by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 19th 2011 6:58pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 7th 2011 4:07pm
from the fleeting-fcc-rules dept
The FCC had already lost this case for its rules being "arbitrary and capricious," but the Supreme Court had asked the court to reconsider its ruling, following the fleeting expletives ruling. However, the court here points out that, basically, nothing in that ruling changes anything about how the court feels about the wardrobe malfunction, and (if anything) it just reinforces the position it already took. The interesting thing, however, may be that the earlier decision was unanimous -- and the judge who wrote that decision, Anthony Scirica, actually changed his mind on the case this time around. He dissented, while the others on the panel upheld their earlier ruling, arguing that the FCC's claim that while its "fleeting expletives" policy had changed, it's position on nudity had never changed, was not at all compelling. The dissent, from Scirica, more or less buys the FCC's claim that broadcasters give up 1st Amendment rights and also argues that there's no evidence of a real policy change here.
Either way, this triumverate of cases may not be complete yet as the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in again on these cases on the First Amendment question (separate from the 'arbitrary and capricious' question). So, fear not, we'll still have more to talk about with all of these cases...
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Oct 25th 2011 11:35am
Wireless Carriers Finally Cave On Overage Fees; Reluctantly Agree To Stop Treating Customers Like ATMs
from the it'd-be-a-great-racket-if-it-wasn't-for-these-stupid-customers dept
"For accounts that repeatedly go into overage, it is reasonable to infer that it is a matter of consumer choice. These customers are either indifferent to overages or are making the deliberate decision to incur overages because it is the most cost-efficient solution for their usage patterns."Or maybe, just maybe, customers wanted to be informed of these possible overage charges but no cell phone company was interested in telling them. While tools are available for consumers to track their own usage, this is not something that's promoted very heavily (or indeed, at all) by most phone companies.
Well, the FCC has finally stared down the wireless carriers, who have decided to voluntarily (through gritted teeth) implement many of the rules suggested by the FCC, rather than deal with being regulated by the government.
Customers will receive free text alerts in real-time when they're about to exceed their limits, CNET reports. The move is supposed to cut down on the "bill shock" people may feel when hit with sky-high rates for extra usage. Wireless carriers will also warn customers who travel overseas about the additional fees they may incur.Of course, this being a government-related decision (and one performed under presumable duress), don't expect to be notified any time soon.
Under the volunteer measures, wireless carriers have 18 months to put their warning systems in place.Not only that, but your months-away warnings may not be timely enough, especially for those of you with notorious text-fiends (read: teenage children) on your mobile plans.
Some providers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, already warn their customers as their data use approaches the limit. However, these warnings may be delayed. AT&T, for example, takes 24 hours.24 hours?!? That's like 3 years of texting for normal users! The good news is that sometime within the next two years, your mobile carrier may have to speed up its notification system to something approaching "real time."
Until then, you may want to consider switching to an unlimited plan or putting your kids up for adoption, whichever is cheaper.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 18th 2011 11:40am
from the say-what-now? dept
"You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"Sometimes they don't even bother getting permission, such as the time that a Burger King franchise wrote a letter complaining about the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Except, when a reporter called the franchise execs, they had no idea what the CFTC was. There was some actual backlash earlier this year when AT&T got the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to come out in favor of its merger with T-Mobile, upsetting much of the membership, and leading a bunch of board members (including an AT&T lobbyist) to resign.
However, one small setback in such practices is no big deal when you have that big list of groups to go through. After "the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers" apparently there are the religious homeless shelters. The Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission, proud recipients of a $50,000 donation from AT&T, has come out in favor of the merger with impeccably inscrutable logic:
The faith-based service provider offered what it acknowledged was “an out-of-place endorsement” of the AT&T merger with T-Mobile, with Rev. R. Henry Martin explaining that “People often call on God to help the outcasts and downtrodden that walk among us, [but] [s]ometimes, however, it is our responsibility to take matters into our own hands. Please support this merger.”I'm still trying to figure out what that means. First, it seems to be suggesting that homeless people need to step up their game to support the "outcasts and downtrodden" AT&T and T-Mobile that "walk among us." Because, um, otherwise, what does that refer to? The homeless people may be outcasts and downtrodden, but the shelter isn't asking for any help for them.. but rather for AT&T and T-Mobile. I guess it also implies that God supports the merger but apparently God alone can't convince the FCC, so apparently, if homeless folks could lobby and support one of the largest corporations around, that will be helpful.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 18th 2011 2:10am
from the can't-walk-the-walk dept
Much of the plan is an attempt to reform the absolute boondoggle that is the Universal Service Fund -- a mysterious fund with little oversight that often just seems to end up propping up telcos' bottom lines rather than leading to anything like universal service. Fixing the USF would be a good idea, but apparently the "plan" doesn't look like it'll do anything useful:
The primary thrust of the project involves the agency's plan for USF reform, the specifics of which have yet to be fully disclosed but are believed to be largely pulled from AT&T and Verizon lobbyist recommendations. The FCC's "Connect to Compete" website insists this reform could net "$1 billion or more per year in benefits for wireless consumers alone." However, unmentioned is the fact the plan will likely drive up prices for consumer broadband bills by raising the cap on USF fees charged by carriers above $6.50 per month.So there we are. No effort at increased competition and better broadband. But higher fees going into a boondoggle fund that will almost certainly end up in the coffers of our two largest (and super profitable) telco companies.
