The Federal Communications Commission on Monday determined that T-Mobile must pay a fine of $819,000 for “willfully and repeatedly” failing to comply with rules regarding hearing-aid compatible handsets. According to the FCC, the carrier violated the rules during 2009 and 2010. The Hearing Aid Compatibility Order requires each carrier to have at least 10 handsets, or 50% of all devices, that support acoustic coupling and 7 phones, or 33% of all devices, with inductive coupling. T-Mobile may reduce or negate the proposed fine by proving to the FCC that it did not violate the rule, or that it didn’t violate it as severely as the FCC alleges. More →
The Federal Communications Commission has fined Google $25,000 for impeding a U.S. investigation into the data collection scandal surrounding its Street View project, in which the Internet giant allegedly accessed unsecured networks and collected personal information without users’ permission. The FCC said the Mountain View-based company did not cooperate with the investigation and refused to reveal the names of its engineers associated with the project. “Google refused to identify any employees or produce any e-mails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify,” the FCC said. “Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission’s ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission’s rules.” More →
The four major wireless providers in the United States have partnered with the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to curb cell phone theft, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The wireless companies will build a central database of stolen cell phones, which will track phones that are reported as lost or stolen and deny them voice and data service. The goal of the database is to reduce crime by making it very difficult to use a stolen device. Verizon Wireless and Sprint currently block phones that are reported stolen from being reactivated. AT&T and T-Mobile do not, although all four carriers have now agreed to be part of the new database. Members of Congress are also expected to propose legislation to make it a crime to alter a cell phone’s unique identification number, according to the report. Similar stolen-phone databases are already in place in the U.K., Germany, France and Australia. While crime hasn’t completely stopped, the number of incidents has apparently declined. Carriers will roll out individual databases within six months that will be centralized over a 12-month period, with smaller regional wireless providers expected to join the database over the next two years. More →
The Federal Communications Commission recently published documents that reveal information about an unannounced Windows Phone device from LG. According to the documents, the LG LS831 supports CDMA in the 800 MHz and 1900 MHz bands, indicating that the handset will land on Sprint’s 3G network. Images reveal that the smartphone features a 5-megapixel rear camera, a front-facing camera, a headphone jack and a microUSB port. Sprint hasn’t launched a Windows Phone device since the HTC Arrive was released in early 2011, however the carrier is rumored to be prepping an LTE-equipped Windows Phone for a fall launch. More →
Philip Falcone’s startup LightSquared planned to deploy a nationwide 4G LTE network in the United States. The firm’s service was found to cause interference with spectrum used by various GPS navigation and tracking solutions, however, forcing the Federal Communications Commission to block the network’s launch. Dish Network is looking to build a similar network and is currently awaiting government approval. Executives and analysts have said that Dish will probably avoid the interference concerns that killed LightSquared’s network, Bloomberg reported on Monday. The satellite company’s frequencies, which are above 2GHz, are far away from those used by GPS devices and Lightsquared’s 1600Mhz band, and are less likely to interfere. “It’s not as close to GPS, so it’s unlikely to interfere,” said Matthew Desch, chief executive officer of Iridium Communications, which operates more than 60 satellites. “But the approval is going to take some time. The FCC is going to make sure they don’t have another LightSquared problem on their hands.” Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners, believes that Dish will gain FCC approval in 6 to 12 months. More →
T-Mobile is urging federal regulators to block Verizon’s planned spectrum acquisition from SpectrumCo, a joint venture formed by Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks. Verizon’s pending purchase could be worth $3.9 billion and would help the company build out its nationwide LTE network. In a filing late Tuesday, T-Mobile said the Federal Communications Commission should block the deal because it would place an “excessive concentration” of wireless spectrum in Verizon’s hands, reports the Associated Press. The AWS bands that Verizon is looking to acquire uses the same frequencies that T-Mobile uses for its HSPA+ network. T-Mobile claims that the nation’s No.1 carrier already has a large amount of spectrum and does not need any more, and T-Mobile can “quickly, more intensively, and more efficiently” put the spectrum to use compared to Verizon. MetroPCS, the nation’s fifth-largest wireless provider, also urged the FCC to block the deal, claiming both parties had not provided enough information to prove that the acquisition is in the public’s best interest. Verizon and SpectrumCo hope to close the deal by the middle of this year. More →
The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday the reformation and modernization of the Lifeline program. The revamped program will ensure affordable phone service is available to low-income families. Lifeline is a “universal service program that fulfills Congress’s mandate to ensure the availability of communications to all Americans.” The percentage of low-income households with phone service has increased dramatically since the program began in 1985, from 80% to nearly 92% last year. The FCC is looking to create a number of databases and protocols to end carrier abuse of the program. One such measure will be the creation of an eligibility database from governmental data sources to automate eligibility of initial and ongoing Lifeline participants. The move will “reduce the potential for fraud while cutting red tape for consumers and providers.” Lifeline is set to be revamped by no later than the end of 2013. More →
MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular and several other regional carriers have requested that the Federal Communications Commission initiate a “shot clock” for roaming agreements with larger wireless carriers. “Supporters stressed that imposing a shot clock on negotiations is necessary to provide the proper incentive for potential roaming partners to timely respond to inquiries,” a lawyer representing the regional carriers said in a letter to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch. “Although data roaming negotiations may involve complex issues, the Joint Supporters emphasized that other situations that incorporate shot clocks, such as interconnection and siting negotiations, also have the potential to involve complex issues, and yet, a shot clock still has been successfully implemented in those negotiations.” In other words, the smaller wireless carriers want larger carriers to stop stalling when it comes to negotiating roaming deals in areas where regional carriers provide connectivity and to instead “engage in good faith negotiations.”
