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Putin to take Russia off the 'Net in case of an emergency?

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September 30, 2014

There's been some rumors flying around these past few days that Vladimir Putin wants to take Russia off the internet in case of an emergency, like war or anti-government protests, according to recent reports. Reports which, of course, the Kremlin denies categorically.

It's difficult what to believe or not when it comes from Putin these days, after all the nasty things he's done so far in 2014.

It’s easy to dismiss such a decision as the madness of Vlad (as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the man is living “in another world”), except that in the calm, well-mannered halls of European governments, leaders are also calling for building similar Internet walls against outside countries.

In February 2014, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande discussed a few ways to create a “European Internet.” This week, representatives of sixteen European countries called for the EU to take several measures to protect their citizens’ data from outside countries.

The enemy they are most seeking to protect that data against is the United States. Of course, not everybody might agree to that concept.

“The EU must impose its data protection standards on third countries, otherwise they will do it first. I am thinking particularly of the United States,” said the Luxembourg representative Viviane Loschester.

It’s no secret that the NSA spying scandal has made Europeans very protective of their data. In Germany, when the news broke out that the U.S. had tapped Merkel’s phone, more than 700,000 Germans signed up for encrypted messaging services that very same day.

Now, a Der Spiegel report written last week states that the NSA’s “Treasure Map” program had infiltrated wireless carrier Deutsche Telekom, gaining access to the private information of millions of Deutsche Telekom users is prompting a new scramble for secure data services based in Germany.

The German government made its own privacy move in June by canceling a contract with U.S.-based Verizon Wirelees in favor of DT, which incidentally is partly owned by the German government, saying it wanted more “technological sovereignty.”

At the EU level, punitive actions are being discussed against companies caught sending personal data outside the EU without permission, including fines equal to €100 million or 5 percent of the company’s global turnover.

The European privacy efforts are not at the same level as Russia attempting to cut its entire Internet off from the rest of the globe, but they do mark a new political stage in the development of the internet, where countries are trying to build virtual borders.

It's all part of a spectrum of isolation-- one that moves from in-country data centers and restrictions on outside companies to cutting off those companies or even the outside Internet entirely.

The ability of European countries to create walls to stop U.S. spying is questionable as long as the internet continues to be dominated by U.S.-based companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

That is unless they want to exit the global Internet entirely, Putin-style... Given that the Web is known for being lawless and hard to control, there’s also some question whether Russia can accomplish its goal of internet isolation.

Observers seem to come down on both sides, but some countries have had some success in restricting Internet utilization recently ? the semi-successful attempt to shut down Twitter and YouTube in Turkey this spring comes to mind.

But even if Putin can't create a Russia-only Internet, he can probably disconnect his country entirely. After all, Russia has already done that once to another country. Just ask Estonia, and now the Ukraine.

In other mobile news

If you simply couldn't wait a single day to order your shiny new iPhone 6 and went the prepaid route by ordering T-Mobile's no-contract iPhone 6, you may have no idea what to do once it arrives on your doorstep.

It is said that when the new iPhone 6 arrives, most people simply don't know what to do next. There is no information in the box about activating the phone, creating a T-Mobile account, porting your current number, or anything else for that matter.

And if you're not currently a T-Mobile customer, you don't already have a SIM card you could just pop in your new iPhone 6 either.

For the record, if you are a T-Mobile subscriber and do have a matching SIM card, it's probably just a matter of popping it in the device.

Because calling customer-service departments ranks up there with getting a tooth filled, we went to T-Mobile's Web site. Surely they'd have some big, splashy banner-- "New iPhone 6 owners, click here!" No, not at all.

In true honesty, we simply couldn't find anything related to activating an iPhone. After a Google search, we did find T-Mobile's phone-activation page, but the first thing it asks for is an activation code, which was nowhere to be found.

So we went to plan B-- find a T-Mobile store and get help from a real human. The store locator told me there was a T-Mobile outlet in our nearby Walmart.

Easy enough, right? Except, no-- Walmart apparently no longer handles prepaid T-Mobile phones, only postpaid. Whatever that means.

Ultimately, we gave in and called T-Mobile customer service. After a 7-minute wait on hold, a heavily accented gentleman who I could barely understand told me, sure enough, I'd need to talk to the Prepaid Department, and transferred us over there.

That's when it got really worse. This time, we had a very difficult conversation with a heavily accented woman, who seemed to be working from a script and got totally thrown when we diverted her from it.

She asked for our T-Mobile account number. We explained that we didn't have an account, that's why we were calling T-Mobile.

After a very long silence that felt like 15 minutes, she asked for our phone number. Er, which phone number? We went around and around like this for some time.

We frequently had to repeat ourselves, and she frequently asked questions that didn't pertain to what we wanted -- which was simply to create a new line of service and port our existing number.

In the end, it seemed like everything was all set -- but we still found ourselves without a confirmation number, any kind of T-Mobile account information, or even a phone number to call back for updates.

A day later, when we still didn't have any mobile service, we decided to visit the "real" T-Mobile store in our nearby mall. There, we had to pay $10 for a new SIM card, despite the fact that the iPhone 6 had arrived with a T-Mobile SIM already installed.

The sales rep we'd spoken with on the phone didn't mention this. And if she had, would we be looking at a week-long wait to get the SIM in the mail?

