Why aren’t Unlimited Text Plans $1 / Year?

28 12 2008

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Still Owe Senator Kohl (And their Customers) Some Explanations

There’s a reason costs for text plans have skyrocketed recently, and it’s not due to increased overhead.  From Randall Stross’s What Carriers Aren’t Eager to Tell You About Texting:

…text messages are not just tiny; they are also free riders, tucked into what’s called a control channel, space reserved for operation of the wireless network. That’s why a message is so limited in length: it must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted.nsa-med

Senator Herb Kohl would like to talk with the wireless carriers about that.

So far they haven’t been very forthcoming.  Stross writes:

The written responses to Senator Kohl from AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile speak at length about pricing plans without getting around to the costs of conveying text messages. My attempts to speak with representatives of all three about their costs and pricing were unsuccessful. (Verizon Wireless would not speak with me, either, nor would it allow Mr. Kohl’s office to release publicly its written response.)

The carriers will have other opportunities to tell us more about their pricing decisions: 20 class-action lawsuits have been filed around the country against AT&T and the other carriers, alleging price-fixing for text messaging services.

We should All listen to what they have to say.

I wonder if they’ll get around to talking about what Common Carrier means.  Does the bus company charge You to use the bus’s rest room while enroute?  It’s there, on the bus, whether or not any passenger uses it.  And You’ve paid for it in the cost of the ticket.

From Ars Technica Sept 10 Article Senator to cellular carriers: UR TXTS R 2 XPENSIV:

Kohl’s office is asking each carrier to explain the method behind the text message rate madness, including any cost, technical, or other factors that justify the 100 percent increase between 2005 to 2008. Kohl also wants data on how text messages are utilized, comparisons of how text message packages stack up against competitors, and—perhaps most importantly—price comparisons against per-minute charges for voice plans, and per-KB charges for mobile Internet and tethering plans. It should be fun to hear AT&T defend why it charges over $1,300 per megabyte for text messages.

Again, Kohl’s office made it clear that this letter is more of an conversation starter (though a fairly forceful one) in what could turn out to be an embarrassing (for the carriers) discussion over high cost of text messages. The staffer did, however, hold out the possibility of further investigation, and even a request that antitrust regulators to look into the matter, should the situation call for it.

Donald Melanson at Engadget filed this report at the time.

Here is Senator Kohl’s letter:

For Immediate Release:

9/9/08
Phone: (202) 224-5653

KOHL CALLS ON CELL PHONE COMPANIES TO JUSTIFY RISING TEXTING RATES

In Three Years, Text Message Charges Have Doubled for Wireless Customers

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, US Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, asked the presidents and chief executive officers of the four largest wireless telephone companies to justify sharply rising rates for its customers to send and receive text messages. In a letter, Senator Kohl requested an explanation from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which collectively serve more than 90 percent of the nation’s cellular phone users. The text of Senator Kohl’s letter follows below.

September 9, 2008

Lowell McAdam President and CEO Verizon Wireless

Randall Stephenson Chief Executive Officer AT&T

Dan Hesse Chief Executive Officer Sprint

Robert Dotson President and Chief Executive Officer T-Mobile

Dear Messrs. McAdam, Stephenson, Hesse and Dotson:

I am writing to express my concern regarding what appear to be sharply rising rates your companies have charged to wireless phone customers for text messaging. Some industry experts contend that these increased rates do not appear to be justified by any increases in the costs associated with text messaging services, but may instead be a reflection of a decrease in competition, and an increase in market power, among your four companies.

Your four companies are the nation’s leading wireless telephone companies, collectively serving more than 90% of the nation’s wireless subscribers. Since 2005, the cost for a consumer to send or receive a text message over each of your services has increased by 100%. Text messages were commonly priced at 10 cents per message sent or received in 2005. As of the end of the month, the rate per text message will have increased to 20 cents on all four wireless carriers. Sprint was the first carrier to increase the text message rate to 20 cents last Fall, and now all of its three main competitors have matched this price increase.

What is particularly alarming about this industry-wide rate increase is that it does not appear to be justified by rising costs in delivering text messages. Text messaging files are very small, as the size of text messages are generally limited to 160 characters per message, and therefore cost carriers very little to transmit. Text messaging files are a fraction of the size of e-mails or music downloads. Also of concern is that it appears that each of companies has changed the price for text messaging at nearly the same time, with identical price increases. This conduct is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace.

What has changed in recent years is the level of consolidation in the wireless telephone industry. The number of major national competitors has declined from six to four. And the large national wireless carriers continue to acquire their smaller, regional competitors, with the announced acquisition of Alltel by Verizon Wireless being just the latest example. As Chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, I am concerned with whether this consolidation, and increased market power by the major carriers, has contributed to this doubling of text messaging rates over the last three years.

