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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.
Last week reports emerged
that ESPN has at least been in talks to take AT&T up on their idea of cap-exempt content contracts. In short, AT&T has been pitching content companies on the idea of paying AT&T a toll that would allow users of their specific content to bypass user caps.
A few weeks back, in response to Google Fiber, AT&T announced a plan for fiber to the press release in Austin
. That is, the company issued a very weaselly-worded statement claiming they were "prepared to build" an "advanced fiber optic infrastructure" technically capable of 1 Gbps if
they saw the precise perks they wanted from regional regulators.
After a few initial delays, AT&T today announced
that they're launching their new "Digital Life
" home automation and security platform in fifteen markets: Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Riverside, Calif., San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and select areas of New York and New Jersey.
Earlier this month the Department of Justice warned the FCC
that they should potentially cap the amount of spectrum AT&T and Verizon can acquire moving forward to prevent the two companies from hoarding spectrum anti-competitively. "Today, the two leading carriers have the vast majority of low-frequency spectrum, whereas the two other nationwide carriers have virtually none," wrote the DOJ.
Last week CISPA passed the house
courtesy of oodles of lobbying cash from companies like AT&T, Verizon, Google, Intel and Cisco. Those companies are thrilled that the bill protects them from privacy violations, as are security firms eager to net billions in government contracts to fight an endless parade of phantom "cybersecurity" menaces.
Upstart MVNO FreedomPop
today announced that the company is expanding its free-based business model further by running it over Sprint's 3G network. The company's efforts had previously been hamstrung by the fact their service was only available via Clearwire's network.
AT&T this afternoon released their first quarter earnings
, which detailed revenues of $31.4 billion and net income of $3.7 billion. AT&T sold a record 6 million smartphones during the first quarter, (4 million of which were iPhones) and added 1.2 million smartphones -- most of which were feature phone upgrades. Still, growth has some investors nervous; AT&T added a net 296,000 contract wireless devices on the quarter, though when you subtract tablets AT&T lost 69,000 net devices on contract plans
. That slowed growth means you can expect more "because we can" fees like this one
to keep hungry investors fed. On the wireline front, AT&T added 731,000 U-Verse broadband and 232,000 U-Verse TV subscribers, but lost 607,000 DSL customers.
Numerous Verizon executives are on record stating that Verizon has more than enough spectrum to deploy LTE nationally -- before
Verizon nabbed another massive swath of spectrum from the cable industry. Studies
have shown Verizon has plenty of spectrum, particularly after re-farming spectrum currently being used for 2G and 3G (EVDO) services.
Last year AT&T launched AT&T Plus
, a trial customer loyalty rewards program that offered such perks as waived upgrade fees, waived activation fees (for the second line only), 25% off any accessories not made by Apple, and things like Starbucks gift cards. The program was only initially deployed in Colorado, Minneapolis, and Houston, but is being terminated by AT&T before it gets deployed further. AT&T has started sending letters out to users
stating that the royalty program is ending as of March 31. AT&T is giving those users a $25 perpaid Visa gift card, but isn't explaining why they didn't proceed nationally with the rewards program.
After AT&T's attempted takeover of T-Mobile was blocked by regulators, it didn't take T-Mobile long to re-embrace its role of industry upstart, launching a series of ad campaigns that took pot shots at AT&T. Now AT&T's returning the favor. story continues..
AT&T and Verizon have expended their share of the video on demand market, stealing that market share from companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Todd Spangler at Multichannel News
notes that cable operators saw their VOD total market share drop to 56% in 2012 from 60% in 2013. For some context however, keep in mind that video on demand comprises about 1% of all video viewing
according to a study released last year. That study blamed "inadequate advertising support and awkward program guides" for cable's recent stumbles in the VOD market, something telcos -- who are hungrier upstarts in the pay TV sector -- are clearly doing a better job with. What's your primary reason for not renting VOD titles? Quality? Selection? Price?
Yesterday we noted that despite the copyright industry's new "six strikes" anti-piracy campaign launch, just one ISP had bothered to put anything about the plan on their website
. AT&T sent us a statement justifying their lack of website information by saying they intend to communicate directly with impacted users.
If you happen to live in an area that has what passes for United States broadband competition, you're probably all too aware of the massive load of junk mail you get from carriers. Here in New York, you could probably build an entire second home out of the junk mail received from Cablevision, Comcast and Verizon, as the three companies engage in bundle promotion battles.
One Consumerist reader decided to save and photograph an entire year of AT&T U-Verse junk mail
, and the results are very impressive.
Where we live the variety of marketing pitches is always fun, ranging from shiny flyers to official-looking documents that proclaim to be time sensitive and require you carefully rip off each end -- only to deliver more triple play spam.
AT&T over the weekend got about as close as they're likely to in admitting they messed up the acquisition of T-Mobile. "I wouldn't say it was a bad decision, but it was a decision that didn't go the way I wanted," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at a conference over the weekend
. "We didn't execute well."
Granted a big reason the deal fell through is because AT&T kept repeatedly lying to regulators
about job creation and deal benefits, lies that in at least one instance were debunked by AT&T's own attorney
who accidentally posted un-redacted documents online for everyone to see.
Aside from the fact that killing off T-Mobile was anti-competitive (and, as it has turned out, totally unnecessary
), AT&T hubris was a major reason the deal fell through, and there's little to no indication
AT&T learned much of anything from the whole affair.
Former Virginia Demoratic Congressman Rick Boucher used to have a lot of nerd credibility in the technology field, urging regulators to aim high when it came to broadband goals
, while being one of the pre-eminent voices for fair use rights. What has been he doing since leaving Congress? Working for AT&T as a paid sockpuppet, penning pro-AT&T editorials in major news outlets without disclosing his ties to AT&T.
Originally, AT&T only allowed users to use Facetime over Wi-Fi. Then, they allowed Facetime over cellular, but only if users signed up for their new shared data plan with its $15 per gigabyte overage fees. story continues..
As we discussed back in 2010
, AT&T's "Microcell" service essentially acts as a miniature cell tower in a user's home -- routing cell calls over the user's broadband. While these femtocell services are useful for users with poor reception, telco business models have often crippled the devices.
For a company whose U-Verse fiber to the node broadband service has consistently under-performed in the battle against cable, AT&T executives were very confident in future U-Verse speed claims while speaking at their developer conference this week at CES. AT&T recently announced that they'd be expanding their U-Verse footprint from 24.5 million homes to 33 million, though the company used some fuzzy math to make the expansion seem much larger than it was
A prodigious patent troll is now taking aim at ISPs large and small, hoping to extract cash from ISPs for simply using DSL gear. According to numerous court filings
, a company by the name of Brandywine Communications Technologies is on a suing spree, claiming that numerous ISPs have violated seven different DSL-related patent Brandywine claims to own.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode