Saturday, October 15, 2011

What about Competition? The Case of AT&T vs the US Justice Department


Hello everyone!  It's been a while since I posted, so I thought I'd share a paper I wrote a few weeks ago about AT&T's bid to buy out T-Mobile. 


Earlier this past week the US Justice Department sued the telecommunications giant AT&T in an effort to block their purchase of T-Mobile USA, which is currently owned by parent company Deutsche Telekom.[1] AT&T’s plan to buy T-Mobile raises interesting questions that must be examined; the biggest one being would this buyout cause a loss of competition with only three mobile carriers instead of four?

Currently the four largest mobile carriers in the United States are AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.[2]  Had the Justice Department not blocked AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile, the elimination of a competitor would potentially harm consumers and other interested parties, such as developers and VoIP carriers.  The Justice Department argues that “…the proposed deal, which would join the nation’s second- and fourth-largest wireless phone carriers, would result in higher prices and give consumers fewer innovative products.”[3]  Consumer advocacy groups also echoed the argument by saying that because of T-Mobile’s low cost strategy, they are the key to keeping affordable mobile packages across the board.[4] By taking T-Mobile out of competition, says the consumer advocacy groups, AT&T will cause prices to rise and provide customers with fewer choices[5]and “thereby turn the cellular market into a duopoly controlled by AT&T and Verizon.”[6]

In an analysis of AT&T’s proposal to buy T-Mobile, Yankee Group backs the Justice Department’s argument that the buyout does indeed hurt consumers. The group states that “in several major markets AT&T’s share of overall subscribers would exceed 50%, creating concentration levels among the remaining providers that would drive prices higher for all consumers.”[7]  As a result of this higher market concentration, Yankee Group says there “would be an increase in the average bill in many major markets, in some cases in excess of $5 a month by 2015.”[8]

To answer the question if competition is good for the customer, the evidence is pointing to an answer of yes.  It appears that the more competition there is in the market, the better the price and choice that are available for customers.  AT&T’s plans bring up another interesting point about how their purchase would affect third party developers and VoIP providers.

To put things in perspective, James Stewart, of the New York Times, examined AT&T’s market share across major markets using the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI).[9]  This index is “derived from the common-sense principle that the more competitors in a market, the lower the prices and the greater the innovation. In short, more competitors means more competition, which benefits consumers.”[10]  With this being said, Stewart found that AT&T would have close to, if not more, than the majority of the markets in their grasp; Seattle being a 53.2 percent concentration for the company.[11]  

With AT&T having the potential to further dominate the market, they could theoretically develop new technology in-house or acquire third party developers.  This would, again, limit consumers and businesses with choices.  One could argue that third party developers would have to comply with AT&T standards when developing new technologies.  If third parties have to implement AT&T standards for their technologies, compatibility issues could force T-Mobile customers into buying new mobile devices, or services, at higher prices.  Since AT&T also provides internet services, pricing, again, will increase, but an even more important issue arises and it’s that of net neutrality, which could affect not only customers, but VoIP providers as well.

According to PC Magazine, net neutrality is a “level playing field for Internet transport. It refers to the absence of restrictions or priorities placed on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs that run the major backbones. It states that all traffic be treated equally; that packets are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless from where they originated or to where they are destined.”[12] With AT&T eliminating T-Mobile as a competitor, T-Mobile would not have a chance to further develop its internet services.  Currently, if you look at AT&T’s website, att.com, and T-Mobile’s website, t-mobile.com, their internet offerings appear to be in various stages of development.  AT&T’s UVerse offers high speed internet, cable and voice[13] while T-Mobile’s internet package is fairly non-existent with the exception of their Wi-Fi network.[14] What this means for AT&T is that they have the potential to further erode net neutrality with one less competitor to worry about.  This sentiment is mirrored by Erik Sherman of BNET when he states, “…carriers have already effectively killed the idea of net neutrality by getting the FCC to agree that it shouldn’t apply to wireless because it was a growing industry.”[15]  This leads to VoIP carriers.

VoIP, or Voice over IP, converts “analog audio signals, like the kind you hear when you talk on the phone, and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet.”[16] By using VoIP, a person can effectively make free phone calls using the internet and cut telecommunication companies, like AT&T, out of the loop.[17] Now, if AT&T bought T-Mobile, they would have the ability to further compete with VoIP carriers, such as Vonage.  The interesting twist to this is, with fewer competitors in the market, AT&T could impose restrictions on their internet framework by decreasing the access speed to VoIP providers, forcing customers to switch over if they want better quality VoIP services at higher prices.

