Comcast Low Income Internet Plan Badly Run Says Advocate Group


From Ars Technica:

“A California nonprofit says that a Comcast Internet service program for poor people is too difficult to sign up for, resulting in just 11 percent of eligible households in the state getting service.

Comcast had to create the $10-per-month Internet Essentials program in order to secure approval of its acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011. About 300,000 households containing 1.2 million people nationwide have gotten cheap Internet service as a result, but the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) complains that the signup process is riddled with problems, a charge Comcast denies. (…)

“Comcast makes the sign-up process long and cumbersome,” CETF claimed. “The application process often takes 2-3 months, far too long for customers who are skeptical about the product in the first place, and have other pressing demands on their budgets. The waiting period between the initial call to Comcast and the CIE [Comcast Internet Essentials] application arriving in the mail can stretch 8-12 weeks, if it comes at all. After submitting the application, another 2-4 weeks elapse before the equipment arrives. Many low-income residents do not have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and are required to travel long distances to verify their identities because Comcast has closed many of its regional offices. Recently, some potential subscribers with SSNs were rejected over the phone and told they had to visit a Comcast office. Comcast has a pilot effort in Florida that should be expanded to allow customers to fax or e-mail photocopied IDs as proof of identification.

“This is false, Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas told Ars today. “Once we receive a fully executed application we can provision service in about three to five days,” he said. CETF has “brought us customers in the past, and we diligently look through every single one and try to resolve it to the best of our ability and will continue to do that if there are additional customers they haven’t brought to our attention,” Douglas said.

CETF also wrote that Comcast has violated program rules by conducting credit checks. “Comcast conducts credit checks for some customers, contrary to CIE rules,” the CETF filing said. “Dozens of clients are receiving letters from Comcast saying that they have failed a credit check. Comcast specifically states and advertises no credit check is needed for CIE. This has repercussions beyond obtaining broadband service. The act of performing a credit check can negatively impact the consumer’s credit worthiness. Initially, some CIE service representatives told customers they could pay $150 deposit to avoid a credit check, also contrary to program rules.”

Douglas acknowledged that problem, chalking it up to a “technical error” in which a credit check was incorrectly triggered by an automated process. “That was an error we made, and we have tried to make right with any customer who was impacted,” Douglas said. “We have reached out and apologized to customers and tried to resolve the problem in each and every instance.” In cases when a credit check was performed by mistake, “we worked with the credit reporting agencies to have it removed from the applicant’s record, and we worked with the partner organization to communicate that back to the applicant.””

Tech Site Editor: U.S. Gov Has Personal Info After I Visited Travelocity Nine Years Ago


From Ars Technica:

“In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked.

But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.

The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I’ve ever used; some of them also contain:

  • The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
  • My credit card number (in full)
  • The language I used
  • Notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change (…)

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Smart Shoe Works As GPS, Vibrates Directions


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“An Indian company has come up with a sleek solution to wearable technology that is entirely useful and doesn’t involve reading any tiny screens. The Bluetooth-enabled Lechal smart shoes vibrate to give people directions and tell them where to turn as they travel along.

The shoes sync with a user’s phone, and an app that piggybacks on Google Maps allows the shoes to keep track of where they’re going. Once you have input your destination and chosen a route, you can tuck your phone away and run or walk along with the left or right shoe buzzing to nudge you into turning.

The shoes have been designed and developed by a company called Ducere based in the city of Secunderabad in India, although they will be manufactured in China. As with many technological innovations that have found their way into our homes and onto our bodies, the smart shoes were originally designed for medical purposes — in this case to guide the visually impaired (in Hindi Lechal means “take me along”).”

Hillary Clinton Admits Expecting “Perhaps More Than I Should” From Media


From TV Newser:

“In an interview with NPR’s “On Point,” Clinton responded to former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson‘s criticism in a POLITICO interview. Abramson said Clinton is “incredibly unrealistic about journalists,” expecting too much loyalty.

“I think maybe one of the points Jill was making is that I do sometimes expect perhaps more than I should,” Clinton said about her relationship with the media. “And I’ll have to work on my expectations, but I had an excellent relationship with the State Department press that followed me for four years and enjoyed working with them, and whatever I do in the future, I look forward to having the same kind of opportunities.””

The Expendables 3 Leaked Online … Weeks Before Release


(Photo credit: TorrentFreak)

From TorrentFreak:

“The Expendables 3, featuring every action hero known to man, was set for an August 15 debut but has appeared online in near DVD quality. In just 12 hours, more than 100,000 copies have been downloaded. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that production company Nu Image sued those who downloaded the original movie. (…)

As such, these events aren’t particularly big news but every now and again one comes along to make people sit up and listen. Several hours ago, July 24, 2014, marked one such notable leaking event.

Featuring every action hero known to man, from Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham and Jet Li, to UFC stars Randy Couture and Ronda Rousey, Expendables 3 was always going to be a hit. However, the plan was to have it become a hit on the big screen before breaking into the home market.

That is not going to happen. Around twelve hours ago, a near perfect copy of The Expendables 3 appeared online and it’s already a smash hit with home audiences.

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Obama Inching Towards Drone Regulation


From TechCrunch:

“As the FAA watches its drone regulation deadlines loom, President Obama intends to issue an executive order that will deal with drone privacy, something that the federal agency hasn’t delved too deeply into. According to Politico, the president plans to put together an executive order asking the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to come up with rules relating to consumer privacy, unmanned aircraft, and the interaction between the two.

