NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T is joining Verizon in raising the prices of some of its data plans.
As with Verizon, AT&T is going to great lengths to avoid calling the changes a price hike, as the higher prices come with more data, reducing the cost per gigabyte for many customers. Indeed many customers will benefit, and those who won’t can keep their existing plans.
The price increase underscores how wireless companies see data as a way to boost revenue. Most plans now come with unlimited calls and texts.
The new rates take effect Sunday. AT&T customers who want to keep their existing plans don’t need to do anything. They can still add lines to their account, but won’t be able to change data levels without switching to the new rates.
AT&T’s efforts to simplify its plans include standardizing the “access charge” that customers pay on top of data charges. That’s the voice and text portion of the monthly service bill. Now, customers will pay $20 a month per line, unless they still have a discounted phone under two-year contracts, which wireless companies are phasing out. Before, the access charge was $25 for smaller data plans and $15 for larger ones.
Customers on larger data plans will now pay more for access, but will get comparable or greater reductions in the data rates. In fact, families on plans of 20 gigabytes or more will likely see signification reductions in their phone bills.
That’s not the case with smaller plans, as phone companies try to push customers into larger tiers to boost revenue. Those on smaller data plans will generally pay $10 a month more for data, offset by a $5-per-line reduction in the access charge. That’s a net increase of $5 for individuals, though those prices come with at least 20 percent more data.
But there’s one case where customers get less. For $30, customers used to get 2 gigabytes of data. Now, that price comes with 1 gigabyte. Those customers will still benefit from the $5-per-line reduction.
Regardless of the data level, Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is eliminating charges for exceeding monthly data caps, at least for those who do switch to the new rates. The charge was typically $15 per gigabyte over. Now, AT&T will slow down speeds instead after the cap is reached. The slower speeds will be fine for email and basic status updates on Facebook, but photos will be difficult and streaming video nearly impossible.
Verizon also eliminated charges for exceeding caps when it raised prices last month, though for those on smaller data plans, customers have to pay a $5 a month “safety” fee to avoid such charges. There’s no extra fee with AT&T. Sprint and T-Mobile also slow down speeds instead of charging for exceeding caps, without imposing any safety fee.
Last year, T-Mobile raised its rates as well, while calling them greater values with more data.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After a hefty piece of stone molding fell from the brick exterior of Ohio University’s football stadium onto a sidewalk, other similar moldings have been removed as a precaution and work is underway to stabilize the wall before the team’s home opener in early September.
No one was hurt when the 8-inch-thick piece — measuring about 2 ½ feet by 4 feet — evidently crashed down at the southwest corner of Peden Stadium from a part of the stands that was built in 1929, the school said in a statement. A door and a cabinet of audio and video equipment were damaged.
The school said the support system underneath the stone molding apparently failed, and areas around some of the stands were blocked off as a safety precaution after the fallen stone was discovered the morning of July 27. University officials think the piece fell that morning or the previous night and aren’t aware of anyone having been around when it happened, spokesman Dan Pittman said in an email.
A structural engineer subsequently inspected the masonry on the stands and recommended taking off the remaining stone moldings and making interim repairs, according to the university. It said those changes, slated to be done before the Bobcats face Texas State on Sept. 3, are expected to cost about $202,000.
The university plans to start construction in March on a long-term repair that is yet to be designed but would be scheduled for completion by this time next year. A contractor hasn’t been chosen for that design and repair work, so the cost for that hasn’t been determined, Pittman said.
OU wasn’t aware of any previous concerns raised about the integrity of the stadium masonry and no similar masonry failures have happened there previously, Pittman said.
The repair work hasn’t affected athletic practices or other activities, he said.
BERLIN (AP) — A top German politician has received applause — and some criticism — after making an unambiguous gesture of disdain toward far-right protesters.
A video posted online late Tuesday shows Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel flipping the bird at a group of neo-Nazis in the central German town of Salzgitter on Friday.
The clip shows about 10 far-right protesters holding placards accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy of being a “race traitor” and praising Gabriel’s late father, a committed Nazi.
At first, the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party is seen laughing at the demonstrators before raising his middle finger and turning away. While some on social media criticized Gabriel for his coarse reaction, many praised the gesture, with one user on Facebook commenting: “I can’t like that often enough.”
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The repeat one-two American finish in the triple jump, the Jamaican gold medal in hurdles and Jenny Simpson’s unprecedented bronze in the 1,500 meters were only part of the story in Olympic track and field Tuesday — and maybe not the best part.
The midpoint of the nine-day program at Olympic Stadium was a day for diamond rings and making friends, a one-of-a-kind Russian hello and a surprising Brazilian farewell. And, of course, a daily dose of doping news that was more than offset by a speedy cameo from Usain Bolt.
Bolt was on the track early for his 200-meter qualifying heat — a no-fuss 20.28-second ramble around the curve that barely raised his blood pressure.
“I’m not an early-morning person,” Bolt proclaimed, shortly after winning his heat, which actually started at the crack of 12:46 p.m.