What would consumers get for this money? Digging into the telco's USF plan, there's absolutely nothing there that suggests serious broadband expansion beyond what they'd already planned with upcoming LTE efforts. There's also absolutely nothing to suggest the FCC has a handle on auditing the USF and e-Rate program. $25 billion has been poured into large and small telco coffers over the years (in addition to billions in additional subsidies), and yet somehow our libraries still lack adequate bandwidth.
Readers should be able to conclude where most of this money actually went. Ignored by the FCC and the press is the fact that all the state and federal subsidies doled out to phone companies by now could have easily wired every U.S. home with fiber to the home several times over. AT&T and Verizon should not be getting another penny in government subsidies, yet the FCC's USF reform will almost-certainly involve additional handouts you'll be paying for in the form of higher broadband bills.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 31st 2011 6:42am
from the but-will-they? dept
Current events around the country and the world highlight the urgency and importance of this issue. Growing concern over “flash mob” crimes has led some policymakers to attempt to target communications network for increased scrutiny. In the wake of riots in London, politicians in the United Kingdom have proposed increased governmental surveillance of, access to, and control over social media platforms and other communications media. Such interference with communications has a long history of being used to suppress civil rights protests over a wide variety of traditional and new media, from distributing flyers to television broadcasting.
This tendency, multiplied by the number of state and local agencies willing to exercise control over CMRS, could wreak complete havoc on the reliability of CMRS service by rendering it dependent on the discretion of the most-restrictive authority in any given region. Moreover, inconsistency and unreliability of service would be only two of the many resulting problems. If local government agencies claimed the authority to impede or restrict communications at their own discretion, users’ rights to free speech, just and reasonable access, and emergency services would all be imperiled, subject to local determinations of the relative values of these rights as balanced against the peculiar interests of the restricting authority.
As made plain by the negative ramifications of BART’s alternative proposal, statutes exist – and have been upheld by the courts – to prevent actions like BART’s for good reason. When local and state agencies determine a need to restrict communications, they must work with local public utilities or communications agencies and the Commission pursuant to recognized processes. It is untenable legally and practically to allow the whim of any person or agency that has access to network hardware to dictate who is entitled to access communications services and when.
BART’s past shutdown of CMRS, and its apparent plans for similar shutdowns in the future, raise grave concerns. More troubling, other local agencies may use similar shutdowns of CMRS networks in the future--potentially disrupitng access to communications relating to public safety and protected speech. For the above-mentioned reasons, the Commission should issue a declaratory ruling clarifying that such shutdowns by local governments violate the Act.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 25th 2011 7:00pm
from the oops dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 8th 2011 4:09pm
from the does-it-really-matter? dept
In the top 20 media markets, newspapers can merge with a single radio or TV station -- but not if that TV station is one of the top 4 stations in that market. In other words, newspapers who are struggling to get beyond just being newspapers can finally expand into other media areas. I can't understand why people are freaked out about this. At best, a newspaper can now own a tiny radio or TV station. The fear of only one point of view getting through is totally laughable for a variety of reasons. First, there are more sources of media than ever before in history -- by a long shot. To think that a single TV station or newspaper can dominate the conversation is laughable. Second, since it can't involve a top 4 TV station, it's hard to believe that this new entity will have all that much dominance in the market.But people still went crazy about this and lawsuits were filed. Over in the Third Circuit, a court has now dumped the new rules on what appears to basically be a technicality. Apparently, the FCC ""failed to meet the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act" to make this change. The standard procedure requires 90 days of response time, but Kevin Martin only gave people 28 days to comment.
Again, this whole thing seems pretty silly. Even if people still rely on broadcast news, this simply isn't going to have that big of an impact.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 3rd 2011 2:23pm
Group Asks FCC Commissioners To Promise Not To Go Work For AT&T If They Vote To Approve T-Mobile Merger
from the name-and-shame dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 13th 2011 1:46pm
from the tone-deaf-to-the-very-end dept
Until late this spring, my plan was to seek renomination for a second term as Commissioner. That was true all through the winter during consideration of the Comcast/NBCUniversal transaction and in the months after it was completed.Nowhere in Baker's statement does she even come close to acknowledging the concerns that people have raised. Instead, she claims that she's been extra ethical in that she's "gone further" than what the law requires:
Not once in my entire tenure as a Commissioner had anyone at Comcast or NBCUniversal approached me about potential employment. When this opportunity became available in mid- April, I made a personal decision that I wanted to give it serious consideration.
I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further. I have not participated or voted any item, not just those related to Comcast or NBCUniversal, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment. Because of this, I plan to depart the Commission as soon as I am able to ensure an orderly wind-down of my office.Well, isn't that nice.