Weekly output: Spotify privacy, Halo’s 5G-powered car service, Internet providers

Our kid was out this week at camp, but in a few days it will be my turn to be out of the house: I’m doing some of the drive testing for this year’s edition of PCMag.com’s Fastest Mobile Networks guide. Yes, on the road for actual business travel.

7/7/2021: At Spotify, private listening is not a simple proposition, USA Today

I’ve had the idea for a while of a column unpacking the inconsistent and often unhelpful privacy settings in Spotify, but the chance to interview a Spotify executive for the virtual edition of Dublin Tech Summit last month gave me quotes to anchor the piece.

Screenshot of the Fast Company story on Halo as seen on an iPad mini.7/8/2021: This driverless car-sharing service uses remote human ‘pilots,’ not AI, Fast Company

I was supposed to write this story last month about the Halo car service and its use of T-Mobile 5G to have remotely-driven vehicles show up before car-share customers. But then T-Mobile said they wanted to push the embargo back; that gave me time to get an industry analyst’s perspective and write an explainer for Patreon supporters about PR embargoes.

7/8/2021: Internet Providers, U.S. News & World Report

My latest round of work at U.S. News–consisting of profiles of AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, and Verizon; comparisons of Spectrum and AT&TComcast and AT&T, and Verizon and Spectrum; and guides to fiber broadband, cheaper Internet access, and ways to speed up your connection–was much more work than my previous efforts. That is mostly the fault of the many large Internet providers that show no interest in clearly displaying their prices, speeds and terms of service. Las Vegas hotels and their resort fees are models of transparency compared to this lot–although maybe I can’t be too cranky about their willful opacity, since it gave me the material for a USA Today column.

Weekly output: Scripps’ broadcast bet, AT&T CEO, Discovery downgrade, Betacom, ransomware lessons, Boost Mobile + DraftKings, exploding ISP prices

This month is ending in a flurry of deadlines, and I am profoundly grateful to have tomorrow as a day off to think about people who have had much harder jobs than me.

5/24/2021: Scripps CEO on why he’s bullish on OTA TV, FierceVideo

I talked to E.W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson about his ambitions for distributing the company’s new Newsy channel via old-school broadcast TV.

5/24/2021: AT&T’s Stankey defends WarnerMedia spinoff at J.P. Morgan event, FierceVideo

My editors at Fierce asked if I could fill in to cover some breaking news Monday, and the first result was this recap of AT&T’s CEO defending his decision to unwind the company’s expensive media strategy.

5/24/2021: MoffettNathanson disses Discovery with ratings downgrade, FierceVideo

I also filed this post on a clueful market-research firm’s pessimism about one apparent beneficiary of AT&T’s retreat from media.

5/25/2021: Betacom makes its private-wireless-network bid with $15M in funding, Light Reading

My other trade-pub client wanted me to cover a wireless-infrastructure firm’s pivot.

Screengrab of ransomware post5/26/2021: Why the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack is a sign of things to come, Fast Company

I spent a fair amount of the previous week watching panel discussions at the RSA Conference, and a series of talks about the ransomware plague at that information-security event yielded this piece.

5/27/2021: Boost Mobile bets on DraftKings as a partner, FierceWireless

FierceVideo’s sister publication requested my help in covering another bit of breaking news: an unusual marketing tie-in between an online sportsbook and an ambitious reseller of T-Mobile’s service.

5/30/2021: Buyer, beware: Internet providers may have ‘exploding prices’ after year one or two, USA Today

As I wrote to my editor when I filed this piece: “After I invoice USAT for this, I would like to invoice Comcast for pointing out their broken Web design.” It’s one thing to offer promotional prices that end after a set period of time, but it’s another to send a would-be customer on a dark-pattern detour to figure out what the real price will be after the new-subscriber honeymoon ends.

Weekly output: a 5G reality check, sports network fees without sports

Yesterday afforded us the rare privilege of several hours spent in a different part of the greater Washington area–Harpers Ferry. That historic town at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah is as picturesque they say, and it’s close enough that I have zero excuse not to have visited it before. On the other hand, it’s good that after 30-plus years around here I’m still discovering new places.

