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Wireless Networking United States Hardware

FCC Aims To End Debate With Wireless Tests 121

narramissic writes "Engineers from T-Mobile, AT&T, M2Z Networks, Nokia, Metro PCS, CTIA and XM Sirius have convened at a Boeing facility in Seattle this week to watch as the FCC performs tests it hopes will quiet debate over a proposed spectrum auction. At issue is the FCC's requirement that the winner offer free wireless broadband services in a portion of the spectrum, a move the wireless industry contends will lead to interference for 3G phone users. The FCC is conducting some of the same tests that T-Mobile, one of the more vocal opponents of the FCC plan, has already done plus some additional tests, focusing on interference between handsets running on the different frequencies. Some of the tests involve using handsets connected to WiMax or UMTS networks running on spectrum the commercial providers would use, and then issuing signals using the proposed new service and spectrum, to determine at what signal strength the proposed service causes the WiMax or UMTS call to drop."
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FCC Aims To End Debate With Wireless Tests

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  • Wow, it's almost like they pulled their collective heads out, and made a decision that seems to make sense.
    There must be something nefarious in there somewhere. *Dons patented triple protection foil hat*
    • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:55AM (#24889159)

      "seems to make sense."

      That's the problem... it only SEEMS to make sense. What they really need to do is have a panel of respected and neutral engineers design their own test... one that may not be designed to fail.

      There have been all kinds of laws and other legislation passed because one party managed to convince a government entity of their case by designing a test to illustrate their case.

      One great example is Asbestos... Asbestos, in it's most common uses, was inert and completely safe. Even a lay person could remove asbestos tiles, insulation, etc. with little risk to their health... certainly no more risk than smoking a pack or two of cigarettes. Only those who had frequent exposure to asbestos in an airborn form were ever really at risk.

      So why is asbestos, an extremely cheap and effective substance, banned in the US... simply because a test was designed which demonstrated it was unsafe. But it wasn't unsafe on the floor under your child's desk, or wrapped around a steam line, or insulating a boiler, or any of it's many uses. It was unsafe in some situations which could have been made safe with a few laws regulating it's use, the way it was mined and processed, and a few OSHA standards for individuals working with it daily.

      Just like hemp, asbestos has been banned without reguard to it's value and relatively low risk to the public simply because someone created a test to show that it CAN be unsafe.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Kind of like gathering lobster and crab in the Atlantic Ocean I suppose. Those fishermen have the highest job-related death rates of anyone. And we continue to buy such dangerous-to-obtain seafood.
      • I'd like for you to tell all the people who died from asbestos poisoning in Amagasaki, Japan due to the asbestos plant there that it is perfectly safe. I actually lived in that city for a while, luckily after the asbestos plant was closed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Mouse42 ( 765369 )

          My great aunt died of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. She was only exposed to it through her husband - her husband had preventative treatment, but she did not because they didn't realize she could be exposed through the residue left on his clothing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          I can't say I know much about asbestos in particular but there are many substances in modern society that are unsafe if misused, but which have the potential to benefit life if they are used properly. Most industrial chemicals fall into this category - many are unsafe if mishandled, but if you start banning them left and right there won't be much of modern society left.

          The question is one of risk vs reward. The problem is that in modern society we've become so risk adverse that we can't see beyond this.

      • Citation please, hemp has not been banned in the US. You just have to import it. What you're suggesting is pretty absurd. Asbestos is known to cause serious bodily harm when used in real world conditions.

        Yes,theoretically if you apply asbestos and don't ever have to mess with it and nothing else disturbs it you are correct. But I know people that work around it and it costs a ridiculous amount of money to handle properly when you do have to disturb it.

        I know it's popular to be a member of the tinfoil elite,

        • by Korin43 ( 881732 )
          I assume by "banned" they meant that you can't grow hemp here, even if it's so shitty that no one would want to smoke it.
      • Asbestos was intitally banned, but that was over turned and it is now allowed to be used in certain situations. So, some new buildings being built, are being built with Asbestos in them.
      • by A440Hz ( 1054614 )

        Just like hemp, asbestos has been banned

        Wait--is there a medical use for asbestos, too?

