17
Oct
Doing-it-wrong

Warning:NSFW language.

Bad news for Verizon subscribers: Verizon isn't just raping you on your bill, they're really getting you up the pooper because they're making a few more dollars off of you by selling your personal data. Things like where you are, what you're doing on your phone, your gender, age, and personal details like whether you're a "sports enthusiast, frequent diner, or pet owner."

Meanwhile, the FTC is investigating Google for possibly "abusing its dominance of internet search in violation of antitrust laws" and - get this - "misusing patent protections to block rivals' smartphones from coming to market." What?

As Ron said a few days ago:

2012-10-16_21h36_32

... And really, he pretty much nailed it. Combined, Verizon and AT&T control 75% of the US wireless market, leaving just 25% for Sprint (#3), T-Mobile (#4), regional, and prepaid carriers. If that doesn't sound bad to you at first blush, keep in mind that carriers control a limited resource - spectrum. (Imagine if two companies owned 75% of the beaches - how shitty would that be?) Worse, the cellular industry is insanely capital-intensive. Softbank is giving Sprint an $8 billion (that's $8,000,000,000.00) infusion in order to kind of, hopefully catch up to the big two in terms of coverage.

But let's be honest: we give precisely zero fucks how expensive it is for the carriers, because it is so goddamn expensive for us as consumers. Or, more precisely, it's expensive if you want good service. You can always go prepaid for cheap service, or the Sprint/T-Mobile route for mid-range, but to get top-tier, you have to pay a massive premium.

It's no secret that carriers have long gouged us (look at #4) in the US, but AT&T and Verizon aren't just nailing us in relation to other US carriers; compared to the plans found overseas, even budget carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile are expensive. For example:

2012-10-16_22h03_26

2012-10-16_22h03_53

AT&T: 450 minutes, unlimited texting, and 300 MB of data for $100/month. $99 for the phone with 2-year contract.

O2 (UK): unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and 1GB of data for $58/month (when directly converted from British pounds to US dollars). $0 for the same phone with 2-year contract.

Yeah, nothing to worry about here. That seems completely okay to me, too, FTC. You know who really looks downright shady to me? GOOGLE. With their whole "do no evil" mantra and their consumer-friendly practices. Pioneering self-driving cars and heads-up displays? Sounds like malicious intent to me - certainly not advancing the human race. Oh, and all that patent trolling they do - despicable.

Wait, what?

We have patent trolls running absolutely rampant, major corporations (*cough* APPLE *cough*) suing for bogus software patents, everyone has to license something stupid from everyone else and it drives costs up for everyone and diverts money from innovation to ass-covering. And yet, as I said above, the FTC is actually considering a lawsuit against Google for patent misuse.

TechPatentWars

JESUS GOOGLE, QUIT SUING EVERYO-- oh, wait.

Because, hey, clearly letting your products be assaulted by lawsuits left, right, and center for a few years before finally stepping in and fighting back is being overly aggressive. It's a good thing the FTC doesn't run the school system, or nerdy kids would get in trouble for being bullied.

[Note: to clarify, I'm not trying to suggest Google is beyond questioning. I'm just saying, priorities.]

Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Timothy Gelter

    Tell us how you really feel... ;-)
    Seriously though, you make good points, I just hope the right people are listening!

    • Steven Lockey

      They won't. The people who this needs to get to only hear with their wallets, which is the whole problem with the american political structure. Its based purely on money.

  • fixxmyhead

    gotta love verizon huh verizon customers. u guys will ALWAYS bend over and take it cuz that precious LTE is ur life. i swear if they could get away with selling ur SSN u guys would still be with them as long as u kept ur unlimited LTE

    • antdeejay

      Sounds like someone is mad their moto shitstorm doesn't have 4g. Also, did you ever think some people don't have a choice but to be on verizon. Of course not since that involves thinking.

      • fixxmyhead

        nope i have an s2

    • Greyhame

      Not at all. It's the coverage and ability to make a call from ANYWHERE. Not all of us live in major cities. Hell, I have LTE turned off most of the time for battery savings.

    • Eye4Detail

      Or, you know, nobody else has coverage in my area and I'm not about to pay one of the others for minutes and data I can't use...fixxyourhead

    • Daryl Beman

      I have had AT&T, Sprint, and am now on Verizon. Of the three, Verizon really does have the best coverage. Unfortunately. That's just how the ball rolls.

    • Ashish

      Someone is a little mad and upset while sitting next to their sprint cell booster. In the mean time I'll enjoy my Verizon LTE and have a cheaper bill than the sprint all you can eat plan.

