Tag: usage

Pretentious luxury on the cheap at the Drake

July 7, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Pretentious luxury on the cheap at the Drake

What gives with these fancy hotels? [Warning: Rant thinly disguised as objective information]

My wife and I live in St. Louis Missouri. Yesterday, we decided that I should take my two daughters to Chicago in early August, so today I made some arrangements. Now time is money–I don’t want to be driving into downtown Chicago from a cheaper suburban hotel every day, wasting time sitting in traffic, when we should be spending every waking moment at Chicago’s world-class museums and aquarium. Therefore, I set out to get accommodations right in the heart of Chicago. Knowing that this could be quite expensive, however, I did a bit of shopping through some frugal travel websites. I ended up at Priceline.com, the site where William Shatner’s puffy image beckons me to come on in and save money (here I am being judgmental because Captain Kirk let himself go to pot).

At Priceline, I saw that one could pick a hotel in downtown Chicago and pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per night. None of that for me! I decided to bid on a hotel room. For those of you who have never bid on a hotel room, the Priceline system offers substantial savings to you if you’re willing to bid on a hotel room in a specific region of a city without knowing the name of the hotel that you will be assigned (assuming that your bid is high enough to purchase any hotel room at all). I indicated that I was willing to pay $100 per night for a 3 1/2 star hotel room in “zone five” of downtown Chicago. I figured that my modest bid would probably be rejected, but I was wrong.

I had successfully purchased several nights at the Drake Hotel, which is just north of the Water Tower on The Magnificent Mile. Before placing the winning bid, I didn’t know anything at all about the Drake Hotel, so I visited the Drake’s site. You’ll see lots of images of the kinds of carefree and well-to-do people who burn their money at the Drake. Many of the pictures at Drake website made me think of politicians hanging around with their mistresses.

I saw that rooms typically range in price from $250-$350 per night. Sounds like I got quite a deal, right? Actually, the Drake is doing us all a service by charging a such outrageous prices (well, charging every body else such outrageous prices). They are making sure that when we stay there, that we are safely secluded from the riffraff, because the riffraff cannot afford to stay there. Extremely clever.

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Why metering threatens the Internet

May 6, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Why metering threatens the Internet

Josh Silver of Free Press tells us why metering threatens the Internet

Cable companies Time Warner and Comcast, and phone giants AT&T and Verizon sell the vast majority of high-speed Internet service in the United States. Phone and cable companies like these have no other competition in 97% of US markets, thanks to corrupt policies passed by the Bush Administration at the companies’ behest.

These duopolies are betting on the future of their “triple-play” phone-Internet-TV service, so that you’ll pay them more than $100 per month and they can keep earning record profits. They know that if you start downloading video from online innovators like Hulu.com and Roku.com, eventually you won’t need their expensive, advertising-ridden television service. If you decide to use online phone providers like Skype, you won’t need their expensive phone service. The answer? Jack up the cost of Internet, and once again eliminate the competition.

But that’s not all. Metering Internet usage also has ramifications for journalism.

We continue to learn about Madonna’s adoption problems and Ms. California’s old photos, but if you want substance in your news, you’ll have to look beyond corporate media’s steady stream of sensationalism, celebrity gossip and product placement. We need fast, neutral, affordable Internet that can deliver video, audio and other multimedia to enable efficient production and distribution of journalism and other educational content.

If I’m reading Silver correctly, he’s not totally against all surcharges for truly high-volume users. And it does make sense, in the abstract, that those who barely use any bandwidth would pay less than those who stream videos and music all day. But I agree with Silver’s concerns that the telecoms need to be closely regulated on this issue. But who would do the regulating, given that the telecoms have successfully purchased undue influence over Congress with their ostensibly legal campaign contributions? It seems as though we need campaign finance reform before we’re going to have Congressional independence on any issue.

On a separate issue relating to media, consider listening to Arianna Huffington’s testimony before the Commerce Communications subcommitte, chaired by Senator John Kerry. She makes many worthy points. I am concerned, though, that she is overly optimistic that journalism would thrive in a world without newspapers. Based on what I see, much of the Internet is filled with content that has its origin with traditional newspapers and news magazines. Many these newspapers are doing terrible work because they’re laying off reporters and because they put profits way ahead of journalism. Yet I’m not convinced that Internet news sites are ready or able to step into the void to do this job well enough on the scale handled by traditional media outlets. I hope I’m wrong about this–I hope that we are about to see a golden age of Internet journalism–because I don’t see newspapers ever making a big comeback.

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