Responding to an FCC letter, all four national wireless carriers defended their early termination fees (ETF) as a valid means of recouping at least a portion of the substantial cost of wireless devices that are provided at steep discounts. Although the FCC questioned Verizon’s ETF policy late last year in the wake of the company’s decision to double its ETF for “advanced devices,” the FCC again delivered a letter of inquiry to Verizon as well as to AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, and Google, after Google disclosed in January that it would slap a $350 “equipment recovery fee” on customers who terminate their service contracts with T-Mobile for the Google Nexus One phone. (T-Mobile also confirmed it would collect a separate ETF of $200 from Nexus One subscribers who terminate their contracts.) Emphasizing that it “offers consumers many choices for equipment and service plans, including whether or not to sign a term contract with an ETF,” Verizon told the FCC late last week that ETFs “benefit consumers by enabling them to obtain access to devices at a significantly lower up-front cost, while enabling Verizon Wireless to recoup the extraordinarily expensive investment required to support its wireless network and operations and the cost of providing the devices at a substantial discount.” Since responding to the FCC’s initial inquiry in December, Verizon added that it has reduced the number of devices that are subject to the $350 ETF and has alerted prospective customers by including the ETF on price cards displayed with each device. Asserting that Nexus One customers “always have the option of buying an unlocked device” for $529, Google replied that it has attempted to be “as transparent and straightforward as possible with consumers about the terms and conditions associated with purchasing a Nexus One, both with and without a T-Mobile service plan.” Noting that it charges an ETF of $175 for all the devices it sells, AT&T argued, “the meager (and steadily declining) number of complaints from wireless subscribers regarding ETFs indicates that the vast majority of consumers understand what ‘2 year commitment required’ means and make informed decisions when they enter into such a commitment.” While denying that it is “actively pursuing plans to have different ETFs for different devices,” Sprint Nextel—which charges an ETF of $200 for all subsidized handsets—told the FCC: “we will continue to evaluate the market.”