Monthly Archives: April 2011

Comment now to the FCC about the T-Mobile deal

Make your voice heard about the merger. Go here, and then click on 11-65 to reach a form where you can file brief comments. (You can also submit longer comments in PDF format, if you’d like–just make sure to enter “11-65” as the proceeding number!)

Help the FCC make the informed and correct choice. 🙂

It could be worse

Customers of Alaska’s only cable ISP pay $4/GB for going over their caps. Granted, the caps vary by speed tier and so do the overage fees, but that’s definitely much higher than what AT&T is going to charge. D:

(not to mention that their only fiber link to the outside world has to go across rugged terrain and ocean to the Lower 48.)

SCOTUS: AT&T can force arbritration

The SCOTUS ruled this week that AT&T (and other corporations) can block people from filing class action lawsuits and force mandatory binding arbitration per the Federal Arbitration Act.

First off, here’s what the Act does:

The Federal Arbitration Act (found at 9 U.S.C. Section 1 et seq.), enacted in 1925, provides for contractually-based compulsory and binding arbitration, resulting in an “arbitration award” entered by an arbitrator or arbitration panel as opposed to a “judgment” entered by a court of law. In an arbitration the parties give up the right to an appeal on substantive grounds to a court.

Per the Wikipedia link, mandatory binding arbitration is nothing new, but in some states (such as California), forcing binding arbitration is unconscionable and can be voided from a contract by a judge. This week’s ruling voids all laws like California’s and applies one federal standard. That is, states that want to apply a higher standard now have no choice but to side with the corporations.

The downside of mandatory arbitration? Companies tend to make it such that they require you to use their own arbiter, which is hardly fair for the consumer. And there’s no way to appeal the ruling if it’s not completely legit.

Just another example of how people are getting screwed over. Our only hope now is definitely much stronger, neutral federal regulatory bodies to enforce our consumer rights.

AT&T bashes T-Mobile in FCC filing

Looks like AT&T’s not too thrilled about its new bride:

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is the knight in shining magenta armor to save AT&T from those “severe capacity constraints,” but since AT&T can’t let regulators think that T-Mobile’s departure from the arena will result in less competition, Ma Bell simultaneously bashes its prospective conquest for having a “diminished market role” in the telecom industry and “no clear path to deploy LTE” — even as it says that acquiring T-Mobile would result in the means to spread speedy Long Term Evolution across 97.3 percent of the general population.


Speaking of monopolistic behavior…

The FCC is seeking additional comment (warning: PDF) regarding the state of the “multichannel video programming distribution” (aka cable/satellite TV) industry:

Pursuant to its statutory mandate, in 2009 the Commission solicited 2007, 2008, and 2009 data, information, and comment for the 14th Report similar to that which had been requested for earlier years. However, since that time, the Commission has initiated a comprehensive review of the way in which it uses data, including data used for its statutory competition reports. In the course of that review, we determined that the data submitted in response to the notices of inquiry for the 14th Report are insufficient to produce an adequate report. We are therefore requesting additional data for 2009 and for the first time asking for data for 2010. In submitting additional data for 2009 and new data for 2010, to the extent that it is not unduly burdensome, we encourage commenters to also submit comparable historical data for 2007 and 2008, which will facilitate the Commission’s analysis of trends.

And as part of their review of the T-Mobile/AT&T merger, they’re reviewing telephone number utilization reports (warning: PDF) to determine the effects of the merger on mobile telephone competition. However, it looks like these reports will not be released to the public:

The Commission has recognized that disaggregated, carrier-specific forecast and utilization data should be treated as confidential and should be exempt from public disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). The NRUF and LNP reports are being placed into the record subject to the provisions of an NRUF Protective Order. As such, the NRUF data will not be available to the public except pursuant to the terms of the NRUF Protective Order, as outlined below.

I fully encourage everyone to participate in the FCC review/comment process. If nothing else, it will let our voice be known. 🙂

Screw it, we lost.

