FCC throttles Verizon Wireless over plans to throttle customers

verizon-4g-lte

Following the recent revelation that Verizon Wireless would begin throttling some 4G LTE customers on unlimited data plans, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has sent a letter to the carrier (full text below) expressing his disdain with the policy and question the necessity of throttling only customers on unlimited plans.

In the letter, Wheeler asks Verizon CEO Daniel Mead why exactly the company feels the need to only throttle customers on certain plans, rather than throttling based on the needs of the technology that powers the network. Wheeler says he is “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s claims that the policy is necessary to “optimize” the network, when in his opinion, it appears to more likely be a ploy to get customers off of unlimited plans.

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Comcast/Time Warner filing with FCC says Apple exploring new set-top box

Apple-TV-Concept-03

There has been no shortage of indicators that a new version of the Apple TV set-top box is incoming. We reported last year and earlier this year that Apple is progressing on new Apple TV hardware that will include new content, such as an App Store or “Game Store,” references to a new model have appeared in iOS 7 code, and numerous other reports have said that a new box is incoming from Apple.

Today, a filing from Comcast and Time Warner Cable pitching their planned merger to the FCC references Apple’s development of a new set-top-box. Here’s the notable quote from the filing (via Daisuke Wakabayashi):

Today, Google competes as a network, video, and technology provider, and 8 out 9 of the next Google Fiber markets the company announced are in Comcast or TWC areas.  Apple tablets are viewing platforms for cable services even while Apple offers an online video service, Apple TV, and explores development of an Apple set-top box.  Microsoft just announced that it will feature ads on the Xbox One, creating a new video advertising platform.  And just last week, Amazon announced its own set-top box while it continues to leverage its unequaled sales platform and family of competitive tablets to promote its burgeoning Prime Instant Video business.

The bolded portion (emphasis ours) of the above quote says that Apple is exploring development of a new set-top box. The quote comes in context of the cable behemoths explaining why their merger is important amidst growing content competition from the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. While it is possible that the companies are just speculating based on rumors about the next version of the Apple TV, several reports have indicated that Apple has been in direct talks with Time Warner Cable and Comcast regarding a new set-top box…

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Apple pledges $100 million in iPads, computers and other tools toward Obama’s ConnectED education program

A student looks at his iPad as his class watches a live broadcast of a lecture given by Shenzhou-10 spacecraft astronauts on the Tiangong-1 space module, at a primary school in Quzhou

While it was announced briefly during the President’s State of the Union address last week, Associated Press reports today that Apple along with other tech companies are pledging around $750 million in an initiative to bring high-speed internet to schools. Called ConnectED, the program was officially announced by the White House today with the goal of connecting “99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.” For its part, Apple is reportedly providing around $100 million in iPads and other equipment: Read more

Wireless carriers, FCC finally close deal to allow cell phone unlocking for consumers

From 9to5Google:

 unlock

Update: Well, would you look at that, just moments after reports of a deal being near comes the news that a deal has actually been reached. The CTIA has posted a PDF document that reveals some of the agreed upon terms of the negotiations. The bottom line is no matter what, this is a major win for consumers and the overall industry even if the carriers are probably steaming over the deal.

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Verizon spanked by FCC for charging extra for tethering/apps, should drop extra fee in short order

Verizon iPhone Personal Hotspot settings (Image: TechCrunch)

Verizon was fined a measly $1.25 million today for blocking access to tethering apps mostly on the Android platform. That does not apply to most iOS users (currently), however. That is because this ruling —for now— only affects LTE 4G devices. With the next-generation iPhone, which will launch in mid-September, heavily rumored to be the first iPhone to include LTE access, this will affect those choosing to go with Verizon Wireless for their fancy new iPhone.

The ruling asserts that Verizon must not charge an additional fee for tethering on its devices—so long as they are not on the grandfathered unlimited data plans. The iPhone has included tethering support since iOS 3.0, and the feature was taken to the next level by Apple and Verizon Wireless with the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4 and the wireless Personal Hotspot feature in early 2011. The feature was soon spread to iPhone carriers globally with iOS 4.3.

Earlier this year, Apple brought the Personal Hotspot feature to its tablet with the LTE iPad. Something notable with Apple and Verizon’s agreement for the iPad is that the wireless tethering feature is included in the pre-paid data plans. If a user pays a certain amount for data, they will not have to pay anything extra to access the wireless tethering system. With the LTE iPhone, according to today’s FCC ruling, users will have the same, great experience.

