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So Long AT&T: Why I’m Better Off with a Small ISP

Sonic.net is a Bay Area company that partners with Cal.net to provide Fusion and DSL services throughout our network. I was reading this blog post today and impressed by this blogger’s experience and wanted to share his perspective with our customers. To view these products on our website, check out www.cal.net/fusionpc

Sincerely,
Phil Bosley
Cal.net

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So Long AT&T: Why I’m Better Off with a Small ISP

The little guys are coming into the market for broadband and wireline services. Here’s how CIO.com blogger Bill Snyder took the pain out of switching from AT&T to a small local carrier, and is saving money in the process.

Goodbye AT&T! Today is Day Three of the rest of my Internet Life. After more than 10 years as a disgruntled customer of AT&T’s broadband and wireline services, I’ve cut the cord. And yes, it’s working well.

On Monday at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, I became an active customer of Sonic.net, a small carrier headquartered in Sonoma County, California. Switching wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but the good news is this: I’m saving nearly $50 a month on my combined wired phone and DSL service, and my Internet connection is about one-third faster, according to tests I’ve run. As Grandma used to say, “Such a deal.”

I’d been thinking of ditching AT&T for some time. The former Ma Bell is a service-challenged bully that seems to put the customer last, and like many of you I’ve been on the receiving end of the company’s arrogance far too often. My worst experience happened back in 2010, when I had moved a couple of miles from one San Francisco neighborhood to another, and spent about a week fighting AT&T’s bureaucracy before my service was restored.

Please understand, though, that many individual employees of AT&T are great, but working within a broken system often overwhelms the best of intentions.

AT&T Socks it to Wireless Customers Yet Again

Smartphone Data Plans: 5 Ways to Keep Bandwidth Usage in Check
I would have switched then, but because I’d had my old sbcglobal email address for years, I felt like a hostage. As a tech and business journalist, I live and die by my sources and the thought of being cut off from them — at least by email — paralyzed me.

Of course, those of you who have never used any email service but Gmail have no idea what it’s like. Gmail addresses are independent of the ISP, so if you’re just starting out, or don’t need to worry too much about losing your contacts, it’s certainly a good way to go.

That wasn’t me. Once I found Sonic.net, and spoke to a number of people who use the service, I decided to sign up and gave real thought to managing the transition.

First thing I did was dust off a personal domain I had purchased a few years ago and never really used: billsnyder.biz and added it as an account to my Thunderbird email client.

Then I added a line to the signature of my outbound emails saying I was going to switch to the new email address in early April. Next, I created an “out of office” message to everyone who was writing to my sbcglobal address, telling them that I was going to switch. Finally, I sent an email bomb to everyone in my address book with the news of my new address.

I let all of that cook for about six weeks and switched over on Monday. The amount of email I’ve gotten in the last few days is way down; part of that is a welcome reduction in spam, but I’m sure that some of my contacts who never noticed my switch emails have missed me.

On the other hand, saving this much money will be great, and finally having a faster connection is, of course, most welcome. Sonic uses a technology called ADSL2+ which wrings about as much speed as you can get via conventional copper wire. I’m getting download speeds of about 3.22 Mbps, compared to the 2.40 Mbps or so I’d been getting with AT&T. If I were closer to my local exchange switching office I’d get even more speed. In any case, cable is much faster than any form of DSL.

If you’re thinking of switching to a new ISP, be sure you first measure the download speed you’re currently getting (Speedtest.net does a good job) and then do a bit of research to see what speeds your potential new ISP provides. Remember, to watch out for the phrase “as fast as,” which usually means that you’ll get the top speed when pigs fly from you know where.

As to my landline, for much less money, my phone service has all of the features you’d expect — unlimited long distance, voice mail, call forwarding and so on. If there’s a down side it will come when I have an inside wiring problem. Unlike, AT&T, Sonic is not in a position to work inside a customer’s home, so I’ll have to find a contractor if and when that happens.

