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Telecom News & Information
December 2003
Cell phone firms making switching difficult Starting last month, the Federal Communications Commission ordered cellular carriers to let customers keep their phone number when they switch providers but critics say phone companies are using other tricks to deter millions more customers from switching.
FCC's Powell wants internet calls treated like e-mails Powell noted that while calls over the Internet might serve the same function as calls over conventional phone lines, the underlying technology is different enough that it would not make sense to subject them to "100 years of judgments" and regulations. "Let's get this thing right and define it as truer to its real nature," he said, referring to the new technology.
AT&T to add Internet phone service No. 1 long-distance carrier AT&T on Thursday announced plans to sell Internet phone service to consumers and to more businesses in 2004.
Cable firms wired about offering Net phone calls After years of promise, the stars are aligning to let cable companies overcome technical and cost hurdles that held back Internet telephony as a cheaper alternative to traditional phone networks.
Hard-line labor talk at SBC The contract for nearly 100,000 employees of the telecom behemoth, which acquired Pacific Bell in 1997, will expire on April 1. Union leaders are already talking about a strike if they don't get what they want -- and the company is taking them very seriously.
November 2003
Free phone over Internet a big hit Just 10 weeks after it was started, Skype has attracted nearly 2.6 million users.
AT&T Wireless introduces speedier data service AT&T Wireless is wading into the mobile Internet arms race with a national upgrade to its mobile data network that will enable laptop connections at twice the speed of dial-up access. AT&T Wireless boasted Tuesday that it now offers the fastest national data service.
FCC's Powell says consumers may encounter problems when switching cell phone companies Powell said he foresees no major trouble, but "hiccups" are likely.
Internet phone companies facing more scrutiny by U.S. and state agencies Internet telephone companies, whose businesses are unregulated, are drawing the attention of government officials now that the industry has gained a small foothold with consumers and may ultimately challenge the Baby Bells.
Coming soon to a cell phone near you: live TV Phone giant Sprint Corp. and a small Berkeley company today are introducing cell phone TV, a new service that brings wireless phone users live television broadcasts from networks like MSNBC, the California Music Channel and the Discovery Channel.
Home - cell number transfers OKd Federal regulators give the go-ahead for consumers to switch their home phone numbers to their cell phones.
FCC eyes regulating Internet phone calls The Federal Communications Commission is taking a look at how to regulate phone calls made over the Internet rather than the conventional handset.
AT&T faces $780,000 fine over telemarketing charge AT&T faces a $780,000 fine for reaching out and touching consumers who had asked to be left alone.
October 2003
Qwest pension fund surplus is gone Qwest's pension fund surplus - $4.1 billion as recently as year-end 2000 - has evaporated, sparking an investigation by the telco's retirees group and the threat of a possible lawsuit.
Qwest deregulation denied The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has denied Qwest's request to be allowed to increase or decrease basic local exchange rates in seven Idaho cities without commission approval. Qwest told the PUC that its business was being negatively impacted by cell phone providers. Qwest sought permission to deregulate basic phone service rates to better compete in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls.
AT&T overstated income by $125 million AT&T, which has been among the loudest in accusing rival MCI of fraud, said it overstated income by $125 million in 2001 and 2002. The long distance company also gave a gloomy outlook for the current quarter, citing soft consumer spending and tough price competition.
Radar system that uses cellphone towers to track every vehicle on the road The technology, called Celdar (from "cellular" + "radar") watches and interprets how signals from cell-phone base stations interact with objects such as cars, trucks or planes. Once the passive-radar cat is out of the bag, there's even a chance it could evolve into a means of tracking people on the street.
Cell phones double as wallets in South Korea In one of South Korea's latest efforts to establish itself as a technology trendsetter, the country's three telecom giants, major credit card companies and several banks have been working for a year to enable Koreans to pay for everything from groceries to gasoline by cell phone.
New cell phone number portability rule rattles industry Beginning November 24, 2003, the U.S. cell phone industry will lose the one thing that insulated it from true competition. In what could be the biggest event in the industry's 20-year history, a new rule will let consumers keep their cell phone numbers if they switch carriers.
Iraq: New Telecom Licenses Will Let Ordinary Citizens Call The Shots It's a nightmare trying to reach someone on the telephone in Iraq -- whether you're dialing a satellite phone, a mobile phone, or one of the country's fixed land lines. The procedure might take hours to succeed, if it ever does. But Iraqi authorities say the situation could soon change. Earlier this month, Iraqi Communications Minister Haidar al-Abbadi announced that three developers have been awarded contracts to set up mobile phone networks in Iraq within the next several weeks. "The companies that will bring Iraq world-class mobile communication are, in the northern region, the AsiaCell consortium; in the central region, Orascom; and in the southern region, AtheerTel. The race is on -- which of these three companies will be able to launch the first service to the public and therefore enable the minister of communications to make the first call on Iraq's first mobile network?" al-Abbadi said.
Telemarketer switches to junk mail The owner of a small direct-marketing company in Modesto says that he'll be forced to close by November 1st unless he can find some clever new way to do business.
Verizon unions ratify 5 year labor contract Two unions representing 78,000 Verizon Communications workers have ratified a five-year labor agreement.
Internet calls soon may not be so cheap In recent months, phone companies in Florida, Oregon and Washington have sued voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) carriers, saying they are cheating them out of fees. States are challenging VOIP, too. California last week became the largest to say VOIP providers should be treated like phone companies.
FCC was wrong, court decides The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the Federal Communications Commission erred in a decision this year to classify cable broadband as a less-regulated "information" service. The ruling, which the FCC will appeal, could force cable operators to open networks to independent ISPs much the way local phone companies must let ISPs resell phone-line-based DSL broadband using their networks.
Don't call him, he'll call you Petaluma's Brett Paley has been a telemarketer for the past 22 years. And he thinks a national do-not-call list run by the federal government is a big waste of time.
September 2003
MCI filing says rivals reroute wireless calls Embattled MCI has struck back at rivals that claim it fraudulently routed phone calls to avoid call-delivery fees. The No. 2 long-distance carrier says it's not fraud — and that its rivals do the same thing.
WorldCom Tells of Snarled Records WorldCom Inc.'s internal and external auditors testified in U.S. Bankruptcy Court today that the company's books remain a tangled mess and that it may be impossible to properly apportion close to $1 trillion in transactions between more than 200 subsidiaries.
New SBC service to link cellular service with landlines SBC Communications Inc.'s Cingular Wireless partnership will launch a new service today that lets cell phone users route their calls to their landline phones when they're at home or the office so they can avoid spending wireless minutes when they don't need to.
Consumers' phone complaints down Consumer phone bill complaints against MCI, formerly WorldCom, and six other large phone companies declined for the first six months of 2003 vs. the same period last year, according to data provided by the Federal Communications Commission.
Firm says it had to change MCI call data Texas-based DataVon, now in Chapter 11, acknowledges it changed call data on MCI calls, but not to disguise them so MCI could avoid call delivery fees — as MCI rivals allege.
New FCC ownership rules on hold A federal appeals court issued an emergency stay Wednesday delaying new Federal Communications Commission media ownership rules that would allow a single company to own newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same city.
Ebbers pleads not guilty Former WorldCom Chief Executive Bernie Ebbers pleaded innocent Wednesday to the first criminal charges brought against him in the long-distance company's $11 billion accounting scandal.
Business embraces instant messaging - with controls New software adds security, tracking
Phone firms hype cellular services - Carriers attempt to overcome slowing demand In an effort to juice up their sales, mobile-phone carriers are pitching a growing gaggle of new services to customers.
August 2003
Nokia targeting India with cheaper models Global telecom equipment and handset major Nokia is set to step on the pedal and increase its market share in India by launching two new entry-level phones targeted specially at the Indian market.
How long distance providers "game" the communications system "Over the past seven years, every major segment of the industry, new and old, has spent an immense amount of time scheming to game the complex process," the Texas Office of Public Utility Council and Consumers Union told the Federal Communications Commission in January. The FCC should "simplify and unify" the tangle to "take the fun and profit out of gaming the system."
Lack of phones wearing on Iraqis Bechtel says restoring service, helping locals a top priority.
Cell phone gadgets gaining popularity "Texting" makes inroads into U.S.
Mobile phone services to fight cancellations Mobile phone number portability neither cheap nor easy.
AT&T says MCI rerouted military calls Intensifying its claim that MCI has compromised national security, AT&T Corp. said Wednesday it had new evidence the carrier improperly routed calls placed by the U.S. military through Canada.
Qwest may pay $20 million to settle Arizona case Qwest Communications has agreed to pay $20 million in Arizona to settle allegations that the Denver telco made secret deals with competitors in exchange for support of its long distance bid. The agreement with the Arizona Corporation Commission staff, which still must be approved by the commissioners, would enable Qwest to restart its long distance proceedings there.
July 2003
GSA blocks MCI from new government contracts The General Services Administration suspended federal business with MCI after an investigation concluded the bankrupt telecommunications giant lacks necessary internal controls and ethics.
Senate to vote on restoring restrictions on media ownership Senate critics of sweeping media ownership changes approved by the Federal Communication Commission said Tuesday they have enough support to force a vote on rolling back the decision.
AT&T says MCI diverted government calls to Canada to avoid local access fees AT&T has accused long distance giant MCI of improperly diverting calls to Canada to avoid paying access fees to local telephone companies. AT&T said some of the calls originated in the State Department and other government agencies, suggesting in a court filing Monday that MCI placed national interests at risk because the calls could be unprotected from eavesdroppers.
In Memoriam: Jane Barbe Jane Barbe--whose voice was instantly recognizable to every telephone user who ever dialed a wrong number, called a number no longer in service or simply sought to find out the current time and temperature--died July 18 in Roswell, Ga., of complications from cancer. She was 74 years old.
Lawyer claims hotels breaking law by not making phone charges clear Hotels can charge guests astronomical rates for use of telephones. But are they breaking the law by not making those rates clear?
Telecom sector seems strong but unsteady Analysts seem more hopeful about wireless firms than regular phone companies.
Hotels' holdup: phone fees Everyone knows hotel telephones can be a rip-off. But how badly do guests really get fleeced, and how do hotels get away with this?
SBC adds satellite TV to lineup SBC Communications and EchoStar today announced a partnership to jointly market satellite television and telco services in an effort to challenge cable companies on their own turf. SBC plans to use the new programming resources to launch a “quadruple play” bundle in early 2004, offering customers in its 13-state territory multichannel programming, local and long-distance voice, wireless and broadband services.
House panel votes to undo new FCC rule The House Appropriations Committee, in a bipartisan 40-25 vote, passed a spending bill amendment that bars the FCC from enforcing its new rule allowing a broadcaster to own enough TV stations to reach 45% of the national audience.
Bad behavior develops with new camera phones Now that cell phones equipped with digital cameras have spread throughout Asia, many people are abusing the popular feature by snapping pictures secretly.
MCI lowers its revenue projections MCI, formerly WorldCom, cleared a hurdle Monday when a judge approved a record $750 million settlement resulting from its $11 billion accounting fraud, but new challenges face the Number 2 long distance player.
Qwest may end 'zone charge' Policy change might cut some bills by $5 to $20 a month.
June 2003
Cingular in talks to end probe California maintains it deceived customers Cingular Wireless quietly began settlement talks Tuesday with California state regulators to end their probe into whether Cingular misrepresented its coverage and then locked customers into long-term contracts, according to people familiar with the talks.
Cell phone portability clears another hurdle Cell phone customers soon will be able to keep their phone numbers when they switch carriers, an appellate court ruled, affirming a new Federal Communications Commission rule. The FCC rule is scheduled to go into effect November 24, unless it is delayed or killed through court or congressional action.
WorldCom directors' credibility doubted Former WorldCom directors should get the boot from other boards because their credibility has been so damaged amid the telecom giant's collapse, say corporate governance experts.
May 2003
Media merger opponents speak out as decision nears From Pearl Jam to the National Rifle Association, a diverse collection of groups is concerned that a looming government decision on media ownership rules could lead to a handful of giant companies controlling what people watch, hear and read.
FCC's junkets detailed Federal Communications Commission staff members and commissioners accepted more than 2,500 trips during the past eight years from private corporations, industry trade associations and other outside groups, according to a study released today by the Center for Public Integrity. Much of the $2.8 million tab was picked up by groups representing broadcasters and telecommunications companies, which the FCC regulates.
Sprint adding local phone service Sprint is moving to sell local phone service to its cellular and long distance customers. Sprint feels that the local plan could develop into an effort to get more people to drop landlines and go all wireless. That strategy, described by a Sprint executive Tuesday, acknowledges the grave threat that Internet-based communications and other technologies pose to traditional landline calling.
WorldCom agrees to $500 million penalty for accounting fraud WorldCom Inc. has agreed to pay half a billion dollars to settle accusations that it cooked its books, the largest fine ever levied by federal regulators, yet one criticized by some as a "slap on the wrist."
Verizon to try Wi-Fi in New York Verizon Internet subscribers to get free Wi-Fi service through 1,000 pay phones.
Clash over Qwest accounting restatement Former audit firm Arthur Andersen is disputing major portions of Qwest Communications' proposed $2.2 billion accounting statement.
Companies increase use of teleconferencing due to SARS Companies are being forced to make high-level decisions via phone, rather than in person, since many firms have banned employee travel to Asia.
April 2003
Cisco introducing wireless office phone systems The phones, which look like cell phones, route calls through each company's computer network and use the same transmission technology as wireless laptops.
Qualcomm poised to take off - if cell phone market does Qualcomm now controls the two standards - CDMA2000 and WCDMA - that are or will be behind just about every cellular system in the world. Qualcomm gets royalties for every CDMA phone sold and for CDMA-based equipment. Beyond that, Qualcomm makes the chips inside 90% of CDMA-based cell phones.
Wi-Fi could allow Iraq to leap into broadband When Iraq is rebuilt, an emerging wireless Internet technology may let it avoid the broadband woes that have plagued the USA for years.
WorldCom's post-Chapter 11 edge worries analysts "From a competitive perspective, WorldCom coming out of bankruptcy does have a lot of people afraid " says Gartner analyst Eric Paulak.
WorldCom unveils reorganization plan The reorganization plan proposes changing the company name to MCI as well as moving it's headquarters to Asburn, Virginia moves.
High-speed Net service via power lines in the works Power utilities are working on providing high-speed internet service via the power lines and the service could cost as little as $30 a month. This could bring broadband service to millions of rural residents who have no access to cable or DSL service.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. agrees to pay $6.6 billion to Hughes Electronics for DirecTV The deal would most likely be consummated early next year if approved by regulators.
Video conferencing moves to the battlefront in Iraq U.S. military commanders are utilizing portable satellite video conferencing systems to help keep in touch with their officers.
March 2003
Satellite phone business increases due to Iraq war Satellite phone carriers are reporting a surge in business as a result of the war in Iraq but the industry still faces serious financial troubles.
Broadband Net begins to fulfill promise The surge in broadband users is fueling an increase in online content offerings.
Earthlink bundles broadband with internet telephone calls Earthlink, the third largest ISP in the U.S., announced a deal with Vonage, an Internet telephone company, to provide nationwide telephone service to its users.
Duo try to do right by Qwest U.S. Attorney John Suthers, along with top assistant Bill Leone, have indicted four former managers of Qwest Communications and they have indicated that the probe is far from over.
SBC's Ed Whitacre shares his views SBC CEO Ed Whitacre spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about his views concerning job cuts, new FCC regulations and other issues facing his company.
SBC and Israeli firm get cozy SBC parlayed an original $17 million investment in Israel's Amdocs Ltd. in 1985 into an ownership stake worth more than $1 billion at its peak three years ago.
Verizon CEO raps FCC ruling Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg has vowed to go to court to challenge the ruling.
Internet search industry hot again Slew of deals involving online search engines shows the industry is receiving a serious reassessment.
February 2003
SBC shuffling workers to Israel-based firm Telecommunications giant SBC is quietly firing about 400 longtime workers and, as of Saturday, those same workers will be employed by Israel-based Amdocs, of which SBC has holds a 10% ownership share.
Lack of competition means more power to local phone companies In some states, local phone competition is going backward.
Use of mobile phones for surveilllance and crime fighting expected to grow Mobile phones could soon become important tools in disaster prevention and the fight against crime, industry experts are predicting.
Overture to buy Overture Services has agreed to buy from Norway-based Fast Search and Transfer (FAST) for $100 million.
SBC's 'Floyd' tech-support guy arouses suspicions of California regulators "Floyd," SBC's seemingly robotic online tech-support guy has drawn the attention of California regulators concerned about SBC's possible use of subcontractors outside the United States.
Possible ramifications of FCC phone rule changes Consumers, investors and telecom companies gave mixed reviews to decisions Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission that could boost competition in the local phone market but hurt it for high-speed Internet.
FCC votes to preserve local phone competition In a sweeping review of phone competition rules, federal regulators Thursday voted to preserve consumers' choices — and price competition — for local phone service, but took steps that might cut competition and raise prices for high-speed Internet service.
Qwest posts quarterly profit Qwest Communications on Wednesday posted a fourth-quarter profit of $2.7 billion due to one-time gains, but revenue fell on slack demand for telephone and data services.
