Entries in FCC (15)


Consumers Finally Rid of Wireless 'Bill Shock'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The FCC does not want to be responsible for Americans having heart attacks over their, often exorbitant, wireless phone bills.

And that is why in October 2011 -- not long before an unfortunate U.S. airman stationed in Guam amassed $16,000 in charges -- the FCC enacted “Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines,” which will send alerts both before and after subscribers reach their monthly limits on minutes, data, text and international roaming.

The goal is to prevent so-called “bill shock,” which affects some 30 million Americans, according to an FCC report. The FCC also found in a 2010 paper that out of 764 bill-shock complaints during the first six months of 2010, 67 percent were for $100 or more; 20 percent were for $1,000 or more; and one was for a whopping $68,505 (ET, phoning home, perhaps?).

As it happens, April 17 was when all the telecom company alerts were supposed to be in place. Yet, did all the companies comply? It seems they have.

As an FCC chart notes, each of the Big Ten (including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile), say they now have proper alerts in places. The exceptions are providers like Clearwire and Plateau, which don’t offer the service or only offer unlimited plans.

This is a big deal, because as of October 17, 2012, when at least two out of the four notifications were supposed to be in place, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile hadn’t complied.

“This milestone is a clear win for consumers,” outgoing FCC chair Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “These text alerts will allow consumers to enjoy the benefits of mobile without unexpected hits to their wallets.”

According to the FCC, about 97 percent of wireless customers across the nation will now be protected from bill shock.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FCC Chairman to Look Into Cellphone Unlocking Ban

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says he plans to look into the law that has made it illegal for Americans to unlock their phones, says TechCrunch. According to the tech news site, Genachowski says the “ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns.”

Last month it became illegal to unlock your cellphone, which makes it possible for the phone to work on other carriers if you make a software alteration and put in a new SIM card, or take the phone to another carrier for service.

When reached by ABC News, the FCC confirmed the chairman’s comments, but had nothing further to say at the moment.

Immediately people took to protesting the new rule.  A “We the People” White House petition has garnered over 100,000 signatures, now requiring the White House to respond. Genachowski, however, isn’t sure what sort of control he may have over the law. “It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones,” Genachowski told TechCrunch. The FCC regulates radio, television, wire and cellular communications in the U.S.

Unlocking a cellphone was legal until Jan. 26.  In October 2012 the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress decided to remove phone unlocking as an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Concerns Raised About Phone Subsidy Program for Poor

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission said it is addressing fraud concerns about a federal program that supports phone access for low-income consumers.

The FCC implemented Lifeline in 1985, which provides discounts on monthly telephone service.  Eligible people have incomes at or below 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines or participate in a qualifying state, federal or tribal assistance program such as Medicaid.

Lifeline’s growth — the government spent $2.2 billion on it, up from $819 million four years ago — has raised questions about whether participants are eligible for the program.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission sent letters to five carriers that participate in its state’s Lifeline program, questioning whether they are signing up customers not eligible for the program, The Wall Street Journal reported.  In some cases, the commission questioned whether the number of subscribers they had was mathematically possible, and asked if some customers had signed up multiple times, a violation of the program’s rules.

The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company and is funded by the Universal Service Fund, which phone carriers and consumers help support.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission approved a number of reforms for the program, including creating an eligibility database and establishing a “one-per-household” rule.

“While Lifeline since 1985 has helped tens of millions of low-income Americans afford basic phone service — literally providing some of our most vulnerable citizens a communications lifeline to jobs, family, emergency services and more — the program rules we inherited were designed for the age of the rotary phone and failed to protect the program from abuse,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

Genachowski said reforms by the FCC over the last year have saved nearly $214 million in waste, fraud and abuse.

“This will preserve Lifeline for those who truly need it as we look ahead to the program’s next great challenge: ensuring that low-income Americans have access to robust, affordable broadband,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FCC Cracks Down on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- "Robocalls," those unsolicited, inhuman phone calls that always seem to come at the most inopportune times, may be one of the most annoying aspects of modern life.

Every night at dinnertime, marketers rev up their computers and dial countless numbers, ringing phones all over America. But as of Wednesday, after thousands of complaints, the Federal Communications Commission is going to require companies to get your expressed, written consent before they "robocall" or text you.

"Consumers who don't mind getting these calls can still get them," Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, told ABC News. "Those who don't want them don't have to."

However, there are still some loopholes. Nonprofit groups like your kid's school or your local church can still "robocall" you. So can politicians and pollsters.

Also, if companies want to go old school, they can still have real human beings call you.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

  1. Starting soon, anyone who "robocalls" you will have to give you an opportunity to opt-out of all future calls within the first two seconds of the call.
  2. Go to and add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry requires that you re-up every five years.
  3. If you're on the National Do Not Call Registry and you're still getting called, depending on which state you're in you may be able to sue the company.
  4. Never give out your phone number on the checkout line when shopping.

Even if you take precautions, however, the truth is marketers will still try to find ways to reach you.

