AT&T wants you to forget that it blocked FaceTime over cellular in 2012

AT&T’s push to end net neutrality rules continued yesterday in a blog post that says the company has never blocked third-party applications and that it won’t do so even after the rules are gone.

Just one problem: the blog post fails to mention that AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime video chat application on iPhones in 2012 and 2013. Policy Director Matt Wood of advocacy group Free Press pointed out the omission in a tweet:

I guess you can credit Bob Quinn & @ATTPublicPolicy for having the guts to lie so confidently. But when it says @freepress‘s 2010  predictions about mobile blocking were wrong, AT&T conveniently omits blocking FaceTime on cellular in 2012. https://twitter.com/ATTPublicPolicy/status/936345215652257792 

In AT&T’s new blog post, Senior Executive VP Bob Quinn refers back to a prediction Free Press made in 2010 when the first version of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules were adopted.

“The rules pave the way for AT&T to block your access to third-party applications and to require you to use its own preferred applications,” Free Press said at the time. The 2010 rules imposed fewer restrictions on mobile carriers than on home Internet service providers, which is what raised concerns for Free Press back then.

Quinn says now that Free Press’s prediction was totally wrong.

“Of course, none of those predictions ever came true then and they won’t come true after the FCC acts here either,” Quinn wrote yesterday.

But in fact AT&T did block FaceTime on its cellular network when users tried to access the application from certain data plans, such as unlimited data packages. Apple made FaceTime work over cellular networks in 2012 with the release of iOS 6, but AT&T said it would only “enable” FaceTime on cellular if you bought a “Mobile Share data plan.”

Switching to Mobile Share required unlimited data customers to give up that unlimited perk. Even AT&T customers with limited data plans couldn’t access FaceTime on cellular if they weren’t paying for one of the then-new shared plans. If you didn’t have the right data plan, you had to use Wi-Fi for FaceTime.

AT&T said it was reasonable network management

The 2010 net neutrality rules prohibited mobile broadband providers from “block[ing] applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.” The rule applied except when blocking an application could be justified as “reasonable network management.”

Free Press and other groups in September 2012 accused AT&T of violating the no-blocking rule, saying that the reasonable network management exception shouldn’t apply. “There is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not,” Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer said at the time.

Of course, AT&T disagreed. There is no “blocking issue” because FaceTime is pre-loaded on iPhones, Quinn wrote in August 2012:

The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are pre-loaded on phones. Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any pre-loaded apps. Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services. AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems.

Free Press countered that “AT&T is inventing words that are not in the FCC’s rules in a weak attempt to justify its blocking of FaceTime.” The word “pre-loaded” did not appear in the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality order.

AT&T also applied restrictions to Google Hangouts on Android phones.

AT&T eased the restrictions on limited data plans a few months after the initial policy, but unlimited data customers were still blocked from using FaceTime. AT&T finally lifted all these limitations on pre-loaded video apps by the end of 2013.

Quinn justified AT&T’s decision to block FaceTime again in November 2012.

“[W]ith the FaceTime app already pre-loaded on tens of millions of AT&T customers’ iPhones, there was no way for our engineers to effectively model usage, and thus to assess network impact,” he wrote then.

Who do you trust?

But in this week’s AT&T blog post claiming that AT&T never blocked third-party applications, the FaceTime blocking did not even warrant a mention. We asked an AT&T spokesperson why this wasn’t included, but the company simply pointed us back to its statements from 2012.

AT&T’s blocking of FaceTime was cited by the Federal Communications Commission in its 2015 decision to impose stronger rules on both home and mobile broadband providers. The current rules prohibit home and mobile ISPs from blocking or throttling any lawful Internet content, subject to reasonable network management.

Those rules are about to be thrown out, as the FCC’s Republican majority has scheduled a December 14 vote to get rid of the net neutrality rules. While Free Press contends that Internet users can’t trust ISPs to play fair without the rules, Quinn says that isn’t true.

“AT&T intends to operate its network the same way AT&T operates its network today: in an open and transparent manner,” he wrote yesterday. “We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of Internet traffic.”

In short, “there will be no change in how your Internet works after the order is adopted,” Quinn wrote.

JON BRODKIN Jon is Ars Technica’s senior IT reporter, covering the FCC and broadband, telecommunications, wireless technology, and more

Shopify’s Arrive app tracks your online orders on a live map

Shopify’s Arrive app tracks your online orders on a live map
Shopify’s Arrive app tracks your online orders on a live map
It also claims to keep your shopping data private.

Now that Amazon’s smart-home-synced delivery service is unlocking doors for parcel drop-offs, we never have to worry about missing packages again. For anyone freaked out by the idea of a stranger entering their pad, there’s Shopify Arrive for iOS: A free app that taps in to your email e-receipts to provide online-order tracking from over 400 carriers. All the big guns are present, including UPS, USPS, FedEX, DHL, Canada Post, and Amazon — which should come in handy for those awaiting multiple items (it is the frantic holiday season, after all).

Once set up, Arrive displays your order receipts and shows you live map updates (so you can trace the progress of a parcel like you would an Uber ride). You can also set up push notifications and contact carriers, if a hitch should arise.

