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Entries in Internet (65)

Friday
Dec142012

D.C. Man Sues Comcast Over Error That He Claims Cost Him $26,000

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In June 2010, Marc Himmelstein called Comcast of the District LLC to cancel his cable and high-speed Internet services in his Northwest Washington, D.C., home, Courthouse News reported.

Comcast told Himmelstein he was due a refund of $123.19.  The company’s equipment was removed from Himmelstein’s home, but a modem was accidentally left behind, and Himmelstein was charged $220, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 6, 2012.

Himmelstein, the CEO of National Environmental Strategies, a D.C. lobbying firm, had no idea that he still had the modem, or that he owed Comcast a dime. He learned about his “debt” in August 2010 when he called Comcast to ask about the $123.19 refund.

He was told that as soon as he returned the missing modem, the charge would be removed. That is exactly what Himmelstein did, and he contacted Comcast “on at least three occasions,” according to the court filing, to make sure it had received the modem.  While Himmelstein didn’t receive a written notice, he was informed Comcast had fixed the error, and that his refund was en-route, the filing states.

Except it wasn’t. Not only did Himmelstein never receive the $123.19 refund, he had no idea that the $220 charge had been forwarded to Credit Protection Association, and that in December 2010, CPA had reported the late charge to three national credit-reporting agencies.

Himmelstein is not the only unhappy Comcast customer who has experienced difficulties with the cable service. There is an “I Hate Comcast” Facebook page, along with an anti-Comcast blog set up in 2009, targeting Comcast.

Himmelstein said he learned about the credit reporting filing in the spring of 2011, when he tried to refinance his mortgage with Citibank, and his credit report showed that his account was in arrears thanks to the Comcast charge. According to the claim, “because of this outstanding debt, Citibank required Himmelstein to pay an additional $26,000 (one percent of the value of the mortgage) for the same loan.” He paid it.

Himmelstein and his lawyer, Matt Finkelstein, of Bethesda, Md., filed a breach of contract claim and negligence against Comcast in D.C. federal court. They have also sued the Credit Protection Association for negligence and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Himmelstein is seeking to recoup the $26,000 that Citibank required him to pay to refinance his mortgage, attorney fees and the $123.19 credit he was owed when he first closed his account, which he has still not received.

On Oct. 22, Comcast filed a motion to dismiss all charges.  Last week, District Judge James Boasberg partially dismissed claims for constructive fraud and a “bad faith” breach of contract.

“The accounting mistakes made by Comcast in handling Himmelstein’s account -- while unquestionably frustrating -- do not raise an inference of bad faith sufficient to state a claim for breach of covenant,” Boasberg wrote.

But Boasberg refused to dismiss the negligence claim against Comcast because, he wrote, unresolved questions remain about the company’s duty to Himmelstein.

Both Comcast and Himmelstein declined to comment to ABC News.  CPA did not return phone calls from ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec062012

Your TV Set-Top Box Never Sleeps, and It Costs You

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Not many of us watch television 24 hours a day — but we might as well.

Even when people’s TVs are turned off, the set-top boxes from our cable company, telephone company or satellite provider keep on running, gobbling energy and jacking up our electric bills. The worst offenders are digital video recorders (DVRs), which are essentially always on.

On Thursday the industry announced a voluntary program to try to rein in those power-hungry devices.

“It’s really an unprecedented agreement,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of Technology for the Consumer Electronics Association. “We estimate that consumers are going to save once this agreement is fully implemented over the next five years $1.5 billion dollars annually, so it’s a significant agreement in terms of its energy savings.”

The move comes as federal regulators debate whether to impose national energy standards on the box-top sets.

Also, last year, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, released a report citing the boxes for energy waste, estimating they consume $2 billion dollars a year in electricity when they are not in use.

NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz Thursday told ABC News, “The industry is taking some initial, modest first steps which we support, but they are not going far enough.” He said most consumers have no idea that “new DVRs typically consume as much or more energy than the 42-inch TVs that they might have connected it to.”

The industry insists that Thursday’s announcement is a “significant” move. Big cable providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, will take the first steps. They’ll send software changes to the 10 million cable boxes already in homes, to put them in a “light sleep” mode when they’re not in use. That could cut power use by 20 to 30 percent.

Under the agreement, cable companies will also develop and test “deep sleep” devices to see if they are feasible. The industry also promised that starting next year, at least 90 percent of the new boxes it buys and gives to consumers will meet tougher EPA energy savings standards.

Fifteen companies that have signed onto the agreement: Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Century Link; and the manufacturers Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar Technologies and Arris.

According to the CEA, the consumer electronics in your home today account for about 13 percent of your energy bill. The top three offenders: the TV, computer, and those set-top boxes.