Therefore, I specifically ask each of your companies to explain why text messaging rates have dramatically increased in recent years. Please explain the cost, technical, or any other factors that justify a 100% increase in the cost of text messaging from 2005 to 2008. Please also provide data on the utilization of text messaging during this time period. Please provide a comparison of prices charged for text messaging as compared to other services offered by your companies, such as prices per minute for voice calling, prices for sending e-mails, and prices charged for data services such as internet access over wireless devices, from 2005 to the present. Finally, please state whether your text messaging pricing structure differs in any significant respect from the pricing of your three main competitors. Please provide this information no later than Monday, October 6, 2008.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Jeff Miller or Seth Bloom of my Antitrust Subcommittee staff at (202) 224-3406. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

###

-dcmSphere-It!





Funk Break for Holidays

25 12 2008

Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten

Thank You Guys.  Happy Holidays All.

-dcm





Ohio TV station: Was Connell crash an accident or murder?

24 12 2008

Brad Blog: First on the scene Live video

Here’s the only wider coverage I have been able to find so far in the actual broadcast media, other than a Velvet Revolution / PR Newswire piece ran in the NY Times.  I did see it on slashdot, though, so maybe eventually it will make it’s way into the legacy / “mainstream” media.

CBS is mirroring KDKA’s story online.  Here’s slashot’s item about the missing presidential / staff emails, with a link to an item on DominoPower, and a Wired piece from April 2007 about the Ohio Election data running through Republican servers.  Democracy Now offers this initial entry.

Via Rawstory:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Scribal Thrum : Ohio TV station: Was …“, posted with vodpod

Bradblog has this first on the scene live video apparently taken by someone who lived nearby, and and a couple of interviews from lat night’s PBS …

-dcm





Presidential Records “Custodian” Dead in Plane Crash

21 12 2008

Republican IT Consultant Mike Connell Masterminded BlueCheney / WH Logoexternal GWB43 email accounts

(update 1) (update 2) (update 3) (update 4)

So let me get this straight.  Rawstory is reporting that Mike Connell, Karl Rove’s IT Contractor, has been killed in a plane crash.

“A top level Republican IT consultant who was set to testify in a case alleging GOP election tampering in Ohio died in a plane crash late Friday night.

Michael Connell — founder of Ohio-based New Media Communications, which created campaign Web sites for George W. Bush and John McCain — died instantly after his single-prop, private aircraft smashed into a vacant home in suburban Lake Township, Ohio.”

This is the guy who ran the company whose mail servers handled the President’s mail for the two year period which the administration variously claims is “lost”, “archives destroyed”, “archives never created”, i.e., unavailable.  (And now, ) No matter what course of legal action, unavailable.

dead men tell no tales?

Connell’s mail servers handled at least 88 White House email accounts, according to Think Progress.  This included the VP’s and Carl Rove’s and other inner circle officials and operatives email, too.

Larisa Alexandrovna, who has reported on Connell for some time, posted this about it on her blog at-Largely yesterday (emphasis added):

Michael Connell died in a plane crash last night. He was a key witness in the Ohio election fraud case that I have been reporting on. More importantly, however, he had information that he was ready to share.

You see, Mike Connell set-up the alternate email and communications system for the White House. He was responsible for creating the system that hosted the infamous GWB43.com accounts that Karl Rove and others used. When asked by Congress to provide these emails, the White House said that they were destroyed. But in reality, what Connell is alleged to have done is move these files to other servers after having allegedly scrubbed the files from all “known” Karl Rove accounts.

presidential_records_act_cover

In addition, I have reason to believe that the alternate accounts were used to communicate with US Attorneys involved in political prosecutions, like that of Don Siegelman. This is what I have been working on to prove for over a year. In fact, it was through following the Siegelman-Rove trail that I found evidence leading to Connell. That is how I became aware of him. Mike was getting ready to talk. He was frightened.

It is interesting how Alexandrovna was led to Mike Connell, while investigating the US Attorney firing scandal.

So all this mail has been lost.

And now the IT guy who ran the thing is dead.  And he was getting ready to talk. And he was frightened.

And he just happened to have had a fatal accident.

Uh Huh.

-dcm

Sphere-It!

Update 1 – Pissed Off Democrat is reporting that Ohio’s Election Attorney had requested Witness Protection for Connell due to threats from Karl Rove and his associates.  Also that Velvet Revolution has called for a full federal investigation after their contacts with those close to Connell revealed the threats and concern for Connell’s safety.

Update 2 – Here is VR’s press release in yesterday’s NY Times.

Update 3 – The Brad Blog has been covering this for a while.   Also, Lisa Derrick published this piece about it on Huffington Post.  A search of YouTube video’s about Connell’s various alleged crimes is here.  Below is a video explaining a bit of the context of Mike Connell’s suspicious and untimely death.

Update 4 – 1 Boring Old Man offers a couple of informative posts, Red Flags, and Re: Mike Connell.  There’s a discussion over at E. Pluribus Media.  Locally, CantonRep.com has an accident report that brings some perspective here, which includes the below video at the scene.

Post Script

Here are the background links Larisa compiled for her post’s second update.  They are valuable for understanding the context for Mike Connell’s death.