The whole thing didn't make any sense. Also, two sales reps at the store had no idea that T-Mobile's Simple Starter Plan ($45/month for unlimited talk/text and 2GB of capped data) even existed in the first place.

When we insisted that it did (having seen it online), they "found" the option and got me all signed up. Finally!

Note to anyone who might be porting a number from Virgin Mobile: You'll need to supply T-Mobile with your Virgin Mobile account number, and the only way to get that number is to call Virgin Mobile.

To conclude, this was a terrible customer-service experience from start to finish. Maybe some crucial document got left out of the box, or maybe T-Mobile assumes people who order a phone from Apple will instinctively take it to an Apple or T-Mobile store for activation.

Maybe the oversight actually lies with Apple, although we strongly doubt that. Whatever the case, we suspect anyone new to T-Mobile will run into the same head-scratcher-- Just got my new iPhone 6. Now what?

New customers will need to buy a Nano SIM for the T-Mobile iPhone 6, even if it came with one.

The key takeaway is this-- for new customers, the fastest way to get your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus activated on T-Mobile is to take it to a proper T-Mobile store, by which we mean a standalone store, not one haphazardly integrated into a Costco, Walmart, or the like.

We have no doubt that you could accomplish the same thing at an Apple Store, but those aren't nearly as ubiquitous. And good luck getting anywhere near one in these initial post-launch weeks.

You can also call the toll free number 1-877-453-1304 to take a stab at getting your phone activated by a T-Mob rep.

Oh, and if you're porting your number from another wireless carrier, make sure you have the corresponding account number and PIN/password.

Finally, if you don't mind waiting a bit, you can head to T-Mobile's Bring Your Own Phone page. Although the iPhone 6 isn't listed and doesn't even appear if you search for it, just scroll down a bit and select the T-Mobile SIM Starter Kit - Nano SIM.

It's $10, but it's "free with the promo code FREESIM." Thanks a lot, T-Mobile! We want our $10 back. From there you can choose a plan and so on. Just keep in mind it'll probably take at least a few days for the device to arrive in the mail.

According to a T-Mobile representative, if you paid full price for the iPhone 6, it's already unlocked. That means you can take it to any other GSM carrier, including AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, H2O Wireless, Straight Talk, and so on.

As with T-Mobile proper, you'll need a SIM card, and you'll have to go through the porting process if you want to bring your number. But that's the beauty of the unlocked phone-- You're not tied to a single wireless carrier for two whole years.

It looks like Apple fans that wish to buy the new iPhone 6 may have to wait a while longer to get their hands on the devices as Apple's subcontractor Foxconn struggles badly to ramp up its production, says the Wall Street Journal.

Overall demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have Foxconn's factory workers in high gear, working 24x7 to get the units out as quickly as possible.

The iPhone 6 seems to be running into the same old story-- not enough supply to meet demand.

In an effort to ease the problem, Foxconn has brought more factory workers on board to make the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus at its plant in Zhengzhou, China.

But the complexities of manufacturing both phones appear to be taking their toll, the Wall Street Journal said today, citing the usual "people familiar with the matter."

More than 200,000 Foxconn workers are stationed at the Zhengzhou factory with the sole job of assembling the new iPhones and some of its key components.

The plant is also running 100 production lines 24 hours a day to keep up with demand for the popular phones. So what exactly is the issue?

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Foxconn is the only supplier manufacturing the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and is responsible for most of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 units, the Journal's sources said. With larger screens and other enhancements, the two new phones also represent a dramatic shift from last year's models.

As such, most of the burden and work is on Foxconn's shoulders. That contrasts with Foxconn's obligation last year when it initially made only the iPhone 5S and just a small number of iPhone 5C units before it eventually dropped the 5C altogether.

Another issue reportedly rests with a few manufacturing flaws in the production output. The percentage of successful iPhone 6 Plus units assembled is only around 50 percent to 60 percent, a person at a display component supplier told the Journal.

That means that Foxconn has to throw out the units that don't meet quality standards. The iPhone 6 fares better with a successful production rate of more than 85 percent.

"We have been outputting about 140,000 iPhone 6 Plus and 400,000 iPhone 6 every day for the past several weeks, the highest daily output ever, but the volume is still not enough to meet the huge demand," a person familiar with the matter told the Journal.

"For the iPhone 6 Plus, we are still ramping up the production lines. Another reason for the limited supply is the shortage of 5.5-inch displays," the source said.

Until Foxconn can greatly improve its production to inch closer to the demand, iPhone buyers will have to wait a while longer.

Among the new models, the iPhone 6 Plus is facing longer delays for those who preorder in advance of actual sales that officially kick off on Friday.

Apple's website shows the wait time for the iPhone 6 at about seven to ten business days and the wait time for the iPhone 6 Plus at three to four weeks.

We contacted Apple for comment and will update the story with any further details once we get them.

If you can't afford the rather expensive off-contract price for Apple's new iPhone 6, T-Mobile is aiming to make it easier for you to pay it off.

To be sure, when users choose one of T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans, they can get the 16 GB iPhone 6 for $0 down and 24 equal monthly payments of $27.08.

The 16GB iPhone 6 Plus also has $0 down and can be paid off in 24 equal monthly payments of $31.24. The total cost is equivalent to an off-contract phone, which is $650 for the iPhone 6 and $750 for the iPhone 6 Plus.

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Source: TUR.

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