Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Net Neutrality or Kiss Your House Goodbye?

Verizon Wireless gets a thumbs down during the northern California wildfires. They denied a request to un-throttle firefighters' phones.  These firefighters had subscribed to an "Unlimited" plan. 

Verizon's Response: "Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake."

"Verizon Wireless' throttling of a fire department that uses its data services has been submitted as evidence in a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate federal net neutrality rules."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Breakaway Wireless Breaks Away in Utah

Breakaway Wireless, the aptly-named cellular service of the Manti Communications Company in Utah, has indeed broken away.  This ultra-small carrier leaves a small hole in the middle of the state and their few customers have few choices...all bad.


As wireless advocates, we hope they will continue to use their network for other uses such as wireless Internet service (they haven't told us what they're doing with the network).  Before their breakaway, Breakaway shared the facilities of the Rural Independent Network Alliance (RINA) which now puts that cooperative association in jeopardy as they approach the critical number of subscribers to keep their other associated networks operating.  This may also affect a small number of Sprint roamers...but it's a very small number.

Monday, August 20, 2018

NMobile in New Mexico Calls it Quits

NMobile, the renamed cellular arm of the LEACO Rural Telephone Cooperative of Hobbs, New Mexico has thrown the big switch.  Their cellular service has been discontinued and their customers were left to fend for themselves as of June 30, 2018.  Sadly, the old LEACO network was one of the best around but serving a very small population that probably preferred to go with the 'big boys.'


LEACO advertises that their Internet service offers "LTE Wireless Internet", which we guess is the new use of their old cellular network, but we can't find anyone there who can either confirm or deny it.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Enemy Fighting 5G

You think 5G is just around the corner?  It is in some places, but there are some areas that will see 5G long after we see it in China.  The problem is the same brick wall wireless providers have faced for years...local government.  A typical case is in Austin, Texas where multiple city departments know that installing the small cell sites desired for 5G coverage requires far more permits, licenses and steps of bureaucracy there than they do in any other city in Texas, or almost any where else.


We're not getting on Austin's case, but we know this is a big obstacle in a number of cites, counties and similar fiefdoms of this country, and you might be living in one.  Just a heads up, you may need to check in with your town to make sure your chances of seeing 5G coverage aren't held back by some well-meaning friends and neighbors who still think telecommunications lives and dies by the dial tone.

Ask your community development director or building department how the small cell/5G process is moving along in your neighborhood.  The city where I live owns their own fiber backbone and they would be thrilled to hook it up to some small cells and make our burg a connected community.  Or so we think.  We won't know until we check.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Stop the Robocalls with Wireless!

You might know I replaced my land line phone at home with a wireless home phone.  The box sits out of sight and feeds phones all over the house.  The family hasn't really noticed the difference...but neither have the robocallers.  The idea was to keep the existing home phone number and keep the phones that ring when someone calls the "Home" number.


Of course, most of us now call a person instead of a home, so the home phone has become pretty much just a backup.  With so few legitimate calls coming in on the home phone, we thought it may be time to turn off the ringer and just let the calls go to voice mail.  With the local phone company charging over $50 per month for a line we no longer answer, we are thrilled that the wireless replacement is just $15 per month.  Yes, we could just buy a bargain cell phone and use its voice mail, but my family has a tendency to lose a phone they don't use on a regular basis.  Replacing the home phone with the wireless box gave us what we want: the household backup phone (have you ever thought about what if the babysitter's phone battery went dead?) and a reliable voice mail system.

While we're not stopping the robocalls, few of them leave a message, and the occasional real caller who actually wants to contact us, can still keep in touch.  For a short time we considered the even cheaper broadband-based (VoIP) phone replacement, but our wireless box has work flawlessly for years, compared to our Internet connection that goes out for various lengths of time almost once a month.

BTW, those of you who moved in to your current home and never installed a "home phone", we can't help you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

More Routes to Cheaper Wireless

We updated our "Cheaper Wireless" page to include a few new ideas.  Check to see if you're eligible as a military family, first responders or reaching a certain age.  We also note that many of the current "Family" plans, which could include a large number of people in your "family", can be even more generous.

Also, if your carrier doesn't offer free international calls, consider a carrier that offers a way to make those calls for Free, like TracFone, or carriers that provide Free international texting, like Twigby.

Monday, June 25, 2018

2G Now Tastes Better

A few days ago we reported how at times we are using 2G data and still enjoying most of the features we want.  Since then, our low-cost example of Unlimited 2G at Twigby has improved even more.  Today, Twigby now offers 300 minutes Talk, Unlimited Texts and 200 Mb of high-speed data at their still ridiculously low price of $9 per month (yes, plus tax, if any).  Not many of us choose the cheapest plan, but many of us do like the option of a cheaper plan.  We can choose it when we realize how much of what we want can be done at 2G speeds. Joy!

(BTW, we didn't get paid for this post but we do have an affiliate relationship with Twigby...and everybody else.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Joy of 2G

I was reviewing plans from one of our advertisers, Twigby, and was struck by how much they were offering.  For the rock-bottom promotional rate of $9 they provide 100 Talk minutes and 150 Mb of  high-speed Data.  Not a big deal, right?  What is a big deal is what shows at the top of each plan: "Plans Include Unlimited 2G Data for Free!". Before you recoil in horror at a 2G download, let me share my experience traveling in Europe. I made the mistake of bringing my most expendable phone, some base model LG phone, which, unfortunately, did not have access to the high-speed spectrum used by my randomly-chosen carrier in Italy.  Yes, I was stuck in 2G hell...but I didn't know it.

I hopped on the train and began following my trip on Google Maps.  The train's Wi-Fi was hopelessly slow so I switched to Cellular Data and was able to easily follow the map and keep tabs of my email at a much faster download rate.  Distracted by the passing scenery of Tuscany, I did not notice the 2G symbol on my screen until some time later in the trip.  Yes, I did not notice that my data was coming in at a maximum rate of 128kb, and until then, it didn't matter.

                                   Related: Unlimited Data: The Alternatives

This leads me to believe that cheapskates like me can get a bargain-basement data plan with a few hundred bits of data and still find our phones quite usable.  What doesn't work well? Streaming video and poorly-constructed web sites, something I rarely use.  To make these cheap deals even sweeter, carriers like Twigby also offer, "Unlimited Global Texting...FREE." This is actually a lot of Unlimited for only $9.

Keep in mind this is artificially-created 2G, not the old 2G that carriers like AT&T have stopped providing on their network.  It's also called "throttling" and I now see it as as my way to get the lowest-price wireless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sprint Phones Now Roam on T-Mobile

Oh yes, this statement needs quite a bit of qualification, but with the approaching T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the 2 carriers already have a roaming agreement.  First, there's the CDMA vs. GSM thing, but 20 million Sprint phones are already compatible with both networks, including data.  That includes recent iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models. Other Sprint customers would have to upgrade their phones to take advantage of the new roaming coverage, however, if the merger is approved, most Sprint customers will need a new phone, anyway.


This agreement does not require approval from any government entity, so it's already in place and there could be millions of Sprint users already receiving the benefits of the new coverage.  The question rises of what happens if the merger does not happen.  T-Mobile may renegotiate the deal, or they may not.

A similar deal happened between T-Mobile and AT&T, and even after that hookup failed, T-Mobile was the beneficiary of a whole new batch of wireless spectrum.  New roaming is always a good thing.