TIME wireless carriers

The Best Family Smartphone Plan

Family Plans
Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

If you’re paying a large cellphone bill for a large family, then you’ve no doubt noticed all the ads on TV and the Internet about the latest, greatest “family plan” offering huge discounts for families of four or more. Every carrier has a family plan, and yes, some of them are solid deals.

But as you can imagine, there’s fine print to every deal. Joining a family plan is harder than it sounds, and you might need to put up a lot of cash up front first. Here are all the details on each of the major carriers’ family plans, fine print included.

Verizon

Verizon’s most affordable family plan is called MORE Everything with Edge. It offers a family of four unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). That price doesn’t include fees, taxes and data surcharges, which could add another $10 to $20 to your bill per month.

There’s a catch, however: Verizon’s Edge plans require you to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you’re a current Verizon customer, you can join an Edge plan with your own phone when your current contracts expire. But you’ll have to pay full price for phones from that day forward.

AT&T

AT&T’s most affordable family smartphone plan is called Mobile Share Value. Like Verizon’s plan above, it also offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). Fees, taxes and data surcharges are extra.

AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan has the same limitations that Verizon Edge plans do: You need to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you don’t already have AT&T compatible phones, you’ll need to buy the four at full price.

Sprint

The pricing of Sprint’s Unlimited Framily Plans is a bit complicated, as your price per line decreases as you add new ones. For a family of four, Sprint’s Framily plan offers unlimited talk and unlimited text, but just 1GB of high-speed data per line, for $160 total ($40 per line x 4). Larger families save more – the cost drops by $5 per line with each additional line until you hit $175 for a “framily” of seven ($25 per line x 7). Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Sprint throttles your speed when you hit your max, instead.

Sprint no longer offers contracts, so the only concern with switching is obtaining the four or more Sprint-compatible phones you’d need.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s new family plan, which became available July 30, is called T-Mobile Simple Choice. It offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data (2.5GB per line) for a total of $100. With T-Mobile, the first line you activate costs $50/month, the second $30/month and then $10/month for each line thereafter. Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Like Sprint, however, T-Mobile throttles.

T-Mobile no longer offer contracts, either. You can purchase new phones at full price, or make a down payment and have the remaining cost added to your monthly bill in equal monthly payments.

Which family plan is best?

If you look simply at the raw plan numbers, T-Mobile has the best deal for a family of four. Plus, T-Mobile is willing to pay your current carrier’s early termination fees, But making the switch to the carrier isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk for your family. You’ll have to pay for new phones to join if your current phones aren’t compatible with the T-Mobile network. If they aren’t compatible, check the trade-in value of your phones to see if you can get enough cash to cover enough of the cost of the great low-cost Android devices currently available.

Or maybe skip the family plan entirely…

Alternatively, you may decide that it’s in your family’s best interest to skip these family plans entirely. They’re cheaper mainly because you need to give up your lucrative new phone subsidies to join them. If you’re a current Verizon or AT&T customer who enjoys cutting-edge phones like the rumored iPhone 6, it may be in your best interest to avoid having to pay for several $650+ devices up front.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Wireless

T-Mobile and the FTC: What Is Text Message ‘Cramming?’

T-Mobile Cramming
John Legere, chief executive officer of T-Mobile US Inc., speaks during an event in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Bloomberg/ Getty Images

The FTC says T-Mobile made millions off "cramming," but what is that, anyway?

Government watchdogs on Tuesday charged T-Mobile with making hundreds of millions of dollars by turning a blind eye to a text message scam scheme known as “cramming.” Here’s what you should know about it:

What is cramming?

Cramming happens when scammers attach hard-to-spot charges to text message services like horoscopes or trivia games. Those charges either come without your permission or at a higher rate than you expected. The fees are attached to your monthly phone bill, and your carrier often takes a cut, as it would for other forms of third-party billing-by-text. The crammers hope their charges stay hidden in plain sight on your often-confusing monthly phone bill.

Here’s what a cramming charge would look like on a T-Mobile bill, according to the FTC:

tmobile-samplebill
Federal Trade Commission

Is cramming legal?

Some states have passed anti-cramming laws, but monitoring for and responding to cramming schemes is largely the job of the FTC, the nation’s federal consumer watchdog, and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees wireless carriers and other telecoms.

