Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

Tracfone files suit against U.S. Government

Tracfone, the nation's largest seller of prepaid phones and service, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government since the U.S. Patent Office recently stated that it would not longer be a crime to "unlock" handsets to be used with other carriers once a customer buys and owns the handset.

Although prepaid carriers are scared of this, it is in the consumer's best interest regardless of the reasons prepaid carriers use to shore up their arguments. If a move like this leads to higher prices because people are unlocking phones en masse for some reason, so be it.

Springfield, Illinois and AT&T strike citywide network deal

The city of Springfield, Illinois has made a three-year deal with AT&T Inc. to develop and deploy a free citywide wireless network. Work is expected to begin this fall dependent upon the city council's approval.

According to city officials, the network will be accessible from the city center to a range of about 25 square miles. The network will be supported by advertisements and sponsorships with fee-based services with higher speeds available as well.

Springfield and AT&T seem to be going the right way with this network, and it's good to see a telco getting involved in the citywide wireless sector instead of fighting against it.

Long Beach, California going wireless

According to Long Beach, California city officials, there are five companies that have submitted proposals, including VeriLAN, in order to win the bid to develop and deploy a wireless network to cover the entire city. The plan is to choose a vendor within the next few months and launch the network sometime next year.

The city expects the vendor to foot the entire bill to build the network and charge monthly access fees to pay for it. As with most networks of this type, the hope is that the network will encourage more businesses to come to the city.

Even in tony Palm Beach, cellular coverage can be iffy

It seems there are a number of dead spots in and around Palm Beach, Florida, playground of the rich and famous. As a result, government officials have sent a letter to the major wireless providers informing them of available antenna sites in order to improve coverage.

One suggestion is to place antennas on some of the high-rise buildings whereby it can cover a fairly large area and provide service to more users. There are some zoning laws in place to prvent antennas from being placed on private properties, but some residents with large parcels of land are negotiating with major service providers, so it wouldn't be surprising to see antennas on private property in the near future.

Another example of why you need to secure your wireless network

We've talked here many times about how folks should take every step necessary to protect their own home wireless networks from predators and freeloaders who will steal your personal information outright or use your network to do some unsavory things. Consider the story of two Florida woman whose wireless network was hacked into by someone at a local community college and was using their access to subscribe to porn sites. Pretty embarassing and unnerving, don't you think?

The linked story has a few more tips to help you keep your wireless network secure from intrusion. Obviously, there's no way you can be totally protected 100% of the time, but the point is that if you take just a few steps, the chances of being hacked will diminsh greatly.

Cingular's HSDPA 3G network gets a tough leg up

With two older names from the wireless biz standing up to the forefront of Cingular's emerging HSDPA wireless network, both Panasonic and Novatel have teamed together to produce a product for use on the high-speed HSDPA network Cingular is in the process of rolling out.

The Panasonic Toughbook rugged laptop computer, modem CF-18, features an embedded Novatel HSDPA solution for use on the Cingular BroadbandConnect 3G service available in certain Cingular markets nationwide. With Cingular's HSDPA network set to be available in most major markets by the end of 2006, this solution will surely not be the last integrated HSPDA notebook on the market.

Just like WiFi from five years ago is now standard in almost all notebook computers, expect high-speed data services like EV-DO from Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless and HSDPA from Cingular Wireless to have integrated solution options available in many mid-range and higher-end notebook computers in the next few years.

FCC gets nod to look at the NSA wiretap program

It looks like our friends over at the FCC have their hands full -- they are trying to be fair and implement bidding rules in the upcoming wireless auctions on June 29th and now its being asked to determine whether laws were broken or not in the NSA wiretapping scandal currently underway in the Bush administration.

The FCC has been apparently asked to look at the specifics of the wiretap activities and see whether or not they were in violation of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which safeguards the privacy of communications used by private citizens. One thing is for sure -- this NSA wiretap situation is sure to get beefier and more visible from here on out.

Is Your WiFi Home/Business Network Really Secure, Even with WEP/WPA? Well...

Many of us have home networks using the most prevalent WiFi standards in use today for run-of-the-mill consumers, 802.11b or 802.11g. I can, as I type this, "see" some of my neighbors unsecured WiFi networks as clear as day. Three of them, to be exact - all completely unsecured and free for anyone to browse with just a little know-how. How disturbing. This is serious!

If you haven't already, turn on your WEP or WPA wireless router encryption and "hide" your SSID from broadcasting itself. Wow, that's a lot of acronyms. Even with these two main -- and often overlooked -- safeguards in place, your system may still be vulnerable to the overzealous hacker, but the chances are reduced drastically if you make it past these two checkpoints.

And then you read something like this.

Vendors Continue to Warn Against Mobile Viruses

Well, you know the new year is here with the big anti-virus software vendors, including McAfee, Symantec, and F-Secure, warning us that mobile viruses are lurking about and anyone with a mobile device should upgrade with the latest software. Of course, it's all very self-serving, but the fact remains that as more people leverage wireless devices as their primary means of communication, both for work and personal use, it is imperative that you take steps to protect your information and the device itself from attack. It sounds so obvious, but unfortunately it's something so easily overlooked.

More on Streaming HDTV Over WiFi

Our friends over at HD Beat continue to act like mad scientists in their attempt to flawlessly stream HDTV over WiFi. It looks like they've come up with some pretty interesting solutions, so it's definitely worth checking out.

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