Two Quarters on Defender (and Telehealth)

imagesTwo nights ago, I rolled up summer, somewhat literally. June and July saw particularly rainy months in the Washington region, particularly on weekends, which meant that my plans to unfurl the tent were always deferred the weather. I finally managed to get some camping in two weekends ago, and last Saturday night saw the tent pitched again, this time in the backyard where a half-dozen boys marked the last free weekend before school begins tomorrow. On Sunday evening, while some remnants of the previous evening’s campfire were being recycled in the smoker, I did my best to tightly roll a 17′ x 10′ tent into a bag barely longer than a yardstick. And with each blade of grass and and bit of dirt that rolled up with it, the summer glided to its natural, if not too-soon, end.

The title of this post refers to a summertime practice of a time that I was about the age of the backyard campers – biking about seven blocks to Cochran’s Drugs and playing Defender, widely considered to be one of the best video arcade games of that era. Prospective players secured their place in line by placing a quarter on the console, two if you were about to challenge a friend (a commentary on the Internet – when I googled, “Cochran’s drugs,” the results reported the arrest of a Congressional staffer for possession of meth). I was reminded of “Defender days” by this article from Motherboard which describes convention for arcade fans and features hundreds of games brought in by collectors (for a great retro flash, view this video of “Starcade,” a TV game show based on . . . arcade games). Read more

Somewhere, Emily Post is Not Well Pleased….

Emily Post spent the vast majority of her 87 years instructing the ill-mannered and the boorish how to behave in polite society. At the time of her 1960 passing, the mobile telecommunications devices that we have become so enamored of were still decades away.

If Emily Post had ever used a cellphone, she would have done so politely.

If Emily Post had ever used a cellphone, she would have done so politely.

Pew Research Center has recently examined Americans’ beliefs about mobile etiquette. Suffice to say, the results would have upset Mrs. Post greatly.

Pew finds that 77% of American adults believe it’s “generally OK” to use a cellphone while walking down the street. (Apparently, these same folks believe it’s “generally OK” to walk head-on into innocent bystanders.) Seventy-six percent believe it’s acceptable to use a cellphone on public transportation, and 74% while waiting in line.

The numbers shrink considerably where more intimate social situations are concerned. Only 12% believe it to be acceptable to use a mobile device at a family dinner, 5% at a meeting, 5% in a movie theater, and 4% at church or worship services. (So why is it that those 5% seem to consistently attend the very same movies as I do?)

While 89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended, a large number of these individuals justified their actions by noting that they used their cellphone in a manner tied to the gathering. For example, 45% used their phone to post a picture they had taken of the gathering; 41% shared something that had occurred in the group; 38% got information they thought would be interesting to the group; and 31% connected with people who are known to the group. Read more

Post Office, Sprint Try Something New (But Not Together)


In the spirit of Cliff Clavin, the first drink is “on me” if you can identify what is special about this post.

In case you missed it . . . Sprint became the third major wireless provider to turn away from two-year contracts and will instead require customers to either purchase or lease their phones. Sprint’s announcement came only days after Verizon unveiled a series of new plans in which phones will no longer be subsidized in exchange for a two-year contract. Instead, customers will be able to pay a monthly fee toward the purchase of the phone. T-Mobile has operated under a similar model for several years, leaving AT&T the last bastion of the subsidized smart phone.

Sprint is also tapping into a population of Apple devotees, offering the “iPhone Forever” plan which for $22 per month will permit customers to upgrade to the latest iPhone each year when it becomes available (as a staid Blackberry user, I respect the interests of Apple fans but nevertheless marvel that Sprint can offer a plan built solely around the need to have latest iPhone) (and I say that as I await the Blackberry Venice . . .).

Verizon has stated that its “no contract” model simplifies account management for consumers. Arguably, it also simplifies matters for the carrier by cutting the subsidization factor out of the picture and structuring some phone purchases as an installment plan. It also shifts a greater proportion of phone cost to the customer. A retrospective view of the industry could argue that subsidies were necessary to build large bases of customers who, once captured and acclimated to (if not nearly dependent on) wireless services would then be reluctant to relinquish the benefits of mobile services. Read more

We’re Number Deux! We’re Number Deux!

What does the average U.S. Netflix streaming speed in July have in common with the 2014 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team?