There’s another important lesson here. As the Internet matures, and service becomes ever more commoditized, smaller players are bringing a lot to the table. Sonic.net is pretty much restricted to a few counties in Northern California, but I suspect there are many Sonic equivalents all over the place. I’d urge you to check with local news sources to find one in your area. And if you like, forward what you find to me, and at some point I’ll write about them as well.

The next step of my personal Project Independence is to cut my final tie with AT&T by ditching them as a wireless carrier. For a number of complex reasons, I can’t do that just yet, but when I do I’ll let you know how it goes.

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill@billsnyder.biz and follow him on Twitter at @BSnyderSF.

Source – http://blogs.cio.com/internet/16981/so-long-att-why-im-better-small-isp

FREE Internet Access!~

As we prepare to deploy the latest in wireless Internet technology, Cal.net is working to increase its visibility in Placerville, Lotus, Coloma, Cameron Park, and throughout El Dorado County.  As a part of this effort, we want to remind our customers about our referral program.

The program is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1.  You tell your friends and family about Cal.net’s Internet Service and remind them to mention you when they sign up.

2. Our highly professional staff will check their home for service availability and schedule a FREE survey and install.

3. Our trained technicians will come to their home and confirm wireless internet service is available.  If it is available, then the technician will install new high speed wireless Internet on the spot!

Once service is connected to your referral, your account will be credited for $39.95.  That’s it!  No contracts or annual plans.  Just old fashioned customer service and the latest in wireless Internet technology.  Cal.net has no caps on its referral program, and so the opportunity exists to fund our entire Internet experience by referring friends and neighbors.

Feel free to give us a call if you would like to hear more about our promotions, programs, or to learn about upgrading your own Internet service.

 

Core Network Upgrades

I am sure you have heard of the upgrades and improvements we have been doing in the Wireless Infrastructure for some areas. In addition to the continuous Wireless Network upgrades, Cal.net has also set focus in its Core Network Infrastructure.

According to our monitoring tools, our primary router’s processor has been running very smoothly for the past year. Between January 2011 and January 2012, our router ran at an average of 0.3% CPU utilization and maximum of 1.2% at peak hours. This very small usage left the Network Engineers comfortable with how the “heart” of the Network is currently operating. Even with great performance like this, Cal.net just recently acquired a more powerful router (Cisco 7609-S) to replace the “primary” router. The replaced router is now used as a “live backup” for the new one. While having multiple Service Providers for backup is a great idea, having only one router was still creating a point of failure in the network. By adding this extra router, we have eliminated that very important point of failure. Previously, if either one of the Providers failed, the router’s smart software would automatically adjust and know the best working path to take. But what if that router had a problem? Now you see where this is going. Cal.net is very pleased to announce the beginning of a project that will slowly implement full redundancy at every level of the Core network.

In laymen’s term, this compares to a human body with two hearts and twice as many arteries. In the upcoming newsletters we will provide more details at other upgrades we are currently making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Network with point of failure at the router level

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Point of failure eliminated

 

 

How to Spot a Phishing Email Scam

 

Phishing is a form of social engineering scam, in which a spammer sends an email that appears to be from some institution that the user does business with such as a bank or internet service provider, with the intent of getting personal information. They often go to great lengths to give the appearance of legitimacy, including using company logos, and building look alike websites to extract information. Understanding the material in this post, especially the section on links, will allow you to successfully identify phishing attempts in almost all cases.

Many Cal.net customers with @directcon.net email addresses received just such an email this last week. In this article, I will dissect this Phishing email to help our customers understand how to sniff out these scams. (If you visited the link in this email, or feel your password may have been compromised, please call support at 530-672-1078).

This scam email avoided many of the obvious mistakes scammers make in the Phishing emails they send. We will start with the most important and difficult part of the scam to pull off, the fake website, and the link to it.

1) The Link- This is how the phisher actually gets your information. They send you to a website that they set up, and have you enter your password, credit card number, or whatever they are looking to get. In this email, if you clicked on the link, you were taken to a website at directcon.net.ms. It may not be immediately obvious that this is not the directcon.net website, after all, it has directcon.net in it. This is the spammer taking advantage of the fact that people don’t understand how web addresses work.

  We will start with a short explanation of how web addresses are structured.