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Hemp, per this definition, wouldn't have any medical uses unless you wanted to tie a patient down or make hospital gowns out of it.

      • by Tweenk ( 1274968 )

        It's more ironic than that. Asbestos is mostly harmless unless you start to remove it. It is mainly the unskilled removal of asbestos, which creates a lot of dust, that causes it to be harmful. This is because only the airborne fibers are carcinogenic, while the bulk form is neutral to human health.

    • Exactly. How did we get a functional FCC out of this administration? We've got a DoJ that's hiring based on whether you're a Republican and prosecuting Democrats on false charges, an FDA that's corrupt, and yet the FCC seems to not only have things figured out, they're standing up for themselves. I guess we got lucky someone good at their job slipped through the cracks and made it in.

  • Great Idea... not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:40AM (#24888959)

    Somehow I have a feeling that T-Mobile's test will result in the same results for the FCC as it did for T-Mobile. If it doesn't then I would argue that the FCC should fine, or even remove T-Mobile's license as they are obviously not capable of properly executing a test.

    My question is simply, did the FCC engineers study the actual test itself to determine if the test is really worth doing. It might be a standard test case, as such why is it news, if it's not a normal test I would try and confirm that the test itself is not skewed to prove the point.

    It would be relatively easy to create a complex test that appears to illustrate a bad scenerio when in reality is simply takes advantage of some obscure phenomenon. For example, the types of antenna's used, reflection, resonance, etc... could all make the test results say something that is not generally true.

    • by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:00PM (#24889239) Homepage

      Maybe that's exactly the point? To find out if their results have any merit or if they apply in real-world scenarios. I don't know how much information T-Mobile has provided about these tests, but there's undoubtedly a completely other level of information sharing when their engineers get together and work on the same test.

    • Two things...

      1. T-Mobile may have conducted tests in worst-case scenarios. It's their network threatened, they might want to present the worst, not the best, possibilities.

      2. As a T-Mobile customer, I would like my service to 'not generally' be interfered with unnecessarily. In fact, I would not like to engage in the struggle to make newly-licensed services not interfere with my service AT ALL. Let's get it right, please? Before we build it? It's bad enough already, ok?

      Oh, and 3. Not all agencies or co

    • My question is why would allowing 3rd party carriers on a frequency cause any more interference than just having a bunch of phones for only one company on the frequency?
      • The free internet frequency is in a much lower frequency. Lower frequencies are stronger but carry less information than higher frequencies, think about big waves versus tiny ripples in a pond. Those tiny ripples can rid atop the big waves but can also be knocked out by them if they aren't smooth. Radio is very different but its a decent analogy.

        • Hmmm..... I thought the complaint brought up was that having 3rd party companies on, say 500Mhz, would cause interference. My question was how is 500 devices from 20 different companies using the 500Mhz frequency different than 500 devices from 1 company using that frequency. However, from your response I'd say the complaint was actually that the high usage of the lower frequencies would break the currently working and non-open higher frequencies, which would make more sense, but I still fail to see how
    • Somehow I have a feeling that T-Mobile's test will result in the same results for the FCC as it did for T-Mobile.

      Is there a coherent thought somewhere in that sentence?

      • by jhfry ( 829244 )

        I realize that I used the same words more than once... but each time those words had different meanings or significance. So actually, it is a perfectly valid and readable sentence... but so that you can more easily parse it:

        I have a feeling that the T-Mobile designed test will yeild the same results when it is performed by the FCC as it did when T-Mobile ran the test.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      My question is simply, did the FCC engineers study the actual test itself to determine if the test is really worth doing. It might be a standard test case, as such why is it news, if it's not a normal test I would try and confirm that the test itself is not skewed to prove the point.

      It would be relatively easy to create a complex test that appears to illustrate a bad scenerio when in reality is simply takes advantage of some obscure phenomenon. For example, the types of antenna's used, reflection, resonance, etc... could all make the test results say something that is not generally true.

      Perhaps the FCC suspects that T-Mobile's tests did just that. Demonstrated that, given some unusual combination of circumstances, interference will occur. But not under real world conditions. And, rather then just studying the write-up of T-Mobile's test setup and results, they have effectively said, "Put up or shut up."

      This wouldn't be the first time when a closed network provider wailed and wrung their hands about how some open Internet technology would wreak havoc upon the world and end civilization as w

      • by jhfry ( 829244 )

        Actually that's really the point I was trying to make. The FCC is repeating the T-Mobile test in an effort to determine if T-Mobile's claims are justified. However, why would T-Mobile lie... if the FCC does verify thier results they could face some severe penalties (I would hope). Instead it would be in T-Mobile's best interest to ensure that the test is designed to fail.

        Just like saying chemical X is harmful to humans because it kills rats in a lab when you know that chemical X is toxic to rats but not

        • why would T-Mobile lie... if the FCC does verify thier results they could face some severe penalties (I would hope).

          Come on, use your common sense. What basis would they have for fining T-Mobile? It's not illegal to make mistakes in non-mandatory testing, then email your mistaken results to a guy at the FCC expressing your concerns. The fact that it's impossible to prove malice when stupidity is an adequate explanation makes any law prohibiting bad test results highly unlikely.

          • by jhfry ( 829244 )

            Your right... however there should be a penalty for deceptions like this. The FCC does very little testing themselves, instead allowing the manufacturer and owner of the spectrum to police themselves. If T-Mobile were to start lying about their test results, they could also be creating overpowered transmitters, not respecting interference regulations, etc.

            I would hope that there is some penalty for falsifying test results... perhaps no so much in this case... but in other cases where they are required to

  • Ooooookay (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:40AM (#24888965) Journal

    Slow news day?

    My Summary...

    Telecoms: It causes interference! He is our test results.
    FCC: We will run our own tests and see if we agree.

    Yeah. Moving right along now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 )

      Hey the FCC is from the Governemnt! I am SURE they are here to help us.

    • Re:Ooooookay (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:06PM (#24889335)

      My Summary...

      Telecoms: It interferes... (with our business model). And coincidentally we think we've found some scientist we can pay to say that it interferes with the handsets too.
      FCC: OK, well, we're just going to check that result, you might want to give some more money to your favourite congressmen/senators.

      Business as usual.

    • Newsworthiness (Score:5, Insightful)

      by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:14PM (#24889409) Journal

      The newsworthy part is that the FCC appears to be doing its job.

      Not only are they actually attempting to ascertain facts, but they are doing so even after their boss, Verizon, already gave them the authorized version of the truth.

      Unexpected this is. Hope's candle flickers on.

      • by 0racle ( 667029 )
        They only appear to be doing their job. They are going to rerun the same tests that T-Mobile did that show the whole plan is a failure. So, unless T-Mobile's engineers are idiots the FCC's tests can also only end in failure at which point the requirement to provide free wireless broadband to hold that spectrum range will just go away.

        They are doing the 'tests' that are required to remove the free access provision just like whoever paid the right person wants them to do.
      • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:46PM (#24889817)
        The newsworthy part is that the FCC appears to be doing its job.

        I thought their job was to prevent American children from seeing Janet Jackson's nipple? Why are they doing all this technical engineering stuff?

  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:45AM (#24889019) Journal

    This may not be entirely on-topic (please mod me down if it isn't), but I don't see why we can't have cell phones themselves as cell bases. It seems that when they first started, yes they needed towers but now everyone has a cell phone. When my phone's not in use, why can't it be used as a "tower" for someone else's call? We should be able to buy a cell phone and never need a phone company.

