Federal Communications Commission Stories October 26, 2015

wifi-calling

Wi-Fi calling – the iPhone feature Apple introduced in iOS 8 – is a really handy feature, routing phone calls over Wi-Fi when the mobile signal is poor or non-existent. There’s just one problem: it’s illegal for U.S. carriers to support the feature because it breaks the TTY text-chat protocol used by some hearing-impaired users. AT&T asked the FCC to grant it a waiver to switch on the service, and now Verizon has done the same.

The two companies have, however, adopted different positions on the service …  expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories July 29, 2015

AT&T doesn’t want to be throttled for throttling customers

It seems AT&T thinks throttling the data speeds of customers without telling them about it isn’t such a big deal. The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T back in 2014 for “deceptive and unfair data throttling” after the company imposed caps on unlimited data contracts, beyond which it reduced their data speeds by almost 90%. The Federal Communications Commission joined the party last month, fining AT&T $100 million – and The Hill reports that the carrier now wants that fine reduced to just $16,000.

The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company wrote in its filing. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”

The FTC had stated that it could legally have imposed fines of $16,000 per affected consumer, but that would have resulted in an “astronomic” fine, so chose to limit the total penalty to one large enough to deter future violations. AT&T had originally claimed that it was doing nothing wrong, but Ars Technica notes that the company amended its policy in May so that throttling was applied only when the network was congested.

AT&T has not offered unlimited data plans to new customers for some years, but has a small-ish group of customers who remain on grandfathered plans which remain valid for as long as the customer retains the plan.

Apple last month removed subsidies from both AT&T and Verizon iPhones, moving to plans where customers pay the full cost of the phone on an installment plan.

Photo: Re/code

Federal Communications Commission Stories June 17, 2015

AT&T

[Updated with AT&T statement below the fold…]

The Federal Communications Commission announced today that it plans to fine AT&T $100 million for throttling data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans. In its complaint, the FCC said the carrier “deprived consumers of sufficient information to make informed choices about their broadband service” which hurt competition… expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories July 12, 2014

iBeaconFCC

On July 4th of this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made filings public from Apple regarding an Apple-branded piece of iBeacon equipment. The hardware is shown above to be a rounded hub-like device with a USB port and a dedicate on and off switch at the bottom…

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Federal Communications Commission Stories May 16, 2014

The four largest carriers now support texting 911, but most emergency call centers don’t

When the FCC set a voluntary deadline of yesterday for putting in place technology to allow people to text 911, all four of the main national carriers complied. But since most emergency call centres aren’t yet equipped to receive texts, don’t expect to be using it any time soon.

The FCC said that the ability to text 911 could be a life-saver for those with hearing or speech impairments, as well as in situations where it might be dangerous to make a phone call – while a crime is in progress and the perpetrator within earshot, for example.

But the wireless trade association, the CTIA, warned that even where 911 texting is supported, it’s still impossible to guarantee immediate delivery of texts. We’ve all experienced examples of texts that arrive the next day, so the advice remains to make a voice call wherever possible.

The FCC has uploaded a list of emergency call centres accepting 911 texts. If you attempt to text 911 in an area where the service is not supported, you’ll get a text bounce-back. Needless to say, please do not test the service.

Federal Communications Commission Stories May 7, 2014

Microsoft, Google, and others stand together to voice support for net neutrality, Apple declines to join

Following a proposal that many fear threatens net neutrality, a plethora of tech companies today have come together to support net neutrality in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. The group is led by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, and Twitter, as well as many others. Notably missing, however, is Apple.

Federal Communications Commission Stories February 4, 2014

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: expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories November 7, 2012

A couple carriers are making headlines today for different reasons. Sprint, which could soon be scooped up by Softbank, announced today (via Engadget) it is spending $480 million to acquire PCS spectrum and 585,000 customers from U.S. cellular across the Midwest. As always, the deal is subject to approval from government officials in the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission, but Sprint could take over the spectrum and customers in “parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio including the Chicago and St. Louis markets” by sometime next year:

Under the terms of the agreement, Sprint will acquire 20 MHz of PCS spectrum in the 1900 MHz band in various Midwest markets including Chicago, South Bend, Ind. and Champaign, Ill. and 10 MHz of PCS spectrum in the St. Louis market.

AT&T is also making the news today with the FCC announcing the carrier will pay a $700,000 fine to put an end to the agency’s investigation into how the carrier handled its transition to mandatory monthly data plans (via BGR). The investigation followed complaints from consumers that AT&T had switched them from grandfathered pay-as-you-go plans to its new monthly plans as far back as 2009. According to the FCC, as part of the settlement, AT&T “has agreed to refund excess charges paid by individual customers, which could be as much as $25 to $30 a month, depending on data use”: expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories July 31, 2012

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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Federal Communications Commission Stories June 25, 2012

T-Mobile signs AWS spectrum agreement with Verizon

T-Mobile just announced plans to exchange and purchase spectrum from Verizon Wireless in a deal the carrier claimed would improve its “spectrum position in 15 of the top 25 markets” that covers 60 million people. T-Mobile said the spectrum would help enhance its 4G network and advance the rollout of its LTE service. The agreement includes spectrum that Verizon planned to acquire from several cable companies, so T-Mobile will first have to wait for the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Department of Justice to approve the deal:

“This agreement will provide T-Mobile with critical AWS spectrum, enhancing both network capacity and performance and allowing us to meet the growing consumer demand for 4G mobile broadband,” T-Mobile CEO and President Philipp Humm said. “This is good for T-Mobile and good for consumers because it will enable T-Mobile to compete even more vigorously with other wireless carriers. We anticipate FCC approval later this summer, in time for us to incorporate this new spectrum into our network modernization and the rollout of LTE services next year.”

We recently updated you on the rollout of T-Mobile’s $4 billion 4G-network plan, including its plan to rollout 4G HSPA+ in the 1900 MHz spectrum to iPhone users “in a large number of markets later this year.” T-Mobile mentioned a few of the cities that would benefit if the agreement goes through:

T-Mobile will gain spectrum covering 60 million people — notably in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; Minneapolis; Seattle; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee; Charlotte, N.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Rochester, N.Y

Federal Communications Commission Stories December 30, 2011

Verizon Wireless has been under fire this week after announcing it would begin imposing a $2 fee on customers who do not have their bill set to be paid automatically, and instead pay it through electronic check. Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced they would begin investigating Verizon’s new fee. Shortly after, Verizon announced on its website that they will not impose the fee to meet with customer’s requests.

The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions. The company continues to encourage customers to take advantage of the numerous simple and convenient payment methods it provides.

Verizon said this fee was going to help move customers to a more convenient payment method. Luckily, they have chosen to go the other way. expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories November 24, 2011

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… expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories July 20, 2011

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who chairs the Senate’s Antitrust Subcommitteee, is calling for regulators to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile:

 “I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies.”

Top Democrats in the House also viewed the merger unfavorably:

“We believe that AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would be a troubling backward step in federal public policy–a retrenchment from nearly two decades of promoting competition and open markets to acceptance of a duopoly in the wireless marketplace,” House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote in their letter to FCC and the Justice Department. “Such industry consolidation could reduce competition and increase consumer costs at a time our country can least afford it.”

Not exactly what AT&T wants to hear.  T-Mobile, if it gets out of this AT&T merger, also gets a $3+B check from AT&T for the dance. expand full story

Federal Communications Commission Stories December 22, 2010

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. expand full story

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