9/4/2020: Two promising 5G trends: $200 5G phones and unlimited home broadband, Fast Company

My coverage of the scaled-back IFA tech show got an unexpected boost when Qualcomm offered Fast Company a chance to quiz their president Cristiano Amon about their announcements at that event. I enjoyed my conversation with the executive I’d met IRL at an IFA reception last year, and I also appreciated getting some realistic talk about which parts of the 5G formula actually look to be mass-market material on a global scale.

9/6/2020: NBA, NHL, MLB fans sidelined: Will TV subscribers ever get money back after coronavirus shortened seasons?, USA Today

I wrote an update to the column I did in April that didn’t break an enormous amount of news–AT&T’s reply almost matched the one they provided then word-for-word. But I did get some more specific assurances from Comcast about when subscribers might get compensation for months of paying sports-network fees that have not brought anywhere near the usual quota of live sports.

Weekly output: Collision recap, YouTube TV rate hike, coronavirus antibody testing, data caps returning

I had an exceptionally low-key Fourth of July: My wife and I watched the flyover from our sidewalk, I cooked dinner on the grill, and after dining we watched the fireworks from a nearby street.

In addition to the stories below, Patreon readers got a post from me about that site’s confusing and vague presentation of possible sales taxes on membership fees.

6/30/2020: Collision from Home 2020 at a glance, IT World Canada

Lynn Grenier wrote a recap of panels at last week’s virtual conference that mentioned one of mine, making this the first and probably the last time I’m in the same story as Justin Trudeau.

6/30/2020: YouTube TV Now Costs Almost Twice What It Did Three Years Ago, Forbes

The headline wrote itself. I revised it a day later to note a smaller price hike at a competing service, FuboTV, and add a reminder to readers that they can watch PBS over the air for free.

7/1/2020: Here’s what it’s like to get a coronavirus antibody test, Fast Company

On this piece, the lede wrote itself.

7/1/2020: Data caps still alive as pledges from internet service providers expire, USA Today

Between the inability of the nation’s largest Internet provider to make up its mind, my own inattention, and USAT’s status as an online and print publication, this column has had a few iterations. First we updated it later Wednesday to add Comcast’s decision to reinstate and raise its data cap–a move made after that cable operator left its customers guessing after its previous pledge to suspend enforcement of that limit had expired. Then we revised the piece again to correct my own misspelling of somebody’s last name (yes, I managed to get “Smith” wrong because I typed in Cox spokesperson’s Todd Smith’s name and got a different Todd’s surname lodged between my brain and fingers at the time). Finally, the column as revised and extended ran in the July 2 print edition of USAT.

Weekly output: backup bandwidth for working from home, WFH advice, Twitter coronavirus rules, ISP data caps

The demolition of this spring’s business-travel schedule concluded Friday with the cancellation of the Geoint 2020 Symposium, a late-April conference in Tampa at which I was set to write up talks for the show daily as I did at last year’s event in San Antonio. This will hurt financially in a way that all of my other canceled conferences haven’t–those few days of deadline writing would have yielded a nice big check on top of the paid travel. Yet I feel like I can’t really complain when I look at how much uglier business has gotten for news organizations in just the past few weeks.

(Sorry if I’m getting you down. Please enjoy a picture of cherry blossoms, taken far from any crowds in D.C.)

3/16/2020: Working or learning from home: Telecoms give boost in bandwidth to keep us online, USA Today

I scrambled to write this Friday afternoon as telecoms began announcing moves to liberalize their data caps and other usage restrictions to accommodate all the Americans newly-forced to work or learn from home. Then I filed an update Saturday morning with news about two wireless carriers giving subscribers a lot more mobile-hotspot data.

3/18/2020: Confessions of a Work-from-Home Pro, Presidential Management Alumni Association

I still miss the Web chats I used to do for the Post, so I was happy to accept the invitation of this group for federal workers to do a group Zoom chat about the finer points of working from home. I hope I was able to help, although I don’t know if there are any great answers for people who live in small residences that don’t allow for much of a separate “work” area.

PMAA says they’ll post a recording of the session soon; when they do, I’ll add a link to it here it is.

3/20/2020: Twitter’s new coronavirus rules, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on via Skype to talk about Twitter’s new rules governing coronavirus disinformation. Although doing this remotely saved me a trip to the D.C. office, it also meant I struggled to hear the translator on top of the anchor; a couple of times, I had to hope I’d correctly heard his rendition of whatever she’d said in Arabic.

