After spending most of the last decade profiting off of cramming, AT&T this month was finally held accountable by the government and fined $105 million
by the FTC, FCC, and state governments. A similar investigation is ongoing again T-Mobile, and you can likely expect similar settlements in time with both Verizon and Sprint, who also turned a blind eye for years while scammers bilked their customers (why? because they netted 30-40% of the profits).
The FTC case against AT&T is a great read
detailing at length how AT&T not only turned a blind eye to the scams, but actually made it harder for customers to identify they were being scammed and to obtain refunds.
With the customer refund process underway, the FTC tells Time
that more than 359,000 customers have already applied for refunds (which you can do here
), with many many more expected. The FTC told Time that the sheer volume of the case was one for the record books:
Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said the response from consumers was one of the largest the agency has ever seen. The only case with a larger number of claims that she could recall was a 2012 settlement with Skechers over deceptive marketing for one of its shoe lines, which garnered close to half a million consumer complaints. “We expect this to be a lot higher,” Rich said.
AT&T of course generates $105 million in about the time it took me to write this post, and the money they made off these scams was potentially dozens of times larger than the fine. Still, it's nice to see the government do its job when big companies are involved, as for most of the decade the FTC and FCC ignored how large carriers helped make these scams possible. Customers need to file their claim
before May 1, 2015.
We've discussed at length how AT&T's "IP transition" is being framed as some sort of evolutionary transition toward a "glorious all-IP future," but is really largely about AT&T gutting regulations in order to hang up on POTS (plain old telephone) and DSL users they simply don't want to upgrade
. The name of the game is terminating these unwanted users and pushing them users toward significantly more expensive (and capped) LTE wireless service.
AT&T has been chosen to power the in-car LTE service now being integrated by Audi, and an announcement back in March made it clear the privilege of the data integration isn't particularly cheap
(then again, if you can afford an Audi and Audi repairs, data plan overages may not be a worry). According to an Audi announcement
, customers can also now add their Audi to AT&T's Mobile Share data plan, allowing their vehicle to pull from their monthly data allotment.
AT&T is pushing their Digital Life
home automation and security services in a new direction in the hopes of expanding revenue: they're now offering in-home monitoring services marketed to those caring for the elderly. According to the company announcement
, the new product is called "Digital Life Care" and will be trialed in employee homes this year, and should see a broader commercial deployment sometime in 2015.
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile's Isis NFC-based mobile payment service was already struggling, with many users either simply not interested in the idea of using their smartphone as a debit card, already using other services, or simply never having heard of it
. Now things are more complicated, with the service suddenly sharing its name with a violent iraqi uprising dominating the newswires (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS).
Popular Science serves up an interesting read
about the discovery of fake "towers" that are being used to surreptitiously intercept cell phone traffic. ESD America offers a product they call the GSMK Cryptophone 500, which is essentially a Galaxy S III running modified hardware and a modified, more-secure version of Android -- which the company states purges 468 vulnerabilities from the traditional Android build.
California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called "kill switch" functionality to deter theft, enabled by default (the full law is here
, pdf). Minnesota passed a similar law earlier this year, but in that version of the law, the functionality is turned off by default.
The New York Post
claims that AT&T has struck a deal with the Department of Justice that would allow AT&T's $48.5 billion plan
to acquire DirecTV to move forward. The report fails to specify what precise conditions the DOJ will place on the deal, though it does suggest that regulators are leaning toward approval with DOJ approval coming as soon as October.
AT&T's Sponsored Data -- which exempts a company's content from AT&T's arbitrary caps if they pay AT&T a fee -- so far hasn't seen much interest from major companies
. While a few smaller outfits have signed up, larger companies either don't want to pay -- or don't want to take part in the neutrality controversy surrounding AT&T's idea.
A new report by RootMetrics
effectively declares Verizon the king when it comes to mobile network coverage, reliability, speed, and overall performance. The study, which collected data from 5.6 million test samples while driving some 234,000 miles across the country, gave the crown to Verizon for all metrics except text message performance, which Verizon closely lost to AT&T.
AT&T has announced that the company has officially started selling symmetrical 1 Gbps Gigapower connections in select parts of their home town of Dallas. According to a company press release
, 1 Gbps speeds are only available to residents and small businesses in the Highland Park and University Park neighborhoods.
Mobeen Khan, AT&T's executive director of M2M product management, says the company's plan to shut down their 2G network by the end of 2016 remains on schedule. AT&T will be refarming that spectrum for eventual use on their 3G and 4G networks. "We have an operational team that is engaged with these customers," Khan tells Fierce Wireless
. "It's a closely watched process." Cell phone users are easier to force-upgrade than M2M (machine to machine, or non-phone devices with embedded cellular chipsets) users. AT&T won't state how many 2G M2M users remain connected to their network.
AT&T has been on a bit of a tear the last week or so, announcing that they're deploying their faster 1 Gbps "Gigapower" service to customers in Dallas
and San Antonio
. Now AT&T is announcing that Charlotte too will be getting the faster service
AT&T today confirmed it will expand its ultra-fast AT&T GigaPower network to the City of Charlotte.
Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation this week
that would dramatically restrict the NSA's unfettered access to bulk-collected Internet and phone data. "If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago," Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor.
Add San Antonio to the list of cities where some select users will have access to 1 Gbps speeds courtesy of AT&T. Like with the announcements on their planned Dallas
deployments, this latest announcement
offers absolutely no detail on overall deployment numbers, pricing, or timeframe for deployment. As noted previously, these deployments will only target a limited number of higher-end developments, MDUs and college campuses, though the announcements omit that fact (something I affectionately refer to as "fiber to the press release").
As we noted last week
, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.
Last week, AT&T announced that the company would be bringing its 1 Gbps "Gigapower" service to portions of Dallas
. Now, according to a new announcement
by the company, AT&T states they'll also eventually be offering 1 Gbps connectivity to at least some customers in Nashville, Tennessee. "Specific locations of availability and pricing for the Nashville market will be announced at a later date," notes the company. As noted in detail
, AT&T remains ambiguous about precise deployment numbers because they're only planning to target very select, high-end development communities for this ultra-fast service, but wants the public relations benefit of the perception of a much larger deployment.
back in 2011
both AT&T and Apple were sued for pitching a $30 unlimited data plan for the 3G-enabled iPad, then withdrawing the unlimited data plan option one month after Apple began selling the device. Last year AT&T and Apple settled the lawsuit, and those impacted users are now receiving checks for $40
. Don't spend it all in one place, kids!
Senator Al Franken has been a very vocal opponent of Comcast's acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and now the Senator is taking aim at AT&T's attempted acquisition of DirecTV. In a letter
(pdf) to regulators concerning the merger, Franken warns to take AT&T promises like offering standalone broadband services with a grain of salt.
·more stories, story search, most popular ..
Recent news contributors