• On July 29, 2011, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (WVPSC) voted to approve the AT&T/T-Mobile merger without any conditions. “It is reasonable to consent to the transfer of control the Petitioners proposed because the terms of the merger are reasonable, do not adversely affect the public and no party is given an undue advantage,” the order states. The WVPSC rejected Staff’s one condition, reported in the August 1 edition of This Week in Telecom, that T-Mobile customers be given a 90-day period to change carriers without incurring a termination fee. To read the WVPSC Order, click here.
  • The FCC has reached agreements with Industry Canada and the Mexico Secretariat of Communications and Transportation for sharing commercial wireless broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band along the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders. The aim of the agreements is to facilitate the deployment of mobile wireless broadband systems near those borders and to provide consumers in surrounding areas with advanced opportunities for 4G high-speed mobile broadband access. The FCC and Industry Canada also have entered into an arrangement for sharing spectrum in the 800 MHz band to allow for rebanding by U.S. public safety and commercial licensees operating along the U.S.-Canadian border. Such rebranding was ordered by the FCC to alleviate interference with public safety licensees by commercial cellular licensees. “These arrangements will unleash investment and benefit consumers near the borders by enabling the rollout of 4G wireless broadband service and advanced systems for critical public safety and emergency response communications,” Chairman Julius Genachowski stated after signing the documents.
  • Beginning October 1, 2011, AT&T smartphone customers with unlimited data plans who are in the top 5 percent of heaviest data users will be subject to throttling in way similar to Verizon’s throttling plan implemented earlier this year. According to the AT&T press release dated July 29, 2011, “…smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users. These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle. Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.” In response to the announcement, Harold Feld of Public Knowledge stated, “AT&T’s announcement that it will throttle the wireless service of so-called ‘heaviest users’ of its wireless service is simply the latest example of Internet rationing, an anti-consumer, bait-and-switch tactic being used by Internet service providers. No one knows the effect of data usage on networks, what triggers the throttling or even why, what the costs are to the network or even how it is determined that rationing schemes are to be imposed on consumers. It is all one big black box. What we do know, however, is that we reject AT&T’s assertion that only the takeover of T-Mobile will solve its spectrum issues. The $39 billion AT&T will spend for T-Mobile would go a long way to helping improve its network. We call again on the FCC to look into these tactics, which are a means for Internet service providers to charge more for less.”
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced the availability of draft guidelines for “Mobile Medical Applications”. Due to the increasing use and expansive applicability of mobile applications, the FDA has issued the draft guidance to “clarify the types of mobile apps to which FDA intends to apply” its regulatory requirements. Consumers and interested parties may submit comments on the draft through October 19, 2011. The draft guidelines are available here. Filing instructions are provided in the document.