      • fixxmyhead

        sprint? try again

    • Bariman43

      Excuse me? I could give less of a shit about LTE, I jsut wanted the phone and it just happened to come with an ungodly bill. Why do you have to antagonize us? Who pooped in your cheerios?

  • shakerya

    Maybe being outside the US isn't such a bad thing after all.

    • New_Guy

      As much as it pains me to say, I've traveled a Hong Kong and to Rome, and in both instances I began to understand why much of the world has a healthy disdain for the US. We have some of the most spoiled, greedy, and backwards people in the world. The fact is that the FTC is responding to constant nagging by Apple and Microsoft to take action. And they slide their hands under the table, stuff them in their pockets, and say "we'll get right on it." This is pretty disgusting and I hope the Congressman from Colorado stays true to his threats to limit the FTC on this one.

      • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

        I disagree with limiting the power of the FTC, but they should really focus on more pressing issues.

    • Deltaechoe

      Aaron hit on a lot of really good points in this post, he's right that cell phone service in the US and the politics around it are a model of business corruption

    • GazaIan

      Would you happen to live in the UK? I've been thinking about moving away from this hellhole and going to the UK, or some part of Europe where English the dominant language.

      • shakerya

        Nope, I'm in India. We might get the tech a bit late, but our carriers don't make our life hell.

  • http://twitter.com/Derpinton Zapp Brannigan

    Really guies really come on

  • nejai

    wow that´s expensive. In Colombia I have 500+ minutes and unlimited HSDPA+ data for $50/month and aditional minutes from 2cents.. (High end phones on the other hand are usually expensive : 200-500 or even more)

    • PhilNelwyn

      In France I pay $20 a month for:
      - Unlimited calls (national & international, mobile & landline).
      - Unlimited sms/mms (national only).
      - 3GB of HSDPA+ data (bandwith reduced if you exceed).

      Phones are not subsidized, but you have the possibility to pay in four interest-free installments or to spread the payment over 24 months with a 10% rate.
      And no subscription plan.

      • ProductFRED

        That's amazing.

  • ProductFRED

    Spot on. I went to Europe and cried at how cheap their rates are. For example, when I was in Austria and Germany, here's what Orange charges for 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts (view is slightly blocked, so it could be more) and unlimited data. I'm sure this is only for dumb phones, but if you bring a non-Orange phone they have no way to tell.

    Spoiler: About $10 a month.

    • Abhigyan Banerjee

      Wait till you get the taste of plans here in India. 3G coverage is still in its third wave of roll outs, so service is a bit patchy. But then again, with a geography like ours, it's going to take some time.

      To give you an example of the plan I'm on:
      1. All incoming everything: Free
      2. Outgoing calls: We have things like per second billing and per minute billing. Per minute means, if you've talked for 20 seconds, you're still billed a minute. Per second is per second. Rates vary from 1/2 (yes half) a paisa (that's the Indian currency's equivalent of a cent. Not in magnitude, but as a unit of currency) per second, to 60 paise per minute.
      3. Texts: Plans ranging from 1 paisa per SMS
      4. Data: On 2G/EDGE, 2 Gigs of data is around $1.5. One 3G, 1.5 Gigs of data is around $6
      5. No contractual obligations. You can port your number to a rival operator anytime.
      6. Roaming: Incoming as low as $0.02/minute. Outgoing as low as 0.03/minute. By early next year, the government is planning to do away with the concept of roaming entirely. Think one circle, one nation, one number.

      As a slightly bigger example, the plan I'm on is something like this:
      1. 100 free all India texts per month (no roaming/local distinction)
      2. $1.2 booster pack for 1000 more national texts.
      3. Nationwide calling at $0.02/minute.
      4. 2 Gigs of 3G data at $8.
      5. My overall monthly billing is around $15. I'm not tied into any operator as most handsets are sold unlocked/free of carrier brouhaha.

      On top of this, many operators have now started bundle plans where you pay something like $30 to make unlimited calls/texts/data use on ANY network.

      • Bleakvision

        Come on man, just tell us what you pay per month for how many minutes/SMS/data . I really see no point in you making this enormous list and us still having to do the math.

        • mrsbelpit

          Math is hard!

        • Abhigyan Banerjee

          Haha! My bad. But my original comment did have my overall billing per month. Check out the last point (5).

      • b9876

        To be fair, most EU countries (Czech republic is the exception that I know about) have per second billing (1:1). It is ages that I've seen 60:1 (first minute, then per second) or 60:60 (per minute, just the Czechs that I mentioned). Also, incoming is free here too.