    • by mweather ( 1089505 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:49AM (#24889063)
      One word: batteries.
    • by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:52AM (#24889107) Homepage Journal

      You're very clever, young man, very clever, but it's turtles all the way down!

      Does your call just hop from phone to phone until it finds itself on the phone you're trying to call? Does every handset have infinite bandwidth?

      I'm all for decentralized models, but I don't think you've thought your idea through very far.


      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Why couldn't it work like packet routing?
          I know there is a power supply issue here, but getting to a device shouldn't be an issue.

        Maybe they should put repeaters in cars?

        OF course neither of them will be powerful enough to skip a decent range, or bounce off a satellite, but you could develop a 'gray net' where the entire net point A to point B could bounce from device to device never getting on the back bone, never going through a TELCO.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ironsides ( 739422 )

          Why couldn't it work like packet routing?

          One word: Latency. Packet routing networks have inconsistent routing. Inconsistent latency causes spacing in the sound in the conversation. Think about the quality of a phone call where you lose every other 1/8th second of sound.

      • Does your call just hop from phone to phone until it finds itself on the phone you're trying to call? Does every handset have infinite bandwidth?

        Yeah, I mean, what's next? Computers that can talk to each other by hopping from one to the next until they reach their destination? Pfft, that's crazy talk. What, are the just supposed to "mesh" together on their own to access other devices accross the world?

        My god man, you're insane!! Why, with technology like this even people in Africa could use cell phones!!

        And for you people who don't get it, I am referring to, in order: The Internet [], Mesh technology [], and the OLPC []. If you don't see how those can ha

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:59AM (#24889221)

      I can see issues with latency, range, and capacity.

      Latency because you are making more hops.

      Range because you don't have an elevated tower, so the next person with a phone would need to be close by. Plus, the handsets are low-powered and have tiny antennas.

      Capacity because your little phone can only deal with one or two calls worth of data. Even a 3G phone will hit a bandwidth limit if more than a few calls get routed through it. If you happen to be one of the few phones within range of a POTS connection, you are going to have a large portion of the grid routing through your phone.

      And this is all without even considering the technical challenge of routing everything without contacting a central server. P2P apps can take several minutes to get going in PC land, though it admittedly is a different problem.

    • by fishyfool ( 854019 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:01PM (#24889253) Homepage Journal
      You mean like a mesh network? Your battery life would go to hell in a handbasket. You can however buy a repeater for your home or car. Google "Personal Cell Repeater"
    • The antenna on your cell phone sucks.

      Those big antenna towers are VERY sensitive. That's why your crappy little cell phone antenna works. The big towers can detect a very weak incoming signal, and send out a very strong outgoing signal. Your phone can do neither.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Why? because that does not make money for the cellphone companies.

      99.9% of everything that should work one way but does not is because of money or the loss of money.

      Secondly, if you are communicating with your friend 500 feet away, yes you SHOULD be able to call his phone direct. That is what I loved about richochet modems, I could connect direct modem to modem even through the light pole mounted repeaters.

      The disabled that feature on newer modems before they died because people were buying modems and not

    • I would think size would be another barrier. I recognize that you don't need something as large as a brick to transmit signals, but I doubt that cell phones could effectively be used to pass signals to each other without making them larger.

      On the internet, routers work because they are dedicated to passing signals back and forth on directed paths. With an "ad hoc cell phone network", if my cell phone was using Cell Phone B for communication with Cell Phone C, I think its likely that the call would drop

    • You're suggesting the equivalent of picking yourself up off the ground by your shoe laces.

      First of all, you don't have a big enough antenna nor do you have enough transmit power in the cell phone to be a base station. Second, even if you did, are you going to tether a wire to uplink to the telephone network?
  • Ending the debate? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:45AM (#24889027)

    What corporation has ever considered a debate to be ended when the results aren't favorable to it?

    Expect criticism over experimental methodology, analysis of the data, and maybe even allegations of FCC bias by whichever side doesn't get the result it wants.

  • Free broadband? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:46AM (#24889039) Homepage Journal

    Who will pay for the bandwidth?
    Who will pay for the tower space?
    How long will it take to roll out?
    Who will get to use it?
    Hey I am all for broadband but I don't know if government mandated free broadband is such a good idea.
    I just want good reasonably priced fast broadband available to everyone.

    • Re:Free broadband? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:57AM (#24889197)

      I'm with you. Government monopolized services tend to suck. Remember how absolutely substandard and slow postal delivery was in most of the world? Then along came some global competitors (and competing technology in the form of email and faxes) and suddenly they've found Jesus and are all about improving quality and speed of services.

      The government should set rules to attempt to maintain a level playing field and then let private industry duke it out to see who has the most effective business model.


      • Haha, the rules are setup that way. They're just enforced to the highest bidder willing to "buy" off congressmen. Which is why citizens need to wise up when they vote or not vote at all.

        Its all these brainless zombies who go to vote just because they can. Those sorts of people need to go jump in a lake and clear the gene pool of their ignorance.

        The US Federal Government has become so large and involved in everyday life that it has affected competition and in general how much we pay for services and wh

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        "Government monopolized services tend to suck. "
        Myth. They tend to be run far more efficiently then private companies.

        "substandard and slow postal delivery was in most of the world? "
        Another Myth. the US has had the best postal service in the world for 100 years.

        Many government agency that went private failed, nearly all of them. The one that don't have lower quality and service then they did when they were government run.

        The government is responsible to you, a corporation is responsible to it's shareholder

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          Not all government services suck. But some really do.
          I am not even opposed to the government providing internet service or infrastructure.
          I don't like government mandated monopolies like cable companies.
          I don't think the idea of free broadband is a good one since it will never be free somebody has to pay for it. Just as we never had free mail service to use one of your examples.
          Community fiber networks? That sounds like a good plan. Like power, water, and mail you pay a fair price for a vital service.
          Or the

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        So what happens when the prominent members of private industry decide to buy out all the small fish? What happens when they start entrenching themselves in their own territories and never let competitors in?

        Private industry only works when they actually do "duke it out". The telecom industry, however, has a history of cheating.

      • Yeah, government monopolized services tend to suck. Like, I heard that in Europe, the government owns the cable lines and only leases them out to ISPs, and they only get triple our bandwidth with more competition in one area! What a freaking waste!
    • I don't think that it's so much about who will pay and how but the fact that there is a free sliver of spectrum out there for me to use. I would love to be able to set up a low power transmitter in my neighborhood.

      It would go something like this:
      1. Invest a small amount into setting up the network. Like maybe $1000.
      2. Test just how far a connection could be made from the "tower" (ie. the deck at the back of my apartment).
      3. Go to all the local businesses in range and ask them if they would be willing
    • I just want good reasonably priced fast broadband available to everyone.

      The problem is that companies get to decide what reasonably priced is. For some people, $10/month is unreasonable and THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO NEED THE SERVICE THE MOST IF THEY WANT TO IMPROVE THEIR LOT IN LIFE (though I suppose an adequate library system is a good substitute).

      In rare instances, cities have made it available []. Other cities are working towards evaluating if it is worth the cost to setup []. But the fact is that local government is the only entity which can ensure fair treatment for less pri

  • If you win couldn't you just provide a single T-1 line worth of broadband to an entire state and call it "free wireless broadband"
    IP Network Address Finding []
  • geeky... (Score:5, Funny)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:57AM (#24889195)

    I know I'm a geek when i get excited thinking about the Faraday cage they use during these tests! Wow, big enough for an AIRPLANE! I am jealous too, I can admit that.

  • So the FCC is going to "end debate" with a wireless death ray ?

    Tell me for sure: do these tinfoil hats block the government's TV waves from controlling my brain, or amplify them?