The FTC has been successful in clamping down on cramming before: a group of companies which the Commission said were running a massive cramming scheme recently settled those charges to the tune of $10 million. The FCC, meanwhile, says it’s penalized companies nine times for cramming — and will look at the FTC’s T-Mobile charges as well. And Verizon agreed last year to settle a class-action cramming lawsuit, agreeing to refund every single cramming charge to any customer who asked for his or her money back in a big win for consumers.

Should I be worried about cramming?

At this point, not really. Not long after that Verizon settlement — and under pressure from state attorneys general — the four major American carriers — Big Red plus AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, agreed to drop most forms of third-party text billing. That effectively eliminated text message cramming as a worthwhile scam, so it’s not happening so much anymore. The carriers still let you make some payments via text, like to the Red Cross during emergencies and, more recently, to political campaigns.

But if you think you’ve been crammed, you can complain to your carrier and to the FTC to get the ball rolling on a refund — an option available to you even before the carriers’ pact. You can also contact the FTC about pretty much anything else confusing about your phone bill.

But wait, I thought the FTC said T-Mobile was allowing cramming?

You’re right! But the FTC’s accusing T-Mobile of allowing cramming back before the carriers made their pact against the practice. The Commission’s saying that so many T-Mobile customers were requesting refunds for certain third-party charges, it should have been clear to T-Mobile that something fishy was going on — but according to the FTC, T-Mobile didn’t act on those red flags. Instead, the FTC says, T-Mobile made millions by taking 30-40% of the obviously fraudulent charges.

What’s all this mean for T-Mobile?

T-Mobile is in hot water here. Under the leadership of feisty and controversial CEO John Legere, T-Mobile’s branded itself as the “un-carrier,” a hip wireless carrier that’s more consumer-friendly than rivals Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Getting hit with a charge like this could put a serious dent in that image, as my colleague Victor Luckerson writes: What’s consumer-friendly about reaping millions off text message scams? Legere himself has already responded to the FTC’s charges, calling them “factually and legally unfounded” and “misdirected.” Legere also says T-Mobile’s been working to refund cramming fees.

The cramming charges could also throw a monkey wrench into Sprint’s plans to merge with T-Mobile in a massive $32 billion deal that has yet to pass regulators’ smell tests — it’s likely the charges will need to be addressed before that deal can be given the green light.

TIME Video Games

Go Ahead, Wirelessly Connect Your PS4 Controller to Your PS3

Sony

The DualShock 4, which ships with Sony's next-gen PlayStation 4, now works wirelessly with Sony's last-gen PlayStation 3.

It’s finally happened: Sony just made it possible for players with PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controllers to connect them to their PS3s without tethers.

You could previously mate a DualShock 4 to a PS3 by plugging the former into the latter directly, using the USB cable, but the PS3 wouldn’t recognize the DualShock 4 absent that cable. Now that’s possible using good ol’ Bluetooth, to the extent that tapping the DualShock 4’s PlayStation button will even wake up the PS3 properly.

The “fix” arrived unceremoniously with a low-key PS3 firmware update (version 4.60, which dropped on June 24), or at least that’s the presumption some are making at Reddit, though there was also a PS4 firmware update to version 1.72 released around the same time, which for all we know did something to the DualShock 4 controller itself.

Here’s the blow-by-blow:

  • Under “Accessory Settings” on your PS3, locate and select “Manage Bluetooth Devices.”
  • Select “Register New Device.” The PS3 will begin Bluetooth scanning.
  • Simultaneously press and hold the DualShock 4’s “Share” and “PS” buttons until the controller’s light bar starts blinking. The controller should appear in the PS3’s list as a “Wireless Controller.”

Trouble is, that designation — “Wireless Controller” — means the PS3 still sees the DualShock 4 as a generic controller, thus neither SIXAXIS nor haptic feedback nor its DualShock 4-specific features (like the touchpad) are going to work properly, meaning you’re liable to run into compatibility problems with certain games.

The other piece to bear in mind is that the DualShock 4 can only sync with one device at a time, so if you pair with your PS3, you’ll have to re-pair with your PS4 and vice versa if you frequent both. All told, wonderful as the DualShock 4 gamepad is (it’s my personal favorite on any platform at the moment), I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble. But if you want to fiddle anyway, no strings attached, now you can.