      • ssj4Gogeta

        Alright, I didn't go through the entire post, but here's a summary of what I pay (in India):

        $500-600 for the (top-end) phone upfront. No subsidies. Unlocked. No contracts.
        $10/month for ~2000 minutes. Per second billing.
        $25/month for 8GB HSPA+ data.
        $1 per 5000 texts I send

        So, if I use my phone for 2 years, I'll be paying about $1400 total, including for the phone. I'll get 2000 minutes per month, 5000 texts per month and 8GB of upto 21Mbps data per month.

        All phones are compatible with all carriers (all are on the same frequency). I can change my mind any day about which carrier I want to use. Carriers don't give a damn about what I use my data for (tethering, tablet, etc.). 8GB costs them the same regardless of what device I use it on.

        • Abhigyan Banerjee

          I'd happily pay $25 for 8GB HSPA+. Those speeds get me through my day easily. What operator are you on?

          • ssj4Gogeta

            Idea. Well it's more like $28. Used to be Rs.1250 for 10GB, Now they've made it 8GB for Rs.1500 and marked the plan as "unlimited". You get something like 128 kbits/s (16kBps) after 8GB. Depending on the region, you can get 1MBps+ on well-seeded P2P transfers.

          • Abhigyan Banerjee

            Thanks.

  • http://www.feedchimp.com/ Nick DeSousa

    I had no intention for them to be used in this manner, not today, and not back when I invented patents.

    • John O’Connor

      So now we have a single person to rest the blame on? ;-)

  • YodaRocks

    The patent misuse seems to be the use of H.264 related patent and other FRAND patents which were used by Motorola and Google to block Microsoft's Xbox and Apple's iCloud. Of what little I have learned of US patent system, FRAND abuse seems to be worst kind of abuse. It will be difficult for Google to defend it.

    • b_to_the_randon

      Admittedly I'm probably missing something here, but according to this article while Motorola/Google is asking for 2.25%/device, they're asking that for three FRAND patents ~AND~ one non-FRAND patent. Not as Microsoft alludes for all FRAND patents.

      http://www.techspot.com/news/48344-judge-favors-motorola-over-microsoft-in-xbox-360-patent-case.html

      • YodaRocks

        According to the same article Microsoft pays 1000 times less for 2,300 H.264 patents. And this seems to be the point of contention when it comes to FRAND abuse. They are arguing that when they pay so less for so many other patents why should they pay more for these four patents?
        I am not claiming that MS is right or Google is wrong, I am saying that the narrative which will be portrayed in front of the court (If it goes to the courts) will be difficult for Google to deal with

        • b_to_the_randon

          I agree, I'm not trying to say that Google can do no wrong, but it ~SEEMS~ to me that Microsoft is lumping that 4th, non-FRAND patent into the calculation when stating they are being asked for 2400% more.

          As for how difficult the narrative will be in court, yes I agree it could become sticky, but the language on FRAND leaves open the option of interpretation and negotiation; I feel that Google might have the ability to claim this is still just negotiation at this point. Also remember that we have yet to see what Microsoft is charging others for their own FRAND patents that they went trolling with a few months ago, if that comes to light (which it might) then we may find that they're charging a similar fee-structure thereby nullifying their complaint.

  • Greyhame

    +1000 to this article. When will the madness stop???

  • rapperman

    My sentiments exactly Aaron.

  • Eye4Detail

    So, that settles it. Google needs to become a telecom. The FTC will leave them alone AND we'd have another alternative to Big Red and Ma Bell. Ooh, one more...THEY WOULDN'T BLOCK/BLOAT ANDROID UPDATES!

    Now my head's swimming with Googley goodness. FULL Google Voice integration...deals for OEMs who put out vanilla Android phones on their network...optional discounts for customers who allow more ads on their phones (this one would be huge)...the possibilities are endless.

    • Andrew Ruffolo

      I like this idea... the rumors from years past need to revive. I like Google Fiber... bring that and Google LTE and they can take my money!!!

      • Geoff Hinkle

        As a Kansas City resident, I wouldn't expect google fiber anytime soon outside of KC. If I get it at my address before 2015 I'll be VERY surprised, if it's ever available for me. There are people who signed up for it on day 1 who won't have it a year from now.

        • b9876

          Well, to their credit, laying a lot of fiber over entire city takes a while. I remember when Orange was doing that in my city (Bratislava, Slovakia, EU) and it took them about 2-3 year to achieve usable coverage. What I got from people doing this job, the most time demanding part was negotiating with all the building owners.

          But after having FTTH, there is no turning back. Your list of potential cities for moving will shrink considerably.

