Entries in Wireless (7)


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


AT&T Follows Verizon, Launches Shared Data Plans

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The nation's two largest carriers are shaking up their data plans to help keep up in a world where more people and their families now own multiple smartphones and tablets.

On the heels of Verizon's announcement in late June of its "Share Everything" data plans, which lets customers share a bucket of data across phones and tablets, AT&T has announced today its very own "Mobile Share" plans.

The new offerings, which will be available in late August, will let new and existing AT&T customers buy a single "bucket" of 3G or 4G data, which they can use for web surfing, email, apps, etc., on any device included. The plans will also include unlimited voice minutes and text messages. Before this, customers had to buy specific data plans for each device.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sprint Nextel Accused of Dodging $100 Million Taxes

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sprint Nextel Corp. is accused of under-collecting and under-paying over $100 million in New York state and local sales taxes on flat-rate access charges for wireless calling plans.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday a lawsuit against Sprint Nextel requiring the company to pay three times its underpayment plus penalties if found liable to New York state and local governments, including school districts.

"Everyone else had no trouble figuring out what the tax law was, except for Sprint," Schneiderman said during a conference call.

Schneiderman said Sprint's major wireless competitors, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS, have followed the law regarding the taxes and called the suit a "first-of-its-kind lawsuit."

The lawsuit is the first ever tax enforcement action filed under the New York False Claims Act in which those found liable under the False Claims Act must pay triple damages, penalties and attorneys' fees. Under the law, whistleblowers may receive up to 25 percent of any money recovered by the government as a result of information they provide.

"This complaint is without merit and Sprint categorically denies the complaint's allegations," said John Taylor, Sprint Nextel spokesman. "We have collected and paid over to New York every penny of sales taxes on mobile wireless services that we believe our customers owe under New York state law. With this lawsuit, the Attorney General's office is claiming New York consumers, who already pay some of the highest wireless taxes in the country, should pay even more. We intend to stand up for New York consumers' rights and fight this suit."

Twenty-nine states and the federal government have passed False Claims Acts, but only New York's Act expressly covers tax fraud as a result of a "landmark law," the Attorney General's office said.

"This case represents a new era in tax fraud prosecutions," Schneiderman said. "We're sending a message to corporations that failure to pay your fair share of taxes will not be tolerated."

In 2011, Schneiderman created the "Taxpayer Protection Bureau," as one of his first acts in office. The bureau is charged to work with whistleblowers and enforce the False Claims Act in tax and other government fraud cases.

Schneiderman's investigation of Sprint began with a whistleblower lawsuit, called a "qui tam" action, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan in March 2011, just after the Taxpayer Protection Bureau was created.

Working with the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance, the bureau conducted an investigation.

Schneiderman's office said that by filing Thursday's complaint, the Attorney General has taken over the action from the whistleblower on behalf of New York's taxpayers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wireless Providers to Alert Customers of Plan Overages

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Communications Commission and the cellphone industry are announcing a deal Monday that could put an end to the shock over monthly mobile bills. Subscribers will get warnings when they're about to go over monthly limits, USA Today reports.

Millions of cellphone subscribers have suffered sticker shock over extra charges when they go over pre-paid limits with their monthly plans: mobile customers can get hit with charges of over $100 for heavy data, voice or texting use.

USA Today says consumer complaints led government regulators to consider alerts requiring wireless companies to tell consumers when they're about to face extra charges.

The alerts should be in place within 18 months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Survey: More Wireless Devices than People in US

Microsoft(WASHINGTON) -- The number of wireless devices used in the United States has officially exceeded the country's population, according to the trade group CTIA, which released its semi-annual survey Tuesday. The group found that Americans had also doubled the amount of data traffic they generate by using the Internet on their smartphones.

CTIA found that the number of mobile devices rose by 9 percent in the first six months of the year, to 327.6 million, which exceeds the number of people -- 315 million -- who live in the U.S. and its territories. Internet traffic also rose 111 percent, to 341.2 billion megabytes during that time.

More than one trillion text messages were sent in the past year, according to the report.

According to the survey’s data, people keep more than one wireless device, including smartphones and tablets, in their possession. Some analysts believe the surge comes from people having greater access to more of these devices, which have dropped in price and become more readily available.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wireless Jobs Are Scarce, Despite Robust Industry

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It turns out that wireless could mean jobless.

Consumers might be lining up to buy smartphones, tablet computers, and applications, but employment in the wireless industry keeps shrinking. The Wall Street Journal reports there are now 20,000 fewer jobs than two years ago.

It's the result of consolidation, outsourcing, and skyrocketing productivity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


AT&T Adding More Wi-Fi Hot Spots in U.S.

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- AT&T will be expanding its Wi-Fi access for customers in key cities across the U.S.

The wireless service provider is expected to announce Tuesday that it will be adding more Wi-Fi hot spots near New York's Time Square, just in time for the city's upcoming New Year's Eve festivities.

AT&T's Alexa Coffman says the expansion in New York will "include St. Patrick's Cathedral and up toward Rockefeller Center."

Wi-Fi hot spots will also be introduced in San Francisco.  According to Coffman, AT&T hopes the expansion will help customers by taking demand off the company's cell network and allowing smart phone users to switch over to Wi-Fi.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio