eBay Users Should Change Password due to Breach

All eBay users should change their passwords immediately.  Due to a security breach, customer account information for eBay’s millions of users has been compromised.  To reset your password, here is the eBay password-reset page link .

In a post yesterday on the company’s official blog, eBay said the “database, which was compromised between late February and early March, included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. ”  You can read the rest of the blog here.

According to reports and the company, the breach did not affect PayPal systems.  However, eBay and PayPal are affiliated entities and you might also consider changing your PayPal password.  It is always best to use a unique password for every online account.

Users should be especially wary of “phishing” attacks.  Just like during other major events, criminals will use keywords such as “eBay” and “password change” to lure victims into clicking malicious links in emails.  Don’t get tricked – never click links in emails.  Instead, type the website name into your browser for safety.

Read more City of Seattle Department of Information Security tips at TechTalk.seattle.gov

Seattle Cable Customer ~ Watch for July 1st Rate Changes

If you’re a Seattle cable customer, be prepared to see a rate change on your July billing.  Both Comcast and Wave have announced rate changes effective July 1, 2014.

Wave will be raising the rate for its Basic Cable service tier, and any packages that include that service, by $2.26 month. Wave reports the rate increase is due to increased video programming license fees from TV networks owned by Viacom (e.g., Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, CMT) and Disney/ESPN (e.g., Disney Channel, ESPN, ABC Family).  This rate increase will not impact customers with the Local Broadcast service tier (Wave’s lowest level TV service tier).

Comcast is adding a new “Broadcast TV Fee” of $1.50, which will apply to all video (TV) subscribers. The fee is related to the cost Comcast pays to local broadcast stations (e.g., Komo 4, King 5, Kiro 7) to carry their programming over the cable system. These fees are also called ‘retransmission fees’ and you can read more about their origin in the recent (June 2014) USA Today article Retransmission fee race poses questions for TV viewers.

Comcast is also making adjustments (some up, some down) to other service and equipment rates.  A detailed listing of the changes can be found at www.seattle.gov/cable/documents/Comcast_RateChanges_July2014.pdf

For more information on how these rate changes will specifically impact your bill, contact your cable provider directly:

Wave: 1-866-928-3123

Comcast: 1-800-266-2278

For assistance with cable issues you’re not able to resolve with your provider, contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications at (206) 684-8498 or on-line at http://www.seattle.gov/cable/comments.htm.


Report looks at how Seattleites use technology and barriers

high-speed-internet-chartDid you know Seattle residents now have more laptops than desktop computers? Or that those with less education tend to make less use of the Internet?

The City of Seattle has just released new findings on technology access, adoption, social media use and civic participation by Seattle residents. These are available at seattle.gov/tech/indicators with key findings available in multiple languages.
A video presentation and discussion is also available to view.

“This data shows that we’re making great strides in technology, but a digital gap still exists between our neighbors,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We’re already using the data in this report to influence how the City of Seattle interacts with our neighbors and to better target our outreach and engagement strategies.”

The findings are based on feedback from 2,600 residents via online and phone surveys and in-person focus groups with immigrant, disabled and African American communities, to ensure the City heard from those who are often under-represented in surveys or are historically technologically-underserved.
The continued rise of smart phone and tablet use provides outstanding opportunities for government to reach more residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “The information from the focus groups will help us improve services and how we reach all communities. We will take action on improving access to web services by making them available in multiple languages.”

Since 2000, the City’s Community Technology Program has conducted community research to find out how Seattle residents are using technology, and barriers to use. The results of this research are used by the City in a variety of ways, including to guide our Technology Matching Fund awards, cable franchising, and public information and engagement efforts by a wide range of City departments. It also provides data that non-profits and schools can use in grant proposals and to strategic planning.
Here are a few of the findings:

• 85 percent of Seattle residents have Internet at home, leaving about 93,000 Seattle residents without home Internet.
• 58 percent of Seattle residents now own smart phones, up from 35 percent in 2009.
• Education and age are the most significant factors differentiating technology access and adoption, but the data also shows important differences based on the income, ethnicity, and abilities of those surveyed.
• Broadband and cable TV prices continue to be of concern, but increasing broadband speed is important to those surveyed, with high interest in using higher bandwidth applications.
• The study finds that there is still a significant gap in access to Internet and the skills to use it, though the digital equity gap is more focused in skills and uses of the Internet than on basic access.

See much more on the Technology Access and Adoption Report page.

Tina Podlodowski to work on broadband policy

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced he is reassigning his previous adviser on police issues, former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, to work on policy options for a publicly owned broadband system in the city. Podlodowski, recently on leave, will now be  part of the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation. She will focus on  developing new policy options for public broadband in the city.


What’s this talk about a Comcast Time Warner Merger?

There’s been a lot of media lately about the proposed Comcast-Time Warner cable company merger. Why is this proposed business deal getting so much attention? Do you need to care about it? Here’s some information to help you sort it out.

The possibility of a Comcast and Time Warner merger is receiving public attention because these companies are already two of the largest cable providers in the U.S. In fact, Comcast is currently the largest cable and broadband company in America, and Time Warner Cable is the second largest cable firm and third largest broadband provider. If the companies merge together, Comcast would take over markets in parts of New York, Texas, and Southern California and end up controlling about 30 percent of all U.S. cable television subscribers, and 40 percent of the broadband market. That’s a lot of market power.