But morning seemed like the perfect time for American Will Claye to put an exclamation point on one of his greatest moments. Newly minted with his second straight Olympic silver medal in the triple jump — countryman Christian Taylor won gold, also just as in 2012 — Clay clambered over the barrier separating the track from the stands, climbed a few rows to meet his girlfriend, bent down on one knee and popped the question.
Queen Harrison, an Olympic hurdler in 2008, said yes.
“When I woke up this morning, I was like, ‘Today’s going to be the best day of my life,'” Claye said.
Omar McLeod certainly felt the same. His 13.05-second trip across the 110-meter hurdles course in the evening’s final event made it three gold medals on the straightaway for Jamaica so far. He beat Orlando Ortega of Spain by .12 seconds. Dimitri Bascou of France took third, and University of Oregon receiver Devon Allen finished fifth.
In the evening’s other big race, Faith Kipyegon finished the women’s 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 8.92 seconds to beat out Genzebe Dibaba, a flip-flop from last year’s world championships. Jenny Simpson took bronze to become the first American woman to medal in the event.
Other gold medalists were high jumper Derek Drouin of Canada and discus thrower Sandra Perkovic of Croatia, who twice was a single throw from elimination but came through both times and defended her Olympic title.
Yet, like many of the best moments on this emotion-packed day, there were no medals on the line when long jumper Darya Klishina finally showed up at the Olympics. During warmups, Klishina unzipped her jacket and revealed a red shirt with the word “Russia” emblazoned in bright white lettering. She’s the only athlete wearing that uniform at this stadium, due to a doping scandal that led to the ban of Russia’s other 67 track and field entrants.
Never introduced by the PA announcer, or cheered by the crowd, Klishina jumped 6.64 meters to make it through qualifying and will have a chance for a medal Wednesday.
“Last week, it was a really tough and really hard week for me mentally . I was waiting for the decision and I could not practice, I just did warmup,” she said. “I would like to have a big Russian team around me, as usual, but unfortunately I’m here alone and this is a great responsibility.”
But there was more bad news for the Russians. Around the time the evening session began, the International Olympic Committee stripped Russia’s 2008 women’s 4×100 relay team of its gold medal, saying one of the sprinters tested positive in one of the many samples being reanalyzed this summer.
Back on the field, the sparse morning crowd saw one shocker: Brazilian Fabiana Murer was expected to contend for a pole vault medal, which would’ve gone nicely with the surprise gold that Thiago Braz da Silva won in the men’s competition the night before. But Murer, the silver medalist at world championships last year, couldn’t clear 4.55 meters in her first three attempts and was gone before noon.
Da Silva’s return to the stadium for the medals ceremony reignited an ugly episode from the previous night. The French runner-up, Renaud Lavillenie, was roundly booed when his name was announced for the silver medal, much the way he heard jeers the night before as he prepared for the jump that decided the meet.
Only a blip. The Olympic spirit was alive and well, and no story told it better than this:
Midway through women’s 5,000-meter qualifying, American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin got tangled and fell hard onto the track.
Hamblin laid there, dazed. D’Agostino popped back up. But instead of forging ahead, she walked over to Hamblin, put a hand on her shoulder and said, “Get up. We have to finish this,” then hoisted her to her feet to restart the run.
Turned out, D’Agostino took the worst of it, hobbled because she had hurt her ankle. So, when Hamblin got to the finish, she waited for her new friend, where they exchanged a warm hug before the American got carted off in a wheelchair.
“I’m never going to forget that moment,” Hamblin said. “When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.”
Hours later, race officials sent out a simple alert: The Track Referee, after examining the video of the race, was advancing both women into Friday’s final. They offered no explanation. They really didn’t have to.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — He sat quietly, eyes closed, dozing in the shade on a warm afternoon at a beach hotel patio near Barra Olympic Park.
It had been an exhausting first week at the Rio Games, always in demand for selfies and lots of camera time on the videoboard at the pool.
Yep, Boomer Phelps was wiped out.
The 3-month-old son of the most decorated athlete in Olympic history became a star from the stands at his first games. Even his daddy Michael Phelps needed a second Olympics before he grabbed the world’s attention with his gold-medal swimming feats.
All Boomer had to do was gurgle in his mother’s arms while wearing cute red, white and blue outfits and tiny noise-canceling headphones.
The world fell in love with the little guy.
“I don’t think we realized how much Boomer would become a star,” said Nicole Johnson, Phelps’ fiance. “It’s fun to watch as a mom.”
This is Phelps’ new role: dad. After winning five golds and a silver in Rio, bringing his career total to 28 medals, including 23 golds, Phelps is relishing the chance to watch his first child grow up.
The kid is already a force on social media. One of Johnson’s favorite online spoofs was a Huffington Post article written in the first person with Boomer’s imagined thoughts. She removed Boomer’s headphones at medal ceremonies almost as if on cue from her son.