  • Gee. I was pretty darn happy with my long distance wireless broadband up till 3 months ago. I paid 39.95 a month for a 6 megabit down 500kbit up connection. I live 10 miles outside the nearest DSL, just as far from cable, and the wireless provider in our area doesn't have line of sight. Yet I was able to happily run my gaming, my voip, my email through Sprint Broad Band Direct. Right up until the FCC "reallocated" the spectrum and took my broadband away. Sorry that I'm a skeptic, but I rarely see posi
  • Is anyone with the FCC even aware that the digital signals suck especially in severe weather? This past summer we had some severe weather come through the area and the local channels went out along with the satellite dish. When I changed back to the analog signal the picture was just fine.

    Why don't they spend more time on something that really matters instead of waiting for the next big disaster when cell phones will be down from system overuse, and television will be down because the signal is getting
    • There YOU have the crux of the issue I have basically harped about for several years now.

      YOU GET IT! God bless you.

      The fcc is being controlled by fascism instead of being controlled by engineers.

      When you have such a situation, common sense, as well as common sense physics goes into the trash.

      Then those involved get to fight it out in courts or some new stupid half-assed, over-reacted, under-thought legislation get's signed, or some involved get to suffer.

      How many times have you actually heard the Emergency

      • With the signal now being digital, in order to reproduce the intelligence, you need all the parts of that packet, so when a wave with a digital intelligence is absorbed by those same trees parts of the packets are lost, and without the full packet your signal looks like crap.

        I guess you've never heard of FEC (forward error correction).

      • Your ability to get internet access from the power company should not override my ability to transmit emergency intelligence over the air. Yet, that's exactly what's happened. It's fascist agenda, driven by profit.

        It's not just about emergency, though that is definitely important. Licensed radio communications (for example ham radio) are supposed to be protected from interference by unlicensed emissions, such as Broadband over Power Lines (BPL). It's that simple as FCC policy.

  • I wonder what type of speeds that "free" wireless is going to provide. I know that current wireless offerings - i.e. mobile evdo cards share the tower bandwidth - and generally speaking those towers do NOT have enough bandwidth to support folks on them. I watch speeds on my work system vary from 1500k at night to 500k during the day.
  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:46PM (#24889819) Homepage Journal

    'Free wireless Internet'.

    I'm thinking Citizens Band Internet.

    This will be fun.

  • At issue is the FCC's requirement that the winner offer free wireless broadband services in a portion of the spectrum, a move the wireless industry contends will lead to interference for 3G phone users.

    Duh! Of course free wireless broadband is going to cause interference.

    The FCC needs to immediately allow them to charge for it in order to prevent interference.


  • FCC testing...LOL (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If the FCC testing is like the testing they did with broadband over power lines, no ammount of interferance will change their mind. The test will show substantial interferance but the FCC will declare that anything short of a complete disabling of the interferred service isn't enough interferance to wory about.
    All the FCC cares about right now is finding ways to make broadband more readily available. They don't let things like interferance to phone service, emergency communications, aircraft communication

  • Tagged (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StickyWidget ( 741415 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:21PM (#24890315)
    Tagged: PutUpOrShutUp

    I'm seriously tired of these arguments, if there is an interference between this and 3G phones it should have been proven by now, and MUCH MUCH earlier than this year...


  • I'd be amazed if the FCC doesn't have a standard set of tests that can be used. Why should they use the test procedures of a private company ? Obviously the possibility for manipulating the tests for their private gain exists. So why even allow it?
  • yeah, with the business model maybe.
  • Does anyone think that we'll ever be getting the free wireless broadband anyway, no matter what the terms of the agreement say?

  • if they really, honestly test for any of that, because the "interference" that T-Mobile & the other telcos are so horrified by is to their business models ONLY.

    Really. T-Mobile wants to charge US$80/month for a wireless Internet connection. Free wireless Internet in ANY form would 'interfere' with that.

    And SINCE WHEN were any of the telcos at all interested in the quality of their service? Once they have your signature on their contract, they'd rather that you found their service unusable, so you won

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