Right now Comcast and Time Warner operate in different geographic areas. There are no areas where customers have a choice between Comcast and Time Warner for cable services. That means customers of either company won’t lose any options because of the merger. In Seattle, for example, Comcast provides cable services in about 80 percent of the city. Having Time Warner merge into Comcast won’t make cable provider options any better or worse for Seattle customers. But there could be indirect impacts of a merger that touch all Comcast customers in the future.

A recent American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ranked both Comcast and Time Warner as being on the bottom of overall customer satisfaction in communications industries. Consumer advocates wonder what will happen if two of the already worst customer satisfaction companies combine together; will the customer experience become even worse? There is also worry that Comcast, with a larger national size and scale, would gain too much influence over competitors, especially when it comes to negotiations over television programming and Internet services. This could impact the ability to set rates, build pricing structures, and negotiate services, making it harder for smaller or new companies to provide alternatives. And as the largest broadband provider in the nation, there is concern over Comcast’s ability to interfere with customer access to a truly ‘open Internet’; one that is open to all content, services and applications a customer wants, and an Internet that offers innovators the ability to offer new products and services.

In the face of this criticism, Comcast maintains that customers will actually benefit from their merging with Time Warner. The combined company will be more able to make upgrades in technology, increase broadband speeds, add innovation in video platforms and provide customer access to an expanded array of on-demand programming. It has been the increased concentration of cable operators over the years that has resulted in much of the increased output and quality of video programming and Internet speeds over the past decade.

Because this proposed merger would create such a large and powerful company, it must be reviewed and approved by both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice. Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have also held hearings on it, which you can view here:
Senate Judiciary Committee, April 9, 2014, hearing on proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger (CSPAN)
House Judiciary Committee, May 8, 2014, hearing on proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger (CSPAN)

Many communication industry analysts believe the merger will be approved the FCC and DOJ. However, the approval could come with conditions being placed on the company. Conditions could include more consumer protections, such as protections against bandwidth caps, retransmission and program access rules, providing low cost broadband options, and commitments to operate with net neutrality.

The types of conditions placed on the FCC’s merger approval will be informed by public input. If you want to share ideas or input on the company merger, now is the time to let the FCC know. You can submit your comments online by following this link:

File a Comment (the application of Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable Inc. to transfer control of FCC licenses)
Seattle cable customers should also always be aware of the consumer protections they have under Seattle’s unique Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR). You can read the CCBOR here. You can also contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications with questions or complaints on the 24-hour Cable Line at (206) 684-8498.

Free Conference Calling

Free Conference calling has been around for many years as a way for small organizations to get users together that are located in different areas around the US. Most free service providers do not offer a toll free number, because there is an expense with each user that calls into that number. Free conference providers also get a piece of the long distance revenue for the calls made to the service. With new FCC laws and phone providers offering unlimited service, the way that these companies can stay sustainable are changing but I believe that there will continue to be some form of free conference calling that would be available.

For small organizations that want to offer meetings or trainings with remote users, here are a few options for you. Understand that there are many options out there but these are some of the well talked about and supported options along with some pros and cons about them.

Google Hangouts
• Screen sharing for up to 10 users
• Requires a Gmail or google account
• Need internet.

• Screen sharing for up to 10 users
• Requires a Microsoft account for video, i.e., hotmail.com/live.com/outlook.com
• Can accept landline/cell phone users
Below are conference services that do not require the participants to have an account. The conferences are audio only conferences.

Free Conference
• Easy setup and verification
• Schedule event for up to 150 people
• Random number provided.

Free Conference Calling

• 1,000 Callers
• 6 Hours maximum session
• Can setup one number for access
• Don’t have any fee services, not sure how long they will stay sustainable.

Start-up Seattle

Start-up Seattle is a web site run by Seattle’s Office of Economic Development with a variety of resources, list of co-working spaces, tips for start-up, education links and news of the start-up community. Sign up for their new newsletter also!

Seattle Public Library to host ‘Supporting Startups and Investing in the Community’ June 12

The Seattle Public Library is hosting a town hall session from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12 to explore how the Library can expand its technology, instruction, research and service offerings. The session will be held at the Seattle office of Internet marketing firm Moz, 1100 Second Ave., Suite 500.

The event is free and open to the public and is particularly geared to startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and members of the creative and lifelong learning communities. Please RSVP by Friday, June 6 here.

“Supporting Startups and Investing in the Community” will feature a keynote presentation by Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin, the “Wizard of Moz,” followed by a panel discussion that addresses how the Library and its partners can:

  • Help grow the local economy
  • Help people succeed with new technologies and increase their competitive skills
  • Help people participate in a culture of creativity and meet their learning goals.

The panel will feature City Librarian Marcellus Turner, librarians and members of the Library’s Technology and Access Advisory Committee. Rebecca Lovell, the startup liaison for the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, will facilitate. A Q and A session with the panelists will follow.

One of the Library’s five service priorities is to enhance technology to provide discoverability and increased access to materials, information, services and interactive experiences.

“We know that technology is a key enabler of Library services and is fundamental to achieving the Library’s mission to bring people, information and ideas together to enrich lives
and build community,” said Turner. “We want to hear from the public to make sure we are providing what patrons need.”

This event is presented in partnership with Moz and The Seattle Public Library Foundation.
For more information, call the Library at (206) 386-4636 or ask a Librarian.