FCC


'FCC' Articles

U.S. Appeals Court Rules in Favor of FCC Net Neutrality Rules

A U.S. appeals court yesterday upheld landmark federal rules preventing internet service providers from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content (via Reuters). The backing for the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules came in a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The outcome reaffirms the law enforced last year that says ISPs must treat all internet traffic equally. The rules prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to faster internet lanes for specific internet services, which the FCC claims will help protect freedom of expression and innovation on the internet. The court also rejected legal arguments from telecommunications industry groups that the rules should not apply to mobile phone web use or that they violated the constitutional free-speech rights of internet service providers. The court's decision in favor of the FCC means that it too considered the internet to be a public utility, and therefore subject to government regulations. White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the ruling "a victory for the open, fair, and free internet as we know it today," and one that barred service providers from becoming "paid gatekeepers". The outcome will also be seen as a personal victory for President Barack Obama, who is a strong advocate of net neutrality rules, although ISPs have already said they plan to appeal to either the full appellate court or the Supreme Court over the ruling. Telecoms industry groups have also said they will

FCC Moves Ahead With Proposal Aiming to Make Subscription TV Available on Any Set-Top Box

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a three-to-two decision, has voted to move forward with its proposal that could de-couple cable subscriptions from cable set-top boxes in the future, according to The Verge. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler first introduced the proposal last month, and it will now move to a comment period during which time businesses and customers in the U.S. will be able to voice their opinions about the changes. Under the proposed guidelines, cable or satellite TV subscribers would be able to access their programming package using virtually any set-top box, including the Apple TV, rather than be forced to lease a cable box from Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, or other cable or satellite providers. Apple, Amazon, Roku, and other set-top box makers would be able to create an interface, such as an app, that provides subscribers with full access to their TV package, which Wheeler believes will lead to improved choice and innovation for customers. The move could also drive down costs of set-top boxes.The competition, the Chairman argues, will drive down costs and improve device options for consumers. He said at the assembled meeting that "consumers have no choice today," and that the proposed rules did not make major changes for consumers. "It only creates the opportunity for them to have choice." "While the cost of other technologies have fallen as competition increased, the cost of a set-top box has risen at more than three times the rate of inflation for American paid-TV subscribers over that same period," FCC Commissioner Mignon

FCC Proposal Aims to Make Subscription TV Available on Any Set-Top Box

United States Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler introduced a proposal [PDF] this afternoon that would de-couple cable subscriptions from cable set-top boxes. Under the proposal, cable and satellite subscribers would be able to access and watch cable content on any set-top box of their choosing, including the Apple TV, rather than being limited to the set-top box provided by the cable company. While allowing customers to access the full content provided with a cable subscription through the Apple TV is not quite the cord-cutting solution Apple has been aiming for, it is a step towards a more open relationship between technology companies and cable companies. Such a system would not give Apple control over content, but it would allow Apple to build an interface for that content. The new rules would create a framework for providing device manufacturers, software developers and others the information they need to introduce innovative new technologies, while at the same time maintaining strong security, copyright and consumer protections. Nothing in this proposal changes a company's ability to package and price its programming to its subscribers, or requires consumers to purchase new boxes.As The Verge points out, the FCC faces a tough battle attempting to get this proposal passed and implemented due to resistance from cable companies who want to have control over content and how and where it's displayed. A similar plan for the CableCard, which allows companies like TIVO to offer cable content, has largely failed because of its complexity and

T-Mobile Disputes YouTube's Throttling Accusations, Calls Binge On 'Mobile Optimized' or 'Downgraded'

Last week, YouTube criticized T-Mobile's recently introduced Binge On program for throttling all streaming video to 480p quality rather than just the video of participating services. T-Mobile has now responded to the accusations, telling DSLReports that "mobile optimized" or "downgraded" are better phrases to describe how Binge On works."Using the term 'throttle' is misleading," a representative tells me in an e-mail. "We aren’t slowing down YouTube or any other site. In fact, because video is optimized for mobile devices, streaming from these sites should be just as fast, if not faster than before. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or a less flattering “downgraded” is also accurate."Binge On is a free program that allows T-Mobile customers on a qualifying Simple Choice plan to stream unlimited 480p video from 24 partners, including Netflix, HBO NOW, Hulu and many others, without using any data towards their plan. YouTube, the largest video sharing service, does not participate in the program.YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., said T-Mobile is effectively throttling, or degrading, its traffic. "Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn't justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent," a YouTube spokesman said.T-Mobile stresses that all customers can disable Binge On through their account settings, but that has not stopped the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from questioning the U.S.'s third-largest carrier and its competitors about services that allow customers to access certain content without paying

