7 Free Apps to Manage Business Finances

shutterstock_136552994When it comes to grooming a small business to become the next multinational corporation, every penny counts. Business owners not only look for cost-effective ways to run their business, but also to track recurring expenses and project costs into the future to ensure finances remain in the black. In this age of technology, many free applications have sprung up claiming to offer the best money saving methods with the best visualizations of savings. But which app is really the best? The answer is: it depends on your business’ needs. Whether your company needs a way to track individual employee’s expense reports or to provide a picture of your corporate finances, there’s an app for that. Continue reading

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The Biggest Telecom Charge Your Business Overlooks

shutterstock_282331166Phone bill management is no easy task. Many businesses attempt to take telecom auditing roles upon themselves before quickly realizing the onslaught of electronic and paper bills combined with varying plans, mystery charges and different departments with different needs create an impossible situation to sort out alone. Many companies, such as Telanalysis, offer phone bill audits to track your small business’ charges and eliminate wireless waste. While professional telecom management is the easiest (and most accurate) option for most companies, there is still one big thing consumers and businesses can do to reduce phone bill charges and prevent overbilling: Continue reading

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Cramming – Unauthorized Charges on Your Phone Bill

Cramming Settlement for Consumers Announced

May 12, 2015: The FCC, along with the CFPB and state attorneys general, announced that Verizon Wireless will pay $90 million and Sprint Corporation will pay $68 million to settle investigations that revealed the companies billed customers millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party premium text messaging services. With these two cramming cases, the FCC, working together with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and states’ attorneys general has brought a total of $353 million in penalties and restitution against the U.S.’s four largest wireless carriers, structuring these settlements so that $267.5 million of the total will be returned to affected customers.

Consumers can submit claims through www.sprintrefundpsms.com and www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com. Consumers with questions about the redress programs can call 1-877-389-878 for the Sprint case, or 1-888-726-7063 for Verizon.

AT&T customers can submit claims through www.ftc.gov/att or call 1-877-819-9692 for more information.

T-Mobile customers can submit claims through www.t-mobilerefund.com.

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Understanding and Preventing Late Fees

We’ve all been there before – receiving a telecom bill that is much more than expected due to an unfortunate late fee. Whether from forgetfulness or financial circumstances, not paying a bill on time carries with it many consequences. That is why Telanalysis is here to help inform everyone about the ins and outs of telecom late fees and how to prevent them from occurring again in the future. Continue reading

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Reevaluating Your Business’s Wireless Plan

In today’s hectic business world, many companies are choosing to go wireless. Cutting the cord to landlines and strapped monitors is proving to be beneficial for several reasons, including convenience, ease of access, immediate communication, and more. However, it is vital to ensure that a company is paired with the right wireless plan and provider. That is where Telanalysis can help. Continue reading

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Explosive Growth in Mobile Data Traffic Will Continue

Mobile Data BillingThe amount of data consumed over mobile networks worldwide more than doubled every year for each of the last four years, according to a February report from the IT and telecom consulting company Cisco. Several other studies and forecasts of mobile data usage indicate that this phenomenal rate of growth shows no signs of slowing down any time this decade.

To get some idea of the scale of the data load already passing over mobile networks, consider the Cisco report’s comparison of current mobile data traffic to internet traffic a decade ago. According to the report, the amount of data that moved monthly over mobile networks in 2011 was eight times the total data that passed over the entire internet each month in 2000.

Quantifying the enormous amount of data being exchanged over mobile networks today renders the familiar terms megabyte, gigabyte and even terabyte (one trillion bytes) useless. Instead, the monthly volume of mobile traffic currently crisscrossing the planet must be measured by the petabyte (PB), which is equal to one quadrillion bytes. Cisco says that 2011 mobile data traffic averaged just under 600 petabytes per month. But the amount of data usage is growing so rapidly that by 2016, just a few short years away, monthly global mobile data traffic will exceed 10 exabytes (10 quintillion bytes), for an approximately 17-fold increase in just five years.

Nokia Siemens Networks showed similar growth projections in an infographic it released last September, which estimated that data traffic worldwide will total a little over 6 exabytes per month by 2015, representing a 2600 percent increase over 2010.  By 2020, according to Nokia, the average mobile data user could be consuming one gigabyte (GB) of data per day, an increase from 2011 of about 6700 percent.

Under many of the data plans currently available in the United States, 1 GB of data is half of a subscriber’s monthly allotment. Clearly, data pricing structures will have to change as more and more people using more and more devices make routine use of data-intensive applications like video streaming. Exactly how mobile network operators will maximize their revenues from the ongoing explosion in data traffic is unclear, perhaps even to the operators themselves.