We’ve seen this type of thing before. On iOS alone, Arrive will have to scrap with several rivals, chief among them Slice: A Rakuten-owned app that essentially boasts the same functions as Shopify’s newcomer. (And who can forget USPS’ bizarre Christmas tree ornament, which had you gawking at a bauble for delivery updates). If there’s one thing that may set Arrive apart from its competitors, it’s privacy. While Slice is reportedly mining data for consumer insights, Shopify claims it will only use your info to improve the in-app experience.

Neither is this Shopify’s first app for shopaholics — around this time last year, it launched the Frenzy app for flash sales. It seems the company is making good use of its downtime from powering Facebook and Instagram’s shopping tools. Now all it’s lacking is a digital shopping assistant.

Fake Google ad sent users searching for Amazon to scam site

Some Google users searching for “Amazon” on Thanksgiving were shown a phony ad that redirected to a scam website, one day before the biggest shopping day of the year.

The ad appeared at the top of search results for an unknown number of users for at least part of the day Thursday:

amazon-fake-ad-2.png

A fake ad for Amazon that appeared atop Google search results for some users on Thanksgiving.

 

Google said the ad violated its policies and was removed. It’s unknown what proportion of users searching for “Amazon” were shown the ad.

“This was an abuse of our platform. We strictly prohibit advertising of illegal activity and have removed these ads and suspended the account,” a Google representative said.

While the ad appeared to be a link to Amazon, users who clicked it were instead redirected briefly to a URL of an app running on a Facebook page,  The redirect could be used to bypass Google’s automated scam detection tools.

It’s unclear how the app redirected users outside Facebook. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

The app, which appeared to have been removed or shut down Thursday evening, then redirected users to a phony support site purporting to be run by Microsoft’s support team with a message saying the computer was infected with malware. The site’s URL indicates it is not affiliated with Microsoft:

amazon-fake-ad.png

  A scam website purporting to be from Microsoft warning users about malware.

 

A phone call to the number on the site Thursday evening was answered by a man with what sounded like a South Asian accent who said his name was Robert. He asked for the error code found on the pop-up and said he would need to take remote access of the computer to resolve the issue. He said he worked for Microsoft in New York City, but refused to answer when asked where he lived in the city.

He quickly became agitated and hung up when asked whether the site was a scam operation designed to lure users into forking over money for supposed anti-malware software. In another call, a man answering phone said the supposed malware issue could be fixed for a “one-time fee of $149.99.”

Online scammers often prey on unsuspecting users by convincing them to purchase software to remove nonexistent malware or viruses. In a July episode of Gimlet Media’s “Reply All” podcast, host Alex Goldman uncovered a similar scam operated out of an office building in India that yielded millions of dollars in revenue per year. A 2016 survey commissioned by Microsoft found that 21 percent of Americans said they had been duped by a tech support scam.

Amazon is the most popular online shopping destination for U.S. consumers, 69 percent of whom are expected to shop in the next five days, according to a consumer survey.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny over the use of their advertising platforms to spread misinformation or legally dubious material. Members of Congress from both parties have called on the platforms to improve their policing of advertising customers, especially after the intelligence community determined Russian-backed intelligence operatives deployed paid advertising to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. In October, Facebook said 10 million people had seen some 3,000 ads bought by the Russians.

 

 

Zak Hudak contributed to this report.

 

 

5 Steps to Grow Leads With Emails & Blogs

SUMMARY: Marketing new products and services without an ad budget or a large direct sales team takes special effort, especially if your prospects are regularly bombarded with pitches.

See how a marketer used email and a blog to launch its services to a tough-to-impress audience. The lead-gen effort landed hundreds of clients in the first year without spending a dime on advertising.

CHALLENGE
Peter Martin, CEO, AskPatty.com, was just another marketer competing for a share of car dealers’ budget when he launched a website and blog that targets women who want car-buying and car-repair advice.

To support the free service, Martin’s team offered training and marketing programs for automobile dealerships that wanted to target female car buyers. (Women purchase 65% of the cars in this country.) But car dealers are bombarded with offers from other channels promising access to certain car-buying constituencies.

“Marketing to car dealers is really an art form. Everyone wants their dollar, and they spend more money on advertising than any other industry as whole. But getting to car dealers is a very hard thing to do,” Martin says.

Martin knew he needed a marketing technique that would both introduce AskPatty to the dealers and convince them that the company’s services were worth a four- to five-figure investment. But he didn’t have the budget for a widespread advertising campaign or to pay a team of salespeople to call on prospects.

CAMPAIGN
Martin and his team created a systematic email prospecting and nurturing campaign. It had two goals: introduce dealers to AskPatty and to encourage them to use the company’s website for more information or to contact Martin for a demonstration of AskPatty’s key services. Services included: “Certified Female-Friendly Dealer” training programs and comprehensive emarketing that included custom websites and email newsletters aimed at women.

Here’s how they set up a program for dealers that outlined the characteristics of a female car buyer and detailed how AskPatty’s services could help them reach those customers:

-> Step #1. Develop email content

Martin and his team wanted their prospecting emails to raise awareness about the special needs of female car buyers to generate interest in AskPatty’s services. To that end, they used AskPatty’s blog to generate publicity in major media outlets, which in turn could be used as key content for prospecting email campaigns.