 

Subdomains are not always used in a web address, but the domain and toplevel domain have to be there. Now lets examine the address of the scammers website, and see if we can identify the problem.

Now recall that the domain order is subdomain.domain.top level domain

Site Subdomain Domain Top Level Domain
Scam directcon net ms
Real directcon net

As you can see from the table, the top level domain for the scam site is .ms, where the real site’s tld is .net. Because the scammer owns the domain name net.ms he can create a dummy site for any website who’s TLD is .net. As another example, lets say that you bank with Wells Fargo, and that their domain name is wellsfargo.net. This same scam could be used for that site.

Site Subdomain Domain Top Level Domain
Scam wellsfargo net ms
Real wellsfargo net

This may seem like incomprehensible technobabble, but understanding this is the most important thing to glean from the article. If you pay attention to the web addresses of important sites, and are able to identify domains, subdomains, and top level domains, then it will be very difficult to trick you into giving up important information to a scam site.

Now a quick look at the Cal.net domains you might be dealing with.

Site Subdomain Domain Top Level Domain
Cal.net * cal net
directcon.net * directcon net

2) The FROM field: Many spammers will neglect to change the from field in the email to something from the company the are imitating. The example here was done well by the criminal, they faked the from field to make it appear that it comes from cal.net support staff.

3) LOGO- Often the logo used in spam emails is a low quality copy, or different from the ones sent in email communications. The one in the example above is a very fuzzy copy from the cal.net website.

4) Grammar- Many phishing con artists come from outside the United States, and as a result, there will often be awkwardly worded sentences, or misspellings present in the text.

If ever in doubt about the validity of a communication, please call our support at 530-672-1078 to verify before exposing your account information.

 

Velocity WiMAX now available in Rescue

 

Cal.net is pleased to announce the introduction of our new wireless Velocity (powered by Wi-MAX technology) deployment in the Rescue Area!  These new Access Points can provide service to Rescue, Placerville, Cameron Park, El Dorado, Shingle Springs and other surrounding areas.  Our new wireless Velocity packages can deliver service up to 10 miles away for customers with line of sight and deliver speeds up to 10Mbps!  Worried about reliability?  Our Velocity Wi-MAX packages are broadcasts on FCC licensed frequencies, which means no more interference for an enjoyable internet experience.  Cal.net’s Velocity provides a robust connection to the internet and provides the overhead needed for you to run simultaneous services such as phone & Fax services while your internet is in use. Contact our sales department to find out if you qualify for Cal.net Velocity WiMAX service. Cal.net’s high speed Velocity service requires no annual or monthly contract that locks you down into a commitment.  Don’t forget…if you refer a new wireless subscriber to sign up with Cal.net, we will credit your account a free month of service (at a Basic subscription rate) for each referral you provide us!

 

Surviving a new computer purchase

As unlikely as it seems, it’s October.   October means that this month and the next, people will be gearing up for Black Friday, or Cyber Monday as deals on new computers, laptops and other electronic upgrades that are released.

What this usually means for Cal.net is that starting up in November we get calls from customers looking for assistance: Lost files, missing emails, address books etc.  The great feeling of having a new computer has been diminished by the fact that they now can’t find what they are looking for. We have narrowed down these calls to 5 key items; in fact you could say that this is:

Cal. Net’s Top 5 things you need to do to survive your new computer purchase

Export your web browser Favorites and Bookmarks, and other Media

While some computer manufacturers have software with new computers that assist you in transferring your files, it is a good idea to make manual backups just in case.  As you’ve probably spent years gathering your bookmarks or favorites, before you plug in your new computer, make sure to back these up to a thumb drive or external hard drive. This also applies to any music you’ve purchased online or pictures you’ve transferred to your computer from your camera.

Backup your email

As stated above, some computer manufacturers provide you with software designed to provide a seamless move but just in case, most email programs also have a backup feature: Use this to make sure you don’t lose years of important email in the transition to your new PC.