In closing, the Justice Department made the correct choice of blocking AT&T’s plan to buy T-Mobile.




References
Going deep on AT&T-T-Mobile merger: How will it really impact wireless competition? (2011). TMCnet.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2011/08/22/5722088.htm

Net Neutrality. (2011). PCMAG.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=Net+neutrality&i=55962,00.asp

Stewart, J. (2011).  Antitrust Suit Is Simple Calculus.  New York Times.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/business/att-and-t-mobile-merger-is-a-textbook-case.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&t&sq=at&st=cse&scp=5

UVerse High Speed Internet. (2011) AT&T.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.att.com/shop/internet/#fbid=vpI-Lb-cdIc

Sherman, E. (2011).  AT&T Wants Ma Bell Back, but It’s Not Happening… and That’s a Good Thing.  BNET.com. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.bnet.com/blog/technology-business/at-t-wants-ma-bell-back-but-its-not-happening-8230-and-thats-a-good-thing/12616

T-Mobile Hot Spot. (2011). T-Mobile.com. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.tmobile.com/shop/addons/services/information.aspx?PAsset=InternetEmail&tp=Svc_Tab_HotSpot

United States v AT&T INC., T-Mobile USA INC., and Deutsche Telekom AG Case 1:11-cv-01560 August 31, 2011

Valdez, R. & Roos D. (2001). How VoIP Works. How Stuff Works.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://communication.howstuffworks.com/ip-telephony.htm

Wyatt, R. (2011).  U.S. Moves to Block Merger Between AT&T and T-Mobile.  New York Times.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/technology/us-moves-to-block-merger-between-att-and-t-mobile.html?pagewanted=1&t&sq=at&st=cse&scp=9


[1] Wyatt, R. (2011).  U.S. Moves to Block Merger Between AT&T and T-Mobile.  New York Times.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/technology/us-moves-to-block-merger-between-att-and-t-mobile.html?pagewanted=1&t&sq=at&st=cse&scp=9
[2] United States v AT&T INC., T-Mobile USA INC., and Deutsche Telekom AG Case 1:11-cv-01560 August 31, 2011, P.3
[3] Wyatt, R. (2011).  U.S. Moves to Block Merger Between AT&T and T-Mobile.  New York Times.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/technology/us-moves-to-block-merger-between-att-and-t-mobile.html?pagewanted=1&t&sq=at&st=cse&scp=9
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7]Going deep on AT&T-T-Mobile merger: How will it really impact wireless competition? (2011). TMCnet.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2011/08/22/5722088.htm
[8] Going deep on AT&T-T-Mobile merger: How will it really impact wireless competition? (2011). TMCnet.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2011/08/22/5722088.htm
[9]Stewart, J. (2011).  Antitrust Suit Is Simple Calculus.  New York Times.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/business/att-and-t-mobile-merger-is-a-textbook-case.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&t&sq=at&st=cse&scp=5
[10] Ibid
[11] Ibid
[12] Net Neutrality. (2011). PCMAG.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=Net+neutrality&i=55962,00.asp
[13] UVerse High Speed Internet. (2011) AT&T.com.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.att.com/shop/internet/#fbid=vpI-Lb-cdIc
[14] T-Mobile Hot Spot. (2011). T-Mobile.com. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.tmobile.com/shop/addons/services/information.aspx?PAsset=InternetEmail&tp=Svc_Tab_HotS
[15] Sherman, E. (2011).  AT&T Wants Ma Bell Back, but It’s Not Happening… and That’s a Good Thing.  BNET.com. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.bnet.com/blog/technology-business/at-t-wants-ma-bell-back-but-its-not-happening-8230-and-thats-a-good-thing/12616
[16] Valdez, R. & Roos D. (2001). How VoIP Works. How Stuff Works.  Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://communication.howstuffworks.com/ip-telephony.htm
[17] Ibid

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who Really Owns Your Mortgage?

After hearing the news the other day about the Federal Housing Finance Agency preparing lawsuits against some of the country's largest banks, which you can read here and here. I was perusing the interwebs and came across this segment on YouTube about a family who was foreclosed on, evicted, and then broke into their house as a result of the practices of mortgage lenders/originators.   Below is the video and it makes me really wonder, who really owns your home?  With what is discussed in the clip, could this also hold true for other types of loans?  What's your two cents?

