Trolling in Tyler
The future of the Internet may be decided in Tyler. The East Texas town is the setting for a trial that will evaluate claims by a former university researcher who says he invented the technologies that laid the groundwork for the modern web—things like streaming video, interactive images, and suggested search results—back in 1993.
Wired reports that several Internet heavy-hitters—including Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and even web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee—turned out this week to testify against the patent claim, which they argue would dismantle the foundation of e-commerce. Many in the tech industry refer to the plaintiff, Michael Doyle, as a “patent troll.” He is seeking $600 million in damages.
The Bottom Line: Doyle moved his company to Tyler in 2009 in order to be closer to several companies he claims infringed on his intellectual property, including Perot Systems, Frito-Lay, JC Penney, and Rent-A-Center.
Hire and Hire
Houston, Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, and San Antonio ranked in the top five metro areas in job creation in the last five years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. American City Business Journals reported this week that just thirteen of the top one hundred labor markets in the country had positive job growth from 2006 to 2011, and Houston tops the list with 109,700 new jobs.
The Bottom Line: McAllen-Ediburg and El Paso weren’t far behind, claiming sixth and eighth place, respectively. Los Angeles fared worse than any other metro, losing more than 430,000 jobs in the last five years.
You’re Frito Stick Around
Pepsi announced Thursday that it will not spin off Plano-based Frito-Lay into a separate company from its beverage division, which some analysts had anticipated. The Dallas Morning News reports that sales of Frito-Lay’s salty snacks are on the rise, outperforming Pepsi’s soft-drink business by significant margins.
The Bottom Line: Pepsi also said it plans to cut costs by shedding three percent of its work force, but “did not say how many of those cuts would be from Frito-Lay,” according to the Morning News.
AT&T Goes Full Throttle
Struggling to keep its wireless data network from being jammed into oblivion, AT&T recently discontinued its unlimited data plan and began slowing down connection speeds for the top five percent of data users. Many customers in that group have complained that the unlimited plan they paid for is no longer “unlimited” and that the threshold for the slowdown, or throttling, is too low.
Houston Chronicle tech writer Dwight Silverman investigated these complaints by reaching out to the newspaper’s social media audience for firsthand accounts. Some readers reported that AT&T sent them warnings when they had used less than three gigabytes, far lower than they had been accustomed to when the plan was truly unlimited.
The Bottom Line: Silverman suggests that AT&T should be more transparent about how it caps data use, including posting the current threshold online in real time. “If the company doesn’t do the right thing soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if the feds don’t come calling,” he writes.
Winner: Broke College Students
With average college textbook prices climbing above $1,100 in the 2011–12 academic year, students could soon catch a break with the help of new technology developed at Rice University.
Rice announced this week that it is working with non-profit publisher OpenStax College to offer open-source textbooks to students free of charge. The project is funded by private grant money, and according to Inside Higher Ed, “organizers believe the programs could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market.”
Loser: Border Banks
Banks in Texas and other border states are bracing themselves for a proposed federal rule that would require them to report interest payments made to depositors who live outside the U.S. The San Antonio Express News reports that some Mexican customers are concerned that their personal information could be exposed in the disclosures, meaning “organized crime elements in Mexico could learn who’s in Texas, how wealthy they are and where their money is.”
If these worries cause customers to close their accounts en masse, Texas banks would be less able to make loans, which would be a severe financial hit.