Sprint has granted LightSquared six more weeks to gain approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch its network. This is the second time the carrier has extended it deadline for LightSquared to prove to the FCC that its network does not interfere with GPS systems. There has been quite a battle going on between LightSquared and the government, however. LightSquared and a former FCC engineer have argued that the carrier’s 4G LTE network, which Sprint plans to use to help roll out its LTE service more quickly, was unfairly tested at higher power levels than the network will actually operate at and that testing was “rigged.” The company also said that those who tested its network would benefit from the FCC’s possible decision to prevent it from operating. “Sprint and LightSquared have agreed to extend our network agreement through mid March,” LightSquared said in a statement to BGR. “Sprint continues to support our business plan to bring wireless broadband to more than 260 million Americans and our ongoing efforts to work with regulatory agencies to resolve interference concerns.” LightSquared now has until March to gain the FCC’s blessing to operate. More →
AT&T’s Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer Bob Quinn recently wrote a post on the company’s blog that called Sprint out for deciding to use roaming agreements, and “disinvesting” in its own network in Kansas and Oklahoma instead of providing customers with access to its network. As it turns out, the Federal Communications Commission originally prevented carriers, under the Home Market Rule, from creating roaming agreements when they had the spectrum or the ability to use their own networks. However, as Quinn explains, the rule was overturned in 2010 and is currently undergoing an appeals process.
Post updated below with a comment from a Sprint spokesperson. More →
The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday granted AT&T permission to withdraw its application to purchase T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. Two public policy groups, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project asked the FCC to publish its documents relating to the deal and to prevent AT&T from rescinding its application, although it appears it’s too late for that to happen. AT&T announced its intention to withdraw its application to purchase T-Mobile USA on November 24th when it explained that it was going to instead focus on a lawsuit brought against it by the Department of Justice. That case is expected to kick off in February. Should AT&T win, it is likely the wireless carrier will re-file its application with the FCC and begin its acquisition process all over again. Public Knowledge and Media Access Project have argued that AT&T will have unfairly exhausted the resources of its competitors by the time it re-files for the merger.
AT&T may propose to divest as much as 40% of T-Mobile USA’s assets in an effort to win approval from the Department of Justice in an upcoming lawsuit against the government agency. The DOJ sued to block the merger on August 31st, when it said “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market.” AT&T is planning to divest a lower percentage of spectrum and a higher share of T-Mobile USA’s customers, Bloomberg said Monday. The divestiture may not be enough to add balance to the market, however. “It’s unlikely that the DOJ would allow a big competitor like Verizon to purchase the assets,” Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen told Bloomberg, which means AT&T may need to rely on smaller regional carriers to pick up the customers and spectrum. More →
The United States Senate on Thursday voted 52-46 in opposition of a Republican bill that sought to block the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules. Here’s one small example of how a society without net neutrality might work: Say you’re an avid fan of Netflix or Hulu but, since you’re using those services instead of your cable company’s on-demand movie rental platform, your cable company decides to block all access to Netflix and Hulu. Under the FCC’s net neutrality rules, that move by your cable company would be illegal. Instead, cable companies must allow access to all legal content crossing their networks. However, cable and internet companies fear that net neutrality is giving the government too much control over their networks. Verizon moved to appeal the net neutrality rules in January when it said it was “deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the internet itself.” The FCC has since filed a motion to toss Verizon’s suit. The rules are set to go into effect on November 20th, Reuters said. More →