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Lifeline expansion, AT&T outage … 5 things to know today

5 things to know today …

1. The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 to expand its Lifeline program, which subsidizes service for low-income households. Providers will continue to get $9.25 per household, but now Lifeline will support stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages.

The FCC spelled out three initiatives it said will promote robust broadband connectivity for all Americans. The agency stated Lifeline will support stand-alone mobile or fixed broadband Internet access service, as well as bundles including fixed or mobile voice and broadband; that it will phase in a requirement for mobile broadband over five years; and the agency will try to close the “homework gap” by promoting the offering of mobile devices with Wi-Fi and hot spot functionality.

Also this week, the FCC voted unanimously to reform its Universal Service program.

2. Thousands of AT&T customers in the Tampa, Florida, area were without cell service this morning, but the carrier was quick to bring the network back up as the workday began. AT&T told a Florida news service “a local service provider issue” was to blame and AT&T technicians “are coordinating with the local service provider to restore service as quickly as possible.” Tampa’s WTSP reported around 3,200 customers were impacted.

3. Research firm Gartner says the smartphone industry’s double-digit growth era is over.
The firm projects growth of 7% this year, with reduced demand in both North America and China. But growth is still positive, with expectations 2016 will be another record year for smartphone sales, with consumers and enterprises expected to purchase 1.5 billion new devices.

Slower smartphone market growth rates mean manufacturers cannot maintain their growth rates without taking market share from competitors. Apple has been working hard to convert Android users to iOS, even creating an Android app called Move to iOS.

4. Amazon.com may join automakers BMW, Audi and Mercedes as an investor in Here, the mapping service formerly owned by Nokia. The automakers last year bought Here for $2.8 billion, but may need help from a cloud services provider if they want to use it to power autonomous cars. Reuters is reporting Amazon might invest in Here as a way to lock in the automakers’ business.

Amazon is already investigating smart car technology in partnership with Ford, which is working to integrate Sync Connect and Amazon Echo to provide voice control access between the car and home. Ford wants to give drivers the ability to access connected home security systems, lights and garage doors from the car.

5. Verizon Wireless is reportedly set to introduce a $20 fee for customers who upgrade their devices. The change is set to take effect Monday, according to reports, and would impact iPhone users who want to upgrade to the new iPhone SE, as well as all other upgrades.

The $20 will reportedly be charged at the time of sale to retail customers, and added to the bills of those who buy their smartphones through indirect channels. A leaked document said Verizon Wireless is implementing the fee because its support costs are increasing as customers upgrade their devices.

Verizon Wireless relies on partners for smartphone distribution and logistics. Ingram Micro Mobility is the preferred handset distributor and services provider for four of Verizon Wireless’ largest national dealers. One of the biggest device distribution companies, Brightstar, is now owned by SoftBank, which also owns Sprint.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Martha DeGrassehttp://www.nbreports.com
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports (nbreports.com). At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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