The NRDC’s Horowitz said pay-TV providers need to take a page from today’s smartphones, “which sip rather than gulp power when not in use.” He said he sees today’s move as an industry attempt to head off government regulation. He said mandatory energy standards would be “the best way to ensure that these new boxes will be more efficient.”

The CEA’s Johnson disagreed, arguing that “the voluntary agreement really represents the best way to meet the government’s goal of saving energy” by protecting “innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

The industry promises to release regular reports detailing the future energy savings generated by the new agreement, something the NRDC will be keeping a close watch on.

For consumers, there’s little they can do to stop the energy drain on their own. The only way to “reduce the stand-by powers in the middle of the night is to unplug (the boxes),” said Horowitz, “and that’s not an attractive option for most consumers.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Hurricane Sandy Takes Down Gawker, Huffington Post and Other Websites

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was inevitable. With power out along the Eastern Seaboard for millions of people, the data centers and servers powering many websites were also hit, knocking popular websites offline for hours.

The biggest casualty? Datagram, the Internet service provider based in New York City that powers news sites like Gawker.com, Huffingtonpost.com and Buzzfeed.com. When its servers went down on Monday night due to flooding, the sites it powered went down with it.

"Unfortunately, within a couple hours of the storm hitting Manhattan's shores, the building's entire basement, which houses the building's fuel tank pumps and sump pumps, was completely filled with water and a few feet into the lobby," Datagram said in a statement on its site. "Due to electrical systems being underwater the building was forced to shut down to avoid fire and permanent damage."

As a result Gawker, owner of sites such as Gawker.com, Gizmodo, and Jezebel, also went down late Monday night. "We're continuing to work on our servers and will be back online as soon as is possible. We miss you already. Stay dry," Gawker tweeted from its account last night.

Gawker switched to Wordpress and Tumblr, different website and blogging platforms, as backups for its site. Gizmodo has been live blogging the aftermath of Sandy on its Sandy 2012 Emergency Site.

"While we're obviously disappointed with Datagram, our priority has been getting back online for our readers with an alternate publishing platform, which we've now done with all sites, thanks to Tumblr," Scott Kidder, Gawker's Executive Director, Operations, told ABC News.

Buzzfeed.com and The Huffington Post were also affected by Datagram's outage. Buzzfeed, a site that has surged in popularity in the last couple of months, was able to recover its full site, though, more quickly than others were.

"Elements of BuzzFeed's site and many story pages are back online, thanks to a Content Delivery Network, Akamai, which hosts the content at servers distributed around the world," Buzzfeed wrote on its blog Monday.

"Two key things helped BuzzFeed recover: After Hurricane Irene last year, BuzzFeed commissioned an offsite datacenter that replicates everything in near real-time. More recently, the site started using Akamai to cache content. That means that when Datagram was offline, the site and its pages should have stayed up — and many did," Buzzfeed's Matt Buchanan said in a post on Buzzfeed's FWD tech site.

Similarly, The Huffington Post had a backup server in Newark to rely on.

"Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, HuffPost was accessible via a temporary site -- status.huffingtonpost.com -- and writers and editors relied on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to post stories and information during the storm," the Huffington Post said on its site following the outage.

MarketWatch also went down for a brief period of time, but it is unclear if that was a result of Datagram's outage.

On Tuesday afternoon Datagram had reported that Consolidated Edison and city workers were helping to restore the services and that there were "at least five pumps pumping water from the basement into the street."

While Datagram will eventually come back online, Kidder added that Gawker will be speeding up its plans to have a second data center. "We -- as other publishers -- had counted on Datagram's ability to withstand anticipated natural disasters, which seems to have been misplaced."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct262012

A Tough Week for the Internet as Major Sites Experience Outages

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Last week it was YouTube for a few minutes, but this week it was more than just the streaming video service that wasn't available to Internet users.

Earlier this week, Amazon's Web Services went down causing sites that rely on Amazon's servers to go down too. Popular sites like Reddit, Pinterest, and Foursquare all experienced outages as a result. The outage lasted for a few hours on Tuesday, and naturally many took to Twitter to complain about the fact that people couldn't get to their services. Twitter itself experienced its fair share of outages.

On Friday a separate outage occurred. Google's App Engine, which powers other sites, along with Dropbox and Tumblr experienced outages. The outage lasted close to two hours for many of the services.

"At approximately 7:30 am Pacific time this morning, Google began experiencing slow performance and dropped connections from one of the components of App Engine. The symptoms that service users would experience include slow response and an inability to connect to services," Google wrote on its site.

Similarly Tumblr tweeted about the outage: "Tumblr is experiencing network problems following an issue with one of our uplink providers. We will return to full service shortly." Two hours later, Tumblr tweeted that the errors had been fixed and it was back online.