  • defred34

    When I read this: "misusing patent protections to block rivals' smartphones from coming to market."

    The first thing that came to my mind was Apple. They're the ones to misuse patents and sue/threaten other manufacturers, no? I haven;t heard of Google doing this. Maybe, just maybe, the prosecuters got mixed up betw Google and Apple!

  • http://twitter.com/GitMuny Ciroc Obama

    And to think I was going to finally get the hell away from Sprint to Verizon.

    • Freak4Dell

      At least you can opt out of this. There's no opt out option for a terrible network.

  • Robert Jakiel

    The FTC like the USPTO is corrupted as is most of the government in the U.S. They all cater to special interest groups as well as deep pockets. AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft and Apple in no particular order should be investigated for Anti-Trust and misuse of patents. Instead they target the company that gives away its' products for FREE and after two years of being threatened, bullied, sued and slapped they fight back and are said to be misusing their patents. Mind you in every case that Google has been assaulted by other companies using bullshit patents they have won without once asserting ANY of their own patents or copyrights. The tech monoliths in this country Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, etc... all need to get smacked in the dick and brought back to reality. People want freedom. Freedom of choice, freedom of use and freedom from licensing which Linux, BSD and Android all afford us. This freedom threatens their profits and in such the only thing they can do is to bully and milk the companies that use these technologies in order to bolster their bottom line and stay relevant in the current market.

  • PhilNelwyn

    Six degrees of Apple...

    • John O’Connor

      more like "50 shades of apple" and each one of them is more painful than the last

  • Plerisei

    My only question is this: Can this be used for me to get out of my contract without an ETF...?I'm looking to scrap verizon as quickly as possible.

    • rockstar323

      No. It doesn't cost you anything to opt out of it.

      • Well…

        It costs you electricity and bandwidth.

  • Matthew Fry

    F'ing load of crap this is. Glad I didn't choose Verizon. Google should counter-sue the FTC for racketeering.

  • Bariman43

    This was the last thing I needed to leave Verizon. Fuck you, Big Red. Rot in hell. And as for the FTC investigating Google, unbelievable. There is literally no justice in this world, just mindless bickering and finger-pointing while the real culprits hide with their heads up their asses.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      I love this comment. It might be that your opinion is very closely to mine. Unfortunately Verizon has really good service and phones and there is not much that I can do. By the end of my contract I'll probably be switching to T-mobile or anything of that sort. I'll definitely miss good service and high-end phones but there's always a price to pay.

      • http://twitter.com/matt4790 Matthew Priddy

        You can always buy GSM phones second-hand from people. A lot of people are trading/selling brand new devices for around $400 usually. And especially if they need to get rid of it and get money fast they will go even lower. Most of the time they pay $99-$200 for a phone that really costs $700, so they are willing to take some of a cut.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          Or he can get an unlocked Nexus instead. Pay a bit more upfront, and save a lot of money and headache over contract-free two years.

          • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

            Well thanks for the advice. I'm sure this is what I'd do once I switch over to a new company with medium-end phones.

  • Matthew Fry

    For those who aren't willing to read the article, you can go to http://www.verizonwireless.com/myprivacy log in, and opt out of this shit.

  • DCMAKER

    as i always say i will be sticking with the lesser of all evils....sigh

  • rockstar323

    Verizon is the Apple of the wireless carriers. Money hungry and tells customers what they want instead of listening to what they want. I have Verizon and the service is great, but so is at&t and Sprint in my area. They only thing they are lacking is LTE but honestly I hardly ever use it since I'm always near wifi at work or home. Even when I'm not I can't think of time where I would have needed 4G to do something I couldn't with 3G. If work didn't pay for my bill I would be on Sprint or Straight Talk (at&t) in a heartbeat.

  • TimTheK

    If you are a Verizon customer you can opt out of all of this (not that you should have to opt out of being tracked and sold, but at least you can).
    https://ebillpay.verizonwireless.com/vzw/secure/setPrivacy.action

    I was happy to see that I had already done so previously!

  • Southrncomfortjm

    I think the key difference on the patent front is that Apple is sue for non-standard essential patents while Google and Google-owned Motorola are using an extensensive book of standard-essential patents in legal actions around the world. Apparently the use of standard essential patents to get injunctions has riled a few people. Not saying anything of that is fair (a patent is a patent) but I think that's the distinction.
    Anyways, to help fix some of this Verizon dominance, I plan to switch to T-Mobile or a prepaid plan when my Verizon contract is up. Hopefully T-Mobile can make some major gains in the coverage arena in the next 1.5 years.

