The Campaign to Make Data Rarefied

Recently I was watching live television for a quick morning news fix and between weather and traffic I saw an ad promoting Bright-House Networks Free WiFi access spots. The crux of the ad was promoting that their WiFi was everywhere and it is cheaper to use this service than use your 4G access on your cell plan. I am not disputing the claims in the ad because there is some veracity to the spot that is encouraging subscriptions to Bright House Networks. But where the hell did the unlimited plans go? When the hell did data get so, well, rarefied?

I have an unlimited plan at home. I have an unlimited plan on my phone. Right? That was the word THEY used, not me. I think it is too late to take the thing that I was, and still am being told there is an unlimited amount of, and then, after the fact, “limiting” the thing.

Just in-case you think I am wrong, it’s working… for them.

Comcast, for instance sold unlimited internet. Here is a box that hooks up to the computer. “Use it. Eat all the bits you want – we’ll make more” to paraphrase. Then the letters started going out. I did not personally receive one but I have been told about the 300 GB  per month limit. That may seem like more than you could ever need, but this is the new definition of the word “unlimited” that I have not been previously aware.

Data was rarefied before – in the 1980s and early 1990s. CompuServe was expensive. Dow Jones was expensive.  America On Line was expensive.  AOL is an interesting case – they were an expensive 500 pound gorilla and creator of premium content, that became aggregator of premium content, that became a deliverer of webpages. Then they became just an ISP. Then just host of your email address with a good free IM. Then just some website. Well that was the order that happened for me. Your experience, if you were around, probably looked different. It was like watching the snowball effect, backwards – snatching defeat from the mouth of victory.

Data over dial-up internet became reasonable quickly in the mid to late 1990s. ISP’s were competing hard for your dollar, beating up big ol’ AOL. An ISP’s service could be had for 20 bucks per month. But  ISPs had to keep upgrading their data centers to keep up with peak-time data connections, or just oversell the network. Then came the always-on, unlimited cable-internet and always-on, unlimited DSL with much more speed, bathing you in all the bits you could ever want, for what was only double the price – beating up the dial up ISPs. The advent of ISP began the age of “unlimited.” We did not have to worry about a thing.

But, competition vanished.

No more ISPs. We now have one or two choices for the home and five or six choices in our pockets. Data, which was so plentiful it couldn’t be contained, has now become precious. Or faux-precious.

Over cell and over the line, we are entering a world where we get smacked on the knuckles with a ruler when we go over some measly limit. The encroachment has begun, with warning shots across the bow with warning letters and passive-aggressive text messages.

And there is a huge battle on the horizon. When 4K video, video 4 times the size of HD, starts being offered  in the next few years, suddenly you will constantly be reminded of your 300 GB limit. Or pay extra for your provider’s 4K offering. But that is down the road. The tees are being setup today.

Have we come too far to go back to the days of all you can eat data plans? Not yet. Maybe. This may not be an issue for you. Yet. Until it is 8pm and you are using your Roku and your kids are on the iPad watching Netflix, while somebody is in the office VPNing into their work computer to finish up some last minute bit of something. After which you may get a letter stating that this thing, that you though you had an unlimited amount of, is a thing you ran out of because it has been made rarefied.


AntennaPod – The Best Free, Ad Free, Open Source Podcasting app for Android.

There are lots of podcast apps for your Android phone. Few are good. Fewer are free. One is good, free, ad free and open source – AntennaPod. The hardest part of switching from IOS to Android was finding a good podcast app. Really. No kidding. I was using Podkeeper Free but it made the process of subscribing, downloading and listening very manual and laborious if you listened to more than five podcasts regularly. AntennaPod has some very nice automation built-in, so you can just listen.

Give it a go: AntennaPod on the Google Play store.

Good old phone tech with carrier fallout…

I think the cell phone market has a tendency to get ahead of itself. My Samsung Galaxy S III, or, as it was known – “the iPhone Killer,” I just bought is considered “old.” And since it was released in May of 2012 I guess it is old by industry standards. Let’s talk about release dates for a second, the iPhone 4 I loved for 3 years was released June of 2010 (still available), and its better step-up, the 4S, was October of 2011 (still available). The miserable HTC Evo design (available, barely), which I hated for an annoyingly long five months, was also released in October of 2011. But sometimes time and order does not matter, to the chagrin of all history teachers.

The HTC Evo Design was a miserable experience. The lesson I learned with that phone was simple; don’t buy a questionable phone then expect to depend on it.  Because. You. Can’t.

So I picked up a what will be a 2 year old phone and I am just tickled the Galaxy S III is so well done. And they are planing to port the KitKat OS to this phone at some point.  Bully for me.

I am going to get a little nostalgic here, but, do you remember the days when your PC was considered ancient if it was over three years old? To some people this may still be old. But the times have changed. Even a junk laptop bought 5 years ago, if it is loved and cared for, can still be the work horse of today. I know. I have seen it. If I were to put a point on the moment when this happened, it would be when dual core processors were cheaper to the masses around 2007 – this was already too much processor for every day tasks. And it is plenty enough processor for the cloud computing.

Fast forward to today. And the phones we buy are as fast as the multi-core processors of 2007. Which brings me to my point: if you purchase a state of the art phone from the last two or three years, treat it well and with care, and you will be hard pressed to find a good reason to upgrade in the next couple years. We have finally reached a singularity with phones.

And look out carriers, the contracts you have gown to love so much are going to expire with people holding perfectly good phones in their hands. The carriers may actually have to start competing harder then ever to get your attention.