What Verizon Really Wants Is Well Hidden

When our best interest and Verizon’s best interest conflict who should make the call? Verizon says they should!

Interesting op-ed in Saturday’s New York Times from Lowell C. McAdam, chief executive of Verizon Communications. He argues for releasing and repurposing radio spectrum so new technologies can move forward. He’s worried the Verizon’s of the world will run out of bandwidth.

At issue is the allocation of wireless spectrum, the crucial “real estate” upon which wireless networks are built.

So far, so good. Lots of businesses have bandwidth they’re not using or not using efficiently. Verizon and other wireless providers are voracious user of bandwidth. We need to move forward to serve all our needs.

Here’s my problem. It is buried at the end of a sentence near the end of the op-ed.

In previous auctions, the F.C.C. has excluded potential participants and dictated aspects of a winning bidder’s business plan.

Verizon doesn’t want that!

They’re wary because of a spectrum auction held in 2008. To win Verizon had to make certain open access promises. FreePress.net, an advocacy group, says Verizon has gone back on its promise. They’ve gone so far as to file with the FCC to force Verizon to comply.

When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not “deny, limit, or restrict” the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing. Recent news reports suggest that at Verizon’s behest, Google has disabled Verizon customers’ access to third-party tethering applications in Google’s Android Market application store. Plainly, Verizon’s actions in disabling access to the tethering applications limit and restrict the ability of users to access those applications. Because users download tethering applications for the express purpose of connecting additional devices to their data connections, Verizon’s actions also limit and restrict the ability of users to connect the devices of their choice to the LTE network. The Commission should immediately investigate this apparent violation of its rules and assess all appropriate penalties.

Should Verizon be allowed to restrict the use of our spectrum because it might compete with their other products? Radio spectrum isn’t owned by companies. It’s owned by us and administered by the FCC. Shouldn’t it be used to serve our collective best interest?

When our best interest and Verizon’s best interest conflict who should make the call? Verizon says they should!

That’s the rub.

Mr. McAdam buried the lede.

Verizon Hasn’t Learned The Lesson Of Rickel Home Centers

As an iPhone user let me tell you simultaneous data and voice is everything the iPhone is about.

I was thinking of Rickel Home Centers this afternoon. Remember Rickel?

Rickel helps you do it better
Do it beter with Rickel!

Before the advent of big box stores Rickel was a chain of moderately large hardware stores. As Home Depot began to encroach on its territory Rickel rolled out a commercial where they made fun of Home Depot’s greatest strength–its size!

Home Depot stores were too large they implied. You’ll be confused… slowed down… need to bring provisions.

How’d that work for you Rickel? Oops.

I thought of that because of a Wall Street Journal quote from a Verizon spokesman. It was pointed out even with iPhones Verizon’s CDMA network (CDMA is Verizon’s cellphone transmission protocol) doesn’t allow for simultaneous voice and data from the same device. You can’t talk and use data at the same time.

Verizon Wireless is working on providing that capability, said Verizon executive Brian Higgins. He wouldn’t say when it will be ready, but played down the need for handling voice and data at the same time.

“I think there are fringe cases where something like that could be important,” Mr. Higgins said. “For a vast majority of customers, I don’t think it’s a terribly important use case.”

Obviously Brian never heard the “Home Depot is too big” Rickel ads.

As an iPhone user let me tell you simultaneous data and voice is everything the iPhone is about. For new iPhone users this might not be a big deal, but anyone whose already using an iPhone and is thinking of switching this could be a deal breaker.

Death Seems To Be No Excuse

This is a story about a good friend of mine. A few months ago, tragically, his wife died. Anything you can possibly think of concerning people who die much too young is applicable in her death&#185.

When someone dies, the surviving spouse begins to go through the process of letting the world know what’s happened. You would think, and my friend confirms, most people are understanding. It’s an awkward situation and people walk on egg shells trying to be accommodating and respectful.

That’s what makes what’s happened with his wife’s cell phone account so puzzling and troubling. They had an account with Verizon Wireless. Without going into all the details, my friend can’t seem to get things straightened out with his wife’s part of the account.

He was first told they didn’t need a copy of her death certificate, then they did. He faxed the death certificate and spoke to the person who received it. Later, another person said they had not received it! Yet another customer service operator said they’d only waive the early termination fee if it was the primary holder (it’s under his name) who had died.

As of earlier today, his wife’s cell account was closed, but the early termination fee was outstanding – around $150. A concerned Verizon employee at one of their phone stores has taken up his cause, but so far, nothing’s changed.

I told my friend the easiest way to fix this is to go to a local TV station or newspaper and have them tell his story. It wouldn’t take long for the cell company to see the cost of bad publicity and retreat.

Why, after everything else he’s gone through, should he be subjected to this?

&#185 – She was very private and asked that her death not be mentioned in any public forums, which is why I am not using his or her names.

Radio Is In My Blood

I am not really in television – it’s more radio with pictures. Radio was always my first love. As a kid, I knew I’d go into radio (and I did). TV was an afterthought. Other than the actual skill of forecasting the weather, there’s nothing I do on TV that I didn’t do on radio first.

This is going to make me sound old.

I went to high school in the same building that housed the New York City Board of Education’s radio station. We were FM back when no one listened to FM. That was mainly because no one owned an FM radio!

WNYE-FM had an eclectic mix of educational programs. It’s tough to visualize today, but teachers in NYC would bring clunky Granco FM radios into their classrooms so the students could listen to, “Let’s Look at the News” or “Young Heroes.” There’s little in the way of TV today that’s equivalent.

