Aug 27, 2009 | 3
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously today to scrutinize various aspects of the wireless industry with several new inquiries aimed at consumer protection, the Associated Press reports. One examination will look at so-called "truth-in-billing" rules that require phone companies to clearly identify and describe charges on consumer bills, while another will examine whether there is enough competition in the market.
These inquiries would join several others under way, including probes to determine if consumers are hurt by exclusive contracts between service providers and phone makers (e.g. AT&T and Apple, for its iPhone), long-term contracts between subscribers and service providers, and fees charged to subscribers who leave a contract early, according to Bloomberg.
Jun 12, 2009 | 8
Today marks the deadline for broadcasters throughout the United States to switch their signals from analog to digital, a move that's been debated, decried and delayed by the government, broadcasters and viewers alike.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has heavily promoted the switch to digital TV, with acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps encouraging the move by pointing out that the transition will allow stations to provide more free over-the-air channels than the single channel they've been using under the analog system.
Still, even after Congress delayed the cutover date from February 17 to June 12 in order to give viewers without cable, satellite or digital televisions more time to buy and install a digital converter box, an estimated 2.8 million American households, or 2.5 percent of the television market, are "completely unready" for the transition, according to the Nielsen Company.
Feb 13, 2009 | 2
Some 500 television stations across the country have alerted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they plan to switch from analog to digital signals next week, four months shy of the official new deadline. But the FCC has nixed the requests of 123 broadcasters pending proof that viewers won't be left in the dark – specifically that they will still be able to tune into local news and public affairs programming and to receive info in the case of an emergency.
The FCC in a statement said it gave thumbs down to the 123 stations, insisting that "early termination poses a significant risk of substantial public harm" in their viewing areas. The reason: they're all in markets in which all of the network affiliates are asking to switchover early, which would leave viewers without digital TVs, digital-TV converter boxes or cable or satellite service without television service. "Even if independent or non-commercial stations remain on the air in these markets," the FCC said, "we still considered these areas at risk," because they don't have the coverage of the major networks.
Feb 4, 2009 | 2
Just two weeks before a switch to all-digital TV was set to take effect, the House today voted 264 to 158 to delay the move until June 12. This was the second attempt by the Democratic-controlled House to push through the measure, which the Senate easily passed last week (twice) and President Obama has said he will sign into law. Obama and congressional Democrats backed the delay to give some 2.6 million people who still do not have digital TVs time to get $40 vouchers from the feds to subsidize the $50 to $70 cost of converters that will enable them to watch digital programs.
People with digital TVs, who subscribe to digital cable service or have satellite dishes don't have to worry about getting a converter or taking any other steps when the change takes effect. All new televisions sold in the U.S. since March 1, 2007, have been required to have a DTV digital receiver built in.
Jan 13, 2009 | 3
President-elect Barack Obama today named a tobacco-control advocate deputy health chief and is reportedly poised to tap his campaign tech advisor to head the Federal Communications Commission.
Pending the Senate's nod, William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, will become former Sen. Tom Daschle's No. 2 at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Corr, a health adviser on the Obama transition team, was Daschle’s chief counsel and policy director from 1998 to 2000, when the South Dakota Democrat served as Senate minority leader. Corr also served as chief of staff for Clinton administration HHS secretary Donna Shalala.
“Reforming our health care system will be a top priority of my administration and key to putting our economy back on track,” Obama said today in announcing the pick “Under the leadership of Tom Daschle and Bill Corr, I am confident that my Department of Health and Human Services will bring people together to reach consensus on how to move forward with health care reform.”
Dec 15, 2008
A vote that would have decided whether U.S. Internet users would get access to free, nationwide broadband service has been put off. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) canceled a meeting scheduled for Thursday at which regulators would have decided whether the agency would auction off a spectrum of unused airwaves for the purpose of building the massive network.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Waxman of California, both Democrats, wrote FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Friday, asking him to hold off on any FCC business unrelated to the February switch to digital TV, according to Reuters. They’re worried that the transition will cause problems for the 15 percent of U.S. households that don’t have digital tuners and use over-the-air antennae to receive broadcasts.
Dec 2, 2008 | 16
Free, broadband Internet service could become available across the country if the government okays a proposal to open up unused public airwaves to bidders.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote Dec. 18 on whether to auction off the so-called AWS-3 spectrum, an unused chunk of airwaves. The winner would have to agree to use at least 25 percent of the spectrum to build a free, national broadband network (one free of porn, too, for anyone except for "adults" who click online agreements claiming to be 18 or older), but could charge a fee for faster service on the remainder. The network would reach 95 percent of the U.S. population, especially those in rural areas where broadband is less accessible, according to FCC spokesperson Rob Kenny.
Nov 5, 2008 | 1
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday gave Google, Microsoft and a number of other tech companies what they wanted by granting free, unlicensed wireless devices access to chunks of unused airwaves on the broadcast spectrum known as "white spaces" (so-named because they provide a buffer between broadcast channels). Critics of the move fear that a flood of wireless devices, unregulated by the FCC, will interfere with TV programming.
The FCC, which voted unanimously 5-0 to open up white space access, said the move will allow "new and innovative" types of wireless devices—next-generation cell phones and computers, for example—to take advantage of faster broadband connections, the key to better managing streaming video and other large data files.
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