AT&T released their earnings results yesterday, and I noticed this:

Wireline Broadband Growth Remains Strong. Driven by strength in AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet service and standalone broadband, AT&T posted a 175,000 net gain in wireline broadband connections. About two-thirds of consumers have a broadband plan of 3 Mbps or higher.

I have two words: screw it, we’ve already lost. (Okay, that was five words.) We lost the cause when Comcast put forth a soft cap several years ago with seemingly little fanfare, but we didn’t realize it at the time. With the current broadband market in the US, fighting the carriers directly has little chance for success at this point. I fully expect TWC and any other capless providers that remain in AT&T’s service areas to implement caps within the next year or two, probably along with the rollout of DOCSIS 3.0. What is there for us to do, stop using the Internet?

The fact that people are still purchasing Internet access from AT&T means that either people don’t give a crap about the caps, or have no idea about them/are being convinced by AT&T representatives to sign up anyway. I know that the retentions person I talked to when I cancelled was not aware that they were going to institute caps, so it is within the realm of reason that AT&T has talked people out of cancelling.

At this point, the only way we can turn back the tide at this point is to put pressure on our government to force carriers with monopolies to open their lines to competition. No amount of boycotting is going to do anything unless it actually affects AT&T’s bottom line; they’re simply too big for only a few people to change things. However, this doesn’t mean that you should stop boycotting them; on the contrary, you should continue to no longer purchase services from them, if at all possible. (By the way, I still haven’t received a response to my letter, and doubt I ever will.)

That said, this site is going to be much more than against caps now, with the AT&T and T-Mobile merger awaiting approval from the regulatory agencies. I’m still going to update the list of capless ISPs as the providers announce their policy changes, and I’ll still post news about AT&T’s caps. But now the stakes are much bigger: to stop Ma Bell’s monopolistic behavior.

AT&T lowers GoPhone data pricing to $500/GB

One thing that hasn’t been touched on is how much data costs for AT&T customers not on a postpaid plan/contract. As it turns out, data pricing for GoPhone users used to be $5000 per gigabyte:

AT&T announced today that it was cutting the price of data access for prepaid customers — those who don’t sign contracts but instead pay as they go — to $5 for 10MB of data access on select smartphones, a major cut from the previous $5 for 1MB. But press reports haven’t done their math: The costs are 50 times what so-called postpaid customers — those who sign a contract and get a bill each month — are charged. An AT&T GoPhone customer pays $500 per gigabyte of data usage, whereas a postpaid Android or iPhone user pays $10 per gigabyte.

But the other carriers have atrocious data pricing, right? Not quite:

Even pay-as-you-go iPad users pay $10 per gigabyte, so the shocking price difference can’t be attributed to the prepaid business model’s costs versus the postpaid model’s costs. After all, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint have 3G data pricing that’s all over the map for the same amount of data, even with each carrier’s suite of plans. The differences just aren’t as scandalous as these GoPhone charges.

Three words: Jesus Christ, AT&T.

(As a note, I’m out of town this week on business, so normal posting will resume on Monday.)

The case for net neutrality

As it turns out, charging for faster content (the opposite of net neutrality) results in slower content:

The model revealed the benefits of bandwidth expansion with respect to speed are less than they might at first seem because larger bandwidth attracts more traffic. In essence, attempts to speed delivery of select content to paying-customers only leads to additional congestion. Consequently, if ISPs try to speed time-sensitive content to consumers, the research shows consumers will purchase more of the quick delivery content, and as a result, re-congest the information superhighway’s lanes.

In other words, it has the same dubious effect on “congestion” as caps. The problem has always been peak capacity, and that’s what AT&T and other providers have to understand.

Week 2: no response

Yep, no response to my letter. With less than a month remaining until the caps go live, they should be answering some of the concerns outlined in it instead of adding even more doubt.

Or maybe they’re focusing all their efforts at providing more accurate metering (that’s what I’m hoping for, anyway, despite my cynicism.)