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I'm Currently Listening To: end.user "Keep Telling"

I first came across end.user a few months ago and have been a fan ever since. When I first started to get into the electronica scene there have been an extremely small amount of artists that have wow'd and influenced me.  Those being Massive Attack, DJ Krush, The Starseeds, Thievery Corporation, and Scorn (another recent favorite).  And if you're wondering, yes I'm a downtempo/trip-hop fan.

Name dropping aside, the artists just mentioned are those that I just can't stop listening to.  They're unique and, for the most part, keep raising the bar.  This is how I also feel about end.user.  His music is so diverse that I can't wait for the next song to come along just so I can hear what he's created.  I really dislike having to pigeonhole what genre an artist is, but the only way I can describe end.user's sound is a mix of d'n'b, jungle, dubstep, and downtempo all with an industrial flavor added here and there.  It's engaging stuff and the track I can't stop listening to at the moment is "Keep Telling" off of the release "Form without Function"



For more end.user goodies, check out these links:
http://sonicterror.pressplatform.com/
http://www.facebook.com/sonicterror
http://www.last.fm/music/enduser
http://www.myspace.com/enduser

If you like it, pass it along and help support end.user.

Don't forget to bookmark, subscribe and follow.

Until next post...

Monday, August 1, 2011

What you Might Not Know About Your Copying Machine.

OK, I'm going to admit, I'm about a year late on this, but thanks to a friend that shared this clip on copying machines, my interest is piqued.  Rule of thumb, if you're getting rid of any technology, make sure hard drives are wiped, removed and destroyed before selling/donating/junking.



I'm curious as to what the free forensic software is that's mentioned in the video.  Anyone out there know?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Playing around with iNudge

The other day a friend posted a link to iNudge saying that it was a pretty good music creation tool.  I was instantly interested and started to play around with the application and here are my impressions.

iNudge is super easy to use.  It reminds me of a combination of an extremely stripped down old version of Fruity Loops, where song programming was more or less done in a step sequencer, and a monome in a 16x16 grid layout.

The way the interface is broken down is pretty self explanatory.  On the very far right is a column of 8 tabs which are your available instruments.  They consist of 7 various keyboard/synths and the very bottom tab is the drum section.  With the exception of the drums, the instruments have no "note" indication.  The drums contain, from top to bottom: Crash Cymbal (CR), Timbales (TI), Bongos (BO), Tom High(TH), Tom Middle 2 (TM2), Tom Middle 1 (TM1), Tom Low (TL), High Hat Open (HO), High Hat Closed 2 (HC2), High Hat Closed 1 (HC1), Clap (CL), Snare 3 (SN3), Snare 2 (SN2), Snare 1 (SN1), Bass Drum 2 (BD2), Bass Drum 1 (BD1).

In the very bottom right corner of the iNudge interface are two buttons: play/pause and volume.  Everything mentioned up to this point is the very basic look and feel of the application.  This is perfect for just playing around and, speaking in general, is geared toward those with zero music background.

Now, if you want to get a little more our of iNudge, there's a button at the bottom of the interface that says "MORE."  By clicking the button it opens up a few other options.

To the right you'll see a big "+." Click on the plus sign if you want another bar of music.  If you do, you'll see "-" under the plus sign.  Click on the minus sign if you'd like make your song a bar shorter.  Tip:  When you click on the plus sign it copies everything from the previous bar, so if you want to create a new melody, or drum beat, you have to clear the patterns out of the newly added bar and then go from there.

Speaking of copying, at the top of the interface, you'll see clear/copy/cut/paste commands and right below that you have a little button that allows you to copy "ALL" or "SELECTED" (which is the section of music).

Below the step sequencer is your timeline of your song and there's a rectangle that you click and drag to bring you to a section you would like to view.  There is also a position marker that you can also click and drag to a specific point in your song.

Beneath the timeline is the "LESS" button which brings you back to the simple interface that you originally started out with.  Next to that button is the volume for the instrument so you can adjust how loud it is in the mix.  There's also a mute button for the instrument. It's a little dot right below the volume "knob."  Next to the instrument volume know is the pan knob.  This allows you to shift the sound of the instrument left or right in the stereo field. Next to that is the instrument name, then the CLR button, which clears the current pattern.  Finally at the bottom right is the tempo button, the volume knob for the entire song and the play/pause button. To use the tempo button, click and drag your mouse up and down to change the tempo of the song.  The minimum tempo is 60 beats per minute (bmp) and the make is 180 bpm.  That's everything you need to know about iNudge.

