number of corporations that control a majority of US media (including newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, books, music movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies) fell from 50 in 1983 to just 5 in 2004. Imagine they were the ones who controlled the Internet as well. Not to be melodramatic here, but does anyone remember Germany in 1933?
In 2004, Ben Bagdikian's book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

A free and open Internet counteracts this trend and makes the country more democratic. With a free and open Internet, any Internet site can have the reach of a TV or radio station.
The loss of Net Neutrality would end this unparalleled opportunity for freedom of expression. It would be like the 1800’s where one could own a printing press but someone else had cornered the market on paper and ink. Arguably, the Internet has elevated the First Amendment of the US Constitution to a whole new level. Moreover, it has done so in a way that has never been done before, at least in living memory. We must tread carefully.

Finally, legends abound about businesses starting in garages and becoming billion dollar enterprises. They embody the American dream. These days, access to affordable, high quality Internet service is a major catalyst for the innovations of the future. Since its inception the Internet has always been driven by innovation and has more or less grown organically. Web sites and services succeed or fail on their own merits. While there are no guarantees of success, there are also no artificial impediments to success either. Little guys have the same chance to be geniuses as the big guys do. All this can change if the Internet becomes dominated by self-serving corporations. Many small users will no longer be able to afford the cost of entry, or will have inferior service. Without Net Neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users of all sizes will instead be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether we can choose the content and services we want, or whether broadband barons will choose for us. Get involved.

About the Author

Leo A. Wrobel has over 30 years of experience with a host of firms engaged in banking, manufacturing, telecom services and government. An active author and technical futurist, he has published 12 books and over 700 trade articles on a wide variety of technical subjects. Leo pioneered carrier collocation by being the first in the USA to place a computer disaster recovery center inside a telephone central office in 1986.
Leo also served ten years as an elected Mayor and City Councilman (but says he is "better now"). A sought-after speaker, he has lectured throughout the United States and overseas and has appeared on several television news programs. Leo is presently CEO of Dallas-based and b4Ci. Inc. See http://www.b4Ci.com call (214) 888-1300 or at leo@b4ci.com.

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No iPhone 5… Yet.

If you have been anxiously awaiting the new iPhone 5 it looks like you will have to wait a little longer. Apple intends instead to issue the iPhone 4S as the next version of the popular electronic device.

The iPhone 4S will reportedly feature a retina display and dual-core processor that makes it twice as fast as the previous version. It will also be available for use with more carriers. AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and now Sprint, will sell the device with their respective plans. It is expected to be priced around $199, $299 and $399 for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB units, respectively, with a two-year contract.

Analysts had been expecting Apple to debut a brand-new version of its popular iPhone but were left wanting by Apple. Even so, the Phone 4S could be a hit, particularly with Sprint customers who have not been able to get the iPhone before. The burning question is whether there be enough here to get the existing AT&T or Verizon Wireless iPhone user to upgrade?

The debut of the iPhone 4S is the first major product launch under the leadership of Tim Cook, who replaced Steve Jobs as CEO. Jobs is acknowledged for building Apple back into a household name. He resigned over the summer for health reasons.

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Overturn of Federal Communications Commission rules

The House of Representatives on Friday voted to overturn Federal Communications Commission rules that prohibit bropxadband providers from discriminating on their networks or blocking lawful applications and content.

Although the 240 to 179 vote dealt a blow to the FCC’s so-called Network neutrality rules, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said House Resolution 37 “undermines the open Internet and will not become law."

The resolution to overturn the FCC’s Open Internet Order faces potential hurdles at the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House, which recently threatened a veto if the legislation gets approved by Congress.

Republicans in both chambers of Congress have moved to overturn the FCC's rules through the Congressional Review Act. A resolution in the Senate to throw out the rules has 39 co-sponsors.

“The House vote preserves the Internet and protects jobs and the economy by preventing an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy from overstepping its authority," said Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I strongly urge the Senate to follow the House’s action and end the marketplace uncertainty created by the FCC’s power grab."

FCC critics contend the rules are unnecessary and will stifle investment. Republicans also assert the FCC exceeded its authority.

Others claims the rules are warranted in order to keep the Internet free from interference by the large telephone and cable operators that control the Internet networks through which other companies like Netflix and Skype offer competing applications, content and services, such as movies that are streamed over the Web and Internet-based phone service.

“It is simply stunning that some members in the House are so out of touch with reality, or so beholden to the biggest phone and cable companies, that they would choose to move forward with this dangerous overreach that would fundamentally alter the future of the Internet," said Craig Aaron, incoming president and CEO of the Free Press Action Fund, the advocacy arm of Free Press, a nonprofit organization working to reform the media.