“Our approach was, we have a great tool and a great database, so let’s use the press to generate reports we can put in our email campaigns to support our case — providing the meat of the emails.”

The team found opportunities to place AskPatty in national media outlets, particularly ones reporting two trends in the industry: women as a significant car-buying audience and women confused or mistreated by car dealers. They positioned their blog as a grassroots effort to offer women a better car-buying experience. “The media was very receptive to it,” Martin says.

In six months, that PR effort generated 300 articles and segments in local and national outlets, including:
o The New York Times
o The San Francisco Chronicle
o Fox News
o National Public Radio

-> Step #2. Send general-interest emails to prospect database

Before creating AskPatty, Martin ran an emarketing firm that had assembled a proprietary database of 44,000 email addresses for car dealers. He used that database as a prospect list for AskPatty.

Once a month, the team sent a general-interest, content-driven email to those prospects. Content of the emails was selected for its timeliness and relevance, including:
o Recent media mentions of AskPatty
o News about new features and services available for dealers in the company’s network
o Industry trends or research about female car buyers

The emails were personalized with Martin’s name (a technique that would be important for future nurturing efforts) and offered several ways for dealers to contact the company or learn more about their services, including:
o An offer to call Martin directly to schedule a demo
o Hotlinks to the media reports or research hosted on AskPatty
o Hotlinks to register for online demos of certain products and services

-> Step #3: Track responses that indicate interest

From each of the prospecting emails, Martin’s team tracked all responses to the various calls-to-action. Responses could be:
o Prospects who clicked on a link
o Prospects who registered for an online demo
o Prospects who replied to Martin’s email seeking more information

-> Step #4. Enter prospects into email nurturing campaign

Prospects who responded in any way were removed from the general prospecting database, added to the company’s CRM system and placed into an automatic email nurturing program.

The nurturing program employed up to 15 follow-up email messages, sent on a regular schedule over the next 30 days. Its goal: scheduling either a telephone consultation or a Web demo. The follow-up email schedule:

– 12 hours after a response
Prospects received another personalized email from Martin. It thanked them for their interest and reiterated the offer to schedule a 15-minute phone call to learn more about the company’s services.

“The emails have to appear to be personalized. If I’m sending out generic messages, they’re not going to respond.”

– Within two days
Prospects who didn’t respond to the thank-you email received two more messages: These would either highlight additional media coverage or industry research, or describe new features available to customers.

– After one week
Prospects received a weekly update from AskPatty offering a variety of content and links to generate interest. Links were tied to:
o More print articles
o Video reports
o A podcast
o Online demos

Martin’s team supplemented the automated program with a bit of manual analysis that matched follow-up content to a prospect’s areas of interest. For example, a prospect who clicked on a link for the company’s new training portal might receive more information about the value of AskPatty’s training services.

-> Step #5. Phone consultation or Web demo follow-up

Prospects were considered leads as soon as they contacted Martin to schedule a telephone consultation or register for additional online demos.

For example, one monthly campaign offered leads online tours of the company’s custom, female-friendly websites, which required them to email Martin to receive a user name and password. “They have to respond to me, and now I have a live person I can talk to.”
RESULTS
With absolutely no money spent on advertising, Martin’s email marketing strategy landed more than 200 dealership clients in one year. “Put me in another industry and our results would be even better. We’re selling to the toughest customer out there.”

The team’s use of relevant industry content in emails has resonated with dealerships on their prospect list. In the past six months, they’ve seen open rates ranging from 9.8% to 17%, with read rates (prospects who keep the email open for more than 10 seconds) ranging between 4% and 6%. In turn, those messages have generated 400-600 clickthroughs per month, creating new leads for the email nurturing program.

Following up on those clicks with systematic email nurturing, featuring a consistent message from Martin, improved response rates even more. In one monthly campaign, the team saw the following response:
o Thank-you message, 56.5% open rate
o Thank-you message, 18% clickthrough rate

Martin’s team is still working through a backlog of leads who requested a demo. He hasn’t calculated, therefore, a precise conversion rate from the lead nurturing campaign to a telephone consultation or Web demo. But he’s convinced that email nurturing is delivering a more qualified set of leads, helping achieve more than a 70% closing rate on his phone consultations.

“Our goal is to build a relationship with customers. Rather than really shooting in the dark, we’re now using ongoing communication.”

Here’s a bit more evidence that ongoing communication builds strong relationships with prospects: the monthly email unsubscribe rate is consistently under 1%.

 

Courtesy of Marketing Sherpa

Refractive Tomato Color Sorter

WECO developed a machine that colors sorts tomatoes. It’s called the TomatoTek. It accurately removes 98 percent of green tomatoes from a harvest. WECO offers several different sorters based on the product you wish to sort.

The TomatoTek as it is called is the newest color sorter available for the processor tomato industry.  To make it all work, it leverages all these technology

  • RFID
  • GPS
  • Wireless remote control
  • Driver’s console
  • Data logging and transmission

Some pretty cool tech.