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When we talk about the Federal Communications Commission, we usually do so in regards to a new and highly anticipated device they have just finished testing. Today, there is a little something different in the news regarding the FCC. On Thursday, the FCC made a couple of moves that have received mixed responses from the major wireless carriers.

Roaming Data

The first order they passed was to establish a rule forcing carriers to allow competitors to send and receive data on their networks for an established price. This move means that no matter where you are outside of your carrier's network, you will have roaming data coverage. The roaming charges may not be worth it, but it's nice to know that a provider cannot refuse to provide service to someone just because they haven't made a deal with their carrier.

Verizon and AT&T protested this ruling, saying that “today’s action represents a new level of unwarranted government intervention in the wireless marketplace" and allows some companies to utilize infrastructure that they don't pay to build and maintain, which will reduce investment in new networks.

Sprint is all in, on the other hand, saying that this will be a boon for users. No doubt they appreciate the fact that this forces the two larger service providers to play ball with smaller carriers that may not have been able to establish roaming deals with the larger companies. They also took the chance to reiterate their distaste for the potential buyout of T-Mobile by AT&T.


Signal Boosters

The other move that the FCC made Thursday was to announce they were working towards implementing signal boosters to improve coverage for rural areas and other locations with poor reception. These would be different from the proprietary, carrier specific femtocells that boost signal for a specific provider. They would enhance coverage for all signal types, thus requiring only one type of booster to be used.

Clearly, this didn't sit well with the majority of carriers, who profit from the sale of their particular femtocells. The main issue, outside of the implicit business ones, was that these devices may cause "significant harmful interference".

fcc signal booster

These two moves show that the FCC is willing to get its hands dirty and do what it thinks is best for customers despite the complaints of major wireless carriers. This does beg the question, what does this mean for the FCC's review of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger? If they are interested primarily in the concerns of customers, are they going to deem the acquisition as problematic for competition, as Sprint claims it is?

We can only wait and see what move the FCC makes next, but there's no doubt that their decisions in the coming months will have a profound effect on the mobile landscape.

Source: All Things Digital

Zak Stinson
Zak is a neuroscience student residing in the bread basket of Canada. When not reading or writing Android news, he has been known to partake in dangerous backyard science experiments he is nowhere near qualified to perform. He also loves Thai food.

  • Logan

    "This does beg the question"

    When something begs the question, it is an argument that refers only to itself (e.g. "The Bible is true because God says so in The Bible").

    You could write "this raises the question" or "this makes you wonder" instead.

    I'm sorry if this seems pedantic. 'Begging the question' is a very useful concept and it would be a shame to see it disappear from the language.

    • Mesmorino

      Don't apologise for being pedantic, it's a good traits to have. I'm generally only like that with engineering concepts and such (unit confusion is very aggravating), but languages need that kind of attention too, I'd say

    • d.

      Language changes consistently. If you knew anything about linguistics, that's probably one of the most important things to know.

    • Johnny

      That is asserting the conclusion. The English language is not static and meanings change with usage over time.

      • Danny

        You're right, the term in English is typically used with a negative connotation, indicating someone overly concerned with minutiae and whose tone is perceived as condescending. When it was first used by Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost (1588), it simply meant "teacher". Shortly afterwards it began to be used negatively.
        Bottomline, previously Logan might have been referred to as a teacher, now he is just an A-hole for talking the comment section off topic. Stick with the subject people!
        Great job FCC!

  • Qbfinest83

    "We can only wait and see what move the FCC makes next, but there’s no doubt that their decisions in the coming months will have a profound effect on the mobile landscape."

    I hope they get in and do something with ETF like (ETF/Length of Contract = amount decrease each month). Now with Verizon doing away from 1 yr contract, I can see ATT following soon and we might even start seeing the 3yr contracts like in Europe

  • Asphyx

    The first rule regarding roaming could be very significant.

    It is quite similar to the ruling that forced the telcos to allow 3rd party providers the ability to use their circuits for a standard fee. And that ruling is why you can pick any ISP you want for DSL or Cable Internet regardless of who owns the pipe into your home.

    It has generally been a very good rule for consumers as it forces competition based on services not access.

    A similar thing could happen with the wireless. A 3rd party company who does not need the massive capital to build a wireless foot print could instead make a roaming agreement with (for example) Verizon, advertise the same coverage as Verizon in it's marketing but compete based on TRUE unlimited data/text and less restrictive phone usage such as allowing free tethering.

    You might pay a little more for service minutes than you would on Verizon (as verizon could undercut the price) but you would be getting better service in return.

    The only recourse a Verizon or At&T would have in that scenario is to either match the services or remove towers which would be detrimental to their own service as much as hurt these 3rd party competitors.

    My guess is the first battle on this will revolve around network capacity and the rule might be changed to require a certain amount of coverage before you could be eligible for a roaming qualification and the FCC has always been very weak in regards to big carrier lobbying.

    And whatever they rule this year can easily be replealed the next. Just look at their attempts at Net Neutrality as an example.

  • Mark

    Waaaaaaaaaaaah!!! The big boys don't like it when another organization bullies them or tells them how to run their own network. DEAL WITH IT. I feel no sympathy for them whatsoever. Not with the looming AT&T-Mobile deal, Verizon dropping 1 year contracts, AT&T increasing smartphone prices, insane data caps from these networks on supposed "unlimited data" and so much more. I hope the FCC regulates these bastards even more...

