Comcast’s cable television, telephone, and internet arm, Xfinity, has entered the mobile phone leasing industry. You can now lease a smartphone from Xfinity Mobile.

The move likely comes as no surprise to Xfinity customers, who provide 16 million public wifi hotspots available to every other Xfinity customer in the United States. And it makes sense for Xfinity to take advantage of its network of public wifi hotspots made available by its customers for their customers.

While there were plenty of complaints from customers whose rented wireless routers were used by the company to broadcast public signals to other Xfinity customers, Xfinity allows customers to disable the public signal, despite how difficult the process might have been in the past. Customers who don’t disable the public signals are basically sharing internet bandwidth for which they pay with their fellow Xfinity customers -- a socialized hotspot network, if you will.  

When you connect to a public Xfinity wifi hotspot for the first time, you’ll be asked to enter your Xfinity email and password to verify that you are a member of the Xfinity party. Your mobile device will then connect to every Xfinity wifi hotspot within range automatically (unless you deactivate auto-connect). This helps Xfinity customers use less data and save money, which was exactly what the Xfinity customer service representative echoed.

“Our plans are designed specifically to save you money,” he said. And I believe him because Xfinity Mobile offers a single gigabyte of data for just $12. It’s website states you could save anywhere from $40 per month when you switch from T-Mobile and $90 per month when switching from AT&T with their $12 per gigabyte of data plan.

According to 20SomethingFinance.com’s Jan. 2017 report, only Freedom Pop offers a cheaper mobile data plan (it’s free up to 500 texts, 200 minutes and 500 MB). Republic Wireless plans start at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text but no mobile data. Republic offers 1 GB of mobile data for $20 per month.

Xfinity Mobile is going to reap the benefits of people pinching pennies due to rising costs for rent, energy and transportation, prescription drugs and health insurance, and cable and internet services. Hell, the newly appointed Republican head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, doesn’t think people need high-speed internet service anymore because mobile data is good enough, making it more expensive for rural America to get online.

Xfinity is attempting to take advantage of a market that’s been underserved -- the poor. Even poor people need to get online, and while many have access to public wifi hotspots made available through their municipality, library or McDonald’s, not all of them have high-speed access to the internet at all times in their own homes. Xfinity Mobile can give them that without a $50-per-month internet bill or $100-per-month cable bill.

Editor’s Note:

I didn’t have much of a choice when it came to internet service providers in my area. Xfinity was the only provider in my area that offered upload and download speeds that would allow me to do what I need to do everyday.

I had a terrible experience having Xfinity internet installed. While I bought my own modem and router, and had the self-installation kit sent to my house, no one bothered to check and see if my cable line was internet ready or capable of receiving a signal. It took weeks to get setup, but Xfinity made it right.

It’s going to be difficult for me to pass up on this deal now that I’m an Xfinity customer. While you can’t bring your own phone to Xfinity Mobile yet, I’m probably due for an upgrade, and since I don’t pay a mobile carrier currently, I’m in the perfect situation to be an early adopter.

I don’t even need to make calls or send texts. There are apps for that. But what I’d really like is to be able to use Google Maps with or without an Xfinity wifi hotspot. Hotspots are hard to come by when you’re driving in traffic at 70 miles per hour, and the last thing I want is for anyone to be fumbling with their phone while driving.

One gigabyte of data per month would be just enough to use my smartphone as a GPS and occasionally check email without wifi. That’s all I need, and I’m willing to pay $144 per year for something that cost me $540 per year with StraightTalk Wireless before I dumped them. I was paying $600 per year with Verizon Wireless before that, so mobile data is becoming more available to low-income Americans thanks to Xfinity Mobile.

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Published in News & Information
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 16:36

Solving the distracted driving epidemic

It happens almost everyday during my commute to work: someone fondling a phone and not looking at the road while driving. Today was no exception. It’s infuriating, and it’s dangerous.

Distracted driving deaths grew 8.8 percent between 2014 and 2015 -- growing faster than deaths due to unrestrained passengers, speeding or drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In response, many states and even municipalities are enacting distracted driving laws. But it’s impossible for police to enforce every instance of distracted driving.

The City of Chicago made the mistake of allowing distracted driving citations to be enforced like all other traffic citations, forcing police officers to appear in court when drivers attempt to get out of the ticket. What’s resulted is a complete lack of enforcement of the law, with distracted driving ticketing falling 99.6 percent in the city from 2014 to 2016.

There’s never a reason to be fondling a phone while driving, but people do it. So what’s the solution? Well, if you have a newer car with hands-free technology, you already have a solution. But not all of us can afford to buy new cars this very minute. There’s a cheap solution for us, too.

For less than $20, you can equip your car with hands-free technology as long as you have a working 12-volt socket and radio in your car. These Bluetooth devices allow you to take calls with the push of a button, which is the equivalent of changing the radio station. You’ll never fumble around for your phone while driving again, and you can listen to your music library during your commute. I actually own one of these, and they are literal lifesavers.

If you’re one of these people who doesn’t know where they’re going and use your smartphone as a GPS while driving, spend a few bucks on a caddie for your smartphone and mount it to your dash. Even if you enter your destination before you start driving, if you don’t have a caddie for your smartphone, you’re looking down at your phone and not at the road. So put your smartphone in a place where you can still see the road. For less than $30 all told you could potentially save a life.

Both iPhone and Android devices allow for voice activated email and text messaging, too. You can activate “Hey, Siri” when the screen is locked in your iPhone settings, and there’s even a workaround for using “Hey, Siri” when you’re not connected to power. Before starting your car, just hold the home button for a second to enter the Siri screen and don’t say anything. You’ll remain in the Siri screen and will just have to say “Hey, Siri” to go hands-free. On Android devices, the lock screen is even easier to work around. All you have to do is turn on “Trusted Voice” in your Voice settings (unless you have a Nexus 6, Moto X, Galaxy Note 4 or Note Edge).

New drivers are the ones most at risk of being ticketed or lost to distracted driving, though. I hope there’s a focus on that in driver's education courses. Some school districts are just getting around to changing drivers ed curriculum now. Smartphones didn’t exist when I went through drivers ed, but cell phones were starting to become more prevalent. The videos we watched looked like they were created for the first drivers ed course in the 1950s, so I hope distracted driving education is taking place in those courses, because I know these drivers, and they are as dangerous as drunk drivers, or even more so.

If you’re a parent of one of these new drivers, buy them the products mentioned above. You could save their life, and the Bluetooth device makes a great gift, especially if your new driver’s car has nothing but a radio, or worse yet, a CD player. CDs were the distracted driving of my generation.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s not even car science. If you’re still fondling a phone while behind the wheel of a car, just stop it. You’re going to end up killing someone -- maybe yourself. Just take these simple steps to not only avoid a distracted driving ticket, but save your fellow motorists from frustration and harm.

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Published in News & Information