The nightmare of in-flight phone calls is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FCC has voted 3-2 to end its long-standing ban on airborne calls, which seemingly means that at least one commission member had a change of heart during the voting process since earlier reports questioned whether there would be enough votes to pass the proposal. That’s not the end of the story though — before the FCC had a chance to make its decision, the Department of Transportation announced that it would be seeking to issue its own ban on in-flight calls if the measure were to pass. More →
When the Federal Aviation Administration this year announced plans to lift restrictions on the in-flight use of personal electronics, many people cheered. But when word got out that the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission were also considering allowing cell phone calls during flights, many of those cheers turned to loud boos. The Washington Post reports that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is insisting that the plan to ease restrictions on in-flight calls is a good idea even as he acknowledges its potential shortcomings. More →
Your flights may soon get a whole lot louder. The Wall Street Journal reports that just weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration eliminated electronics restrictions from flights, the FCC is now planning to propose that passengers be allowed to use their cell phones in the air. Cellular data would still need to be disabled during takeoff and landing, but after the plane reaches 10,000 feet, passengers would be free to make phone calls. More →
You can’t go an hour without hearing an ad from wireless carriers about how they have the fastest, biggest or best 4G network, but do you really have a way to test their claims? Per The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Communications Commission this week unveiled its new FCC Speed Test mobile app designed to measure speeds of wireless carriers’ mobile networks. The FCC will collect data from everyone who uses the app to make a big database showing which carriers offer the best speeds and most consistent service in different areas. The FCC unveiled a similar program for fixed broadband services back in 2011 that it has used to keep ISPs honest by comparing their advertised speeds to what they actually deliver. Android users can download the FCC’s app from the Google Play store here.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission thinks that it should be legal to unlock your cell phone. Ars Technica reports that new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told the Senate Commerce Committee during his nomination hearing this week that he would like to see the current ban on unlocking cell phones overturned. What’s more, he criticized the Library of Congress’s decision last fall to deny consumers the right to unlock their phones and bring them to different carriers and said it was an example of overreach. More →
When I first learned that President Obama had nominated the former president of CTIA and the National Cable Television Association to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, my stomach turned: If there’s one thing that this country doesn’t need, it’s yet another former lobbyist appointed to a high position in the United States federal government. But after my initial gag reflex wore off, I found myself intrigued by the reaction from many activists whom I’d expected to slam the pick — Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn, for instance, said that Wheeler was likely to champion “strong open Internet requirements, robust broadband competition, affordable broadband access for all Americans, diversity of voices and serious consumer protections, all backed by vigorous agency enforcement.” And Ars Technica notes that Cardozo School of Law professor Susan Crawford, who has long been a fierce critic of the cable industry, has also endorsed the nomination. More →
The chances that the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will investigate ISPs’ use of bandwidth caps now seem decidedly slim. Unnamed sources have told The Wall Street Journal that President Barack Obama is poised to nominate Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and “former top lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries” to serve as chairman of the FCC. The Journal notes that Wheeler in the past has signaled that he would have been willing to approve the now-dead merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, which puts him at odds with outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, who was instrumental in blocking the AT&T-T-Mobile deal. Obama is expected to make the announcement as soon as Wednesday, the Journal reports.
Data caps for home broadband services have been one of the less popular innovations ISPs have rolled out over the past couple of years and now one activist group is demanding that the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission conduct a formal investigation into ISPs’ practice of capping how much data their customers can consume per month. The group, which is sponsored by Public Knowledge and includes representatives from the National Film Society and several online content creators, has launched a new website called “Don’t Cap That” that urges lawmakers to “insist that the next FCC Chair commit to making a detailed examination of data caps a priority during his or her tenure.” The group says that it opposes broadband data caps because they are “an easy way for existing pay television providers to make their online video competitors less attractive to viewers” and that it wants the next FCC chairman to “recognize the threat that data caps pose to the future growth of the internet, and to the growth of online video specifically.”
Julius Genachowski announced on Friday that he will be stepping down as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a position he has held since 2009. During his tenure, Genachowski supervised the regulation of radio, television, broadband, wired and wireless communications within the United States. He also attempted to free up additional spectrum for wireless carriers and oversaw the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. More →
A new law recently went into effect that made it illegal to unlock a cell phone purchased from a carrier without prior permission. The decision was met with widespread backlash from consumers and resulted in an online petition that was singed by more than 100,000 people asking the government to reverse the law. According to TechCrunch, the Federal Communications Commission plans to investigate whether the ban is harmful to consumers and competition in the industry. Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the “ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns,” adding that “it’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones.” The Chairman did note, however, that the FCC may not have the authority to overturn the law.
Given carriers’ past efforts to quash municipal Wi-Fi plans, it isn’t any surprise that they aren’t big fans of a Federal Communications Commission plan to deploy a free Wi-Fi network across large areas of the United States. The Washington Post reports that the FCC has proposed creating “super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month,” and carriers are extremely unhappy about it. It isn’t exactly hard to understand why, since the Post writes that the new free Wi-Fi networks will be used “to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet” and “could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.”
UPDATE: Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica has found that the premise of the Washington Post’s entire story is completely faulty. Essentially, the Post took the FCC’s old plans to open up spectrum on the 600MHz band for unlicensed use and decided this constituted a new plan to create a free Wi-Fi network that people could use to replace their carriers. But as Brodkin puts it, we’ll get free super Wi-Fi from the FCC when unicorns come to life.
Good news for everyone who’s tired of shoddy Wi-Fi connectivity in crowded cafes: the Federal Communications Commission is here to help. As CNET reports, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski made an important announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday when he discussed plans to free up 195MHz of spectrum on the 5GHz band, a move that will significantly boost Wi-Fi performance and ease congestion on crowded networks. The reallocation of spectrum on the 5GHz band would also represent “the largest block of unlicensed spectrum that has been made available for expansion of Wi-Fi since 2003,” CNET writes. The 5GHz band is currently being used by numerous federal government agencies, although Genachowski expressed confidence that the FCC can work with others in the government to get the spectrum free for unlicensed use.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday detailed plans to offer additional wireless spectrum to mobile carriers. The agency is on track to free up 300MHz of new spectrum that will be available for commercial use by 2015, IT World reports. Mobile carriers have been in dire need for additional spectrum, some have even turned to massive acquisitions and mergers in an effort to build-out their respective networks. Genachowski revealed that the FCC will auction several blocks in the AWS band essential for LTE networks to wireless carriers in 2015. The wireless trade association CTIA is not satisfied, however, and is seeking additional spectrum from the 800MHz band by 2015. More →