Free Data Programs From T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast Scrutinized by FCC

The United States Federal Communications Commission yesterday sent letters to T-Mobile, AT&T, and Comcast questioning the companies about mobile services that allow customers to access certain content without paying for the data usage, reports Bloomberg. While the FCC has been careful to note the inquiry is "not an investigation" and designed to help the FCC "stay informed as to what the practices are," there have been some questions about whether such services violate net neutrality rules. Under scrutiny is T-Mobile's Binge On program, which allows customers to stream 480p video that doesn't count against a data cap, AT&T's Sponsored Data program that lets AT&T customers view sponsored content for free, and Comcast's Stream TV, a video service that does not count against data caps in areas where data caps are imposed. Ars Technica has uploaded a copy of the letters that were sent to the three companies. Back in February, the FCC voted in favor of new net neutrality rules preventing Internet providers from blocking or throttling web traffic or offering prioritized service for payment, but it has not specifically addressed these "zero-rating" data exemption programs. Last month, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the organization would keep an eye on T-Mobile's Binge On service, but praised it as being both "highly innovative and highly competitive." In a statement, a T-Mobile spokesperson said the company is "looking forward" to talking with the FCC, and believes Binge On is "absolutely in line with net-neutrality rules." Comcast expressed a similar sentiment,

Verizon Gets Green Light on FCC Waiver Needed for Wi-Fi Calling

Verizon Wireless is the only major carrier in the United States that has not introduced Wi-Fi calling, but it appears that could change in the near future as the FCC today approved the company's request for an FCC waiver [PDF] that will allow it to move ahead with its plans. Like AT&T, Verizon applied for an FCC waiver to delay implementing a teletypewriter (TTY) service for deaf and hard-of-hearing people until December 31, 2017. Verizon plans to use real-time text (RTT) as an alternative and the waiver will allow it to avoid offering a TTY service until its RTT technology is deployed and operational. On its website, Verizon says it plans to support Wi-Fi calling "in the future," but has not specified when Wi-Fi calling could be implemented. When AT&T was approved for Wi-Fi calling, the feature was turned on within days of receiving the go ahead from the FCC. Wi-Fi calling will allow Verizon customers to make phone calls over Wi-Fi in situations where their cellular signal is low, automatically transitioning between Wi-Fi and a cellular connection as needed. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all already implemented Wi-Fi calling, but Sprint and T-Mobile have done so without obtaining the necessary waivers from the

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil Pass FCC, Smart Keyboard Limited to U.S. Layout at Launch

Apple received final approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on October 15 for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil ahead of their November launch. FCC regulatory documents show that Apple filed applications for both LTE and Wi-Fi models of the upcoming 12.9-inch tablet, as noted by G4Games. There are still at least two weeks remaining until the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are released, but FCC approval is typically one of the final requirements leading up to a new product launch. The new Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2, for example, received FCC approval in August prior to their release this week. On a related note, Apple also recently added fine print on its German website that indicates the Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro will only be available with a U.S. English layout at launch, as spotted by iFun.de. The accessory is not to be confused with the new Magic Keyboard, which will be available in over a dozen languages. iPad Pro will come in Silver, Space Gray and Gold, starting at $799 for a 32GB Wi-Fi only model. A 128GB Wi-Fi only model will also be available for $949, and a Wi-Fi + LTE 128GB model will retail for $1,079. Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard will retail for $99 and $169 respectively as standalone

AT&T Urges FCC to Drop $100 Million Fine, Says Data Throttling Doesn't Harm Customers

Last month the United States Federal Communications Commission announced that it would fine AT&T $100 million for misleading customers about its unlimited data plans and not adequately warning customers about throttling their data speeds. AT&T has since responded, arguing that data throttling doesn't harm customers, the company is being prejudged and that its First Amendment rights are being violated in a response first found by The Hill (via Ars Technica). The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible. Its “moderate” forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority. Both, moreover, reflect an unseemly effort to coerce settlement. And the NAL and the related press campaign confirm that the agency has already prejudged AT&T’s liability, abandoning any pretext that the Commission remains an impartial arbiter of the case.AT&T, who wants the FCC to drop the fine, claims that it has made all the required disclosures to customers, pointing out that its Unlimited Data Plan customers were more likely to renew their contracts than non-Unlimited Data Plan customers. Additionally, the telecommunications company argued the FCC would be outside of its authority in both imposing the fine and making other requests because the statute of limitations on the case has passed. Lastly, AT&T argued that the FCC has no authority to order the company to inform its customers that it violated the Transparency Rule in not

