Cable prices have risen at more than double the rate of inflation for 20 years

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Average US inflation since 1995 has been 2.2%; in the same time, cable TV prices have increased by 5.8% per year on average. Read the rest

Court rules that FCC can't force states to repeal laws banning municipal ISPs

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Tea Party-dominated states across America passed laws banning cities from providing high-speed internet access to their residents, even in places where the cable/telco duopoly had decided not to sell broadband; last year, the FCC issued an order stating that these laws were null and void. Read the rest

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality

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In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest

Monopoly Deal card game, cheap and much better than the board game

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Everyone knows Monopoly is a bad board game (unless you play with alternate rules). It also takes hours to play, even after the runaway player has been identified. This graph says it all:

Monopoly Deal is a $5 card game that takes 15-20 minutes to play and has lots of player interaction, and no mind numbing roll-and-move mechanic. Many of the 110 cards in the deck look familiar (money, properties, utilities). There are also action cards which can be used to collect rent, steal another players' property, cancel an action card, or used as money. Best of all, even the richest player is at risk of losing, so everyone stays interested in playing till the end.

I think the standard rules are fine, but I'm curious if anyone has come up with their own house rules? Read the rest

How to win at Monopoly and make you friends hate you

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Here's how to make a bad game worse for everyone:

With a second monopoly completed, your next task is to improve those properties to three houses each, then all of your properties to four houses each. Six properties with three houses will give you more than half of the houses in the game, and four houses each will give you 75% of the total supply. This will make it nearly impossible for your opponents to improve their own property in a meaningful way. Keep the rulebook nearby once the supply gets low, as you will undoubtedly be questioned on it. At this point, you will be asked repeatedly to build some friggin' hotels already so that other people can build houses. Don't.

At this point, you more or less have the game sewn up. If losing a normal game of monopoly is frustrating, losing to this strategy is excruciating, as a losing opponent essentially has no path to victory, even with lucky rolls. Your goal is to play conservatively, lock up more resources, and let the other players lose by attrition. If you want to see these people again, I recommend not gloating, but simply state that you're playing to win, and that it wasn't your idea to play Monopoly in the first place.

[via] Read the rest

Preview of Verizon's version of America's "six strikes" copyright enforcement scheme

America's largest ISPs took the chickenshit step of agreeing to voluntarily police copyright on behalf of the movie studios and record labels, with a "six strikes" system that involves a series of ever-more-dire warnings and punishments for unsubstantiated copyright complaints from Big Content. Here's a preview of the final stage of the punishment regime at Verizon:

“Redirect your browser to a special web page where you will be given several options. You can: Agree to an immediate temporary (2 or 3 day) reduction in the speed of your Internet access service to 256kbps (a little faster than typical dial-up speed); Agree to the same temporary (2 or 3 day) speed reduction but delay it for a period of 14 days; or Ask for a review of the validity of your alerts by the American Arbitration Association.”

Verizon’s “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Measures Unveiled [Torrentfreak] Read the rest

McDonald's chip monopoly at London Games relaxes one hairsbreadth

The McDonald's sponsorship deal at the Security Games in London meant that Olympic workers are not allowed to buy chips (AKA fries) unless they come with fish. A chorus of complaints from site workers has led to a relaxation of the sponsorship terms so that workers (but not visitors) can buy their chips from the vendor of their choice, even if they're not served with fish.

From The Guardian's Robert Booth:

It all results from one of the stranger twists of Olympic planning. McDonald's sponsorship deal included the exclusive right to sell chips in and around Olympic venues. Other caterers had negotiated special rights to serve chips with fish – but not chips on their own, or with anything else.

Cue frustrated scenes at the lunch counter in the ceremonies catering area where staff were toiling over the staging for Danny Boyle's 27 July opening extravaganza. "Please understand this is not the decision of the staff who are serving up your meals who, given the choice, would gladly give it to you, however they are not allowed to," read a notice pinned up by staff. "Please do not give the staff grief, this will only lead to us removing fish and chips completely."

"It's sorted," said a spokesman for Locog. "We have spoken to McDonald's about it."

But the embargo will hold in other areas. That means no chips with anything other than fish anywhere else in the park unless spectators dine at McDonald's.

I know a couple of people on the lighting and automation crew at the Security Games and they report that there's a mass lunchtime exodus from the site by its workers every day as they troop off to find anything to eat that isn't McDonald's. Read the rest