The last few years have already seen the disappearance of unlimited data plans from the offerings of all but one of the major U.S. wireless carriers, in favored of tiered data pricing. Over the next few years, mobile telecom companies are likely to test out more new pricing schemes for data consumption. Telecom consultants have anticipated the eventual emergence of data billing practices such as charging customers by the app or for each service used, or charging extra for tethering.

However, because they’re worried about remaining competitive, operators are understandably reluctant to be the first to implement any novel data pricing scheme. A survey by Connected Planet of more than 300 mobile operators revealed that most prefer usage-based billing, and that a decided majority of them expect to make some kind of change to their data billing plans this year. But a large number of them also indicated that market forces and customer perceptions would probably prevent them from using the exact billing plan that they would most prefer to adopt.

Few aspects of running an organization are changing as rapidly as the market for data, telecom and IT services. More than ever, telecommunications management requires an expert with up-to-the-minute knowledge of the industry to make the most cost-effective decisions. Let Telanalysis be the telecom billing expert in your corner. Call Telanalysis today at 866-300-6999 to arrange for a free consultation and to find out about getting a money-saving telecom audit for your organization at no risk.

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Disputed Regulation of Electronic Devices Stokes Conflict on Commercial Flights

In Flight WiFiStories of bad behavior by airline passengers regularly make the news, but the most common kind of passenger misconduct doesn’t get widely reported (unless, perhaps, it’s perpetrated by a celebrity). Directives to turn off electronic devices or to cease in-flight cell phone use are easily the biggest causes of confrontations between flight crews and airline customers today, with many passengers questioning the need for such rules.

That probably comes as no surprise, given the pervasiveness of electronic technology for personal and business telecommunications, consumption of media and data and entertainment. Mobile connectivity is so taken for granted that when many of us balk when we’re faced with the prospect of being cut off from our gadgets for hours.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, American Airlines flight attendants alone reported more than 1,300 passenger incidents in 2011, an increase from 2010. The vast majority of passenger disputes at American these days, as at every other air carrier, revolve around fliers’ insistence on using electronic technology when it’s forbidden.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s requirements to power down electronic devices during takeoff and landing are especially galling to those who believe that they pose no real danger to safe operation of the aircraft. In fact, the FAA now lets pilots keep iPads loaded with aviation charts and manuals in the cockpit, and allows them to be powered up and in use during all phases of a flight. One guest columnist for Time pointed out that exceptions to the electronic device ban are also made for journalists flying aboard Air Force One, implying that such an exemption would never be allowed if the government truly felt that electronic devices posed a threat.

Proponents of the ban rightly assert that the FAA and other agencies cannot possibly test every conceivable device that dozens or hundreds of passengers might bring aboard commercial flights to determine whether they might interfere with the many different electronic systems that are part of modern aircraft.

The latest round of attacks on and defense of the FAA’s rules governing electronic devices was touched off by a widely reported incident last December involving Alec Baldwin. The actor was removed from an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York after he reportedly refused to stop playing the game “Words With Friends” on his iPhone. In order to keep such disputes from occurring while planes are airborne, airline rules and federal regulations permit flight crews to return to the gate and kick offending passengers off the aircraft.

Whether there’s a celebrity angle or not, most such incidents don’t escalate to the point of booting a passenger or getting law enforcement involved. Those steps are usually only taken when a passenger responds to flight attendants’ directives with aggressive or offensive behavior, as Baldwin allegedly did.

For every passenger actually caught using an electronic device, of course, there’s probably one or more of them surreptitiously using a smartphone, iPod or e-reader. Many more passengers likely are carrying devices that remain turned on throughout the flight, intentionally or otherwise, even if they don’t use them.

So does this present a danger? Common sense would say no, or else there would be a lot more commercial plane crashes. Research studies on the topic have come to varying conclusions. Following the crash of a Swiss commuter flight just after takeoff that killed ten people in early 2000, investigators decided to audit mobile phone records of the passengers. There appeared to be a correlation between two passengers’ texting and phone call activity and a malfunction of the aircraft’s autopilot system. Although the evidence was far from definitive, many countries instituted airplane cell phone bans as a result, some of which have been lifted in the decade since the Swiss disaster.

In the United States, the FAA seems to prefer to err on the side of caution. Consumer electronic devices are essentially assumed to have the possibility of interfering with aircraft electronics unless airlines can demonstrate otherwise. The stakes are so high – the chance that hundreds of people dying in a what would be a preventable and highly publicized incident – that the FAA doesn’t want to allow even a tiny risk.

Telanalysis knows that your organization relies on telecommunications technology to keep employees connected with each other and with your clients. But connectedness comes at a price, and the experts at Telanalysis can help you keep costs down with comprehensive telecom audits and telecom cost control measures. Call Telanalysis today at 866-300-6999 to find out more about our telecom management services and to arrange for a free consultation.