3/21/2020: The coronavirus might have just killed ISP data caps, Fast Company

I revisited the news I’d covered for USAT by asking several Internet providers and a few telecom analysts about the odds of now-waived data caps returning; the ISPs didn’t comment, but the analysts all agreed that they were most likely a coronavirus casualty that can’t be revived.

Updated 4/9/2020 to add a link to video of my session in PMAA’s wonderfully-named “Couchella” series. 

Weekly output: Comcast broadcast-TV fee hike, Starz app, Disney+ downloads, Ericsson mobile-broadband study, Opensignal video-quality study, Black Friday media-player deals, inactive Twitter accounts

Hello, December–as in, the month in which the only uncertainty left about my income for the year concerns which clients will not pay an outstanding invoice until after Dec. 31.

11/25/2019: Comcast readies another round of rate hikes, FierceVideo

I spent the first three mornings of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to write up breaking news. Comcast obliged me by prepping its latest in a long series of rate hikes–one topped by a nearly 50 percent increase in the broadcast-TV fee that didn’t even exist before 2015.

11/25/2019: Starz takes streaming-TV app overseas, FierceVideo

Monday didn’t have much else in the way of breaking video news, so I wrote up this international expansion of Starz’ streaming app.

11/26/2019: Disney+ mobile apps hit 15.5 million downloads: Report, FierceVideo

My editor at Fierce flagged the New York Post’s writeup of the news, which extrapolated from the app-download estimates of Apptopia to conclude that almost a million people were signing up for Disney+ a day. I’m glad I asked Apptopia for comment, because they declined to associate themselves with the Post’s assumptions.

11/26/2019: Ericsson study: video will eat 76% of mobile bandwidth in 2025, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new Ericsson forecast calling for a boom in streaming video–fueled by rapid adoption of 5G broadband.

11/27/2019: Opensignal study slams U.S. carriers’ streaming-video quality, FierceVideo

My first item Wednesday morning was an Opensignal study that gave streaming-video quality in the U.S. the equivalent of an F- and ranked us between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

11/27/2019: Streaming video players spotted less at early Black Friday sales, FierceVideo

The headline on this was supposed to read “Streaming video plays spotted for less.” I was also supposed to have Wednesday afternoon free after filing this, but I didn’t finish writing another post for a separate client (not yet posted) until 5 p.m.

11/28/2019: Inactive Twitter accounts, Al Jazeera

I took a short break from Thanksgiving cooking to pop in via Skype and discuss Twitter’s quickly-walked-back plans to start culling inactive accounts. Most of the questions from AJ’s host involved what Twitter should do for the accounts of deceased members, and I had to admit that it crazy for Twitter still not to have any policy for that.

Weekly output: Life as a journalist, data-cap calculations, FCC vs. net neutrality, “EC 261” flight-delay compensation

I got through this Thanksgiving without having to write a single gift-guide story. I can’t remember when I could last make that claim.

11/20/2017: EP 57 – What It’s Like To Be a Journalist in This Day and Age, The Lorne Epstein Show

I sat down in the studios of Arlington’s low-power FM station WERA in late August with Epstein and my fellow guest (and Washingtonian Tech Titan honoree) Tajha Chappellet-Lanier to talk shop about my profession. A little while later–Epstein is apparently better at working ahead of time than me–the show aired.

11/21/2017: Internet data caps: Why you end up busting them, USA Today

A reader’s e-mail about being puzzled by Cox telling her she’d exceeded its 1 terabyte data cap led me to revisit data caps and their essential unfairness.

11/21/2017: How the FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality affects you, Yahoo Finance

You can advance a respectable argument against net-neutrality rules by saying that ISPs have given up on trying to block or slow individual sites. Calling a repeal of those regulations on the behavior of corporations alone “restoring Internet freedom” is not that argument.

