You know telecoms are behaving badly when a business columnist who just a year ago argued for a hands-off government approach has reversed his opinion. “I’ve changed my mind,” he writes. “The behavior of the top telecommunications companies, especially Verizon Communications and AT&T, has convinced me that more government involvement is needed to keep communications free of corporate interference.”
Microsoft has said it will not participate in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction, because it wouldn’t help their business model, which is to create and sell software to handset makers. [Reuters]
Congress has added its voice to the growing number of critics who have noted that the FCC is misreporting broadband penetration in the U.S. According to eWeek, last Wednesday a House subcommittee “approved legislation to change the Federal Communications Commission’s methodology for determining deployment.” The FCC currently counts a single home in a zip code as representative of the full zip code—so one home having broadband access is considered the same as every home in that area having broadband access. By doing this, they inflate the number of homes with broadband access and present a picture of increased “natural” competition in the market, which is then used by telecoms and lobbyists to argue against policy decisions that don’t favor existing corporations.
On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court refused to review two earlier findings, which killed T-Mobile’s final chance at blocking a lawsuit against its early-termination fees and practice of locking phones. This is the third time T-Mobile has tried to stop the case from proceeding, and both a state trial judge and a state appeals court have already rejected T-Mobile’s claims that its customers were required by the terms of their contracts to submit to binding arbitration.
FCC has rejected Verizon’s requested changes of the new open-platform wireless auction, set for January 2008. Google has pledged to buy some of the available wireless bandwidth in order to launch an open-source Google phone to compete with the carriers. [Reuters]
A class-action lawsuit was filed on October 5th against the unholy duo of Apple and AT&T, charging that they intentionally broke unlocked headsets via the last firmware update, and conspired illegally to monopolize parts of the mobile phone market by preventing consumers from using any services other than those provided by the two companies. The suit charges the two companies, either jointly or separately, with six formal counts, including “alleged violations of the California Business and Profession’s Code, The Cartwright Act, The Sherman Act, The Federal Trade Commission Act, The Communications Act of 1934, and The Telecommunications Act of 1996, as well as rules and policies established by the FCC.”
Canadian telecommunications giant Bell Canada is pulling down over 50 ads placed around parts of Toronto and Vancouver, because they show a woman wearing a button that reads “Belsen was a gas,” the title of a Sex Pistols song and a reference to the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. The button is one of many the model wears, and the company says it was impossible to read during approval and proofing, and only became legible when blown up to billboard-size proportions. [Reuters and Free Republic]
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) recently announced plans to introduce our wet dream of a cellphone bill. The bill realizes our wildest legislative fantasies: a world where cellphone companies stop inventing official-sounding fees and levying harsh ETFs, and instead allow their customers to take unlocked phones to the company with the best reception according to precise coverage maps provided free of charge.
“[The muting was] a major mistake by a webcast vendor and completely contrary to our policy. We are working closely with the vendor and the band to post the song in its entirety on this site and ensure that this does not happen again.”
According to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a ranking of broadband penetration among 30 member nations, the US has slipped from 4th place (2001), to 12th place (2006), to 15th place this year. Corporations, lobbyists and politicians have skewered the report, but this follow-up piece from Free Press provides a point-by-point rebuttal and confirms that yes, by pretty much every account, the United States enjoys craptastic Internet access.
After Andrew S. Fischer discovered that a whopping 40% of his company’s telephone bill was comprised of various taxes and service charges, he decided to suss out one of the most egregious contributors: the mysterious Federal Universal Service Fund.
It isn’t so much the incompetence, the obfuscation, the confusing pricing plans, the high prices for absolutely base minimum support. Those things annoy us here at the Consumerist, but at this point we’re almost stoically resigned to them as immutable physical laws. No, what really elicits the wailing and gnashing of teeth here is just how easy it would be for most companies to do the right thing and just how rarely they ever do.