When The Giants Are Scared There's Opportunity

Over time in the USA, opportunity has created lots of wealth. Railroads. Oil companies. Transportation systems. But when it comes to broadband, the oligopolies in the country have always seemed to want to hold others back. 

In the dawn of the Internet, DSL came to fruition a few years ahead of cable modems. But DSL providers where tied to the legacy carriers who had to allow them to connect to the Internet. Those connections could take weeks or months for customers who were forced to pay for higher priced ISDN and T-1s. Over time most of the DSL providers evaporated or were rolled up to where they are now almost invisible. The telcos for the most part have stopped rolling out DSL, and instead, with only four real players in the USA left standing (AT&T, Verizon, Century Link and Frontier) pretty much trying to do with DSL what they did with land lines. Milk them for all they're worth before finally going all in on fiber (FiOS being the best example).

Enter muni-broadband. Perhaps it should have been known as muni-broadbad as the first attempts last decade were largely fraught with less "doing things the right way" and more of  "doing things the wrong way." That's what happens when big telco can sway thinking, influence the process and cause things to be done wrong through FUD. The approach is let others leave carnage and they'll come in and do it right. But something happened along the way. Cable broadband. As soon as @HOME came into being, the telcos and DSL providers had a real threat they couldn't reign in. The threat was not from some small group of upstarts, it was from some of their biggest customers on the data transmission side and from some of the richest media companies in the country. Cable broadband trumped DSL from day one. And today, it still does with speeds of up to 350 megs being offered and soon one gig. Along the way, Muni-Broadband got lost but it never died.

Today's New York Times writes about muni-broadband and it's as important as ever. The jockeying we're seeing in the courts isn't about what's good for America. It's about what's good for the telcos, and to some extent, the cable operators. While the latter is more in a back seat to the telcos, the reality is that Muni-broadband done right, is good for everyone, as it fosters competition. 

Our country was built by competition of newer technology replacing the old. The train replaced the stagecoach. The plane replaced the train. We were also built with local governments starting quasi-governmental authorities to deliver power, oil, water, gas which in time became private enterprise or public-private partnerships. Rural telcos need to work with government, support municipal efforts, and be cooperative so they can move their communities they serve forward, as without a cooperative approach, rural America will be stuck in the last century, not help drive us to the next. To me, broadband, unfettered and at the best speeds possible isn't a right, it's a necessity, and no court, law or organization should stop another group from moving it forward so those who made pioneering moves in the past could continue to hold the reigns.


Been Quiet Too Long-Time To Speak Up Again

Yes, I've been quiet lately. Perhaps it's the summer. Maybe it's just as Dean Bubley and I were talking over dinner in London. The world of VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration has hit a point of being a bit of the same or a repeat of what was originally envisioned finally becoming commonplace. In my view after almost 17 years in the space since I first learned what VoIP was, had my first VoIP client (Comgates) and have been writing about the sector since 2003, it's kind of old hat to me. Seriously though, it really takes something to get me excited to bang away with what the news means.

That said, I haven't exactly been silent. I've been penning a piece each week for my friends at Xceptional, the San Diego Managed Service Provider with a kick - butt team of real pros in more than just voice/video and collaboration. Founder Chris McKewon and I have been friends for 12 years or more and I've watched his biz blossom over the years. The team there are great at networking (the set it all up at my old house), Wi-Fi, cloud and more. And, what they don't know can't be done. If you need what they do don't look any farther.

So what has me excited these days? Well, API's and WebRTC for sure. There's so much that can be done and is being done with WebRTC by so many companies. API's are hot and getting hotter. When you think about it, they are a major part of the new tech led economy. I'm also high on bots and messaging platforms and apps.

The more I use Slack the less I like email. The more I use Telegram the less I like SMS. The more I use iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp the less I want to even be paying for SMS from my mobile operator. Oh, and the more I travel, the less I care about voice from any mobile operator, when I have Dialpad and Telzio each with VoIP calling over 4G/LTE...now I guess if I was in places without killer LTE an Wi-Fi I may feel differently, but both on my iPad, iPhones and even my One Plus Two Android, I'm not touching the PSTN to originate or terminate on my end.

Most of all what I'm looking more closely at remains the idea of Working-Anywhere. Over the past five weeks I've been on my second "workcation." A workcation is where you go someplace that feels like a vacation, allows you to do the best of that while still getting work done. The more I travel, the way I travel, the more I find the whole idea of people stuck in offices, having a daily place to call "work" so outmoded for those who are knowledge workers.

As long as you can run your calendar, schedule your day around your "work" you can have a "-cation" every day. In the course of a 15-18 hour day I'm enjoying more of life than those who fight traffic, deal with internal gossip, or have to be somewhere physically. It does take planning, but being connected and knowing when to disconnect is the key.

Alas it's Sunday here in sunny Portugal. Time to enjoy some of the "cation" time..

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Verizon Wireless "They're Watching You" as You're Now Their "Person of Interest"

As the hit CBS series "Person of Interest" winds down its run, the line "they're watching you" never rang more true that it does today, especially if you're a Verizon Wireless customer who has installed their mobile app so you can manage your account better.

Unfortunately, the app does more than that, and with the acquisition of AOL, all kinds of "marketing" led initiatives are starting to be unfurled by the telco giant. One of those is the "tracking" of customers physical movements. As one telecom attorney I spoke with about this said, "one would think after the super cookie issue they would know better." But nothing was as damning as the comment to me by a long time Verizon Wireless enterprise facing sales executive. "We know when Google folks visit Salesforce and who they are seeing. That gives us a good indication of what's about to happen." He then went on, "It's (i.e. the tracking) one of the most asked questions we're hearing from enterprise customers..how do I turn it off?"

I learned about this wandering by the Union Station Verizon store in Washington, D.C. two week ago. I was asked by the app what I thought about my experience today in the store. Only problem was I didn't go in the store. The same thing happened as I was having coffee in a cafe next to a Verizon Wireless store in Del Mar, and again after I had walked into the store to ask what they heck was up with the tracking of my movements.

The store rep said, "oh if you don't like to be followed, you can always delete the app." To me that was a stupid, untrained, and ignorant response, but also, pretty straightforward. I then called support and was told to turn off a few things in the app, but they already were. After the rep said she would turn off the marketing functions I checked my phone and found that one of the toggles that had been off, was now on. I immediately turned it off. Then I dug deeper into the Verizon app location setting on the iPhone app management inside the settings app, and there I turned off the actual link between the phone and the app

Candidly, a great app to manage usage and your plan, which was a nice service to have, has been ruined by wanting to know more about the customer than should be known. By forcing an opt-out vs. encouraging an OPT IN, this is a less than desired move by Verizon's leadership to allow this. If it was the first time I've encountered this type of thing from them, I would not be so concerned, but it's not. Back in the early days of data cards, they had Smith Micro create some type of tracking software that wormed its way into your Windows PC. Again, without telling anyone about it. 

Where is all this going? Beacons, sensors and apps on mobile devices can be a good thing. There's some  technology that's coming from companies likeQualcomm that work at the chip set level which could allow marketers to really be smarter in how they deliver messages to customers and prospects, and how employees of companies can be made to be smarter using AI, machine learning, big data and the cloud, but it needs to include some greater degrees of control by the user.  While using mapping software is great, I don't want my every visit to the gym known, or to the ice cream shop later because the next thing you'll see is ice cream being offered at the gym.....The same is do we really want Macy's knowing we were shopping at Bloomingdales, or that I was at the car dealer twice this  past week (with two different Audi's for annual servicing) as that could be misinterpreted as my having car trouble. Next comes the level of encryption of our "data" that's been collected. Of course if Verizon was using the data to install microcells where coverage isn't so great, that would be a useful outcome, but instead of "cells" for coverage they're more interested in what they can "sell" in the way of ads...

To be fair with Verizon, I did call their PR team. All three calls went unreturned..I guess they don't want to talk about it.


Uber Picks UberConference and Dialpad to Modernize Business Communications

Ride sharing service Uber is following Lyft for a change. While Lyft has been using Los Angeles based Telzio as their communications provider, Uber has turned to Dialpad in addition to using UberConference, The choosing of cloud based communications solutions providers is making it far easier for both companies to communicate better internally and get things going faster, as the game changing ride services both expand into new cities and countries around the world.

Dialpad founder Craig Walker told VoipWatch exclusively yesterday, "we started working with Uber as they were heavy users of UberConference for a while before we even launched Dialpad. Both products fit their culture of innovation and disruption, so Dialpad was a natural fit once they started looking for a modern business communications service."

The move to adopt what Walker has labeled "modern business communications" falls well in line with a long belief that disruptive startups, especially those from Silicon Valley, want more and want different in what their telco can provide them and are bypassing the long established companies like AT&T and Verizon.  Instead the newly minted, high growth companies are choosing to embrace the more nimble, service providers that have come on stream post the birth of the cloud era.

These newer companies are the earlier adopters of where businesses are going, and they want services that are easy to deploy and cloud based, just like the way their own businesses are based, using similar service from the likes of Amazon Web Services. So while they still need and require the core features that the traditional telcos provide, these new companies also need modern era features that were birthed by companies like Skype and GrandCentral (Walker sold that to Google and led the transition to GoogleVoice. Google are  now investors in Dialpad) with the online management that Vonage and 8x8 pioneered in telecom.

These new, modern services and the companies delivering them are largely being fueled by API's both public and private. The API's are spawning a new economy, new ways of doing business, and entire ecosystems. That's something that will be well talked about and explored at All About The API, the upcoming conference being held in Las Vegas in July.  An example of how API's work is best seen in the Dialpad app today on the iPhone and iPad. By connecting to an SMS interconnection provider like recent Vonage acquisition Nexmo, Twilio or Syniverse, modern UC companies able to enable SMS to the desktop and from within their apps, much like iMessage or Google Hangouts. The API's allow for the interconnection and interfacing to between customers and the carriers in the middle making them the modern day middleware. 

And, Apple, long resistant to opening up the iOS dialer to Unified Communications providers gave them a big shot in the arm on Monday. At the World Wide Developer Conference Apple announced the opening up of the dialer on the iPhone. This is a significant move as it will allow unified communications providers like Dialpad, Telzio, 8x8 and others to no longer need to use plain vanilla softphones that have been the only way users could interface with UC providers.  Once released the UC players will be able to make use the iPhone's native dialer as the front end for dialing, while allowing their own apps to be where the more customized features are placed.

"Since launching GrandCentral and Google Voice nearly 10 year, we always were frustrated by the inability to make our services work smoothly with the iPhone. The announcement today opens the market up to the type of competition Judge Green envisioned back then. Now businesses again can choose. Of course, I hope they choose Dialpad," said Walker.

The opening up of the iOS dialer by Apple parallels that 1984 decision in opening up the Bell System to alternative long distance carriers. Previously, the only long distance carrier that a caller could use was the one that was aligned with the local Bell operating company, and that was usually AT&T. With the Telecommunications Act of 1984 consumers and businesses were free to choose any long distance carrier. In essence, with Apple opening up the dialer, they are doing the same thing, turning the mobile operator into a pipe. With LTE and LTE-A coming online, those in the more built out mobile high speed data areas will be able to avoid using their mobile operator for voice, and text, and move everything over to the data side where a more feature rich experience will be had.

"This is the missing link that we have been waiting for on iOS ever since the first iPhone came out. Android has had this for years, and Apple did add VoIP specific features a while back such as  battery saving via the background notification feature, but we have been missing the ability to have a VoIP services coexist on an iPhone," said Peter Rank Schrøder, CEO of Telzio. "This will make life much easier for anyone using a secondary number such as a business number, on an iPhone."

Apple's move further makes the mobile operator, the modern day "dumb pipe" something smart entrepreneurs like Walker have been exploiting for years dating back to his days at the original Dialpad, and which new kids on the block like Schrøder are also breaking new ground.

 

 

 


Yahoo Messenger-Going, Going, Almost Gone

For those of you who remember Yahoo Messenger, which was at one point wanting to be able to be like Skype oh so many years ago, it's going to go away. But, don't think it's really gone as last year Yahoo introduced a combined platform that marries WebMessenger with app based Messenger. 

Both Yahoo and Microsoft at times had visions of telephony being part of their respective messenger platforms as noted in the various posts linked to below. Given the interest in messaging bots and platforms one has to wonder if both companies giving up the ghost of messaging came too early, opening up the door to platforms like WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, LINE, QQ Chat, Kik, Telegram and so many others. 

One of the features of Yahoo Messenger that garnered attention back in the VoIP hey day was it's interoperability with Microsoft Messenger. That functionality was killed off in 2012 after launching in 2006. One can only imagine what may have happened to Messenger had Microsoft not bought Skype.

This makes one wonder how many people are still on AOL's AIM and ICQ, the two biggest forerunners of messaging apps that many of us grew up using.

 


Dialpad--Life For Old iPads

 

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Like many of us, I have an iPad Air2 and an iPad Mini in storage. My current iPad is the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, with the keyboard and I find that in many situations I can do most of what I do on my MacBook with it, especially while traveling or sipping an espresso at a cafe. But, really, one iPad was enough, and the older ones became hand me downs or simply sat in the storage drawer. Well, not anymore.

Over the past few weeks, thanks to pal Craig Walker, founder of Dialpad and creator of GoogleVoice (GrandCentral), I was able to put the new DialPad app through its paces on the iPad while the new version of the app was going through TestFlight beta trials.  While I've used Counterpath's Bria and Skype on the iPad before as a way to make and take calls, I never really felt I was having a real "phone" experience. There was always something clunky about the way the call was being handled. Instead I would find myself reaching for the nearest smartphone, as they always seemed to ring first, even with SIM ring functions turned on, with GoogleVoice ringing every inbound number. Finally, I can stop that behavior.

The Dialpad iPad app is very different and may be the best softphone ever created bar none. First off, it rings at the same time as the SIM ring to my mobile phones. Second the audio quality is second to none. On a thirty five minute call with the CEO of a client yesterday not one pop, or drop or anything that one wouldn't have experienced on a cell phone call. Third is the ease of use and very clean, easy to use interface. It's natural and effortless, much like Skype was in its pre-Microsoft days. The consistency between the desktop, smartphone and iPad in look and feel makes it that way. If you are using the desktop app or plug-in, you'll have no learning curve as the UI (user interface) is identical. About the only drawback is the non-ringing when you have the app in the foreground, which is likely an Apple iOS notification issue. In many ways Dialpad's app on the iPad reminded me of the first experience I had with Gizmo, the company acquired by Google that was perhaps along with Truphone, the only real rivals to Skype. The Gizmo app always had this very natural, phone like feel to it, and also had the sound quality that was natural too. 

The fact that I was calling from a tablet reminded me why the old Samsung Galaxy Tab 1.0 with both calling and data was such a great device, just not a great form factor. On the call, I used my wired headset that I use on my iPhone. The call sound was full, rich, robust. There wasn't any hiss or popping. On the other end, not once did my client, ever ask me to repeat what I had said, and he was on a mobile phone in a noisy environment. The large buttons made it easy to hit the mute button, and because of the adjacent "Recent Calls" tab, I was also able to text people who were calling me to let them know I was on a call. 

Candidly, not having mobile phone service in the iPad prior to LTE was always one of the drawbacks, and I always felt Apple should have made the iPad a phone also, with the codecs and chips that would let it really be one. Well, Dialpad has made it just that good. 

About the only thing lacking is video. Dialpad is experimenting with that on their Mac and PC desktop service so my guess is that, and Apple TV integration are not far behind.

If you're using Dialpad on your iPhone, you'll love it on your iPad, and if you're like me, you'll finally be finding use for those older iPad's that are sitting in the drawer somewhere.....


WebRTC - Like Wine, Is Coming of Age

Over the weekend Tsahi Levent-Levi, penned a contributed article over on Venture Beat about WebRTC which I enjoyed reading.

Tsahi, has been deep diving into WebRTC as long as anyone, and perhaps along with Dean Bubley, is one of the better informed blogalysts on the subject, only likely surpassed by long time pal, Counterpath and Hookflash founder, Erik Lagerway when it comes to being as well informed on the technical and aware of the possible. That's why it's always fun to read Tsahi's collection of facts to stay more up to date on things that one may have missed. The article is a very good read so take a few moments and check it out.

In the roundup recap of why it's time to pay attention to WebRTC Tsahi draws out the fact that most of the modern browsers, with the absence of Apple's Safari, have WebRTC included now. This includes Microsoft new browser candidate, Edge. That's all nice, but for me, it's always been having WebRTC embedded in apps and inside new services that mattered most, as the browser is really just the commodity for transport, but it's what WebRTC connects and connects to that's so important.

That's a point that Tsahi makes when he discusses the data channel, something client Temasys' team has been saying for a few years as well and why pal Andy Voss' Sansay has been so busy the past few years making sure their SBC's are WebRTC capable

Take for example two new  offerings Tsahi didn't mention that are now breaking ground that Tsahi didn't mention. Ottspott and Yodel. These apps and services are living where things are going. Inside the Bot and Messaging platforms like Slack and Hipchat that are the future. They both start away from the browsers which is where things are really happening, and where more daily workers are living. Workforces are getting out of being trapped in email and voice mail hell, and to give credit to Skype of old, the workforce of today is yearning for more personal interactivity without the annoyance of being bothered when they can't talk.

With the decline of Skype, post acquisition by Microsoft, as the place everyone has hung out to stay in touch, teams, especially distributed teams and organizations that work across timezone are already turning to platforms like Slack and HipChat. (I would contend that Basecamp, a platform I love is missing the boat with the lack of Real Time Comms beyond their Campfire platform that is in need of an overhaul.)

Slack already has built in calling, and with their API's are enabling cagey development teams to build in even more sophisticated voice tools, like Ottspott and Yodel. Both use Slack to set up or "receive" a call, then spawn a web browser page and use WebRTC to power the conversation. This blend of old and new thinking makes these two companies Voice 3.0 companies.  

And, Slack's voice beta has only gone from good to better as you try it and use it. Now that its been rolled out to their iOS and Android apps, it really is becoming a way to stay in touch and quickly shift from text to voice. For those in well built out LTE areas, or those who live on Wi-Fi, you really don't need a voice plan if you mostly live in the app world with Slack and the voice, conferencing and video services that integrate with it.

But the world is changing right before our eyes and ears...and thanks to watchers like Tsahi, Dean and others, we're all able to stay better aware, informed and involved.


The Comunicano Communique for Wednesday April 13th, 2016

 
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This week is best viewed as Facebook's Week. With their F8 conference they are setting things up for their next few years of growth. This basically means now that they have attracted enough of us to be regular "users" and we're "hooked" it's really time to make money. The two big themes coming out of the event are API's to work with Facebook and Live Video.  Thus Facebook is really going after the ability to be present in your life all the time. The series of stories below are a nice primer, so I encourage you to look at what they are up to and draw your own conclusions so needless to say, "the Times, they are a changing.

So read today's Comunicano Communique and get into the news.

Yesterday on Business Rockstars with Ken Rutkowski, we talked about the cool apps, sites and tools to make you a better entrepreneur. The three you can watch from yesterday were:

FastLane - gets you an Uber from your Mac.

Teleport - Uber for Groups. You book. They ride. You pay.

WeLive - WeWork For Living spaces. In NYC and D.C. now...

By the way, don't miss the API event of the summer in Las Vegas. "All About The API"......

 
 
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Technology to Connect the World: F8 Day One Roundup

F8 2016 kicked off today, with a packed house of more than 2,600 people and hundreds of thousands of people watching via Facebook Live. Mark Zuckerberg kicked the conference off with a keynote detailing Facebook's 10-year technology roadmap, and the ways those technologies will help bring people together and give everyone a voice.
 
 

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Facebook Bets on a Bot Resurgence, Chattier Than Ever

To browse for a pair of brown loafers on Facebook Messenger, you can now text a message to the service to begin a conversation with the mobile shopping start-up Spring. Spring will ask you for a preferred price range for the shoes and show a smattering of what it thinks you might like.

 
 

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Live, local, late breaking: On Facebook Live, news outlets take a cue from TV (but don't call it TV)

Around 5 p.m. on April 1, everyone in our little office crowded around my desk, watching a live video of baby goats roaming inside BuzzFeed Motion Pictures president Ze Frank's office - a prank by staffers for his birthday. Would Frank be angry? Would the goats escape?? Would chaos ensue?!
 
 

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Facebook Opens Up Live Streaming API to Allow Streaming from Any Device

Facebook just took video streaming on its Live platform beyond the mobile phone: CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced during his keynote at the company's f8 developer conference in San Francisco Wednesday that it is making its Live API publicly available. This will allow developers to integrate live streaming into third-party apps and devices.
 
 

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This is the first official camera for Facebook's Live Video: the Mevo

Facebook has made a huge push into live broadcasting recently, including putting a new video discovery hub right in the center of its app. And now Facebook has its first official hardware partner for live video, and it's a nifty camera from industry pioneer Livestream.
 
 

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Facebook launches "Agents On Messenger" platform with chatbots

Facebook will now allow businesses to deliver automated customer support, ecommerce guidance, content, and interactive experience through "Agents on Messenger", Facebook's term for chatbots.
 
 

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Inside Microsoft's build-a-bot strategy | ZDNet

Tomorrow, Facebook is expected to roll out new bot-related programming interfaces and possibly new chatbots of its own at its F8 developer conference. Microsoft recently used its own Build developer event to talk up our bot-centric future. In the couple of weeks since then, I've been watching recorded Build bot sessions and following various links to understand more about Microsoft's approach.
 
 

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Find time for your goals with Google Calendar

Whether it's reading more books, learning a new language or working out regularly, achieving your goals can be really hard. One day it's "I got called into a last-minute meeting." The next day it's "I have a friend in town." And before you know it, your goals are delayed or forgotten.
 
 

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Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers just went on strike

NEW YORK - About 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers on the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday morning after little progress in negotiations since their contract expired nearly eight months ago.
 
 

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How to Find the Customers Who Need Your Product

Aspiring founders who think they've developed an amazing offering often believe that their product will sell themselves. While there are occasional instances of unique apps, software, hardware, and services that were so valuable that they instantly made their founders famous, this is rarely the case.
 
 

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Building more accessible technology

Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population will have a disability during their lifetime, which can make it hard for them to access and interact with technology, and limits the opportunity that technology can bring.
 
 

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Today on Business Rockstars

Today, along with Ken Rutkowski, the host of Business Rockstars, we spoke about:

Amazon Echo and all its siblings and what you can do with it.

Pipedrive, a very slick and easy to use CRM service.

Cloutex, a super easy to use plugin for Chrome that makes adding LinkedIn info to Pipedrive

Senders, a new in your email service that tells you all you need to know about the person sending you email

Here's the link.


The Comunicano Communique for Wednesday March 30th 2016

 
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Good Morning. It's Tuesday and it's the kind of NEWS day I love. That's when there is actually NEWS to read. What's happening? Lots of new features in apps and from services. It's the storm before the Tax Time lull so expect lots of "we have something new" to be coming out the next week or so. Take a look. See which companies are actually doing something NEW....All that and more in today's Comunicano Communique.

By the way, don't miss the API event of the summer in Las Vegas. "All About The API"......

 
 
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Digital Asset Holdings signs deal Depository Trust & Clearing Corp for Blockchain repos trial

Blockchain startup Digital Asset Holdings, LLC has signed a new deal with the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. to trial the company's Blockchain technology at the firm.
 
 

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AT&T to Add an Unlimited Data Option for Home Internet and Will Better Enforce Overages on Other Plans

On May 23, the company will introduce a new unlimited data option for its U-verse home Internet subscribers. AT&T customers who have only the U-verse home Internet service can add unlimited data for $30 more a month.
 
 

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Introducing Fiber Phone

Whether it's calling mom or ordering take-out, we rely on our phones to help reach the people and things that matter. And while mobile phones have pushed us toward the future, home phone service is still important to many families. Landlines can be familiar, reliable and provide high-quality service, but the technology hasn't always kept up.
 
 

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'Burner' phones might be made illegal

Burner phones might be about to be banned in the US. A Congresswoman has proposed that everyone buying a phone in the country would have to register with personal ID, to stop criminal activities being planned with handsets that can be bought anonymously and then thrown away. Forcing shops to require customers to give over identification when buying cheap phones or pre-paid SIMs could be one of the most important ways that terrorists are able to communicate, according to Ca...
 
 

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Facebook's Messenger lands first airline as chat app pushes into commerce

SAN FRANCISCO - KLM Royal Dutch Airlines passengers will soon be able to check in, get flight updates, make travel changes and talk to customer service reps straight from Facebook's Messenger chat app. KLM is the first airline and the first major European partner for Messenger, which is used by 800 million people around the globe.
 
 

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Snapchat Wants You to Video Call Your Friends and View all their Stories

Snapchat has taken to the official blog to announce new features that allow users to place audio and video calls. Over 200 stickers have been added to the mix, allowing you to send stickers of things such as aliens, Snapchat's ghost, and walruses to your added contacts.
 
 

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Instagram Increases Video Length From 15 Seconds To 60

Users will soon be able to record and post Instagram videos that are as long as 60 seconds. Instagram has increased the video limit on posts because users have been watching more videos on the service. "In the last six months, the time people spent watching video increased by more than 40 percent," the company said on its official blog.
 
 

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SoundCloud Starts Subscription Plan, Taking On Spotify and Apple

Two weeks after signing its final licensing deal with a major record company, the online music service SoundCloud has introduced its long-awaited subscription plan. The new program gives customers access to a much wider range of music than is available on competing services like Spotify and Apple, and it offers artists and their labels the promise of royalties.
 
 

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Spotify raises $1 billion in debt with devilish terms to fight Apple Music

On-demand streaming music is inevitable, so Spotify is taking whatever fuel it can get to win the race against Apple. Whoever can sign up customers faster to consume their data and network effect could earn money off them for a long, long time.
 
 

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Waze rolls out speed alerts to tell you when you're driving too fast

Google-owned GPS driving app Waze is making it easier to avoid speeding tickets today, with the launch of a new speed alerts feature. Now when you're driving on unfamiliar roads, or perhaps find yourself somewhere where the speed limit isn't clearly signposted, you can set up alerts for when you're moving too fast.
 
 

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Lyft wants to make 'casual carpooling' a thing again

Ride-hailing service Lyft is launching a new carpooling service in the Bay Area today that it insists is entirely different from all the other carpooling services out there, including its own Lyft Line.
 
 

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Plot twist: I'm working for Google

So that's a headline I never thought I'd be writing. But it's true. I recently flew out to Mountain View for orientation, meetings and my first visit ever to Google HQ. To clarify though, I haven't earned one of the Noogler hats that my son has coveted for so long.
 
 

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