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Robot Jeopardy Champ Graduates Med School

Wow, look at this great story from new Login International Member Lindsay Rafayko. One has to wonder how this interesting development bodes for our futures! - Leo A. Wrobel, President

 Robot Jeopardy Champ Graduates Med School
IBM reprograms the ‘Watson’ supercomputer to diagnose complex human illness
Americans across the country gasped early this year when IBM’s artificially intelligent computer system dubbed ‘Watson’ defeated two naturally intelligent human beings in a series of Jeopardy! matches. Weeks later Watson added insult to injury again claiming victory in an exhibition episode of the game show… over five members of Congress… combined. Apparently, Watson’s relentless desire to humiliate our species has yet to be satisfied. Karl Volkman of Chicago-based SRV Networks explains how the world’s most conceited robot could give one of our most important professions a run for its money. These upgrades are giving the tech world Watson fever, no diagnosis necessary:

  • Instant Diagnosis – If IBM and their new partner WellPoint Inc., insurance are right, the new and improved Watson will be able to analyze a patient’s symptoms and calculate a diagnosis in less than three seconds. Consider it Web MD on anabolic steroids.
  • Cancer Treatment – Watson’s most valuable role within the medical field may be his mission to revolutionize our understanding of cancer when select treatment centers across the country begin tapping his capabilities. Experts deny that Watson could eliminate the physician altogether but emphasize his potential to expedite the process of diagnosing cancer patients significantly.
  • Abundant Resources – In the few seconds it will take for Watson to perform an analysis, he will have referenced roughly 1 million books or 200 million pages of information. We may have given him a run for his money on Jeopardy!, but don’t even think about challenging this robot to a speed-reading contest.

Please contact me if you would like to set up an interview with tech expert Karl Volkman.

Best,

Lindsay

About SRV Network, Inc: SRV Network, Inc. is Microsoft Gold Certified partner that offers a variety of IT services, including a variety of flexible service packages that meet any client requirement, from as-needed technical help to intensive, regular on-site work. They work with all technology platforms and have a broad expertise in a wide variety of technology solutions. They specialize in Network Design and Implementation, Network Maintenance and Monitoring, Disaster Recovery and Prevention and IP Telephony.

Lindsay Rafayko
Empower Public Relations | Senior Publicist
625 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 2500
Chicago, IL 60611
O: (312) 854-8819
C: (312) 316-3840
LRafayko@empowerpr.com
www.empowerpr.com

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Rule the Air? Apparently Not on AT&T

Recall last summer when Login International warned its users that AT&T was implementing metered data speeds on mobile devices and DSL services? Remember when we cautioned that AT&T might begin reducing data speeds for smart phone subscribers with unlimited data plans who are the heaviest users? Well, it appears that AT&T is about to follow through on its promises. According to various on line sources AT&T has begun sending SMS messages to certain customers, alerting them that they are among the top 5 percent of data users on its network. There is no reward or prize from AT&T for this distinction. Instead, the messages suggest that these customers use Wi-Fi to avoid reduced data speeds in the future. We guess this means Your World Delivered:… by YOUR wi fi.

The development was not unexpected. AT&T previously revealed that beginning on Oct. 1 customers might experience reduced data speeds once their usage in a billing cycle placed them in the top 5 percent of the heaviest data users. Dallas-based AT&T said it would issue multiple notices before it reduced a customer’s speeds.

“As we said in July, before any customer is affected, we will provide multiple notices – that’s what we’re doing," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told Vision2Mobile in an email.

The company has often cited its need for spectrum as one of the most compelling justifications for its $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The merger is currently in jeopardy, thanks partly to an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Login International supports the USDOJ, Net Neutrality and a free and open Internet. Check this web site often for developments in all of these critical areas. Better yet, why not make your voice heard and JOIN Login International right now?

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Seventy Percent of People Age 18-29 Say it Should Okay to Play Electronic Games While on the Runway

Atlanta, Ga. - December 12, 2011 - Following the controversy over Alec Baldwin being escorted off an American Airlines flight for playing an electronic game while the plane was on the runway waiting for takeoff, Poll Position wanted to know the public's thoughts on the topic.

A Poll Position national scientific telephone survey asked: Do you think passengers on a plane should be able to play electronic games with others while on the runway awaiting takeoff? In a close vote, respondents said no by a 44% to 38% margin, with 18% having no opinion.

Young people, in the 18-29 year age group were clear with their decision, 70% said you should be allowed to play electronic games while on the runway, 24% said you should not, 6% had no opinion.

On the opposite side, Americans 65 and over weighed in with 56% saying you should not be allowed to play electronic games on a plane while awaiting take-off, 21% said you should, 23% did not have an opinion.

See a breakdown of survey participants by age, race, gender, and political affiliation in crosstabs for this poll at http://media.pollposition.com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/Poll-Position-Crosstabs-Electronic-games-on-plane.pdf.

Poll Position's scientific telephone survey of 1,356 registered voters nationwide was conducted December 11, 2011 and has a margin of error of ±3%.

Poll results are weighted to be a representative sampling of all American adults.

Do you think that passengers on an airplane should be able to play electronic games with others while on the runway awaiting takeoff? Vote in our online companion poll and comment at http://pollposition.com/2011/12/12/games-on-the-runway/.

The online companion poll in which you can vote provides unscientific results, meaning it's a tally of participating Poll Position users, not a nationally representative sampling.

Poll Position is committed to transparency and upholding the highest professional standards in its polling, explaining why we provide you with the crosstabs of our scientific polls. Crosstabs provide a breakdown of survey participants by age, race, gender, and political affiliation.

Learn more about Poll Position's polling methodology at http://pollposition.com/2011/09/26/our-polling-methodology/.

About Poll Position
Poll Position is a unique non-partisan news, polling, and social media company founded and lead by two award-winning CNN news and polling veterans.

The company's goals are to engage, enlighten, and entertain millions of people with exclusive news-making, buzz-generating public opinion polls and giving people everywhere an opportunity to vote and comment on hot topics, while learning the views of others.

For more news updates and research findings, follow Poll Position on Twitter @PollPosition and become a Facebook fan at http://www.facebook.com/PollPosition. Become a registered user at http://pollposition.com/members-area/.

To learn more about Poll Position, go to http://www.pollposition.com.

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