Looking for a way to get out of conventional English classes, I became a radio actor for English class credit. I was cast in dozens and dozens of morality plays and historical recreations. I was young Orville Wright, Thomas Jefferson, Jackie Robinson (in that less politically correct time) and lots of kids named Billy.

In the morality plays, I often had lines like, “If I ride my bike over the hill, mom will never know.” By the second act, my arm was in a cast and I was sorry. In these shows, no transgression went unpunished.

All through high school, I listened to radio – listening to the disk jockeys more than the music. The disk jockeys were cool and hip and in control. They talked back to the boss with impunity, or so it seemed to me. They were quick and witty and sarcastic. I wanted to be a disk jockey.

Though I grew up in New York City, my favorite radio station was WKBW in Buffalo. You could only hear “KB” from dusk ’til dawn, but it boomed in like a local at our apartment in Queens.

The nighttime jocks on “KB” were unbelievable. Over time, there were Joey Reynolds, Bud Ballou, Jack Armstrong and others. KB Pulse Beat news with Irv Weinstein, who I’d later know personally, was a tabloid newscast, back when rock stations had to have newscasts.

This is not to say I didn’t listen to WABC in NYC, because I did. There’s little doubt that Dan Ingram is the best disk jockey to ever point a finger at a board operator. He was all the things that the “KB” guys were, but he operated within the more heavily produced WABC universe. At WABC there was a jingle for everything except going to the bathroom… and maybe there was a jingle for that too.

Back on track… must get back on track… where is this going?

In college, I knew I wanted to be like them. I wasn’t as cool as they were. I certainly didn’t have ‘pipes’ (the euphemism for a deep, throaty voice). Still, I wanted to be on the air.

At home, or in the car, I’d practice ‘talking up records.’ That means talking over the instrumental bridge that opens songs before the singing begins, and stopping on a dime, effortlessly, as the singing began. That’s called “hitting vocal,” and I was very good at that.

I started in radio at WSAR in Fall River, MA. I was part time, making $2.50 an hour. Before long, the company I was working for, Knight Quality Stations (some of which weren’t on at night, and none of which had quality), sent me to Florida to be program director at WMUM, aka – “Mother.” I was still making $2.50 an hour or $130 for a 6 day, 48 hour week.

WMUM was an “underground station.” Again, it’s a concept tough to understand today. We played everything without resorting to a playlist. It was some sort of misguided Utopian programming concept that never really took hold anywhere for long. But in 1969, at age 19, “Mother” was an unreal place to be.

We were hip and cool and broadcast from a building located adjacent to the parking lot for Lake Worth, Florida’s beach. From our studio, through the soundproof glass, you could watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. The beach was always filled with girls in bathing suits.

“Mother” didn’t hold its allure for long. Within 18 months, I had moved on to our sister AM station and then two other stations in the West Palm Beach market.

At age 21, I went to Charlotte, NC. There I did nights on a station that truly was heard from Canada to Florida. During my tenure, we even got mail from Cuba and Scandinavia. WBT was a classic radio station with good facilities, excellent promotion and nurturing management. I didn’t know how good I had it until I left.

I became a radio gypsy, moving to Cleveland and Phoenix and finally Philadelphia. I moved enough to qualify for the U-Haul Gold Card. I worked nights at WPEN in Philadelphia for a few years before moving to mornings.

We were a good AM station, playing oldies, at about the time music on AM was dying… rapidly.

I think I was pretty good at WPEN. If you’ll remember that this aircheck is over 25 years old, and I was more than 25 years younger than I am now, you can listen to it by clicking here. I really enjoyed what I was doing.

After a while we could see things weren’t going well in the ratings. A new program director was brought in to change things. Brandon Brooks, my friend and newsman on the show, came to me. Things were going to change but, “Don’t worry Geoff. They can’t fire you.”

I was gone within two hours.

My radio career never got back to that place. I continued to work, but it wasn’t the same. I finally ended up at WIFI, a top-40 FM station where I constantly worried that I, personally, was leading to the degradation of youth and society.

The scene played over and over again as I answered the hitline. I’d say, “Hello, WIFI.” On the other end, a young voice would respond, “Play, ‘We Don’t Need No Education.'” To me, it was like screeching chalk on a blackboard.

WIFI was my last stop before getting into TV. Still I miss radio nearly each and every day.

This is not to say I want to leave TV. I don’t. But, I do have this fantasy where I do radio in the morning and TV in the evening. That’s why, whenever someone from radio calls and asks me to fill-in or come on the air, I jump at the chance. It’s really an involuntary response.

It’s still in my blood.

The reason I’m writing all of this is because of someone I saw today at a charity event. I was helping present a check and toys to support shelters for abused women at the Verizon Wireless store in North Haven. A man walked up to me and said hello. It was Pete Salant.

I know Pete, though not that well. My sense is, Pete could go one-on-one with me with any bit of radio minutiae. It runs through his blood as well. In fact, with him broadcasting is an inbred thing, as his dad&#185 was a giant when CBS was the “Tiffany Network.”

Pete was known mostly as a radio programmer – and a damned good one. It’s probable, though I really don’t remember anymore, that within Pete’s career, he turned me down for a job… maybe more than once. I know he ran places where I wanted to work. Today, he creates commercials for radio station that run on TV.

It was good to see him. It’s always good to think about radio.

&#185 Pete tells me it was actually his cousin… and not a very close one… who was with CBS: “Dick Salant was my cousin twice-removed (grandfather’s first cousin), not my dad.” I’m going to leave the original posting as is, because I want to try and keep this blog as a contemporaneous record, but add the correction here.