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Google could soon face big fines over iOS Safari privacy controversy in FTC investigation

In February, the story broke that Google and other advertising companies were bypassing iOS Safari’s privacy settings and continuing to track users without their consent. Google quickly disabled its code responsible for the tracking after a story from The Wall Street Journal published, and Apple then claimed it was “working to put a stop” to the issue.

Now, a new report from Mercury News claimed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to fine Google over the incident. The decision is expected in the next 30 days:

The Federal Trade Commission is deep into an investigation of Google’s actions in bypassing the default privacy settings of Apple’s (AAPL) Safari browser for Google users, according to sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between the company and the government… Within the next 30 days, the FTC could order the Mountain View search giant to pay an even larger fine in the Safari case than the penalty the Federal Communications Commission hit Google with Friday, say the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The report is referring to Google being recently fined $25,000 by the FCC after it allegedly “deliberately impeded and delayed” an investigation related to Street View cars. The heart of the Safari bypassing investigation is whether the company is violating a previous privacy agreement made with the FTC following controversy over the failed “Buzz” service. The report claimed Google could face up to $16,000 per violation per day for violating the agreement. Google said to Mercury News today it would “cooperate with any officials who have questions” and explained making its +1 compatible on mobile Safari created the issue:

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AT&T CEO: Recent price jacks due to AT&T’s attempt to monopolize GSM in US

AT&T has a grudge with the Federal Communications Commission, and during the mobile carrier’s quarterly earnings call today, CEO Randall Stephenson criticized the FCC over spectrum availability and the bombed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, with him further claiming that AT&T’s spectrum crux could cause jacked prices against its highest data users.

The American Telephone and Telegraph Company, founded in 1876, once held a monopoly on wired phone service in the United States, but the U.S. Department of Justice broke up Alexander Graham Bell’s company into seven “Baby Bells” with an antitrust lawsuit that turned into a settlement in 1982.

Since then, the company has slowly reassembled. Six of those seven “Baby Bells” merged into two single companies: AT&T, Inc., (Ameritech, BellSouth, Pacific Telesis, and Southwestern Bell) and Verizon Communications, Inc., (NYNEX and Bell Atlantic). The acquisition of the fourth largest wireless service provider in the U.S., Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile USA, would have poised AT&T to gain a monopoly once again, but this time through its 3G GSM service in the U.S., while garnering the No. 1 spot in the U.S. wireless market. However, the FCC stepped in this time and dashed the company’s monopolizing hopes.

The FCC requested a formal administrative hearing into AT&T’s proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA last fall, subsequently causing the U.S. carrier to withdraw the pending approval applications in November 2011. The decision rolled into a killed bid and garnered a $4 billion pretax charge on AT&T’s Q4 2011 accountancy sheet that includes a $3 billion default payment due to Deutsche Telekom over the deal’s non-completion and an additional $1 billion in spectrum value that AT&T would have to forgo.

AT&T CEO Stephenson released his frustrations concerning the debacle at the company’s Q4 2011 financial conference call today. He set his sights on the FCC and lambasted the agency while decrying it of choosing “winners” and “losers” in regards to approving and regulating deals…

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AT&T- T-Mobile Merger looks to be over, companies pursuing a tactical workaround


Image via ARS

Big news today (surprisingly on a 4 day US weekend).  The AT&T and T-Mobile merger was withdrawn from the FCC today.

 On November 23, 2011, AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG electronically withdrew without prejudice, as of that date, the pending applications listed in the Public Notice released by the Federal Communications Commission on April 28, 2011 in that proceeding. Associated manual notification of withdrawal filings also are being made.

The two companies look to be pursuing an alternative plan… Read more

Woz speaks up for net neutrality

Concerned about net neutrality and hold a little inner fear that one day access to the Web will involve tiered access with the ‘real’ Web almost impossible to get to?

Then be glad Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has taken time to tell an FCC net neutrality hearing to do the right thing and enact net neutrality rules that favor the people. Read more

WSJ: Apple's developer decision is Feds + competition

http://online.wsj.com/media/swf/VideoMicroPlayer.swf

According to the WSJ, Apple’s about face on 3rd party app development may have been due to pressure from the FCC:

The concession comes after the Federal Trade Commission launched an inquiry around June to determine whether Apple had violated antitrust laws with the earlier policy. It isn’t clear if Apple’s move Thursday was in response to the FTC’s investigation, but it will likely be carefully scrutinized by the regulatory agency, said people familiar with the situation.

They also speculate that other platforms may have been a factor: Read more