Find the Installation CD’s of programs you’ll need to reinstall

Most computers do not come with Microsoft Office or your favorite games etc pre installed. Also, there is no way for you to transfer the installation of these from your old computer to the new computer, and so you will need to reinstall them. Now is a good time to make a mental checklist of those programs you have on CD and have them ready for install once you have setup your new computer.

Create a list of programs you will need to download

If you use any programs like Mozilla Firefox, iTunes, or any other software you installed that required an internet download you will need to re download these as well. Having this list in hand after you’ve setup your new computer prevents delays in the full use of your new computer.

Don’t forget your Anti Virus Software!

While most computers do not come preloaded with Microsoft Office, some of them are pre loaded with Anti Virus software.  For full protection of your new computer make sure you run your Anti Virus update tool! Your new computer may be a month or two behind on updates and you’ll want to get caught up ASAP. If your computer did not come preloaded with one, it is a good idea to re install your anti-virus software first before transferring over files to prevent any possible infections from the old computer.

 

In closing, your new computer will be quite an adventure to learn and use, and we hope that our 5 tips can help you alleviate any headaches that may crop up at the start of your journey. 

 

Securing Sensitive information on the internet

In the past year we have heard about hacking and identify theft more than ever before. Every day the number of Internet users multiplies rapidly worldwide and that only means one thing: more vulnerable victims. In an effort to protect our customers and our own networks, Cal.net Systems’ Engineer team has made its network security a top priority. Every day we run threat-tests against our systems to ensure they are safe and up-to-date. In addition, we have also implemented hardware and software firewalls that can protect against certain types of attacks. Even when you think you may have plenty of security, someone with a lot of time on their hands always seems to find a way to break in.

Today, we will be educating our customers a little about secure browsing.

Browser Address Bar

Most users rarely navigate directly to a website, preferring to use a search engine like Google to find web pages. As a result, most people rarely pay attention to the address bar (pictured below)  in their browser.

The address or URL of a website has many components, the one we are concerned with here is the first part as highlighted in red below.

http vs https

Http is a protocol, or a method of transporting the information you see in your browser from the server where the pages resides, to your computer.

http – Data is sent back and forth in plain, human readable text.

https -The “s” stands for secure. Data is sent back and forth encrypted, meaning that it can not be read by someone for whom it was not intended.

Why would I need to know this?

Almost everyone uses the Internet for paying bills and buying goods and services. These activities require  sending sensitive information over the Internet such as credit card numbers or other personal information. It is not hard to see why you would not want this information sent in plain text. Just as you might use a shredder to protect your information from people digging through the trash, you should pay attention to the address of any website to which you provide personal information.

How can I know if I am protected?

Modern browsers have taken steps to make it easier to discern if you are using http or https, and to verify the identity of the owner of the website. The most straightforward way is simply to look for the “s” at the end of https in the address bar of your browser.

secure-connection

Encrypted Connection

not-secure

Normal unsecured connection

Other considerations.

Hackers and thieves have come up with many devious ways to try trick you into giving them your information, going as far as setting up look alike sites.  Your browser also has a way to verify that the site your are on belongs to the company you are doing business with.

When you are connected to a secure site, a lock will appear somewhere near the browser address bar. (1) Click on the lock in the address bar (2) Look for the Identity of the website, and verify that it is who you expect it to be.

Verify the owner of the Web Site

Final Thoughts.

The https is only necessary when you are sending sensitive information. There is no risk from visiting an unsecured site during normal browsing

Tech Support Hours Expanding

Tech Support Hours Expanding!

A few months ago we wrote that we were exploring expanding our support hours to be open 7 days a week. We are proud to announce our new support hours!

You can now reach us:

Monday through Friday: 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Saturday: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Sunday: 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM

We would encourage you to reach out to us during these hours to address any service related issues you may be having! You can also reach us by emailing us : support@cal.net

As well as expanded Customer Service hours, we are in the process of adding extensively to our online knowledgebase found at https://www.cal.net/support.php.  Do you have a problem that you experience frequently with your email? Is there a setting you’ve been looking for in Internet Explorer? Let us know! Email us at support@cal.net and your question may become a topic for our Frequently Asked Questions page!

Protect Yourself From Online Phishing Scams

Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users, and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.