"It used to be back in the day, four or five years ago, systems weren't dependent on each other. But now even standard websites -- the things people go to all the time -- are made up of 50 or 100 services that are serving ads and tracking information," Brian Gracely, a Cloud computing expert and editor of CloudCast.net, explained to ABC News. "If one of the big services or an Amazon or Google goes down it can affect hundreds of other services."

Tuesday and Friday's outages don't appear to be related, but according to the Internet Traffic Report, traffic across the web in North America declined Friday. The Next Web points out that the same report shows that there was a loss in packet data, which measures reliability of Internet connections.

These issues do not appear to be weather related either. However, many Internet providers will be preparing as Hurricane Sandy makes its way to the East Coast.

"These companies, like Google and Amazon, run the equivalent of what used to be 20th century factories. They are really large and occasionally they have an outage because they have a power failure or weather issues," Gracely said. "It happens periodically, and it used to happen more than we knew, but nowadays we are so connected we know about it more," told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

FTC Updates Online Privacy Regulations for Kids

Fuse/ThinkstockWASHINGTON) -- Thanks to new rules proposed on Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission, your child's privacy might be better protected online.

That's the goal of the FTC, which is updating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which mandates that website and online service operators acquire verifiable parental consent before they use, collect or disclose any personal information about children under 13.

The main reason for the update is because of technology, which has changed dramatically since COPPA became effective in 2000.  Smartphones, Facebook and Twitter, after all, were not in existence back then.

"We're trying to make sure that the COPPA rule protects children online and that the information they provide is keeping up with technology and kids' use of social media," said Mary J. Engle, associate director of advertising practices at the FTC.

The proposed new rules will strengthen COPPA's reach to include mobile devices.  It will also make sure websites and third-party data brokers, advertising networks and downloadable software kits ("plug-ins") get parental permission before gathering personal information from children (currently, COPPA only applies to website operators, not third parties).  The new regulations also expand the meaning of "personally identifiable information" to include IP addresses and cookies, which track data.

Other adjustments in the proposed rules address websites that are used by both children and adults.  Currently, COPPA treats all website visitors as being under 13. The new rule would allow a website that attracts both children and adults to apply privacy protections only to those who say they are under 13.  However, sites that are aimed specifically at children must continue to treat all users as if they are under 13, even if the other users are older.

COPPA is the reason that children under 13 are not allowed on Facebook, although that may be changing if Facebook opens to younger users.  Until that happens, the proposed rules won't directly apply to the Facebook website, though they will apply to websites targeting children that allow them to "like" a certain product or person through Facebook.

The new rules have been in the making for a few years.  In September 2010, the FTC solicited the public for comments on how COPPA might be updated, and a year later released its recommendations.  It then opened that up to the public and received 350 comments.  The agency will now open up another round for public comment until Sept. 10 before making final recommendations by the end of the year.

"We think we need to amend the rule to close some loopholes and make sure that all the different players that are actually collecting children's information are getting parental permission before collecting it," said Engle.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

Google Chrome Browser Coming to iPhone and iPad

Google/Apple(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Google announced today that its popular Chrome browser, which has been available for Macs, PCs, and Android, is coming to Apple’s iPad and iPhone.

“Some of you have been very persistently asking about something. I’m very happy to say the team has really pulled something great off,” Google’s VP for Chrome, Brian Rakowski, said on stage at the Google I/O conference.

Similar to the Chrome app for Android, the iOS app will support multiple tabs and syncing. The syncing requires you to be logged into your Google account. It’s simple to use: if you have a Chrome tab open on your desktop computer — say, to this very website — you can then easily sync it so this site also opens on your mobile phone.

Apple demonstrated a number of forthcoming features in its iOS 6 operating system at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference a few weeks ago. One of those features is the new Safari, which includes iCloud tab syncing, which will sync the tabs you have open on your Mac’s Safari browser with the Safari on your phone.

The Chrome browser app will be available in the Apple App Store today.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun272012

For Many, Being on the Phone Means Being on the Internet

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Using your mobile phone to only make calls is so landline.

The latest Pew Internet & American Life Project on cellphone use reveals that 88 percent of U.S. adults now own some kind of mobile device and 55 percent of them use their phone to go online.

In fact, 17 percent say that most of their Internet browsing is done on the phone and some admit they use it exclusively to get online, forgoing computers and other devices.

According to Pew, 45 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 do the majority of their browsing on their cellphones while 51 percent of African-Americans and 43 of Latinos rely on their phones go online.

In the phone survey of 2,254 adults 18 and older, the Pew report concluded, “Cellphones are convenient, always available -- 64 percent of cell-mostly Internet users mention factors related to convenience or the always-available nature of mobile phones when asked for the main reason why they do most of their online browsing on their cellphone.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

Colorado Mother, Daughter Charged in Military Online Dating Scam

Tracy Vasseur, left, and her mother, Karen Vasseur. (Colorado Attorney General)(BRIGHTON, Colo.) -- A mother and daughter in Colorado were indicted for their role in a "Nigerian internet romance scam" in which associates in Nigeria posed as members of the U.S. Armed Forces and stole over $1 million from 374 victims.