The government acknowledges this, but insists that Wednesday they struck a big blow against marketers, making dinner time in America much saner.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FCC to Crackdown on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission is set to crackdown on those annoying automatically dialed or pre-recorded calls many Americans receive at home each day; tougher rules on when consumers can be called are expected to be approved on Wednesday.

The measures would give people stronger protections against these so-called "robocalls."  The aim is to end the loopholes in the "Do Not Call" legislation that was passed by Congress in 2008 with the intention of putting an end to these calls.

Under the new rules, telemarketers would have to get written permission before they could make an automated call. Currently, consumers who have business relationships with companies may be called without permission.

Robocalls from political groups and non-profit organizations such as schools would not be covered by the new FCC regulations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


AT&T and T-Mobile Withdraw FCC Application

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The proposed merger of two of the nation's biggest wireless companies appears to be in danger.

Days after Federal Communications Commission staff released a report saying a potential merger between AT&T and T-Mobile would significantly reduce competition and lead to "massive" layoffs, the companies announced Thursday they have withdrawn their FCC application.

The companies reiterated plans to pursue a merger, but officials noted the fight will have to be held -- or settled -- in court.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to block the potential deal on antitrust grounds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FCC Freezes Company's Plan for Nationwide 4G Network

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- LightSquared, a new startup that promises to bring 4G service anywhere within the United States thanks to a satellite network, has hit a roadblock.

The Federal Communications Commission has put the service on hold while it investigates a report that the company’s technology would knock out 500 million GPS devices.


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How To Spot and Prevent Unauthorized Telephone Bill Fees

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- You could be paying unauthorized fees on your telephone bill -- sometimes for months or years -- and not even be aware of it.

About 15 to 20 million households are overcharged for their telephone landlines by third party companies and only 5 percent realize they are victims, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FCC is about to propose high fines against companies that charge consumers excess fees, or "cramming" on their telephone bills.  The majority of cases, 82 percent, take place on landline phone services, according to the FCC.  Nearly 16 percent of cases are on wireless phone bills, while 2 percent are on "other" bills, such as voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

One FCC investigation found only 22 of 18,571 consumers surveyed used the third-party dial-around long distance service for which they were billed, which was roughly a 0.1 percent usage rate.

On Monday, Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC proposed high fines for companies that have taken millions of dollars from consumers through these unauthorized fees.  The FCC is also taking steps to educate consumers against companies charging hidden fees.

"These are important next steps to protect consumers from hidden fees that can cost them money, take valuable time to resolve, and undermine the public's confidence in our communications system," the chairman said.

The cramming terms sometimes used on telephone bills include: service fee, service charge, other fees, voicemail, mail server, calling plan, or membership.

Last week, the FCC proposed penalties of $11.7 million against four companies in Pennsylvania that may have billed tens of thousands of consumers in cramming charges.  The FCC charged Main Street Telephone ($4.2 million), VoiceNet Telephone, LLC ($3 million), Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC ($3 million), and Norristown Telephone, LLC ($1.5 million).

Both cellphone and landline consumers may overlook these fees, which can range from $1.99 to $19.99 a month, on their telephone bills.  To help consumers, the FCC offers these tips to prevent and spot cramming charges:

-- Read all forms and even promotional materials, including the fine print, before signing up for telephone or other services.

-- Review your telephone bill every month, just as closely as you monitor your monthly credit card or bank statements.

-- Ask yourself if you recognize the companies, services, charges, and rates on your bill.

-- Don't ignore small charges, which can add up to big amounts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sprint Asks FCC to Block AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

AT&T(WASHINGTON) -- Sprint wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step in and put a stop to AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

The wireless carrier announced Tuesday that it has formally put in a request with the FCC to block the transaction, which would merge the second and fourth largest wireless providers in the country and reduce market competition.

Sprint told the FCC that if the merger were to go forth, it would "harm the broadband economy, competition and consumers," as well as "innovation and investment."  Consumers would be left with fewer choices when choosing cellphone providers, which could result in higher prices for them, Sprint noted.

Furthermore, the transaction would bump up AT&T's power, making it and Verizon "the gatekeepers of the digital ecosystem, stifling innovation and choice in new devices and applications."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FCC Calls for More Details Behind AT&T, T-Mobile Merger

AT&T(WASHINGTON) -- After AT&T suggested that a shortage of airwaves was a reason for purchasing T-Mobile, The Federal Communications Commission now wants the telecommunications company to provide evidence of the insufficiency.

The agency Friday submitted a request to AT&T to provide "all plans, analyses and reports discussing the relative network spectrum capacity constraints of the company," Bloomberg reports.  The company must also explain any possible alternatives to the merger to resolve the airwaves capacity problem, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The $39 billion deal that would merge the second and fourth largest mobile service providers would create a new leader over Verizon, currently number one.  ATT filed its request with the FCC April 21 approval of the merger, and a spokesman for the company said in a statement that the agency's call for more information is customary.

"We will provide the FCC with all the data it needs," Michael Balmoris, an ATT spokesman said.  "And we are confident that, after doing so, the FCC will recognize its significant public interest benefits and approve the transaction."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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