  • Noel

    The more reason FCC needs to prevent a duopoly from happening and torpedo the Tmo/Att deal..we all know what will happen a few yrs after that deal goes thru...higher price plans, nickle and diming customers on every megabite. Say adios to low low unlimited cell plans like what Tmo is offering (soon $59.99 unlimited for EM+ w/ some trottling after 2Gb..ok by me. But hopefully for an extra $10 u can increase the data to truely unlimited or 5Gb for those who need more). Tmo and Sprint can help keep the big boys a lil honest w/ their prices plans...Sprint can not do it alone if the FCC let Att goble up Tmo.

  • unhappybirthday

    Could the FCC be preparing some consumer/Sprint friendly rules to help grease the wheels on the approval of an AT&T/T-Mobile merger? In other words, "the merger will not harm consumers because we have these new rules in place to improve competition".

    On the other hand, AT&T is griping about the new rules - at least in public.

  • Michael

    This is a problematic development from a network management perspective. Right now, Verizon and AT&T can plan for the impact of introducing a new high data-usage device, and upgrade their networks to handle the additional traffic in advance. If they are required to allow any device of the same technology to roam onto their network, then Random Rural Operator can introduce a data-intensive device without adequate network coverage, and damage performance for either of the Duopoly's customers when those devices roam to Vz/ATT.

  • L boogie

    Don't like it when you get a bitter taste of your own medicine huh? That's what consumers had to put up with when it comes to the bigwigs, learn to live with it like your (verizon/at &t) customers

  • Andrew

    Government control of industry often dramatically slows innovation. The last decade has seen dramatic progress in mobile technology - developed by mobile industry players not government - and should continue undisturbed. For those who haven't noticed, the FCC has renvisioned itself as Big Brother in the last couple of years. Whether regulating free speech (political radio) or the internet, or mobile networks, this is good for no one in a free country that expects to push the envelope of human innovation.

    • Asphyx

      Well thats what Verizon and AT&T would like you to believe but it isn't really true.

      FCC has regulated the hardware since it was first invented and that hasn't really stopped innovation at all. What it did do in fact is to enforce some standards which are always a good thing where the consumer is involved.

      If Big Borther concerns you well you should be a lot more concerned about Google, Facebook and Apple (all entities with no regulatory oversight) who collect far more data than the FCC.

      Innovation happens because someone tried to distinguish themselves via hardware and then the competitors quickly copycat that feature. GPS? WiFi? Both of those are also regulated by the FCC but it sure didn't stop them from becoming standard features on phones.

      And remember these carriers use Public airwaves. Those airwaves belong to the people and they charge us back for using what is already rightfully ours. They do that under the guise of maintaining the hardware that allows us to use it and while that is fair it is certainly NOT fair that they deny someone access to it!

      They have a right to charge a fee to the 3rd part carriers to cover the costs of the equipment. Just as they supposedly charge their own users for that cost.

      The FCC saying roaming must be allowed will not stop progress or innovation but it will stop price gouging as it will allow competition to pop up that are willing to make less or provide more to the end user for the same price.

      What worries the Big Carriers is they have a pretty good scam going where they are trying to turn data into the same billing type as phone calls. Yet phone calls require switching, Data does not. It does not cost Verizon any more to send and recieve 100k as it does 100MB.

      The exciters on the end of the OC cable does not cost more to maintain based on how much data passes through it. Only the speed of the data is slowed if there is more of it. Yet they charge you $10 a megabyte?

      If they did not try and price gouge the customer there would be no need to regulate. But since they have chosen the path of make every penny and charge for every act they can track they are going to be regulated and forced to do things they do not want to do.

      Now they want to take back frequencies used for Free TV. They do this in the name of Faster wireless speeds and capacity. Why do they need that? So they can make that $10 a megabyte on you once every second instead of every 2 seconds!

      If you ask me they are just asking to be regulated and watched like a hawk.
      And we have gone about as far as we can on wireless innovation. Sure there will be a 5G but by then everyone will have tiered data plans and won't use any of those features at all.

      Unless of course you own Verizon or AT&T and have sapped so much money out of the economy you can afford it!

  • Vince

    I live in one of those "rural" areas and I think it's absolutely ludicrous that service providers want to charge me an extra $250 for a booster to get service I already pay for! This is one implementation I hope the FCC sticks with because I should be able to get service where I need it most and especially if I'm being charged for it.

    • Asphyx

      Vince I live in a Rural area as well and I have found that the main problem with Rural coverage are all these laws about towers and height restrictions in the local municipalities.

      There is currently a discussion in my town about allowing At&T to put a tower up to bring GSM coverage to our area.

      And the dummies in my town are fighting it tooth and nail.

      I agree it is dumb to have to pay a carrier to provide coverage for them but the truth is that there is no other way to do it unless you can convince your town board to allow a tower the carrier will have to pay for themselves if they could put one up.

  • http://www.gsmmobilesignalbooster.co.uk/ gsm booster

    I guess the signal booster is a better suggestion by the FCC. It can be a handy tool for improving the signal strength of your network. Mobile users who live in rural areas should get this product.