Drones are an important topic at the moment, as the technological underpinnings of the product segment quickly mature and regulation lags. The FAA is currently operating a number of drone testing sites around the nation and is expected to come up with regulation on the use of commercial drones.

If the president executes his planned push forward on drone regulation, we could see a wider, more diverse set of rules in place to manage the commercial and private use of the unmanned aircraft.

Drones, which are sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have the potential to shake up a number of markets. Amazon wants to use drones to deliver small packages to its customers, cutting down on shipping times and lessening one of the few remaining advantages that traditional brick-and-mortar stores maintain over their digital competition.

It isn’t immediately clear when the president intends to hit go on the executive order, but pressure from the private sector will certainly mount; for instance, Amazon has formally requested permission to test its drones.”

Facebook Peeing In TV’s Territory


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From Forbes:

“Mark Zuckerberg likes to use the first few minutes of his quarterly earnings calls to preview big themes that he sees as pivotal to Facebook’s future. With a particularly strong quarter of results in hand, Zuckerberg took the opportunity to sketch out a particularly ambitious goal: stealing market share from just about every other form of digital media, particularly television.

Facebook users in the U.S. spend about 40 minutes per day with the service on average. That statistic is usually cited as evidence of Facebook’s ubiquity, but Zuckerberg noted that Americans spend about nine hours a day with screen of all kinds. That’s exciting, he said, because of shows there’s a lot of room for growth. (…)

But there’s no doubt where most of the time would have to come from. As BTIG’s Rich Greenfield notes, television is still the incumbent, claiming 5 hours a day of the average person’s attention. With ears pricked, it was possible to detect numerous hints of a broader plan to go after TV’s share of mind and ad dollars.”

Twitter Releases Workforce Diversity Numbers: Expect The Expected


Sausage factory

Sausage fest…

From Mother Jones:

“Twitter today followed in the footsteps of Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Facebook by releasing statistics on the race and gender of its workforce. The company certainly deserves credit for voluntarily making its diversity stats public, unlike, say, Apple. “Like our peers, we have a lot of work to do,” Janet Van Huysse, its VP of diversity and inclusion, admits on the company blog. But perhaps that’s an understatement; Twitter actually lags far behind its peers on some key measures. For instance, only 1 out of every 10 Twitter tech employees is a woman (…).

In case you’re wondering, other large tech companies have significantly better gender diversity (though it’s still abysmal compared to professions such as law or medicine). At Facebook and Yahoo, 15 percent of tech workers are women. At Google and LinkedIn, it’s 17 percent. In 2010, Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News found that women held 24 percent of computer and mathematics jobs in Silicon Valley and 27 percent of those jobs nationally (though those categories may be broader than how they’re defined by leading tech companies, as Tasneem Raja explores in this great piece on America’s growing gap in tech literacy).

More MoJo coverage of diversity in tech.Silicon Valley Firms Are Even Whiter and More Male Than You ThoughtIs Coding the New Literacy?Charts: Tech’s Pipeline ProblemSilicon Valley’s Awful Race and Gender Problem in 3 Mind-Blowing ChartsUnlike its peers, Twitter can’t entirely blame its dearth of female coders on the talent pipeline: About 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. Instead, Van Huysse points to a slew of efforts to “move the needle” at Twitter, such as supporting the groups Girls Who Code and sf.girls and hosting “Girl Geek Dinners.” (…)

As other reporters have noted, major tech firms started releasing their workforce data shortly after I obtained a batch of Silicon Valley diversity figures from the Labor Department and began asking them for comment. But pressure to release the stats has also come from a campaign by Color of Change and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition, which have demanded the stats during a string of private meetings with Valley execs, and last week launched a Twitter-based campaign to urge Twitter to make its diversity numbers public. Strikingly, only 1 percent of Twitter’s tech workforce and 2 percent of its overall workforce is African-American (…).

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Colbert Disses Amazon, Amazon Sponsors Colbert


From Wall Street Journal:

“Television satirist Stephen Colbert over the past few weeks has pointed the finger – sometimes literally – at, blaming the retailer for unfairly dragging Hachette authors into its e-book pricing spat with the publishing house by limiting pre-orders or delaying delivery on many titles.

That has proved no deterrent to Amazon’s drive to promote its forthcoming Fire smartphone. The Seattle company ran an ad for the handset during the 30-minute show on Monday, right after a segment in which Colbert promised to “wipe the smirk right off [the Amazon] box’s face.” (…)

Colbert took credit for helping Lepucki’s debut book, “California,” rise to No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list, before acknowledging Amazon’s financial support. “Amazon is a sponsor of tonight’s show, so I accept your apology gentlemen,” said Colbert.

Colbert has been among the more outspoken critics of Amazon, at one point last month comparing Chief Executive Jeff Bezos to Lord Voldemort, the villain in the Harry Potter series. He has asked viewers to buy Lepucki’s book at independent bookstores.””

Glaad: Gay Characters In Drama and Action Flicks Can Be Counted On One Hand


From New York Times:

“In its annual assessment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters in Hollywood movies, Glaad on Tuesday said it could find only four significant L.G.B.T. characters in 43 action, science fiction and fantasy films monitored last year. By contrast, eight of 19 comedies, and five of 28 dramas had such characters, making the action/fantasy genre, by Glaad’s count, a weak spot for such diversity.

The studio review by Glaad, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, gave a favorable rating to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which included a gay character in its dance drama, “Battle of the Year.” But the group gave a failing grade to Paramount Pictures, for instance, for “the violent attacking of disposable gay male characters” in both “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Pain & Gain.””