    • Jameslepable

      It was my understanding that the reason Google (via motarola) was seeking an injunction against apple because they refused to pay for the licence. Standard essential or not you still have to pay. What makes it worst is standard essential patients are a lot cheaper than others and yet apple still didn't pay.

  • coversnails

    The Google/FTC situation is slightly more complicated. The anti-trust investigation had come about from their purchase of Motorola with the aim of protecting Android from patent disputes. The problem is that these patents are mostly FRAND patents which are deemed to be essential and most be offered at a trainable fee to anyone who wishes to use them. Threatening companies or aiming to protect with FRAND patents would deserve an anti-trust investigation.

    Whether or not you think Apple should be given software patents (and like any normal person I don't), they have been and they've been deemed legal and they would be willing to license all the patents they own at a resonable fee (it would mean every phone sold made them money) its just noone wants to pay.

    The FTC is doing it's job, its the American patent system that's the problem here.

  • Kipp Swanson

    In other news, there's new iYachts in some FTC investigators' driveways.

  • chadstone30

    Yeah, but you won't be able to use that O2 HTC One X on LTE in the UK. LTE deployment is one of very few ways the US wireless industry is ahead of Europe's.

  • John O’Connor

    Can someone release an index fund for Intellectual Property law, lawyers and lawsuits so that we can all invest in and get a chunk of this absurd amount of money?! Seriously, the only people winning here is the lawyers, not the companies and most certainly not the consumer

  • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

    I want to get on top of a building and just start screaming. This is probably the only thing that is keeping me going for me to develop ideas so that I can have a substantial amount of money and then when I have people's attention I start to make a mess out of the whole phone industry. It will probably never happen, but one can only dream.

  • Bleakvision

    I pay 8$ a month, 1000minutes, 1000SMS, 2000MB full speed, above that throttled and can leave my contract at any time, because I brought my own device. This is not even the cheapest contract out there. Go Austria!

    I really wonder why most tech sites, can't bring themselves to criticize US carriers. I guess they all want that early access to those review units. But readers would be better served if tech sites get the phone 7 days later and expose those scumbags instead.

    • Bleakvision

      Oh and by the way, LTE is completely useless when you only get 300MB. Why even bother?

      HSPA+ is plenty fast for me (and most) and I actualiy get to use it.

  • Jonathan Wong

    "misusing patent protections to block rivals' smartphones from coming to market." Google?! Do that? What about Apple!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

    When using FTC logic, then if Google gets charged then shouldn't Apple get the death penalty? Right?

  • DeadSOL

    How I wish the FTC read this article and learn something!

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Not sure anybody saw this, a buddy of mine posted it on G+

    http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/262015-democrat-warns-congress-could-limit-ftcs-power-if-it-sues-google

    The tl;dr version:
    A congressman is threatening the FTC that if they do pursue Google in an Antitrust case, the Congress will cripple the FTC and take away a lot of their power. The congressman is basically arguing that the things Google is being accused of are trivial and can't be substantiated. In short, this thing is probably never going to happen.

  • Michael Haab

    I just thought I would add (for your price comparisons) I am in the UK on Three, with a Galaxy S3, the contract for 2 years includes 2000 mins, 5000 texts, 5000 Three to Three mins and unlimited data for £34 per month and a free phone, let's convert that into dollars that's around $57/month (current exchange rate) for vastly more than that AT&T package.

  • Freak4Dell

    While I agree that cell phone service is way more expensive than it should be, you also have to remember that our national carriers have to cover a lot more ground than the European carriers do. We have states that are bigger than most European countries. Covering all of that ground is not easy. Sure, there's also countries that are bigger or around the same size that are also cheaper, but their average standard of living also lower than ours.

    That being said, the US really needs to just go to the unsubsidized model. T-Mobile is pushing that now, and I really hope that catches on. My plan from T-Mobile is dirt cheap...half of what any of the other 3 have to offer. Sure, I pay full price for my phones, but there's always eBay and Craigslist, and I typically don't stick to my upgrade cycles anyway, so I pay full price regardless.

  • Jon Garrett

    FUCK THE FTC, when are they going to to get into apple's ass for "abusing its dominance of internet search in violation of antitrust laws" and - get this - "misusing patent protections to block rivals' smartphones from coming to market."

  • garychencool

    It's worse in Canada :-(

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonconort Jason Conort

    Sorry no longer have any faith in the FTC, congress needs to lay the law down on them and take away some of there far reaching abilities

  • JapioF

    Try The Netherlands. At Tele2 (a virtual provider using the T-Mobile Network), you get 100 minutes, unlimited texting and 1,5GiB of data for just 35 euro's a month. That's cheap!

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