Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Shining lights on the fog

A couple interesting articles are worth highlighting:

The TELUS fibre to the home story is a follow-up on the company’s announcement a week ago about a $1B investment to rewire the city of Edmonton. A few days later, Bell announced plans to bring FTTH to Toronto and there was a follow-up story about potential plans for TELUS to expand its program to Calgary.

Cisco’s press release talks about a six-pillar approach for its IoT System:

  1. Network Connectivity
  2. Fog Computing
  3. Security
  4. Data Analytics
  5. Management and Automation
  6. Application Enablement Platform

Many of these areas were part of the panel and keynote discussions at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit by various companies. But Fog Computing is an area that hasn’t had as much coverage. Cisco describes it as:

‘Fog’ is a distributed computing infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT) which extends computing capability – and thereby data analytics applications – to the ‘edge’ of networks. It enables customers to analyze and manage data locally, and thereby to derive immediate insights from connections. Cisco predicts that 40% of IoT-created data will be processed in the fog by 2018.

The evolution of the network, including orders of magnitude shifts in the number of things being connected, will impact so many aspects of our businesses and our communities.

The Cisco press release resonated with me as I thought more about the telephone companies’ fibre expansion plans.

Which communities and which industries will adapt first to take advantage of the array of platforms that enable a digital economy?

Be sure to listen to talks by some of the industry leaders who spoke at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit. What themes provided an inspiration for you?

#CTS15 on demand

Telecom Summit Logo High ResolutionA few of the sessions from The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit are now available for viewing on demand:

Your comments, as always, are welcomed.

A system upgrade

An upgrade is long overdue.

For about 20 years, and the associated blog have been hosted on a platform that is outdated and capacity limited.

My web presence was originally hosted by my friend John Epstein at Passport Online, but Passport was acquired by Magma which was acquired by Primus which rolled it into BlackIron Data and then sold this to Rogers Data Centres.

All the while, with a few hiccoughs here and there, the systems have been humming along. You have noticed (or hopefully haven’t noticed) when there are problems coaxing the old platform along.

Spam engines (really, anti-spam engines) have been “upgraded” in the past, but I have received notice that there will be a system migration over the next few weeks. The new platform promises to have more capacity, faster response times and most importantly, greater reliability.

To limit complications that can arise, I will be limiting updates and changes to the sites until after the migration in mid-July.

I hope you will stay tuned – and keep following me on Twitter in the meantime.

A cautionary tale for Lifeline services

As the CRTC begins its “Review of basic telecommunications services“, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has a warning that should be considered. Writing in the National Review, he warns that a “fraud-friendly” Lifeline service has led to rising taxes and fees on consumer phone bills:

In 1993, humorist P. J. O’Rourke said, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” More than 20 years later, a similar thought comes to mind in looking at the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.

Commissioner Pai hails from my home town of Parsons, Kansas (a previously unrecognized spawning ground for telecom policy professionals) and he writes waste, fraud, and abuse that plague the current Lifeline program in the US, “known in some circles as ‘Obamaphone'”.

Commissioner Pai makes some recommendations for fixing Lifeline, which he says “must go hand in hand with any decision to begin providing broadband subsidies through Lifeline.”

Lifeline needs to be placed on a budget. It is now the only FCC program of its kind without a cap on spending. A Lifeline budget will increase incentives to eliminate fraud and prevent future out-of-control spending.

We should also prohibit carriers from giving away free phone service to Lifeline recipients. When the program was created 30 years ago, it offered low-income Americans discounted service, not free service. But recently, the program has lost its way. Requiring recipients to have some skin in the game will not only discourage waste, fraud, and abuse. It will also restore the program to its original purpose: providing a hand up, not a handout.

Commissioner Pai warns against expanding the current “broken program” to include broadband service, without first fixing the problems that burden consumers with wasteful costs.

As Canada prepares to consider expanding the definition of basic service to include broadband, any subsidy scheme should consider the experience in other jurisdictions. Start by reading the article, “What Those Rising Taxes on Your Phone Bill Pay For: A Fraud-Friendly ‘Obamaphone’ Program.”

Are bundled features “free”?

Would you consider features that are sold as part of a bundle to be “free”?

In the past month, twice I have told that a feature that isn’t working was free, perhaps to dissuade claims that a refund was in order.

In the first instance, a bug in my anti-virus software (bundled with my internet services) was forcing me to reinstall it every time I rebooted the computer. Having had an open trouble ticket for 3 months, I suggested that I wasn’t getting a resolution because I was continuing to pay my full monthly bill. I was told by the service representative that their bundled software was free so it had no value.

In the second instance, a billing system “enhancement” meant that my wireless bill no longer included call detail, despite “Billed Usage-Invoice Details” being listed as the first feature of the bundle to which my lines are subscribed. Apparently, someone thinks that it is an “enhancement” to take the extra pages out of my e-bill PDF file and instead I am supposed to do a couple of clicks on the website, find each wireless line, download a separate CSV file, import each line’s CSV file separately into Excel, save as a pdf and merge it into my bill summary, all while facing east under a full moon singing the national anthem in both official languages. This is an “enhancement.” I was told by a representative “It was a free feature given to you. We have not removed it just changed the way you get the info.” I disagree. To me, “Invoice details” means that I get details on the invoice.

I don’t think that a capability that is listed as part of the service can be taken away at the service provider’s sole discretion.

When I bought my last set of tires, Costco included a bunch of “Lifetime services”, such as inflation pressure checks, tire balancing, tire rotations, and flat repairs. Those were part of the offer that I accepted when I paid for Costco to perform the installation. Were they free and could Costco unilaterally decide that they were no longer going to rotate my tires and balance them? If this fall, Costco handed me a pressure gauge and told me to check the pressure myself, is that satisfying their promise for lifetime inflation pressure checks?

Once again, I have to wonder if executives are buying their company’s services and getting bills the same way their customers do. Let me suggest that executives in the telecom industry should be dealing with the front line representatives the same way you and I do. I have no problem with executives getting all their services for free, but they should buy them from a regular store, get a bill each month and deal with the same customer service, repair and tech support people. Don’t get a staff member to take care of their personal services. Call the number listed on the bill.

I wonder how quickly we would see changes to the issues customers have to endure every month.