AT&T Fined $100 Million by FCC for Unlimited Data Throttling Practices

The United States Federal Communications Commission today announced plans to fine AT&T $100 million for misleading customers about its unlimited mobile data plans. Following an investigation, the FCC is accusing AT&T of severely slowing down the data speeds of customers with unlimited data plans and failing to adequately warn them about the slower data speeds.In 2011, AT&T implemented a "Maximum Bit Rate" policy and capped the maximum data speeds for unlimited customers after they used a set amount of data within a billing cycle. The capped speeds were much slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and significantly impaired the ability of AT&T customers to access the Internet or use data applications for the remainder of the billing cycle.The FCC says AT&T violated the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule by falsely calling its plans "unlimited" and by not informing customers of the maximum speed they would receive under AT&T's Maximum Bit Rate policy. Millions of customers suffered slow data speeds, with some seeing speed reductions for 12 days per month on average. On the decision, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had this to say: "Customers deserve to get what they pay for. Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure." AT&T ceased offering unlimited data plans years ago, but it continues to have customers with grandfathered unlimited data plans. AT&T previously throttled all of those customers after

FCC Votes in Favor of Net Neutrality Rules, Classifies Broadband Service as a Utility

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor by a 3-to-2 decision to enforce net neutrality rules that it claims will help protect freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet, reports Ars Technica. The FCC ruling classifies broadband service as a utility and prevents Internet providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering prioritized service through so-called Internet "fast lanes" for payment."The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It is simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. "Think about it. The Internet has replaced the functions of the telephone and the post office. The Internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from four million Americans has demonstrated, the Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules."The ruling will reclassify fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, and Internet providers will be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act. The decision was heavily contested by Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, which could sue the FCC in an attempt to reverse the new rules. FCC officials believe that Type II reclassification will give them more legal authority to prevent net neutrality rules from being overturned. While the new requirements are intended to ensure that the Internet remains fast, fair and open, the FCC did not follow through

FCC to Propose Regulating Internet Service as a Utility for Stronger Net Neutrality Rules

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler plans to submit a proposal that would allow the agency to regulate Internet service much like a public utility, reports The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The move would let the FCC introduce strong rules that could prevent Internet providers from creating "fast lanes" letting certain sites pay for faster speeds.It is expected that the proposal will reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Communications Act, according to industry analysts, lobbyists and former F.C.C. staff members.Net neutrality, which is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, has been a major topic of discussion in recent months as the FCC in 2014 approved commercially reasonable "Open Internet" net neutrality rules that could potentially allow companies to pay for better service. In November, President Obama urged the FCC to instead implement strong rules to protect net neutrality, following a four tenet path that would prevent ISPs from blocking or throttling Internet sites. Obama's proposal also called for the prevention of paid prioritization, keeping companies from shelling out money for faster speeds, and it suggested greater transparency between ISPs and their customers. More than any other invention of our time, the Internet has unlocked possibilities we could just barely imagine a generation ago. And here's a big reason we've seen such incredible growth and innovation: Most Internet providers have

FCC Warns Hotels About Intentionally Blocking Wi-Fi Hotspots

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday issued a public enforcement advisory that warns hotel chains and other commercial establishments about intentionally blocking or interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots. The FCC's Enforcement Bureau claims that interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots is illegal and that it will take appropriate action against violators by imposing substantial fines. The warning follows an FCC investigation in which the government agency discovered a so-called "disturbing trend" where hotels and other commercial establishments were purposefully blocking wireless customers from connecting to their Wi-Fi hotspots. Marriott Hotels was found to have "deployed a Wi-Fi deauthentication protocol" to block customers from accessing Wi-Fi and agreed to pay a $600,000 fine. iPhone users have long resorted to Personal Hotspot to turn their cellular data connection into a Wi-Fi network for the purpose of tethering a Mac or other connected device. Apple made Personal Hotspot more convenient in iOS 8 with te">Instant Hotspot, a new feature that automatically detects when an iPhone is within close range of an iPad or Mac and displays the device in the list of available Wi-Fi