Can Cable Companies Compete in the Wireless Business?

A new wireless service from cable and internet giant Comcast will shake up the cellular industry. Comcast is launching a mobile wireless plan that will compete head-to-head with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and regional cell carriers. Industry competition is already heating up, with carriers being forced to offer unlimited data plans, lower prices, free video services, rebates and more. “Promotions such as T-Mobile offering free MLB.TV for a year and AT&T offering a free HBO trial are manifestations of growing competition,” says Mark Stodden, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service. Now, Comcast will add fuel to the fire.

Better wireless deals are in the cards as carriers respond to new competition. Look for wireless companies to offer more goodies such as free pay TV channels to keep customers from defecting to Comcast. Charter, the second largest U.S. cable provider, is also planning a wireless service in 2018. Continue reading “Can Cable Companies Compete in the Wireless Business?”

How Small Merchants Can Fend Off Costly Cyberattacks

Cyber crooks are increasingly launching attacks at the cash register. The payment terminals and company computer systems used by small businesses are a window into customer credit card data and other sensitive info.

“The bad guys are moving to an easy target: The small- and medium-sized business community,” says Stephen Orfei, the general manager of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council, a group formed in 2006 by the major credit card companies to create payment security standards. A digital attack can be devastating for a small business that lacks the deep pockets and technical prowess of a big company. Continue reading “How Small Merchants Can Fend Off Costly Cyberattacks”

Who Profits from the Next Billion Internet Users?

Tech companies are eyeing a huge new market: The next billion customers coming online for the first time by 2022, mainly in India, China, Indonesia, parts of Africa and other developing regions.

Falling costs and improving technology are making it possible. Low-cost smartphones, running $100 or less, make mobile broadband far more accessible to consumers with little income. Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE are flooding the market with cheap but capable handsets, almost all of them running Google’s Android operating system. Plus, steady advances in wireless radio antennas and other telecom equipment make it cheaper and easier to build mobile networks with faster speeds, more coverage and lower data prices. Continue reading “Who Profits from the Next Billion Internet Users?”

The Spread of Unlimited Data Ignites Cellular Competition

It pays to shop around for cell service, now that Verizon has joined AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint with all-you-can-eat unlimited data plans. Verizon’s move comes as T-Mobile siphons off more and more customers through aggressive marketing and price cuts. “This was actually the first time that Verizon reacted to T-Mobile,” says Roger Entner, telecom analyst and founder of Recon Analytics. The action led to another round of price cuts, too.

Unlimited data plans come with a catch, though. Speeds slow after users hit a monthly data limit. When Verizon’s network is bogged down, its unlimited speeds are ratcheted back for users who have burned up 22 gigabytes in a given month. Other carriers’ plans come with similar fine print. Continue reading “The Spread of Unlimited Data Ignites Cellular Competition”

The Challenge and Promise of Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors

U.S. start-ups are making headway on next-generation nuclear reactors. But companies worry about the big challenges they face to get new designs up and running in the U.S. That’s the message I heard after spending the better part of a day with nuclear industry insiders in Washington, D.C., at the Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase, an event for top nuclear players to tout recent developments and make their pleas to lawmakers. The mood was a mixture of guarded optimism and deep concern over government inaction.

Designs in the works are smaller, cheaper and safer than the current crop of reactors, which account for 20% of America’s electricity mix. Small modular reactors, for instance, can be manufactured at a factory and pieced together at the power plant site. Some novel reactor designs turn trash into treasure by running on spent fuel from conventional reactors in operation today. Other reactors in the works are so small and cheap they could replace diesel generators in off-the-grid areas such as small islands. Continue reading “The Challenge and Promise of Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors”

Battles Loom Between Tech Companies and Trump

A long series of battles between tech companies and President Trump is getting started. Expect flare ups soon over issues that have been on the back burner, including encryption, net neutrality and surveillance. But it was Trump’s early move on immigration that set off an industry with many immigrant workers, including prominent immigrant leaders such as Google founder Sergey Brin, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The now-halted executive order banning travel from seven countries sparked swift opposition from the American tech industry. Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia backed the Washington state lawsuit that led to the travel ban being halted by federal judges. More than 120 technology companies, including Google, Apple, Intel and Facebook, joined a friend-of-the-court filing calling the executive order “unlawful” and “harmful to businesses.” No matter what happens to the travel ban in the future, tech companies are in for a long fight over immigration. Continue reading “Battles Loom Between Tech Companies and Trump”

U.S. Tech Firms Brace for a Tougher Road Ahead

It’s going to get tougher for high-tech firms to do business overseas as protectionist policies increase across the globe. U.S. tech firms are being forced to divulge source code, store data locally, weaken security, reveal data and more to appease foreign countries trying to prop up their own domestic technology sectors. Some nations are blocking U.S. tech firms outright. Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Dell, Amazon, IBM and other American tech companies, large and small, face the problem.

China is especially challenging, imposing rules that hinder U.S. firms in cloud computing, cybersecurity, semiconductors, e-commerce and social media. The nation is dead set on boosting its own high-tech economy, from social media to semiconductors, and is squeezing out more concessions from companies. The longtime concern that China’s policies lead to intellectual property theft will only intensify. Continue reading “U.S. Tech Firms Brace for a Tougher Road Ahead”

The Growing Risk to Uncle Sam’s Outdated Computer Network

One challenge president-elect Donald Trump must confront when he takes office: Upgrading the world’s largest IT system. The state of much of the federal government’s information technology is dismal, with huge swaths of IT in dire need of modernization. A survey commissioned by Dell last summer noted that the federal government had an “alarming” reliance on legacy hardware and software. “We have to stop kicking the can down the road regarding modernization,” says Cameron Chehreh, chief technology officer of Dell EMC Federal.

How bad are things? Our nuclear arsenal still uses floppy discs and tax information runs on top of 1950s computer code. Many agencies have no plans for upgrading outdated systems. Continue reading “The Growing Risk to Uncle Sam’s Outdated Computer Network”

Cyberattacks Threaten the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is giving cybercriminals millions of new vulnerable targets. Internet-enabled devices are plagued by shoddy security and lax regulation. Everything from baby monitors to the electric grid is susceptible to attack as millions more things get connected to the web—20 billion by 2020, up from 6 billion today, according to market research firm Gartner.

The number of connections will continue to soar as it gets cheaper and easier to slap a wireless chip and microprocessor on virtually any product. The ever-growing list of objects that have Wi-Fi includes drones, dolls, teakettles, televisions, lights, locks, refrigerators, thermostats, speakers, virtual reality goggles and bathroom scales. Continue reading “Cyberattacks Threaten the Internet of Things”

What to Expect From the Trump Administration on Four Key Tech Issues

A Farewell to Net Neutrality

Look for federal telecom regulators to take a hands-off approach to regulating the internet after Trump appoints a Republican chairman to the Federal Communications Commission. The appointment will give Republican commissioners the majority vote for the first time since 2009. Though the FCC operates as an independent agency of the government, its decisions will surely be shaped by Trump’s choice for chairman. The pick is likely to be a pro-business Republican who supports a light regulatory touch.

To recap: Net neutrality regulations, which call for all lawful web traffic to be treated equally by web providers, took effect in June 2015. Most contentiously, the rules reclassified consumer broadband as a utility, so it faces new red tape on everything from pricing to privacy. (I wrote about the impact of the FCC’s net neutrality rule back in March 2015.) Continue reading “What to Expect From the Trump Administration on Four Key Tech Issues”