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Federal Agency Urges 50-State Ban on Driving While Using Cell Phones and Other Devices

Business Cell Phone Hands FreeIt’s likely that your company or organization already has a policy that discourages cell phone usage by employees while they’re driving during work hours. If the National Transportation Safety Board were to get its way, such corporate cell phone policies might become just the second line of defense against unsafe practices such as talking while driving and texting while driving.

The NTSB, an independent federal agency that investigates transportation accidents, advocates passage of state laws banning nearly all use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) by motorists – even devices that don’t necessarily require you to take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off of the road.

In December, the NTSB issued a recommendation urging all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws barring motorists from using any kind of PED while operating a vehicle, except for emergency purposes. The recommendation was contained in a report on a fatal collision that occurred on Missouri highway one year earlier. The NTSB said that state laws should “ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.”

While the NTSB didn’t explain in detail what kind of electronic devices it considered as “designed to support the driving task,” that phrase has been assumed to refer mainly to dedicated GPS units and possibly even to GPS-based maps and direction finding applications on other devices.  Also exempted would be the new generation of electronic auto technologies such as backup cameras, lane-departure warning signals and forward collision warning systems.

The NTSB report said the Missouri accident was caused in part by a young male pickup truck driver sending and receiving (and presumably reading) multiple text messages as he drove along I-44 approaching a road construction zone where a lane was closed. Although the incident involved hands-on use of a cell phone, many auto safety experts have long warned that even in hands-free mode electronic devices divert too much of a driver’s attention away from the road.

Over the last decade, the NTSB has investigated numerous accidents in which distractions from electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers played a part, although the incidents cited by the agency include modes of transportation other than cars and trucks, such as boats, planes and trains.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, says that more than 3,000 people died in distraction-related motor vehicle accidents in 2010, or roughly 10 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle fatalities for the year.

The NTSB, NHTSA and other safety groups are concerned that as the number of mobile devices increases and their use becomes an increasingly integral part of everyday life, the number of deaths and injuries resulting from their use will greatly increase. For instance, The NTSB held an “attentive driving forum” on March 27 at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Current policies regarding use of electronic devices while driving vary widely from state to state. For instance, a Pennsylvania law went into effect March 8 that outlaws texting while driving, but 15 states still lack such a ban. New York and Nevada have outlawed texting as well as all handheld cell phone use. So far no state has prohibited, hands-free phone calls for motorists, but the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, is currently considering a municipal ban.

At Telanalysis, we know that mobile communications are becoming increasingly important to the functioning of enterprises in the 21st century. However you and your employees use your mobile devices, we know that you need to find the greatest cost savings possible. We’ve been independent telecom billing consultants since 1985. Let us perform a no-risk telecom audit to reduce telecom costs for your company. Call Telanalysis today for a consultation at 866-300-6999.

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‘Traffic Pumping’ Schemes Cost Millions in Artificially Generated Rural Carrier Access Fees

Telecom FeesIt won’t show up on a phone bill audit, but a slice of the money that you and your organization budget for telecom expenses could very well be going to subsidize other people’s free teleconferences, “adult chat” conversations or other phone-based services.

Providers of these kinds of services have partnered with some rural telecom companies to exploit federal policies that allow the rural telcos to collect relatively high access fees from long-distance carriers who route calls to them. In turn, the national carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, have to either absorb the fees they pay out – which total in the millions of dollars – or pass them on to residential and business consumers.

Called “traffic pumping” or “access stimulation,” these schemes route phone traffic through rural local exchange carriers (LECs) solely for the purpose of generating the access fees. The service provider and the participating LEC split the money they collect from the long distance carriers, who may try to recoup it from customers in the form of higher rates.

Payments from national long distance providers to rural LECs are just one component of a complex system of fees that telecom providers pay to each other called intercarrier compensation (ICC). The original purpose of allowing rural LEC’s to collect larger access fees was to ensure that they stay profitable enough to remain in business.

National telecom providers have been complaining about the cost of traffic pumping for years. Refusing to complete calls to traffic pumping exchanges is not an option for them because of laws enacted to ensure that rural America has reliable phone service comparable to that delivered to users in urban areas.

One telecom consulting firm estimated that traffic pumping cost wireless carriers alone $170 million in 2011. The year before, the same telco consultant had found that the number of call minutes attributable to traffic pumping had increased by nearly half. AT&T warned that its customers might ultimately have to foot the bill for $250 million in access fees it paid out for the year – and that was back in 2008. In some cases AT&T has even refused to pay invoices from LECs for what it deemed excessive access fees.