“Sometimes he would get fussy,” she said. “He’ll grab his ear, ‘Come on, Mom. I’m done, take these off.'”
Phelps has gotten a kick out of his infant son’s effect on people. Boomer has his own Instagram account set up by mom and dad, and it’s gained over 500,000 followers since the recent U.S. Olympic trials. Phelps badgers Johnson to supply a steady stream of fresh photos.
“I’ve got to keep everybody happy,” he said, grinning. “It’ll be fun to share this experience with him. Hopefully, in four years he’ll be able to understand a little bit and I’ll get a chance to take him to Tokyo.”
Phelps will be at the 2020 Summer Games not to swim but to be himself, making sponsor appearances and promoting the sport that made him the world’s most recognizable swimmer.
He was working Tuesday, making an appearance on behalf of Krave jerky, a new endorsement. The hotel chef created eight different entrees using such Krave flavors as chili lime, basil citrus and black cherry barbecue for Phelps, who grabbed lunch with Johnson while former Olympic swimmer and mother of two Summer Sanders expertly rocked Boomer in her arms.
Boomer’s navy shirt from his father’s MP clothing line and navy-and-white shorts nearly matched his dad’s navy shorts and white Team USA jacket. The infant had better kicks, though. Boomer’s tiny red, white and blue shoes with gold soles easily outdid Phelps’ flip flops.
Phelps can’t wait to return home to Arizona and settle into a retirement of changing diapers, bottle-feeding and watching Boomer grow. Johnson said Phelps was able to assume his role as new dad for just three weeks in the run-up to Rio.
She sees Phelps channeling his famous competitive drive into expanding their family and raising their kids.
“I think that’s where his drive and focus will go,” she said. “He’s been awesome with the little amount he’s been able to give of himself.”
Phelps feels a bit more ambitious, though.
He wants to help empower the world’s swimmers when it comes to the sport’s decision-making and changing some rules to benefit them.
“There are a lot of things that bother me about the sport and how they’re handled,” he said, specifically citing Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter.
It prevents athletes from using their name, picture or performances for advertising while competing in the games, and keeps them from touting their sponsors on social media.
“If I need a pair of this brand’s shoes or shorts or T-shirt or X, Y Z that are going to help me perform and I can’t wear them because of Rule 40, it stinks,” he told The Associated Press. “Those things I think we should be able to do. Without the athletes, it doesn’t happen. We want to make sure the conditions are perfect for us.”
Phelps wants to continue promoting water safety for youngsters, including his own son.
Johnson has been planning the couple’s destination wedding to take place near the end of the year. It’ll be a small affair followed by a big party most likely in Arizona.
“We’ll see where Boomer decides it needs to be,” Johnson said. “We’re on Boomer time.”
BOSTON (AP) — In an experiment backed by the federal government, Northeastern University and General Electric are offering a new manufacturing degree program to be taught primarily at the company’s work sites. Students will take online courses through the university, undergo training at a GE plant and earn a bachelor’s degree within three years.
The biggest twist: For the first time, students who enroll in that kind of partnership will be eligible for federal financial aid.
Under U.S. law, financial aid is prohibited for programs in which at least half of the instruction comes from “ineligible entities” outside the school, such as GE. But in a pilot project meant to help low-income students, the U.S. Education Department is opening financial aid to eight programs jointly offered by schools and companies.
“While America has some of the best colleges and universities in the world, as a system we’re still catching up to the needs of today’s new normal college student,” Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the typical U.S. college student is no longer an 18-year-old, but a working adult.
In its first year, the project will offer up to $5 million in federal aid for students in eight programs chosen by the Education Department. The experiment’s goal is to prepare students for the growing number of jobs that require some level of higher education, but on terms that are flexible enough for working adults.
The experiment is being called EQUIP, short for Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships.
Among the programs chosen by the department, most are new partnerships between colleges and education companies, including four academies for computer coding.
The University of Texas at Austin, for example, is pairing with the coding boot camp MakerSquare to offer a 13-week certificate in web development.
Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey is working with the website Study.com to offer online bachelor’s degrees in business administration and liberal studies, to be completed at a student’s own pace through video courses.
At Northeastern, the new degree aims to combat what school officials say is a shortage of workers with advanced manufacturing skills. The program will launch next spring, starting with up to 50 General Electric employees as the first students. By fall 2017, the university hopes to expand the degree program to students across the U.S.
“In order to bring manufacturing back to the United States, we need to focus on the advanced aspects that require skills, that require expertise,” Northeastern President Joseph Aoun said.
The program will cost $10,000 a year without financial aid. Students with some college experience can complete it within a year and a half, school officials said.
Each of the partnerships will be assigned an independent organization to monitor their work and evaluate student incomes. The monitors include consulting firms and education advocacy groups. Ultimately, the Education Department will decide whether each partnership’s pilot was a success.
“It’s not enough to measure only access or simple enrollment,” Mitchell said, “we need to have a laser-like focus on outcomes.”