Give up? Both came in second place to Canada.

2014 canada

Netflix’s recently released July ISP speed index shows that the average prime time streaming speed in the U.S. was 3.2 Mbps, slightly below the 3.29 Mbps speed north of the border.

The Netflix index measures average Netflix streaming speeds across all devices during prime time.

In the U.S., Cox finished atop the standings, with an average speed of 3.62 Mbps. Cablevision-Optimum was second at 3.59 Mbps, and Verizon FiOs third at 3.54 Mbps. The positions of these three were unchanged from June.

Charter moved up two places from June, averaging 3.46 Mbps in July. Comcast dropped one spot to fifth (3.45 Mbps), Bright House was up one spot to sixth (3.42 Mbps), and Suddenlink dropped two positions to 7th (3.42 Mbps.)

The top half of the Netflix ISP speed index was dominated by cable providers, while DSL carriers tended to be lower down in the standings. All of the DSL carriers came in below the U.S. average. Read more

The Godfather and Smart Ag

newspaper-insertsI started this post in Wyoming, and on the way to editing it wove in material from an article that would appear in the Wall Street Journal several days later. So, while I hit “publish” in DC, this post had it origins about 2,000 miles away. 

(Teton County, WY) Periodically, I remind my children that there was a time before the Internet, before cell phones, before iPads. But, their perceptions can be understood, since all of the technological advantages they take for granted preexisted their entry into the world. By contrast, my mental hiccup the other evening cannot be excused.

If you’ve seen “The Godfather,” you might remember the scene in which Michael Corleone learns from a newspaper of the attempt on his father Vito’s life. My first mental reaction was to remember (academically, really, not personally) how late-breaking news was dispatched through late editions before we received updates on our phones; my second, clearly disassociated reaction was, “Why didn’t anyone call him?”

Yes, I asked myself why no one called Michael Corleone on his cell phone in 1945. Read more

A Portrait of Non-Adopters

Despite extensive efforts to increase broadband use among non-adopters, a stubborn 15% of the population remains off-line—a number that has remained virtually unchanged for the past three years.

Pew Research Center has released results of a new study that looks at the composition of this 15%. Some of the results are surprising, others not so much.

Among the genders, Pew finds that men and women are equal—15% of each are not Internet users. Along racial/ethnic lines, 20% of blacks are non-users, as are 18% of Hispanics, 14% of whites and 5% of Asians.

In the “knock me over with a feather” department, a substantially greater percentage of older Americans are non-Internet users than younger Americans. Only 3% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 do not use the Internet, compared with 6% of those 30 to 49, 19% of those 50 to 64, and 39% of those 65 and older.

In terms of average income levels, 25% of households earning less than $30,000 annually are non-users, as are 14% of those earning $30,000 to $49,999, 5% of those between $50,000 and $74,999, and 3% of those at $75,000 and higher. Similarly, with respect to educational attainment, 33% of those with less than a high school education are non-Internet users, compared to 23% of those with a high school diploma, 9% of those with some college, and 4% of those with a college degree. Read more

Rural Values Highlighted at White House Conference


Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA (far left), moderates, “Attracting Institutional Capital to Rural and Agricultural Assets.” From left: Ashley Allen, i2 Capital; Robert Engel, CoBank; Bruce Schlein, Citi; Greg Williamson, American Red Cross.

Yesterday, the White House Rural Council hosted the Second Annual Rural Opportunity Investment Conference. I am still kicking myself for not having brought a proper camera and instead relying on my phone, but hopefully the images attached to this post will convince you that I was actually there, in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

The attendance list featured various Federal offices, including USDA, Treasury, and the EPA; private capital such as Citi and Rembrandt, Inc.; and academic interests including Georgetown University and the Rural Policy Research Institute. The goal of the program was to encourage private capital to invest in rural areas, and the perspectives of various panelists and other speakers was informative. Representatives of the private investment community acknowledged opportunities, and lower default rates, in rural areas, but supposed that investors would “give up yield for familiarity.” They explained reluctance to invest where the opportunities lack “institutionalized markets” and are fragmented. In his closing remarks, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack responded to reluctance by observing, “Where I come from, a million bucks is a lot of money,” and noted that (and more) can be earned by investing in rural areas.  Read more

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