11/23/2017: Delayed in Europe? How EC 261 Services Can Get Airlines to Pay, The Points Guy

I’ve had this story on my to-do list since seeing AirHelp present at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2014. A year later, I finally tasked another company expert in the European Union’s “EC 261” flight-interruption regulation to get Lufthansa to compensate me for the hours-long delay that held up my return from IFA in 2012. The airline sent me a check last March, and then it took me another year and a half to sell a piece about it. That itself only happened when a TPG editor asked if I had other posts in mind after passing on one I’d thought to pitch after seeing a friend’s byline there.

Weekly output: 5G possibilities, Comcast-NBC revisited, switching to Windows, big-media serfdom, Face ID hack, online abuse

Good luck with your Thanksgiving family tech support, everybody!

11/13/2017: 5G’s Economic Prospects: Flexibility and Fuzziness, FierceWireless

Researching this piece about possible business models for 5G wireless helped inform me about story angles I’ll want to look into over the next few years. As with my past work for Fierce’s e-book bundles, you’ll have to cough up an e-mail address to read this one.

11/13/2017: Comcast + NBCUniversal Produces Mixed Bag, FierceCable

Disclosure: Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal has benefited me directly, in the form of Comcast PR inviting me to NBCUniversal movie screenings in D.C.

11/13/2017: How Apple sold me on buying a Windows laptop, Yahoo Finance

An angle I didn’t have room to address in this post: Windows 10’s “tablet mode” represents a long-delayed fulfillment of the promise of Windows XP’s watching-not-creating Media Center interface.

11/14/2017, Barry Diller says big media will be ‘serfs on the land’ of tech giants, Yahoo Finance

The media mogul’s pessimistic assessment of traditional media’s future was an easy sell from the Internet Association’s Virtuous Circle conference in San Francisco.

11/17/2017: You should still use the iPhone X’s Face ID even though hackers say they beat it, Yahoo Finance

I’ve written a few posts over the past year or two on the theme of “security nihilism”–the unhelpful belief of many infosec types that if a defensive measure can’t protect you from the most experienced and motivated attackers, then it’s worthless. Maybe this was more persuasive than the others?

11/16/2017: Technical and Human Solutions to Problematic Behaviors, Family Online Safety Institute

I moderated this panel at FOSI’s conference about ways to deal with people being jerks online. My thanks to TeenSafe’s Tracy Bennett, Verizon’s Ginelle Brown, Twitter’s Patricia Cartes and the Born This Way Foundation’s Rachel Martin for making me sound smarter on the subject on a day when I had to function on about four hours of sleep after a fuel leak forced my flight back from SFO to divert to Denver, after which I didn’t land at Dulles until after 1 a.m.

Weekly output: watching baseball online, broadband privacy, Apple secrecy, Comcast wireless, Tech Night Owl

This week saw me at two Opening Days: On Monday, I attended the Nats’ home opener, and today I kicked off the 2017 lawn-mowing season. In both cases, I’m worried we’re going to fade down the stretch.

4/3/2017: The cheapest way to watch baseball online, Yahoo Finance

For once, I had good things to say about the availability of sports programming online, thanks to many regional sports networks now showing up on services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now. Alas, the Nats’ Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is not among them.

4/5/2017: Broadband privacy, Al Jazeera

I talked about the swift, Republican-led dispatch of privacy regulations for the Arabic news network.

4/6/2017: How Apple’s secrecy can hurt consumers, Yahoo Finance

Apple’s unprecedented revelation of even broad details about the next Mac Pro and iMac kicked off this post about the unhelpful hangup many tech companies–no, not just Apple–have about keeping customers in the loop.

4/7/2017: The hidden details in Comcast’s wireless plan, USA Today

The amount of interest in Comcast’s upcoming Xfinity Mobile wireless service–which will run off Verizon’s network as well as Comcast’s network of WiFi hot spots–is remarkable, given that you’ll need to subscribe to Comcast Internet to use it. Also remarkable: how many details Comcast left out of its opening sales pitch for Xfinity Mobile. 

If you look at the comments, you’ll see a complaint from a reader that an accompanying chart didn’t list the correct price for Google’s Project Fi wireless service. That chart now lists the right rate–yes, I do try to read comments, and in this case I sent a quick note to my editors advising them of the error.

4/8/2017: April 8, 2017 — John Martellaro and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I returned to this podcast for the first time since August (had it really been that long?) to talk about Apple’s tepid gesture at transparency, Xfinity Mobile, and the state of broadband privacy and competition.