Monthly Archives October 2015

Telus introduces free Wi-Fi to Vancouver

telus-logoThe City of Vancouver, in a special partnership with Telus, has launched six free Wi-Fi hotspots across the metropolitan centre as part of its Digital Strategy program.

Although associated with Telus, you do not have to be a Telus or subsidiary customer in order to access the hotspots: #VanWiFi, as it’s been dubbed, is open to anyone. The only difference for Telus users is, they will automatically connect and start saving their data, whereas everyone else can connect through a splash page.

It’s not the first program of its kind. Telus has established free hotspots to several 7-Eleven locations in B.C. and Alberta.

The first six locations are Mount Pleasant Community Centre, Champlain Heights Community Centre, Coal Harbour Community Centre, Roundhouse Community Centre, Langara Golf Course Club House, and Fraserview Gold Course Club House. Not near those parts of town often? Not to worry. Telus will be rolling out more locations in the next couple of weeks. These include Creekside Community Recreation Centre, The Gathering Place, Trout Lake Community Centre, and The McCleery Golf Course Club House.

*Source: Mobile Syrup

Apple Tests Carrier Billing

apple logoApple is dipping its toes in the waters of carrier billing, changing the ways it charges customers for apps, music, and other services in Germany. In the near future, German customers will be able to pay for their iTunes and App Store purchases through their mobile phone bill.

This is beneficial for customers who want to take advantage of Apple’s services without using their credit card in another online account. Instead of entering an Apple ID and password when making a purchase, users will only have to enter their phone numbers and their bills will subsequently be charged. Carrier billing will also be available to German customers who use Apple Music.

If you’re a German Apple customer and you don’t want to make the switch the carrier billing, that’s fine too. The original account format is still available. This is simply giving users more options, similar to Google Play, which has been supporting carrier billing through Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T for years.

TechCrunch reports that carrier billing will be available in Germany within the next month, with no word on if or when it will be available in other countries.

MasterCard Rolls Out Gadget Payment

mastercard paymentsCredit card company MasterCard is working with diverse innovators to launch a program that would make mobile payments possible from any device. The technology – announced this week in Las Vegas – works with gadgets as unsuspecting as a GM car key fob.

MasterCard plans to bring mobile payments to “a wide array of consumer products across the automotive, fashion, technology wearables and yet-to-be-imagined categories,” stated a story in Top Tech News.

The program is supported by technology from NXP Qualcomm, and “puts in place a standard for expanding secure contactless and embedded payment options globally,” said MasterCard.

Mobile payment is becoming an increasingly important service, especially for people who travel. Whether it be work or pleasure, convenience and ease is important. MasterCard hopes to enable 50 billion devices to its “payment by any device” program by 2020.

The program is expected to be available for consumer devices in the United States in 2016, with other global markets to follow.

Complaints Lead to $170,000 Fine

CRTC Wireless CodeHere at Schooley Mitchell complaints are nothing new. We hear them about poor telecom services and vendors all the time! One of the most annoying things that continues to plague families is receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls. They always seem to come at the most inopportune time, like when you are sitting down to dinner or have your hands full.

In Canada, two home improvement companies are facing hefty fines for doing just that – calling residents who had registered their phone numbers on the national Do Not Call List (DNCL). The rules state that once someone signs up on the list, all unsolicited communications must cease, except for calls from a few groups including charities, political parties, and businesses you’ve worked with within the last 18 months. However, Canadian Choice Home Improvements Inc. and Le Groupe Hydro Hvac Inc. ignored all of that, resulting in $170,000 in fines.

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), neither company registered or subscribed to the DNCL. Both called residential numbers on the list, and Le Groupe Hydro Hvac also called existing customers who had registered on its own internal do not call list.

Canadian Choice Improvements faced the heftiest fine, paying $140,000. The company has now decided to cease all telemarketing efforts in the future. Le Groupe Hydro’s portion was $30,000 and it has agreed to institute a compliance program moving forward to ensure history does not repeat itself.

Hundreds of complaints

Since the DNCL launched in 2008, nearly 13 million phone numbers have been added, with over $6.5 million in fines collected in violations to date. It doesn’t matter if the company itself or a third-party firm is making the calls on its behalf, or if the calls originate in Canada.

“Canadians play an important role in our investigations of unwanted telemarketing calls by providing clear and complete information when filing a complaint. In this case, their information assisted us in bringing these two companies to conform to the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules,” said Manon Bombardier, CRTC chief compliance and enforcement officer, in a press release. “Today’s announcement is another reminder to all telemarketers that compliance with the rules is not optional.”

The CRTC will continue to enhance its monitoring program and encourages consumers to report any nuisance calls they may receive.

Introducing Instagram’s new Boomerang app

Instagram BoomerangThe team at Instagram has launched a new app for for iOS and Android called Boomerang. The idea is simple – on Boomerang users can shoot a one-second burst of five photos. The stream of photos is then played both forwards and backwards on a constant loop. Users can then share their creation on Instagram and Facebook.

To use Boomerang, you don’t have to have an existing Instagram account or create a unique login for the application. Boomerang does not yet have its own feed.

Boomerang is not the only standalone app created by Instagram. It has previously released Hyperlapse and Layout for time-lapses and collages, respectively. This helps it compete with other teen-focused social media outlets like Snapchat and Vine.

“It was something we built just for fun for us to play with as a team,” Instagram product manager John Barnett told TechCrunch. But after the whole of Instagram fell in love with the app, they realized it was worth releasing publically.

Barnett also has a tip for Boomerang users. “Babies are really, really fun with Boomerang.”

