Letters: Skilled tradesmen, the wireless network

Marketplace Staff Aug 31, 2010


Man singing: I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter…

Kai Ryssdal: Letters were in plentiful supply this week after our story about the employment agency Manpower. They surveyed 35,000 workers worldwide. They found that the number one hiring challenge in big economies is a lack of skilled tradesmen — carpenters, electricians, plumbers, those folks.

Olivia Gable from Austin, Texas was wondering, as were many of you, how that could be true.

Olivia Gable: Where exactly is there a shortage? My father has been a carpenter for more than 40 years, and these past four to five years have been the worst he’s ever experienced. He’s lived in Florida, where there is no work at all for him, and in Texas, which is supposed to be doing better than other states.

A shortage of another kind, now. Apparently, there isn’t enough room on our wireless networks to do everything we want to do. All the data from photos we upload and videos that we download is jamming the airwaves. A suggestion in our story about that last week was to increase capacity by having television broadcasters sell off part of the spectrum that they use for over-the-air TV.

Lousy idea, says Randy Spears from Columbus, Ohio.

Randy Spears: So, millions of people should be giving up their television reception so that others can have the convenience of watching Hulu on their cell phones? During these recessionary times, many people have had to turn to over-the-air TV, and this commentator wants to preference those that can afford a $30 a month data plan? Yeah, that’s a great idea.

If you were to come up with a great idea to solve the wireless network congestion, you would probably want to apply for a patent to protect the business idea. And then you’d have to wait and wait and wait some more for something to happen. The Patent Office has 750,000 applications sitting around waiting — a pile it would take three years to get through. There is talk of raising fees to bring down the backlog, but John Magill of Woburn, Mass. is worried about how much it already costs.

John Magill: It is very difficult to file successfully without an attorney. While the filing fee may be $500, attorney fees for a small business that doesn’t have in-house attorneys are typically about $25,000.

Finally today, my final note from yesterday. The observation that Borders Books is going to put Build-a-Bear outlets inside its stores. And I asked for help understanding the business connection between books and bears. There were more than a few puns on bear markets and all of that. Best letter, though, came from a guy named David Burns, didn’t say where he was from. “Dude,” he wrote. “Three words: Winnie the Pooh.”

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