Traffic pumping calls that are routed to a rural LEC don’t serve its local customers. In fact, they’re forwarded from the rural telco to the service provider’s actual base of operations. The majority of adult chat providers, for instance, are located in the Los Angeles area and don’t have any physical presence in the area served by their partner rural LECs. Most of the LECs that practice “traffic pumping” are concentrated in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota, although there have been prominent examples in rural Utah and Mississippi as well.

Federal policy has always sought to ensure that rural America stays connected to the rest of the country, going back to the early days of the Federal Communications commission in the 1930s. Intercarrier payments that subsidized rural phone service were formalized in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the ICC system has been tweaked and adjusted many times through subsequent FCC rulings and court cases.

The access rates that benefit rural LECs were set high so that normal levels of incoming long distance traffic would generate sufficient income for them. However, with rural providers of telecom services allowed to bill per-minute access fees that are several times higher than what a non-rural exchange can charge, some saw an incentive to route as many minutes of telephone traffic as possible through rural LECs.

The FCC announced in October that it intends to overhaul the existing intercarrier compensation regime, partly for the purpose of curtailing traffic pumping and access stimulation.

Being aware of practices and trends in the telecom industry is key to making effective telecommunications management decisions for a business or organization. At Telanalysis, we specialize in maintaining up-to-date knowledge about the rapidly evolving fields of telecommunications and IT.   We’ve served our customers as a dedicated, independent telecom billing consultant since 1985. Telanalysis can help you get more in control of your company or agency’s telecom spending, from conducting a no-risk telecom audit to expert telecommunications consulting that will help you optimize your telecom contracting and spending. Call us today at 866-300-6999 for a free consultation.

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FCC Shifting Definition of ‘Universal Service’ to Focus More on Broadband, Less on Voice

FCCThe way in which the Federal Communications Commission pursues its mission of ensuring that residents of every part of the United States have access to telecommunications services at reasonable prices is being re-evaluated to give greater importance to newer technologies. The method of funding “universal service” is also very likely to change, perhaps lowering the amount that the average telecom consumer pays in the form of costs passed through to them by telecom carriers.

Most telecom consultants think changes to the FCC’s universal service priorities, which were formally proposed in October, are long overdue. Over the last decade especially, advances in information technology in general and the convergence of IT and telecom in particular have made the FCC’s original narrow goal of fostering wireline telephone service to all Americans less relevant.

In a move that had been eagerly anticipated for months, the FCC voted unanimously on Oct. 27 to adopt a plan that would essentially redefine universal service and reform the way that efforts to establish and maintain universal service are funded. The centerpiece of the plan is the creation of the Connect America Fund, which would emphasize bringing broadband and mobile services to geographic areas that might otherwise go unserved by these technologies.

Until now, the FCC had focused much of its efforts to foster universal access to telecommunications on traditional wireline voice telephone service. Through the Universal Service Fund (USF), established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, subsidies are given to telecom carriers in order to lower the price tag of basic telephone service for low-income users and for people living in “high-cost” areas. High-cost areas are rural, low-population or insular areas that have few revenue-generating customers in relation to the infrastructure expenditures that must be made to serve them. Without subsidies, phone service in these areas would be prohibitively expensive for many residents, if it existed at all. Subsidies enable carriers to profitably serve these areas while charging rates that are comparable to those in urban areas.

Although the FCC states that it still wants to “preserve and advance the universal availability of voice service,” the Connect America Fund (CAF) will be oriented toward bringing broadband services to even “the most remote areas of the nation.” The FCC plans to effectively terminate the USF by 2018, completely replacing the USF program for high-cost areas with the Connect America Fund and making the CAF the main mechanism for achieving its new universal service goals.

The CAF will also be a vehicle for realizing the National Broadband Plan, which calls for broadband services to be made accessible to every American by 2020. The Plan was promulgated two years ago by the FCC as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009. To be eligible to participate in the CAF, telecom carriers will be required to offer both voice and broadband services.

Funding for the CAF will follow a different model than the one established for the USF, but the details of the funding mechanism have to be worked out. Not surprisingly, exactly who pays how much to support universal broadband service, how the money is collected and how it is disbursed are likely to be contentious issues. Major changes to intercarrier compensation (ICC) – the fees that telecom carriers pay one another for handling each other’s traffic – will also be made in concert with the revamping of the universal service program. Telecom customers are ultimately the ones who pay universal service and ICC fees as part of their phone bills, and fortunately for them, one of the FCC’s stated goals is to reduce costs that are passed through to end-users.

Efficient telecom management for your organization depends on keeping up with constant changes in technology, the telecom industry and government regulation. Telanalysis is an experienced telecom billing consultant that’s been keeping abreast of changes in the world of telecom since 1985. Telanalysis can help you reduce your company’s telecom spending, starting with a phone bill audit that we perform for you on a contingency basis with no upfront payment. Call Telanalysis today for a free consultation at 866-300-6999.

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