Tracy Vasseur, 40, and her mother, Karen Vasseur, 73, of Brighton, Colo., about 21 miles north of Denver, face a hearing on Tuesday in the Adams County District Court.  The Colorado Attorney General, John Suthers, said the two were part of a scam since 2009 that "lured unsuspecting women to internet dating sites by posing as members of the U.S. military serving in Afghanistan.  The Vasseurs' 374 victims over a three year period were based throughout the United States and from 40 other countries."

The Vasseurs were indicted on 20 counts in violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, money laundering and theft in a 27-page document filed by Suthers' office.  Tracy Vasseur faces up to 205 years in prison if convicted on all counts; Karen Vasseur faces up to 172 years in prison.

"After a phony relationship was established, victims were asked to send money and were led to believe that the soldiers would use the money to retrieve property, travel to the U.S., and pay other expenses," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

The mother-daughter duo worked with associates in Nigeria, wiring most of the stolen money to them and kept about a 10 percent cut "although they would often receive less," the indictment stated.  The Vasseurs sent stolen money addressed to 112 different names in Nigeria, but most often to "Olamigoke Ayodeji."  They also wired money to individuals in Ecuador, Great Britain, India, United Arab Emirates and the U.S.

Most of the victims were women, the indictment stated, "looking for love and companionship on the internet" on various dating sites and social networking sites like Facebook.  During the "Nigerian internet romance scam," the attorney general's office said the Vasseurs never made contact with the victims, nor did they ever meet with their associates abroad.  But the Vasseurs engaged in "regular, frequent and detailed discussions" about where the money and how much would be sent.  Tracy Vasseur allegedly set up a "dating website" for one of her associates, the indictment stated.

"After an online relationship was established, the perpetrator would often send the victim fake military documents and personal photographs in order to convince the victim that they were truly a member of the U.S. military serving in a foreign country, usually Afghanistan," the indictment filing stated.

"After a relationship was established, the purported military member would begin asking the victim to send money to an 'agent' in Colorado," primarily through electronic fund transfer services like Western Union or Money Gram, according to the indictment.  "Among other reasons, victims were frequently told that the money they sent would pay for satellite phones, so that the victim and the perpetrator could talk directly to each other, or for travel expenses, so that the "soldier" could take authorized leave from duty to visit the victim in the U.S."

The money transferred was usually over $10,000 and as high as $59,000, according to the indictment.

None of the victims, "including 29 at-risk adults," that investigators spoke to had their money returned, the indictment stated.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Zynga’s Ruby Blast Arcade Game Hits Facebook

Zynga/Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Another day, another Zynga game to keep you entertained during those boring conference calls. Zynga released Bubble Safari a few weeks ago. Now the social gaming king is announcing a new arcade-style game — Ruby Blast.

The game will remind you of Bejeweled. You match the color of the gems to each other and try to blow up or eliminate all the gems in the mine. The more you do, the higher your score. There are Power-Ups to help you along.

Like Bubble Safari, there is a fun character tie-in. Ruby Blast is an intrepid female archeologist who travels around the world and digs up treasures.

And, of course, being that you play it on Facebook (or Zynga.com) social networking is a key part of the game. “Our twist here is that we have put your friends into the game board,” Jonathan Grant, Zynga Design Director, told ABC News. If you have friends who have played the game, they will show up in the mine to help and provide power.

Ruby Blast is the first game to come out of Zynga’s new Seattle office and is the first Zynga game to use Adobe Flash 11, which improves the game’s graphics. It will be available this week through Facebook and Zynga.com. There is no mobile version of the game yet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun132012

ICANN Releases New Web Domain Name Options

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images (LONDON) -- By 2013 we could be typing domain names that end in .app, .blog, or .apple into our web browsers.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Wednesday released the list of companies that have applied for new generic Top Level Domains (or gTLDs).

A gTLD, as ICANN explained on its website, “is an Internet domain name extension such as the familiar .com, .net, or .org.”  To date, there have only been 22 gTLDs, including .com, .edu, .gov, etc. But that’s about to change.

Instead of the .com or .net suffixes attached to website addresses, ICANN has taken applications from companies that have applied for new gTLDs. Many companies want their own — Microsoft has applied for .microsoft, Apple for .apple, and Netflix for .netflix. (The entire list can be found here.) Google, which is listed as the Charleston Road Registry, applied for the most gTLDs, including, .lol, .blog, .baby and .boo.

Not all of the domains will be approved. ICANN is currently going over them, and according to its CEO, Rod Beckstrom, as many as a thousand gTLDs could be approved by next year. At an event today in London, Beckstrom said, “The Internet is about to change forever.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio