US Telecom Policy News: AT&T runs afoul of FCC


Telecoms and government institutions frequently find their paths crossing one another, as a bevy of networking issues often requires the oversight or intervention of a federal institution. This week saw many such instances, ranging from federal officials investigating complaints lodged against one of the nation’s largest telecoms to the U.S. government flexing its muscle on the use of Chinese equipment overseas.

TIA comments on FCC’s in-flight cellular use views
For years, air travelers have had to forgo making cellular calls while in flight. However, recent moves by the Federal Communications Commission may repeal the long-standing ban on in-flight cellular communications, resulting in a great deal of discussion from lawmakers and industry members alike. The Associated Press reported that the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee approved a bill to ban all in-flight cellphone calls. Members of the panel explained that such calls would irritate passengers and create a poor experience for travelers.

At least one organization is in favor of repealing such a ban, however. The Telecommunications Industry Association recently released a statement lauding the FCC’s decision to reconsider the regulation of in-flight cellular phone calls. According to TIA, such a move would allow passengers to take critical phone calls as well as check their voicemail while in the air.

Chinese telecom loses South Korean business amid US pressure
China’s Huawei Technologies’ recent plan to develop advanced wireless networks in South Korea has been rolled back, thanks in no small part to pressure from the United States. The Wall Street Journal reported that the South Korean government has decided to divert sensitive traffic and communication channels away from networks operating on Huawei-supplied equipment. U.S. officials reportedly lobbied South Korea to limit its use of Huawei resources due to the company’s purported ties with the Chinese military. According to the news outlet, concerns regarding the integrity of U.S. intelligence were heightened by the large presence of the American military on South Korean soil.

FCC receives complaint over AT&T overcharging
AT&T was recently on the receiving end of some rather serious complaints regarding how it charges customers for its services. According to The Inquirer, the complaint states that a loophole in the telecom’s data collecting “Hempishere” process has resulted in some users being overcharged when they use the GoPhone prepaid option. William Fogal, the individual who filed the grievance, said that because operators are purported to extend every call by several seconds to gather location data, GoPhone customers are being charged for time they never used.

Lawmakers pursue smartphone kill switch
The widespread use of mobile devices has given rise to concerns regarding their data security vulnerabilities. With more organizations implementing bring-your-own-device policies, the cyber-security flaws in their employees’ devices could great ample attack vectors for hackers. Lawmakers recently took steps to address these concerns by putting forth legislation that would require cellphone companies to include a “kill switch,” allowing users to disable their phones remotely. According to InformationWeek, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Blumenthal and Mazie Hirono introduced the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, hoping to provide a safety net for users whose phones become compromised. The proposed legislation has garnered its own reservations, as industry members warned that such tools could be misused.

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