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Sinu Blog: Playing with Sand

  • Tuesday

    Technology on most holiday gift lists… please shop wisely!

    According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®63 percent of American adults – or 89 million people – will purchase technology holiday gifts. CEA predicts total tech spending will increase 2.5 percent from 2013, to reach a record $33.76 billion during the 2014 holiday season.

    If your Internet seems a bit bogged down this week, it could be because a record-breaking 103.3 million Americans will shop online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday this year, according to CEA. The top five tech products consumers plan to during that time are:

    1) Tablets (for the second year in a row)

    2) Televisions (moving up from fourth place last year)

    3) Laptop/notebook computers

    4) Smartphones (jumping six percentage points from last year)

    5) Video game consoles (slipping two spots)

    If you're looking to purchase technology this holiday, there are several reviews out there to help you with your decision. One of the most comprehensive tech gift guide is from Washington Post tech reporter, Hayley Tsukayama, who does a series of reports covering everything from smartphones and tablets, to cool tech gifts under $100, and interesting gadgets for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list.

    As your tech partner, we would be remiss if we did not mention a few ways you can keep your data safe online when shopping this weekend:

    1) Only shop from reputable and recognized online sites;

    2) Use a credit card, not debit card, to make purchases because credit cards often come with insurance should your data be compromised;

    3) Avoid public Wi-Fi – it is one of the ways hackers steal data from unsuspecting victims; and

    4) Create good passwords for any new online accounts you create using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters and two-factor authentication if possible.

    See previous Sinu blogs for more detailed information about creating good passwords and wi-fi security.

    Have a happy and safe holiday!




    New York City to have the “Fastest Free Wi-Fi in the World”

    The remaining 6,400 payphones throughout New York City’s five boroughs will be replaced by free Wi-Fi kiosks, according to city officials.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, which issued a request for proposals (RFP) earlier this year, awarded the Wi-Fi hotspot project to CityBridge, a consortium of companies including advertising firm and current pay-phone franchisee Titan Outdoor, digital consulting firm Control Group, giant chip-maker Qualcomm and hardware manufacturer Comark. The network is called LinkNYC and it will provide free, very fast (up to one gigabit per second) Internet access, free domestic calls using cellphones or a built-in keypad, a charging station for mobile devices and access to city services and directions.

    If the contract with CityBridge is approved and the New York City’s Design Commission okays the design, the first 500-plus kiosks will be installed by the end of next year. CityBridge has four years to complete installation of the first 4,000 structures, with 10,000 total kiosks anticipated at the end of the initiative (according to the RFP).

    So what does this mean to the people of New York City? The New York Times reported that “Mr. de Blasio called expanded broadband access ‘essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city,’ adding that the system would be ‘the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world.’”

    These free, fast hotspots might also be good for business. According to a report by Wired earlier this year, the city sees these kiosks as real moneymakers – and not just for the city, which is guaranteed payment of $20 million in advertising revenue in the first year of operation.

    Wired reports, “The free services will attract job hunters, freelancers, small businesses and tech startups, as well as residents that cannot afford good broadband. In addition to contributing to the economy in this way, new jobs will be created through the servicing of the hubs, and the city estimates it will make $17.5 million annually by June 2026 from digital advertising displayed on them.”

    While the LinkNYC initiative has been praised by most, it has had to face some criticism, including questions about data privacy and how these kiosks will work during power outages. (Pay phones served a critical function during Hurricane Sandy two years ago.) The city said that personal data would only be used in aggregate and that backup batteries would allow for 911 calls to be made for at least 24 hours after power went out.

    We have not heard how the city will address data security, since public Wi-Fi is a prime target for hackers. But we will keep you informed as the launch of these new kiosks approaches. In the meantime, we thought this might be a good time to remind all Wi-Fi users about data security tips we provided in an earlier blog, How to protect your data when using public Wi-Fi.


    Why Net Neutrality Matters to Small Business

    Just when advocates thought their last hope of securing Internet neutrality, also known as “net neutrality,” was about to pass, President Obama stepped out of the shadows to call for broadband Internet to be reclassified as a public utility, so it would be regulated similarly to electricity. From video of President Obama explaining his net neutrality plan posted on

    Currently, broadband is regulated at the federal level by the FCC.  Advocates for net neutrality have accused the agency of being reticent to counterbalance the power of large media conglomerates and have asked the government to reclassify the Internet as a utility in order to support a level playing field for all users, rather than allowing large companies, such as Netflix, to buy up and control Internet bandwidth and speed. (For more history on the debate, see the Sinu blog, A Neutral Look at Net Neutrality).

    According to NPR, “President Obama released a statement and video on Monday, November 10, in which he asks to reclassify the Internet — and mobile broadband — as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.”

    "I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online," Obama said in the statement.

    The net neutrality implications are far reaching in terms of broadband costs and speed, particularly for small businesses interested in utilizing more cloud technologies or dependent upon online commerce. Small businesses benefit greatly by lower-entry cost services. For example, cloud services, such as Microsoft 365, Google Apps, Salesforce, etc., can be delivered at a relatively low cost to small businesses because these online solutions are able to scale their customer base widely. Any "tolls on the road" for these online services will impact small businesses the most because their budgets are more limited than large enterprise.  

    The Internet has been called a great equalizer, helping small companies compete against multinational companies. However, if net neutrality is not protected and cloud service providers have to pass along an additional cost to prioritize their data, small businesses will be negatively affected and likely lose some of the competitive advantage cloud services can provide.