Although there is another side to this...

Story: When Android Ate My Best Friends Total Replies: 16
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Jan 04, 2013
5:32 PM EDT
Quoting:Out here in my little corner of the world, in a county that competes with the neighboring county for the poorest in the state, everyone can somehow afford smartphones with generous data plans. I have no idea what people's eye colors are anymore, or if they even have eyes, because all I see are the tops of their heads as they are bent over their tiny screens. This stuff is not cheap-- I don't know anyone whose monthly bite is under a hundred dollars. Which is why I have a cheapo TracFone, because I refuse to pay that much.
But approximately 1000 miles South of that particular "little corner of the world" lies the enormous megalopolis of Los Angeles.

Two recent LA pieces:

- The Los Angeles Business Journal's 'Carlos Slim's TracFone Under Fire' , found at

- The Los Angeles Times' 'Carlos Slim's TracFone under fire as it moves to expand in state', found at

What is the other side to owning inexpensive TracFones?

Should the State of California significantly raise and then effectively collect taxes due from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, then 1) Carlos Slim may very well pass along the extra bill to paying TracFone customers in California, 2) the nearby State of Oregon might similarly follow suit in regulating Carlos Slim's company (that owns TracFone), and then 3) the author's preferred "cheapo TracFone" phones and minutes will start to become dramatically less cheap for customers throughout Oregon, including this author's own county.


Jan 04, 2013
11:07 PM EDT
We simply cant afford anything other than a single Tracfone which the wife has and what would be the point anyways we barely get any phone signal on our phones where we are, most of the time we struggle to get 2 bars if were lucky and the wind is behind us and since the signal is so cr@p you get about 2hrs battery life and thats on standby because it has to crank its output up to Jodrell Bank levels just to keep in touch with the network. Practically everyone I know living round here are using Tracfones as all singing all dancing smartphone are pointless as you can get pretty much the same features and performance out of a brick.

The state I live in southern VT seems to be barely out of the dark ages, I was getting data on my old tri-band Sony Ericcson when I left Scotland over 6 years ago and this country supposedly put a man on the moon no wonder folks think NASA faked it. We only barely even get DSL on our landline now since the quality is so sh it since our provider unFairpoint went bankrupt, data plan? Ive heard of it.

Ok rant over from a very unimpressed with US Telecomms ex-pat Scot.


Jan 04, 2013
11:49 PM EDT
Quoting:no wonder folks think NASA faked it.

I know, but when it comes to NASA, I believe there isn't a technology that NASA didn't help initiate, use, improve, or contribute to.

The problem in the US is that, most corporations are no longer into research and development like they used to. All they care about is making money. Whether they make it by offering services or selling end products made somewhere, or generating revenue by simply investing in the stock market, they don't care as long as the revenue keeps coming in.

Service providers want to maximize their revenues for the long run, so they try offering the minimum of technology they can get away with and improve only when there is a better competitor. Other countries are way ahead of the US in some areas. In Japan for instance, I hear they have Gbits almost everywhere even to homes while in the US, we still dealing within the Mbits range.

Some times I wonder if the Internet would have been better off staying within the educational institutions and funded by the government.


Jan 05, 2013
12:47 AM EDT
@ Koriel -- excellent rant!


Jan 05, 2013
2:45 AM EDT
I get the best coverage with my TracFone because they're plugged into multiple networks, so I have service in places my friends with their fancy 3G/4G devices don't. Their customer service is decent, and you can't beat their pricing for voice and texting. This business with the state of California wanting to collect extra taxes is interesting; are they trying to double-dip? TracFone operates by leasing service from AT&T, Verizon, etc., and then reselling it. If I needed full mobile Web then TracFone's not an option, and I would be stuck with one of the overpriced, under-featured lockin providers. Koriel, you're right on, the American telcos are still stuck in the glory days of Alexander Graham Bell, and greatly resent being forced to exist in the 21st century.


Jan 05, 2013
3:21 AM EDT
One of the secrets of happiness: afford myself the luxury of *not* owning (or rather being owned by) a mobile phone... though I run a small IT company. Like Carla, I live in a very remote place. Here in my South French village, I look out of my office's window (housed in an 11th-century stone building), and on a clear day I can see the Cévennes mountains almost a hundred kilometers away. In the office the quiet hum of server and desktops, and then only long stretches of productive work, only interrupted by regular coffee breaks. Phone? Yes, a simple landline with an answering machine.

Jan 05, 2013
11:01 AM EDT
kikinovak wrote:Yes, a simple landline with an answering machine.

Funny how we spend so much of our lives learning to cyber connect with others, then reject said connection. I think the phone, be it cell or POTS, is a rather egregious example. It provides access, but very little control over who has it. I can pretty much throttle down access through my computer to nil, but a phone gives too much control to others. That's why RMS warns that the smaller the device, the less control you have. As for living in the boonies, that's a personal choice. You can't live rurally and expect urban access. Well, you can, but isn't that kinda silly?

