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Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 08:50 AM PDT

Our Chance to Free Our Phones for Real

by levjoy

We finally have a real chance to free our phones.

Last month, more than 100,000 people told the White House that cellphone unlocking — configuring your phone so it’ll work on other networks — should be legal again. The White House said it agreed and told Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to do something about it.

Now all kinds of bills are on the table and we have a chance to make them protect our mobile freedom — for real.

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Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 07:43 AM PDT

The FCC's New Plan: Rip-Off or Reform?

by levjoy

Do you want to hand over even more of your hard-earned money to your phone company?

If you do, you’re in luck: The FCC has a plan for that. This week the agency is weighing a new rule that would give phone companies yet another way to reach into your pocket to pad their profits.

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Maybe it’s the water in Washington that’s making people silly. Or maybe it’s AT&T’s hefty campaign spending. Either way, something’s got people believing AT&T when it says that up is down, green is red, 1 + 1 = 3 — and that its proposed takeover of T-Mobile would be good for America.

Look no further than the 15 shameless representatives who just signed a letter urging President Obama — whose Justice Department is suing AT&T to block the deal — to support a settlement that would enable the merger and give AT&T control over T-Mobile.

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This week the Washington Post's Cecilia Kang reported that the Obama Administration is feeling "caught in the middle" between consumer advocates — like Free Press — who oppose AT&T's takeover of T-Mobile, and labor unions like the Communications Workers of America, who have come out in support of the deal.

According to Kang, the CWA says the new mega-company "would generate about 100,000 jobs through a promised $8 billion in investment to expand its high-speed wireless network — a powerful argument at a time of soaring unemployment."

However, this "powerful argument" is nothing more than a powerful fairy tale. This merger will indisputably result in lost jobs, not job gains.

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More and more of us are accessing the Internet on our mobile phones, and by 2014 more of us will access the web with mobile devices than with desktops or laptops.

We have to work hard to protect the mobile Internet from service providers who want to block third-party content and prioritize their own, all the while increasing prices for consumers.

So it's scary that MetroPCS — the fifth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., mostly concentrated in big cities — has just launched an egregious attack on Net Neutrality. Its new pricing plans would limit users' ability to access certain websites and services unless they pay for the privilege.  

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Tue Sep 21, 2010 at 06:15 AM PDT

Stop the Text Tax

by levjoy

Two pieces of news this week confirm that T-Mobile is doing its best to overtake Verizon as the least consumer-friendly wireless carrier in the US.  

First, a text-messaging company called EZ Texting sued T-Mobile, claiming that the carrier stopped the company from sending texts on behalf of clients because it didn't approve of texts from, a website that provides maps of legal medical marijuana fields.

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unlock or jailbreak their mobile phones are within the legal clear — they're not violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It's a big win for openness.

This decision is a first step toward opening up wireless networks and releasing the stranglehold that companies have on consumers who, until now, were legally restricted from doing whatever they want to their phones.    


Do you jailbreak or root your phone?

39%35 votes
40%36 votes
5%5 votes
14%13 votes

| 89 votes | Vote | Results

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 04:32 AM PDT

Why Mobile Phones Are Political

by levjoy

There's simply no way to improve upon the headline for Ryan Singel's post in Wired this week: "Wireless Oligopoly Is Smother of Invention."

So instead, I’ll amplify it. In his piece, Singel compares the wireless industry — unfavorably — to television and wireline Internet service providers. His basic point is this: Neither of those industries could get away with the consumer abuses perpetrated by mobile carriers (though they certainly have their fair share of other abuses). So why do we allow the wireless industry to kill innovation and hurt consumers?

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Update: Karl Bode and Stacey Higginbotham describe how AT&T made its change in pricing precisely because of the new iPhone's use of more data; it make users think twice before downloading a video, but charges them an arm and a leg once they do.

Yay, the iPhone 4 is here. But today, instead of thinking about the latest version of the game-changing smartphone, I'm mourning the end of the era of the unlimited data plan.

Last week AT&T announced a new tiered pricing model for data services for Apple's iPhone and iPad devices, which charges users $15 for 200 MB of data and $25 for 2 GB, plus an additional charge for tethering (more on that in a bit). While some think the new model will ultimately be good for consumers, others disagree.  



Are you getting a iPhone 4?

27%48 votes
18%32 votes
18%33 votes
8%15 votes
26%47 votes

| 175 votes | Vote | Results

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Tue May 18, 2010 at 10:07 AM PDT

MediaFAIL: Time to Fail the Media

by levjoy

Today, after a couple of months of beta testing, we at Free Press are officially launching a new project called MediaFAIL, a site that lets you expose the worst moments in the media as they happen.

The point behind the site is simple. Every day, we read and watch reporting that favors sensation over substance. Sideshows dominate the news cycle, while real issues of public concern get drowned out by the noise. What passes for news is too often badly sourced and tainted by commercial interests or political bias.

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The word on the street is Verizon will be offering the iPhone before the end of the year.

The speculation centers on the Wall Street Journal's claim, based on anonymous sources, that this September, Apple will start producing iPhones that run on CDMA networks (the wireless network technology used by Verizon and Sprint).  

Obviously, this rumor may or may not be true. But the mere suggestion of a Verizon iPhone — and an end to AT&T's exclusive agreement with Apple — continues to shake up the industry. Apparently, the faintest whiff of competition
in the wireless market is enough to make AT&T take its network much more seriously.

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Something is rotten in the world of mobile fundraising.

Earlier this year, thousands of Americans donated to Haiti relief efforts, simply by sending text messages from their phones and donating $10 on the spot. It was a cool and easy way to donate to a good cause.

But there are other ways to donate, too. A few forward-thinking mobile marketing companies have developed innovative applications for mobile fundraising, including a system known as “text to call,” in which users send a text message to a shortcode and receive a phone call from a nonprofit, which provides more information and more personal interaction, and allows users to make larger donations or to volunteer.

But as this New York Times article shows, carriers aren’t happy about this kind of third-party application.

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