Here are the reading materials in case you have not followed any of this closely. These are articles I have done over spanning over a year of investigative work:Part 1 – Political Prisoner

http://rawstory.com/news/2007/The_Permanent_Republican_Majority_1125.htmlPart 2 – Siegelman’s Daughter Speaks Out
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/The_permanent_Republican_majority_Daughter_of_1127.html

Part 3 – Karl Rove Running Elections from the White House
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/The_Permanent_Republican_Majority_Part_III_1216.html

Part 4 – Mississippi Prosecution, Justice Oliver Diaz
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/How_Bush_US_attorney_riddled_with_0401.html

Part 5 – Justice Diaz Speaks
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Diaz_placeholder_0408.html

Part 6 – Break-ins plague targets of political prosecutions
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Breakins_plague_Justice_Department_whistleblowers_0430.html

Part 7 – Justice for Sale
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Justice_for_Sale_How_Big_Tobacco_0828.html
Related articles:
Judge who denied Paul Minor release was protégé of Karl Rove
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Judge_in_Paul_Minor_case_was_0821.html

DOJ Investigating 2 US Attorneys
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/DOJ_Investigating_two_US_Attorneys_involved_0604.html

60 Minutes Segment on Siegelman “dropped” in Alabama
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/60_Minutes_broadcast_on_prosecution_of_0225.html

Republican IT Consultant Subpoenaed in Ohio election fraud case
http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Republican_IT_consultant_subpoenaed_in_case_0929.html

Abramoff said he had agreement with White House aide just a month after Bush took office

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Abramoff_said_he_had_agreement_with_1117.html

Treasury Department investigating US Attorney for leaking state Supreme Court Justice’s tax returns

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Treasury_Department_investigating_US_Attorney_for_1201.htm





Why Kill Detroit Now?

6 12 2008

…When 2 out of the Big 3 Have already taken Serious Steps at A. McCoyReform?

By Andrew McCoy

So the Big 3 need 25 gazillion dollars to stay viable. According to bad accounting people the average worker makes $73 an hour working there. Of course these are silly numbers. No factory worker brings home $151,000 (73x40x52). As of 2006 the wage breakdown at Chrysler was:

Base Wage & COLA
Health Care* All other elements Total
$/hr. %Total $/hr. %Total $/hr. %Total
29.15 38% 20.14 27% 26.57 35% 75.86

This was the latest data I could find with good hard numbers.

Health Care

The ‘Healthcare’ and ‘all other elements’ contains healthcare and pension payment for retirees. That’s 111,000 at Chrysler, 450,000 at all of the Big 3. The numbers bandied about say Japanese companies only pay 40 to 50 an hour per employee. That gives them an $1800 advantage per car made in labor costs.

Of the 20.14 in healthcare costs listed less than half goes to employees. Most goes to retiree healthcare. That issue has already been addressed; retiree healthcare will be cut, provided GM, Ford, and Chrysler, put in the upfront 50 billion needed before 2010 for the UAW health plan.

Pension Plans

The largest ‘other’ expense going forward is the continuing pension plans. The Pension fund of the GM is fully funded ( I can’t find similar info on Ford and Chrysler, but they GM’s pension covers 300,000 and Ford/ Chrysler combined cover 150,000)  currently and pays UAW member $18,000 per year after the age of 63.

So, of the 73  mythical dollars, my guess is 50 goes to current employees.

No Raises for Years Ahead

Employees have already agreed to no raises for a few years, and the new UAW contract allows new workers to be hired at a lower rate.  Nearly half of all UAW members are eligible for retirement within 5 years. That means the labor cost will go down even further.

In the chart above healthcare costs 20 bucks an hour, but let’s look realistically going forward. The average healthcare plan in the US for 2009 is projected to be $9660. According to the above chart healthcare costs $41,891 a year. Even with really good insurance, based on the $9660 number, healthcare should only cost $15,000.

So, I’m Stuck with $32,231 Out of Pocket

Just for Health Insurance?

I’m a middle class earner, for where I live. My company offers average or above average benefits across the board. At year end, when I get my “total compensation” packet, it shows that the company pays less than $15,000 for my total compensation (besides my salary). If we assume my company pays its 78% share of my health insurance (9660×78%), then $7534 goes to health insurance and about the same amount goes to other stuff (vacation, holidays, 401k, etc).

Total Compensation

For the next bit, I am assuming about 7500 is needed for ‘other stuff”.  If GM pays 29.15 per hour worked (a tad high I think), and pays all 15k for health insurance, and 7500 for ‘other stuff’. Total compensation is (29.15×2080) =60,132 + 15000 + 7500 = $83132, that equals $39.9673 per hour.

Even if “total compensation” goes up to $103132, that’s 60k in wage, 40k in healthcare/ other stuff, that only equals 49.50 an hour, which is about equal to Toyota’s costs.

Two out of the 3 have Taken the Steps…

This shows, although the hour is late, GM and others have worked out the appropriate steps to rein in their over the top expenditures. Their cars have gotten better, well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad… Chrysler still sucks.

In normal circumstances, a bankruptcy would be the right choice. It would allow their debts to be re-organized and new capital infused. There is a snag with that right now though; who is going to give them the capital? No banks have any money now.

Why Kill Detroit Now?

If our precious financial district is worth 700 billion (over 5 trillion by some counts) then the last of our major manufacturing sector should get enough to survive until their already implanted changes help them out.

Andrew McCoy is an IT Consultant







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