Overall, this is a cool little toy to play with if you're not very musically inclined.  If you do have a background in music, it's very limiting.

iNudge is limiting in the following ways:


  1. You're stuck in a 16th note only step sequencer.  There is no way to play anything beyond 8th note patterns.  No support for quarter notes, triplets, sub 16th note divisions, or the ability to tie notes.
  2. There is no way to stop the song from looping.
  3. The drum instruments are a bit flat and weak.  If you want your bass drum to have a little punch, layer it with the low tom (TL).  Snare drums aren't the greatest either.
  4. You can't compose anything slower than 60 bpm or faster than 180bpm, so you won't be making that super slow downtempo tune and you won't be making any speedcore either.


Things I would like to see:

  1. A couple of basic effects such as reverb and delay to add a bit of depth to the song 
  2. An EQ that's basic and easy to use.  A bass and treble knob would do the trick
  3. The ability to use more notes such as quarter notes, triples, etc.
  4. Better drum samples.
  5. A way to save the music as .mp3 or .WAV files
I understand that iNudge is geared toward easy music creation and I think a little bit of the the above additions couple make things more interesting.

Just for fun, here's something simple I threw together.  I think you might even be able to play around with it too.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

What I'm Currently Listening To: Defeated Sanity "Chapters of Repugnance"

Time for another dose of what's been polluting the airwaves at the Decode Transmission super secret hideout.

The band making waves over here is Defeated Sanity.  Metal heads will probably eat this band up, but if you're not a metal fan or an eclectic music fan venturing out listening to new things, this won't be your cup of tea.

I was bored one evening and decided to look through Williowtip Record's site for some interesting bands and decided to give Defeated Sanity a spin.  Result with my first outing with the band: It felt like being hit in the chest with a sledgehammer and I enjoyed every second of their album "Chapters of Repugnance."  With all the technical death metal bands out there, it's great to hear some straight up brutal death metal thrown into the mix.  Vo-kill duties on this release is A.J. Magana and you can hear him channeling Frank Mullen of Suffocation, only more guttural.  The sound of this album is just so dense that you can feel it.  Riffs are top notch as well as the drumming.  Germany certainly has created a monster.  Fans of Suffocation, Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia and the rest of the NY Death Metal scene should check these guys out because it has that flavor.  Fans of slam might also like.   On that note, I shall leave you with the song I'm hooked on called Engulfed in Excruciation. 





If this satisfied your metal craving, pass it along to your friends.


More Defeated Sanity links
http://www.myspace.com/defeatedsanity
http://www.facebook.com/DefeatedSanity
http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Defeated_Sanity/11052
http://www.last.fm/music/Defeated+Sanity

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Security Quickie: Doxing

It's been forever and a day since a Security Quickie was posted, although this one might not turn out to be a short super quick read, but I'll try my best.

So, let's just jump right into the question at hand: What is doxing?  When I first saw the term in an article a few days ago on what's going on with Anonymous and LulzSec I scratched my head about what it meant.  I looked around and landed on this site http://www.rafayhackingarticles.net which had an article on doxing.  To simply put it, it's gathering information found online about a target through various methods, such as searching google, social networking sites and the use of other various tools.  Here's a link to the article.  If you visit IronGeek, he has an interesting list of tools to use.  While I don't recommend doxing other people, try it on yourself to see how vulnerable you are online.  In short, hack yourself.

While reading what this practice is about, it dawned on me that I have actually heard of this in one of my classes, but very different terminologies were used.

Here are methods that could be related to doxing:

Inference exposure: This is when someone can infer/deduce confidential information that s/he does not have access privileges to.  This technique is typically used when looking at databases.  But really, what isn't a database these days?

Aggregation: This is gathering info of higher sensitivity by combining info from lower levels of sensitivity.

I think that the main difference between doxing, inference exposure and aggregation is the use of publicly available information found on the interwebs.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I am also unsure of how "legal" doxing is.  While it may be lawful to find public information about a person online, I'm not sure what the legalities of connecting the dots are that could compromise a person, or organization's information/safety.  I'm not a lawyer, so don't take what I say as gospel.

To protect yourself against doxing make sure you take advantage of every privacy and security setting you  can for whatever site you're on.  Be aware of what you post/upload online too. When setting up security questions for places like online banking sites, LIE!  Lie about your mother's maiden name, your favorite book, etc.  To put it another way: Just make shit up!

I'll leave you with a video I found on YouTube about doxing and if you have any thoughts, more info, or questions about this topic, pop 'em in the comment section.  Don't forget to subscribe, bookmark and follow.