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Back in April we noted
that AT&T was imposing a new $0.61 "Mobility Administrative Fee" on all postpaid wireless subscriber bills. According to AT&T's website, the sneaky fee "helps defray certain expenses AT&T incurs," though like AT&T's equally nonsensical "regulatory recovery fee," those expenses should be included in the cost of doing business, and not buried beneath the line. Few apparently read our report, and as a result only this week did the press finally notice the fee
"Below-the-line fees are nothing more than a way for carriers to stealthily increase their prices," Free Press's Derek Turner tells the Wall Street Journal
. "AT&T's administrative fees are no different than the hundreds of other components that go into the cost of doing business," he said.
I've been arguing for several years now
that regulators should act to prohibit these kinds of fees, given they're effectively false advertising. Advertise one price, then sock consumers with a much higher price by burying ordinary costs of doing business below the line. It's predatory anti-consumer behavior however you'd like to slice it, yet telecom regulators simply couldn't care less.
The latest report
(pdf) from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index highlights that consumer satisfaction with cable TV services remains among the worst in any industry -- and broadband ISP service satisfaction is even worse. While some companies made small strides, they haven't been enough.
Leap Wireless' Cricket brand this week launched what they're calling "Half is More
" pricing, which the company claims offers users "unlimited plans for half the price of the competition." According to a Leap/Cricket press release
, the company's new $45 Offering provides unlimited text, voice and data services. However, the company rather buries the fact that by "unlimited" they mean around 1 GB, after which you're throttled back to dial-up era speeds for the remainder of the month. "Cricket is challenging consumers and asking the question that if you can pay only half and get the same thing, why wouldn't you?" the company asks. Perhaps because you historically abuse the hell out of
the word "unlimited"?
The Wall Street Journal
this week seemed rather surprised to learn that wireless carriers are now happily selling user location data for additional profit. According to the Journal
, "carriers are coming to see subscribers as sources of data that can be mined for profit, a practice more common among providers of free online services like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc." As we've noted for some time
, this data is purchased by everyone from marketers to city planners, but is generally not as private as carriers claim
. As the Journal
notes, the data also provides governments with an additional treasure trove of data to hoover up (or for hackers to acquire), and there continues to be no real consumer privacy protections in place to protect users. Tune in tomorrow when the Journal
learns that pay TV and broadband services in the Unites States are expensive
A Florida woman has filed a $5 million class action lawsuit against Apple because the power button on her iPhone 4 broke. According to the lawsuit
, Apple knew about a defect in a flex cable that controls the on-off button, but refused to acknowledge the flaw in order to sell more phones. The plaintiff's lawyers are claiming Apple colluded with AT&T to violate federal RICO racketeering laws -- while also claiming that Apple has violated California consumer protection laws. Apple just got done sending out $15 checks
after settling a lawsuit over the faulty antenna design in the iPhone 4, which resulted in users in low signal areas losing connectivity if they held the phone in a certain way.
Over the years there have been no shortage of studies showing that pirates actually buy significantly more content
from legit outlets than anybody else. That point was brought up repeatedly as the entertainment industry tried to pass rules requiring these users be kicked off the Internet.
KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh recently examined FiOS customer complaints
) about dying batteries in Verizon FiOS ONT units. The batteries generally give users about eight hours of talk time during a power outage, but let out a repeated, shrill beep when the battery is depleted (usually after a year or two).
"We don't focus on megabits, we don't focus on gigabits, we focus on activities," Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter stated at an investor conference last week
, clearly trying to counter some of the buzz around Google Fiber. "We go to the activity set to get a sense of what customers are actually doing and the majority of our customers fit into that 6 Mbps or less category."
Granted many Frontier customers in our forums
will tell you they're lucky if their copper and loop length supports anything more than 3 Mbps, and those who can get faster speeds may not be able to justify paying Frontier's steep price premiums.
Porn copyright trolls like Prenda law
already do plenty of sleazy things in their attempt to frighten BitTorrent porn downloaders into ponying up
settlement money. While Judges are just now starting to take aim at these firms, the trolls remain busy trying to frighten porn downloaders into ponying up cash.
Cablevision has spent the last few years deploying Wi-Fi to NYC metro region commuter areas, and now says they're getting close to offering service on the trains themselves. Speaking on their recent earnings conference call
, Cablevision executive Tad Smith stated the company is "in active, productive, very positive conversations with the trains" but that deploying such technology has been "complicated." The company filed a proposal with the MTA back in 2010 and originally hoped the project would be up and running within twelve months. Still, Smith says the company is "optimistic for the future" of the project, which is making slow but steady progress. Whether commuters (most of whom now have an LTE connection in their pocket) will need or use it might be something else entirely.
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference earlier this month, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo stated that the company's earliest FiOS markets are now reaching penetration targets
and that most of their new customers are signing up for faster speeds.
DirecTV is contemplating embedding an antenna into their set top boxes
in order to offer live over the air broadcasts, thereby circumventing retransmission fees. Speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston, DirecTV chief financial officer Patrick Doyle stated they didn't have a timeline on the project, but that it makes financial sense due to the soaring price of retrans fees and the landscape shift that's occurring courtesy of Aereo. He also stated that whenever it does get deployed, it would only be initially made available to new customers. "Well probably test in some markets an over-the-air integrated tuner set-up and make sure the customer experience is there," insists Doyle.
In early 2011 MetroPCS joined Verizon in suing the FCC
to overturn the agency's already fairly-flimsy network neutrality rules. With MetroPCS and T-Mobile now merged, T-Mobile announced late last week that it would be withdrawing the lawsuit against the FCC they acquired as part of the deal.
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