TIME Companies

Feds: T-Mobile Charged Customers for Spam Text Frauds

T-Mobile
A T-Mobile store is seen at 7th Avenue and 49th Street on March 23, 2012 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The consumer watchdog says T-Mobile should have spotted text message scams hitting its customers

Update: July 1, 5:02 p.m. ET

The Federal Trade Commission accused wireless carrier T-Mobile on Tuesday of placing unauthorized charges on customers’ bills for unwanted premium SMS services such as flirting tips, horoscopes and celebrity gossip. T-Mobile generated hundreds of millions of dollars by taking a portion of the typical $9.99-a-month subscription fee charged for such services, according to the FTC.

Wireless carriers often agree to include third-party charges in customers’ monthly phone bills (AT&T customers, for instance, can pay for Beats Music as part of their cell phone plan). However, sometimes these charges are not authorized by customers and are hidden deep within their bills, a practice known as “cramming.” Several cramming companies targeted T-Mobile subscribers, but the wireless carrier continued to let them charge its customers even after there were indications of fraud, according to the FTC, which says up to 40 percent of the customers who were charged for these services asked for a refund. The FTC argues that figure should have indicated fraudulent activity.

Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said credit card companies typically investigate instances of potential fraud if at least one percent of customers claim they have been wrongly charged from a specific vendor.

“It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

Beyond allowing the charges to occur, the FTC also claims that T-Mobile made it difficult for customers to discover the charges on their own phone bills. The carrier also refused refunds to some customers or told them to try to get their money back from the scammers, according to the FTC.

The FTC will seek refunds for customers who were the victims of fraudulent charges, an amount that Rich says could be hundreds of millions of dollars. The commission will also seek a court order to ban T-Mobile from allowing cramming in the future.

The accusation of subscriber-duping undercuts T-Mobile’s customer-friendly “Un-carrier” marketing campaign the carrier has pursued in the last year. As part of that strategy, the company has gotten rid of cellphone plan mainstays, like two-year contracts and overage charges, while constantly vilifying its competitors as overly greedy.

In a statement, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the FTC complaint was without merit. “T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry rather than the real bad actors,” he said.

The company is hardly the only wireless carrier that has allowed cramming. Last fall Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all agreed to stop billing customers for unwanted charges from third-party services in most states. Legere also pointed out that T-Mobile already has a program in place to provide refunds to customers who felt they were fraudulently charged via cramming.

TIME Tech

Comcast Turns 50,000 Homes into Wi-Fi Hotspots

Comcast Launches Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspots
A Comcast worker installs Xfinity into a home. John Greim—© 2012 John Greim

Comcast turned 50,000 home routers in Houston into public Wi-Fi hotspots on Tuesday, the first stage in the company’s plan to launch hotspots across the country.

Customers with newer wireless routers will now host a Wi-Fi network named “xfinitywifi,” which other Comcast subscribers can join at no cost, the Houston Chronicle reported. The cable company will reach 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014, covering more than half of the U.S.’s major cities, according to a press release. The move will allow Comcast to compete with companies like AT&T, which offers WiFi hotspots through Starbucks and McDonald’s.

While customers had the opportunity to opt out of the initiative, more than 99% chose to enable their hotspots, a move that will improve Xfinity Wi-Fi accessibility among Comcast users and help them cut cellular data costs. In the past year, the number of out-of-home Xfinity WiFi sessions has increased by 700%.

According to Cisco, 88% of all U.S. data traffic from mobile devices will travel via Wi-Fi by 2018.

TIME Net neutrality

8 Things You Should Know About Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Proposes New Open Internet Rules Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler listens during a news conference after an open meeting to receive public comment on proposed open Internet notice of proposed rule-making and spectrum auctions on May 15, 2014 at the FCC headquarters in Washington. Alex Wong—Getty Images

As the Open Internet debate intensifies, here's a guide to the FCC, net neutrality, and what's at stake for the future of the Internet

For many years, net neutrality was a relatively obscure policy topic that mostly preoccupied phone and cable companies, D.C. telecom lawyers, Open Internet activists and a handful of tech firms and startups. Compared to major national issues like the economy, national security, healthcare and immigration, net neutrality barely registered a blip on the American consciousness.

Those days are over.

Over the last three weeks, net neutrality has become front page news across the country, after a U.S. plan to update its Internet regulations was leaked to the press. The Internet exploded in commentary, tens of thousands of people called and emailed the FCC, the nation’s largest Internet and broadband companies weighed in, dozens of U.S. lawmakers registered their views, and protestors established an encampment outside the FCC’s D.C. office.

On Thursday, the FCC passed a crucial hurdle advancing the public comment process that will ultimately lead to new net neutrality rules. Four demonstrators had to be dragged away after disrupting the proceedings. Let’s take a take a step back and examine what this whole kerfuffle is about.

1. What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be an open platform, and broadband companies shouldn’t be able to interfere with your right to access content and services online. Another way of putting this is that broadband giants like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T shouldn’t be able to block or discriminate against certain content — especially rival content — as it enters your home and reaches your computer.

Net neutrality advocates believe that all Internet users should have unfettered access to the Internet, just like all Americans have the right to travel anywhere in the 50 states without a passport. Without this open access, which many Internet users take for granted, startups like Google, Twitter and Facebook might never have flourished, net neutrality advocates argue.

2. Why is net neutrality important now?

The FCC’s net neutrality policies have been in limbo since a federal court struck down most of the agency’s 2010 open Internet order in January. That order prohibited broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking traffic like Skype or Netflix or putting them into an Internet “slow lane.”

Without such protections, net neutrality advocates fear the Internet could turn into a two-tiered system — or worse, something akin to cable TV with premium bundles and packages.

3. What is the FCC and what does it do?

The Federal Communications Commission is an independent federal agency overseen by Congress that regulates all communications “by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable” throughout the country. As such, the FCC has broad regulatory authority over corporate giants like CBS, AT&T, Comcast, DirectTV, among many other companies. The agency is also responsible for managing the nation’s wireless spectrum — the radio airwaves that make our smartphones and tablets connect to each other and the Internet.

In recent years, the FCC has increasingly focused on Internet access, both wired and wireless, which has become a crucial communications medium. Among the most important FCC mandates are promoting competition, innovation and media diversity in order to advance the public interest. The FCC is an independent agency, which means the White House can’t tell it what to do.

4. How is the FCC organized?

The FCC is led by five commissioners who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. The president appoints one of the commissioners to be chairman of the commission, which is usually split along party lines 3-2, depending on who is in the White House. Historically, the FCC chairman has had broad power to determine the agenda’s agency.

The current FCC chairman is Tom Wheeler, a Democrat and former venture capitalist who served as the top cable and wireless lobbyist two decades ago, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s presidential campaigns. The two other Democratic commissioners are Mignon Clyburn, a former public official from South Carolina, and Jessica Rosenworcel, a lawyer and former senior Senate staffer. The two Republican commissioners are Ajit Pai, a former senior FCC official and Michael O’Rielly, a former senior Congressional staffer.

5. What just happened?

On Thursday, the FCC approved what’s called a “notice of proposed rulemaking” (NPRM) on party lines making Wheeler’s draft open Internet proposal available for public review, and triggering four months of public comment. The proposal seeks public input on the best way to ensure the Internet stays open, and to prevent broadband companies from blocking or discriminating against rival services, especially startups, potentially harming innovation.

Wheeler’s draft opens the door to so-called “paid prioritization,” in which broadband providers could strike special deals with Internet companies for preferential treatment. Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel both oppose such special deals, and offered their views in statements on Thursday. Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly oppose regulating the Internet-based on free-market principles and said as much in their own statements.

6. Why are net neutrality advocates upset?

Open Internet advocates argue that strong net neutrality rules are essential in order to ensure that the Internet remains the open, dynamic platform that has spawned a generation of technological innovation and generated billions of dollars in economic growth — much of it coming from tech startups. As a presidential candidate, Obama famously declared that he would “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality,” and vowed to appoint FCC commissioners who felt the same way.

Many net neutrality advocates feel burned by Obama. And they weren’t amused when he chose Wheeler, who once served as a top industry lobbyist, as president of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and later as CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), to be FCC chairman. Wheeler insists he supports open Internet principles, but many net neutrality advocates are still skeptical. “Tom Wheeler spoke passionately about the open Internet, but his rousing rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of his proposal,” says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press.

7. Why are broadband providers and their allies upset?

Net neutrality advocates want the FCC to reclassify broadband companies under the Title II “common carrier” provisions of the Communications Act that have governed traditional phone companies for decades. Such reclassification, which Wheeler says he’s considering, would subject the broadband companies to tighter regulation. The broadband giants oppose such reclassification with every fiber of their being.

“Reclassification of broadband Internet access offerings as Title II — telecommunications services would impose great costs, allowing unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the Internet economy,” twenty-eight CEOs including Lowell McAdam of Verizon, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, Robert Marcus of Time Warner Cable, and Brian Roberts of Comcast, wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Under Title II, new service offerings, options, and features would be delayed or altogether foregone. Consumers would face less choice, and a less adaptive and responsive Internet.”

8. How will the process work moving forward?

The FCC vote to approve the NPRM triggered a four-month comment period for the public to weigh in: 60 days (until July 15) to submit initial comments and another 57 days (until September 10) for reply comments. The agency is seeking input on several crucial questions including whether the FCC should prohibit paid prioritization completely, whether the new rules should apply to mobile broadband service, and whether the agency should reclassify broadband service under Title II “common carrier” principles.

The FCC has encouraged the public to participate in the process. Interested parties can submit their comments here, or at Docket 14-28: “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.” Recent public comment filings can be found here. Email comments are also accepted at openinternet@fcc.gov. (Remember, you’ll be filing a document into an official FCC proceeding, and any information submitted, including names and addresses, will be publicly available via the web.)

TIME Companies

Univision, T-Mobile Launching Wireless Service For Hispanic Community

The move follows other recent attempts to capitalize on and cater to the U.S.'s rapidly growing Hispanic population

Spanish language media conglomerate Univision is joining hands with wireless provider T-Mobile to offer a new service tailor-made for Hispanic-Americans. The wireless service, dubbed “Univision Mobile,” will launch May 19 at Walmart as well as at 6,000 other dealer locations.

The idea, according to Univision, is to use T-Mobile’s wireless network to convey Univision programming via its Univision Rewards portal, including custom content like ringtones and wallpapers, first looks at upcoming Univision shows and behind-the-scenes access to Univision-related events and personalities.

The Univision deal incorporates T-Mobile’s annual no-contract wireless service options. Univision president of digital and enterprise development Kevin Conroy adds that the plans will be “specifically tailored to our audience’s needs.” The partnership would give Univision a mobile platform for its content, while hypothetically enlarging T-Mobile’s appeal to the Hispanic community.

The move comes as others are attempting to capitalize on (and cater to) the U.S.’s rapidly growing Hispanic population: Verizon last year partnered with singer and actress Jennifer Lopez to launch its Viva Móvil retail brand (designed, in Lopez’s words, “to revolutionize the entire mobile experience for Latinos”). And filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, From Dusk til Dawn, Machete) recently partnered with Univision, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable to launch his English language El Rey network in December, designed to cater to Latino audiences.

Indeed, as Univision notes, Hispanic-Americans currently number 56 million in the U.S. (of 315 million total), and at current growth projection rates, the U.S. Census Bureau says one in three Americans will be of Hispanic origin by 2050.

“Hispanic-Americans are among the largest, most important and most influential groups in the U.S. today,” said Mike Sievert, Chief Marketing Officer for T-Mobile, in a statement. “And they deserve wireless tailored to their interests and needs.”

TIME New York City

New York City’s Plan to Turn Pay Phones Into Wi-Fi Hot Spots

A disused pay phone is covered in snow in Times Square in New York
A disused pay phone is covered in snow in Times Square in New York February 5, 2014. Carlo Allegri—Reuters

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for proposals to morph the phone booths into Wi-Fi hot spots and would blanket the five boroughs with free access, ramping up a pilot program begun by his predecessor. If successful, the effort could be a blueprint for other cities

Pay phones, what are they good for?

Creating one of the largest free public wi-fi networks in the country, of course. That was the vision laid out by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday, in an announcement that could transform those familiar relics of 20th century communication into next-generation broadband hubs.

New York City has issued a request for proposals designed to create a network of Internet hot spots that will blanket the Big Apple’s five boroughs with free wireless Internet access. If successful, the effort could provide a blueprint for other big cities, at a time when municipalities around the country are racing to provide better Internet connectivity for citizens.

The city has been toying with the concept of transforming pay phones into wireless hot spots for years. The previous administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a pilot project to explore the idea, but de Blasio’s announcement injects new energy into the plan.

“For years, the question was, ‘What to do with payphones?’ and now we have an answer,” de Blasio said in a statement. “By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services, and increase revenue to the city — all at absolutely no cost to taxpayers.”

Today, New York City’s pay-phone kiosks basically function as advertising billboards, some of which contain usable pay phones. Under current city contracts, three big companies — Van Wagner Kiosk Advertising, Titan Outdoor Communications and Telebeam Telecommunications Corporation — control 84% of the kiosks, according to the New York Times.

Those contracts expire this year. Under de Blasio’s plan, new contracts would be issued “for the installation, operation, and maintenance of up to 10,000 public communication points distributed across the five boroughs,” the city said in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio has made making New York City the most wired city in the world a policy,” says Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of the NY Tech Meetup and a longtime advocate on city tech issues. “As a result, the administration wants to take advantage of every feasible piece of city-owned infrastructure to make that possible.”

The city says the new franchise will produce $17.5 million in guaranteed annual revenue for city coffers through the end of June 2026. Potential franchisees could include big wireless companies like AT&T or Verizon Wireless, which would make money through the existing billboards as well as digital advertising.

Last year Google introduced a plan to provide free public wi-fi in the southwest Chelsea neighborhood near its mammoth headquarters.

In addition to free wi-fi, the revamped kiosks — which could contain solar-energy cells — will continue to offer traditional phone service, as well as free 911 and 311 calls. They could also contain free cell-phone-charging stations as well interactive touch screens that provide local information or facilitate business transactions.

“We’re very happy to see this administration take such a bold step forward in promoting ubiquitous free WiFi Internet access,” Dana Spiegel, Executive Director of NYCwireless, said in a statement. “If this is any indication of things to come, we’re very excited about the city’s commitment to open, competitive and innovative solutions to bring the Internet to everyone.”

TIME Travel

AT&T Is Building an In-Flight 4G LTE Network

Watch out, GoGo – you’re about to get some serious, big name competition. AT&T plans to launch the first high-speed, 4G LTE-based broadband service for planes flying as high as 35,000 feet, the company announced Monday.

“We are building on AT&T’s significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards,” explains AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey. “We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience.”

Currently, the state of in-flight wireless is a mixed bag. Industry leader Gogo is launching a new 60Mbps high-speed network on Virgin America planes later this year, while rival ViaSat is launching high-speed service on select United flights. On the other hand, in-flight wireless is still painfully slow on most U.S. airplanes (if you can even find it at all).

Hopefully, the presence of a new big name in the market will bring more connected flights and better prices. We’ll find out if AT&T has what it takes when the new service launches in late 2015.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Google

Google’s Microcamera Contact Lens Is Coming to an Eyeball Near You

Forget Glass. The tech giant has filed a patent application for a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera that could be controlled by blinking and would process data to help blind people "see"—and link—to smartphones

+ READ ARTICLE

After Google Glass, the next “moon shot” Google product might very well be a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera.

The tech giant has filed a patent application on a smart lens with sensors that could detect light, pattern of colors, objects and faces.

Those wearing the contacts would command the device through a sophisticated system of unique blinking patterns, as explained by the blog Patent Bold.

Google’s latest breakthrough could help blind people see certain moving objects around them, according to Patent Bolt.

“For example, a blind person wearing Google’s contact lens with a built-in camera may be walking on a sidewalk and approaching an intersection. The analysis component of the contact lens can process the raw image data of the camera to determine … that there is a car approaching the intersection.”

The lens would also have wireless capabilities to be hooked up to smartphones.

In January, Google revealed a prototypes of contact lenses that will make it easier for diabetes patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and stay healthy.

 

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