I'd love to leave it at a land line, but I can't. I have responsibilities. Besides, the land line is even more irksome than my tracfone. I get at least 20 calls per day, over half pre-recorded. The answering machine is a necessary evil, a barrier, not a desired feature. At least no one has the windage/range on my tracfone ....yet!

Jan 05, 2013
11:38 AM EDT
" You can't live rurally and expect urban access. Well, you can, but isn't that kinda silly?"

There is some very interesting reading on this @

Jan 05, 2013
11:50 AM EDT
RE rural telco services-- once again, the telcos are not our friends, nor even particularly interested in serving customers. One example of this is in the rural parts Eastern Washington, which to this day are underserved by the telcos even though there is plenty of demand:

Quoting: Marlon Shafer of Odessa Office Equipment in Odessa, Washington wanted to bring the Internet to the Odessa area. The telcos, cable companies, and big-time Internet service providers were uninterested in serving a rural population. So in 1997 he borrowed $15,000 -- that's fifteen thousand, not million or billion-- and hired a Spokane ISP to build Mr. Shafer his own ISP in Odessa. He figured out how to set up DSL without the telcos, homebrew DSL, and for awhile life was good. Until the telcos caught on and decided to squash him. Never mind that they didn't want to serve the area; he was making money and having happy customers, and that was intolerable. So they raised the prices of dry copper circuits until Mr. Shafer was forced to look for an alternative.

Shafer succeeded where the big money failed. The rest of the tale is here The telcos are just plain butthats.


Jan 05, 2013
2:23 PM EDT
Yeh the old rural argument is complete BS it didnt fly in Scotland either when the monopoly incumbent of the time BT tried to use it. All it requires is the will to tell these companies that they can kiss goodbye to Govt contracts unless they start supporting the smaller communities, once that happens you will be suprised at how fast so called insurmountable obstacles such as terrain are no longer a problem once their gravy train is de-railed.

In the Highlands and Islands of Scotland the Govt stepped in and made BT provide DSL they also provided some subsidy money via Scottish Enterprise for some places that needed their entire exchange upgraded to digital but where digital exchanges were already in place the only stipulation was once 400 people on a single exchange pre registered for DSL then BT had to give them it, funny enough who'd of thought! the communities that got it began to flourish with tech companies springing up in the Highlands whereas before no tech company would of even considered it due to lack of comms infrastructure, once that infrastructure was in place things changed rapidly over a short period of 2 years.

Another thing accounting firm Deloitte & Touche and Their Technology Fast 50 survey revealed that Scotland was home to 24% of the UK's fastest growing technology companies. None of which would of happened without the investment and actions by the UK government if it had been left to BT we would of still been using tin cans and string.

Oh and this scenario has been repeated in places such a Africa where the introduction of cell phone tech saw small rural communities begin to flourish.

The simple answer is American companies just like the UK's BT only see short term gain for their investors and couldn't give a monkey's scrotum for anyone else and unless the US government steps up to the plate nothing will change as far as technology and rural communities are concerned.


Jan 05, 2013
4:13 PM EDT
Quoting:... unless the US government steps up to the plate nothing will change as far as technology and rural communities are concerned.

And do you really think this would happen when the nation that Lincoln said had a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. became a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations?


Jan 05, 2013
5:17 PM EDT
NoaNet, a non-profit backbone provider, is running some fat fiber lines to tiny towns in Eastern Washington. When everything is in place they'll have gigabit wi-fi and cable. Our friends the telcos have a long history of suing non-profits who provide services to markets they have shunned, so this could get interesting.

Jan 05, 2013
6:39 PM EDT
We'd look pretty silly dragging a landline around behind our motor home

Jan 05, 2013
6:58 PM EDT
> All it requires is the will to tell these companies that they can kiss goodbye to Govt contracts unless they start supporting the smaller communities,

In the US, it's even simpler than that. The telco's are granted monopoly status by the state governments. If the don't want to offer the service, then the government can remove that status, eminent domain the equipment and lines, and give it to someone who does. All perfectly legal.

That's what the states should have done with Verizon when they decided they didn't want to offer land line service to rural areas any more. They should have told Verizon, sure you can leave, but you abandon the equipment and lines in place and we'll decide who operates them.

Jan 05, 2013
10:56 PM EDT
Quoting: Shafer succeeded where the big money failed. The rest of the tale is here

Great story!

I also liked the rest of the article -- especially the description* of trying to find a Linux PC on Dell's website.

* (can I "borrow" that, Carla? Pretty please?)


Jan 05, 2013
11:15 PM EDT
Heh, thanks Bernard. Borrow all you want!

Jan 06, 2013
12:18 AM EDT
koriel wrote: Yeh the old rural argument is complete BS it didnt fly in Scotland either

I'm not saying rural means 1960, but it's certain one can't expect the kind of competition for access one is likely to find in a large metropolitan area.

When I first moved to the rural CO Rockies, it was dial-up or satellite or piss up a rope! Two yrs later I was able to get DSL. BUT! .....still nothing on the level of 6G cable! Where I came from, the SFBA, they were tripping over themselves to provide high speed access. Here, I'm gratefull for anything even resembling broadband. What should be and what IS remains two widely different things.

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