Apple Music reaches 15 million users

apple-musicApple Music has ballooned to 15 million users in the mere four months since its launch on June 30. Currently there are 6.5 million paying subscribers and 8.15 million people have signed up for the 90-day free trial. To put that in perspective, Apple Music already has a third of the amount of competitor Spotify’s users, even though Spotify has been in the music streaming business for seven years.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the new user figures at a conference in Laguna Beach. The first numbers were announced after the first wave of free-trials ended in September.

According to an article in the LA Times, FRB & Co. analyst Daniel Ives thinks Apple Music is off to a “solid start” and that he would “characterize this initial stage of the launch as a ‘triple’ in the streaming ballgame.” Ives also said he thinks that Apple Music could hit 20 million subscribers within a year of the launch.

“A year from now, if Apple keeps going on this trajectory, Spotify’s going to be looking over their shoulders,” Ives added.

Spotify isn’t hurting too badly yet. The Sweden-based company is worth $8 billion, and attracts users by offering a free, ad-based service that can be upgraded with a paid subscription. CEO Daniel Ek said at an industry event in Canada during September that Spotify was actually getting a boost from the attention Apple brought to online streaming. Like Apple Music, Spotify charges $9.99 a month for unlimited access to its song libraries.

Google Maps adds stops, gas prices

GoogleAt long last Google is providing its Maps users with an update that will make traveling a little easier: now you’ll be able to add stops along the way to your destination and check the latest gas prices.

Being able to enter multiple destinations en route is a highly anticipated feature among loyal Google Maps users. To access it from navigation mode, tap on a magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner of the screen.

A menu will drop down showing several options including gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores and more. If what you are looking for isn’t among the given categories, the final option is to search for more places. This feature will be accessible via voice command, making it safer to use while driving.

This update is seen as somewhat of a functionality increase for Google Maps. How many people drive directly to their location when traveling far enough to need a map or GPS? There are usually coffee stops, gas stations and bathroom breaks. Getting from place-to-place without this flexibility is not realistic.

Speaking of reality, Google has also added a little bonus. Now, when you adjust your route to include a gas station, you will be able to check gas prices ahead of time. At this time, the update is only available for Android, with no word yet of when iOS users will be included. Google Maps for Android will be updated within the coming weeks.

*Source: TechCrunch

Schooley Mitchell lawsuit watch: 911 challenge

emergency 911In this week’s Schooley Mitchell Lawsuit Watch, we bring you news of a $214 million storm brewing on the east coast over 911 system fees.

It’s the latest legal challenge filed by Alabama-based company Phone Systems Recovery, this time alleging Massachusetts phone companies are pocketing emergency call system fees instead of handing them over to the government.

According to a Boston Globe article, the lawsuit was filed in Superior Court based using whistle-blower statutes. The company that filed on behalf of the state stands to receive a portion of the settlement if successful.

Phone System Recovery president Roger Schneider alleges telcos are purposefully undercharging their large clients to skirt the fees owed to the state by underestimating the landlines in use. The Massachusetts lawsuit is just the latest: the company has filed a similar suit in Pennsylvania too.

In our experience, it’s much more likely that businesses are being overcharged for their telecom than undercharged, so it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit pans out.

Bell faces $1.25M fine for fake reviews

bellBell Canada is facing a $1.25 million fine after company employees were caught downloading its free apps and posting above-average ratings and reviews online.

The penalty, handed down by the Canadian Competition Bureau, also included an order for Bell to “enhance and maintain its corporate compliance program, with a specific focus on prohibiting the rating, ranking or reviewing of apps in app stores by employees and contractors.”

The activities date back to late 2014 when the Competition Bureau says Bell employees were encouraged to download two free apps, MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account, from iTunes or the Google Play Store. Employees were subsequently asked to give positive reviews without disclosing they work for Bell. The company took down the reviews once the Bureau became aware of the situation that December.

In the aftermath of this scandal, Bell will also sponsor a workshop to promote and examine trust in the digital economy and the integrity of online reviews.

“I am pleased that Bell Canada demonstrated leadership to fully resolve the Competition Bureau’s concerns in this matter,” Commissioner of Competition John Pecman, was quoted as saying in a Financial Post article. “I commend the shared compliance approach taken by Bell to resolve this matter, which will benefit both consumers and the digital marketplace.”

Is sharing your Netflix password piracy?

netflix logoBecause there’s no real limit on how many devices that a Netflix account can be accessed from non-simultaneously, it’s not a big deal to share your password with a friend, right? The millions of people enjoying premium, free video content on streaming services by using shared passwords seem to think it’s an OK practice.

Netflix recently announced it is raising its price from $8.99 to $9.99 a month for the plan that allows more than one device to stream content at the same time. This news was negatively received from many binge-watchers, but Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry suggests that password sharing may be the root problem.

“We believe a targeted price change like this is designed to reduce excessive password sharing by incentivizing users to switch to the one-screen plan,” Terry wrote in a note to investors.

The single screen plan costs $7.99 per month. Despite this insight, Netflix and HBO executives deny that password sharing is an issue to their companies.

A Netflix spokesperson said, in an email to MarketWatch, that it doesn’t keep track of the revenue lost to password sharing. However, the terms and conditions on the website strongly warn against the practice.

Glenn Hower, a research analyst at Parks Associates, says that in a multibillion dollar industry, password sharing is “not quite as big of a deal as it could be.” He suggests that the industry will probably lose about $500 million in 2015 to password sharing. Hower calls the act of password sharing “piracy lite.”

Although some may not take the practice of password sharing too seriously, that’s not the case everywhere. In Tennessee, for example, it is outlawed under a web entertainment theft law passed in 2011. Anyone caught sharing their logins could face a year in jail or a fine of $2,500.