A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987, and the first recorded use of the term “phishing” was made in 1996. The term is a variant of fishing, probably influenced by phreaking, and alludes to “baits” used in hopes that the potential victim will “bite” by clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment, in which case their financial information and passwords may then be stolen.

Phishers send an e-mail or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you might deal with – for instance, your Internet Service Provider (Cal.net), online payment services or bank. Often, this e-mail or pop-up window is very official looking and might even contain a company logo. The message usually indicates the need to “update” or “validate” your account information. It then directs you to a Web site that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site, but it isn’t. When you visit the Web site, it requests personal information that the operators then use to steal your identity or commit crimes in your name.

Five Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself:

1. Don’t Click on Suspicious Links

If you receive an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, don’t reply or click on the link in the message. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization in the email using a telephone number that you know to be legitimate.

2. Never Email Sensitive Data

Don’t send personal or financial information via e-mail. It’s like handing a thief your wallet.

3. Check Your Financial Records Often

Review your credit card and bank account statements often to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. Notify immediately of suspicious charges.

4. Keep Your Anti-Virus & Spyware Current

Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. Some phishing e-mails can contain software that will harm your computer. Additionally, this software can track your Internet browsing habits without your knowledge. Up-to-date anti-virus software can help protect your computer from inadvertently accepting these types of files.

5. Don’t Open or Download Unknown Files

Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails you receive, regardless of who sent them. You can assess its contents in the bottom window pane without opening and then delete.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of a phishing scam, notify Cal.net Tech Support immediately and file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. Below is a replica of the malicious email:

From: “Technical Support” <offfice@directcon.net>

To: <undisclosed-recipients:>

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 4:24 AM

Subject: Cal.net Account Subscriber

 

 

> Attn: Cal.net Account Owner,

>

> Your Webmail Quota Has Exceeded The Set Quota/Limit. You Are Currently

> Running On low GB Due To Hidden Files And Folder On Your Mailbox. In Order

> To Increase Your Webmail Quota, You Must Validate Your Account Below:

>

> Email Username……….

> Email Password……….

> Confirm Password……….

>

> Failure To Validate Your Webmail Quota May Result In Loss Of Important

> Information In Your Mailbox Or Cause Limited Access To It.

>

> Thanks for bearing with us.

>

> Sincerely,

> Customer Care Unit,

> Webmaster Team.

> ————————————————————-

> © Copyright Cal.net 2011

 

You can also visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Web site to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft. Go to: http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Or contact the antiphishing group: http://www.antiphishing.org/

Here is a short video explaining Phishing Scams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqRZGhiHGxg

 

Company News July 2011

Updating you on the status of our upgrade projects mentioned last month, we are still making steady progress toward that goal. The unexpected rainstorm last week set us back a week, as it occurred at the worst possible moment of a crucial part of our development schedule. Prior to that, equipment supplier shortages also delayed us a week, so we are now targeting early August for initial launch of the first phase of our major upgrades.

Hope you had a chance to see us at the El Dorado County Fair last month. We had a booth in the Forni building, with our wireless service providing a temporary direct Internet feed to the booth, showing live video streaming and interactive gaming. We had a great time and greatly enjoyed visiting with those of you who stopped by to chat.

Our newly hired wireless installer, Blake, is now fully trained, so we are better able to meet the demand for new installs and be more prompt with wireless service calls. Likewise, Brad, our new tech-support person, is also fully trained, so we will soon have full seven-day-a-week coverage and are also able to get to your service calls during the week much more quickly than before. Lastly, please also welcome Kaley, our new graphic designer in the Web Design department, who will be producing outstanding graphics for your custom Web sites.

Don’t forget our recently reintroduced “Computer Repair” service, announced last month. If your computer is performing poorly because it’s infected with malware or has too little memory, for example, we will now be able to analyze and correct any computer issues that may be affecting its operation. Give us a call on 530-672-1078 to learn more about this valuable service.

Stay tuned for more exciting news over the next few months. And, as always, please feel free to drop by our offices at any time to visit with us, and see what we can do for you, whether your Internet-related needs are business, personal, or both.