Google buys Blogger Internet search leader Google has acquired Blogger, a startup that helped popularize online journals, giving a boost to the steadily spreading format known as Weblogs, or "blogs."
Overture to buy AltaVista for $140 million Advertising-driven search company Overture Services on Tuesday said it would buy AltaVista from CMGI for $140 million.
Is SBC using a machine for "live" online tech support? An SBC Yahoo customer suspects that the live online chat he recently had with an SBC technician named "Floyd" may have actually been with a machine.
SBC's interest in DirecTV draws bad reviews "Just because you have one of the strongest balance sheets in your industry, you needn't feel compelled to squander it on a pie-in-the-sky strategic move such as this one," wrote Carol Levenson, an analyst with Gimme Credit, an independent bond-research firm, in the report titled "Lost in Space."
Telecom firms battling over FCC vote concerning use of local phone lines Telephone companies on both sides of the debate are spending millions of dollars on nasty television commercials and full-page newspaper ads to influence the debate and ultimately the final draft of regulations that the FCC approves on the matter.
FCC media rules up for revision Big media companies could be poised for even more growth if the Federal Communications Commission relaxes rules limiting ownership of television and radio stations, newspapers and cable systems.
AT&T arbitration rules overturned AT&T can't require its 7 million California long distance customers to take disputes with the company to a private arbitration system that limits their rights and swears them to secrecy, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
DSL provider Covad expects to survive latest hurdle Covad attorney Jason Oxman says he's amazed how often pundits have warned Covad is on the verge of death. "I can't think of many companies that go through this like we do," said Oxman, the firm's assistant general counsel. "Each time, they've been wrong. We're still here."
Broadband over power lines being tested The same power lines that bring electricity to homes and offices may become the next pathway into homes for high-speed internet access. St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. and other utilities already are testing the technology, and many consider it increasingly viable.
Cell phone companies support Nevada bill Cellular telephone company representatives are backing a bill that would take away the right of Nevada cities and counties to regulate use of cell phones by motorists.
IRS audit of CEO, lawsuit add to the tumult at Sprint Management tumult at the telecommunications company Sprint reached a new level on Wednesday as the chief executive, William Esrey, acknowledged that he was the subject of an Internal Revenue Service audit, while the executive whom the company has chosen to succeed Esrey became the target of a second lawsuit meant to keep him from joining Sprint.
Sprint follows rivals, increases phone fees Sprint Corp. has quietly announced an array of long-distance rate hikes for customers starting March 1, following moves by both AT&T and MCI to boost prices last year.
January 2003
SBC says it owns rights to Internet navigation technique According to letters that SBC mailed last week, the company believes that any Web site with a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site may owe it royalties.
FCC chief scales back access rules - Network discounts for rivals in peril The nation's top communications regulator defended plans Tuesday to scale back rules giving AT&T, MCI and other telephone companies broad access to local Bell networks at steep discounts, saying recent court rulings have forced the agency to rewrite the regulations.
WorldCom CEO outlines turnaround strategy WorldCom Inc. plans to file its reorganization plan and emerge from bankruptcy court this spring, chairman and CEO Michael D. Capellas told employees. He also told workers in a broadcast to expect some employees dismissals over the internal investigations into the company's $9 billion accounting fraud.
Steve Case to step down Facing growing shareholder anger over the performance of AOL Time Warner's online unit and federal probes of its accounting, Chairman Steve Case said Sunday that he had become a "distraction" and will step down at the annual meeting in May.
Feds enlist hacker to foil piracy rings Federal prosecutors will tell a U.S. District Court in Tampa today of a plea deal with Steven Woida, a man they call one of the most skillful pirates of DirecTV and EchoStar signals. The deal includes his agreement to help them crack several international computer-chip hacking groups.
AT&T claims SBC's long distance rates below costs Just days after telling reporters SBC Communications' new long- distance offerings were underwhelming, AT&T complained to state regulators that some of the rival telephone company's rates are actually so low it's unfair.
Internet calling gaining ground "We expect a steady transition to Internet calling so that by 2010, nearly all calls will go over the Internet," said Tom Evslin, chief executive of ITXC, a company in Princeton, N.J., that is a leading carrier of Internet calls.
AT&T to take $1.5 billion in charges AT&T, the No. 1 U.S. long distance telephone company, said on Monday it will take $1.5 billion in charges as it cuts about 3,500 jobs, or about 5 percent of its work force, and writes down the value of some Latin American and high-speed Internet assets.
MCI, AT&T raising long distance rates - AGAIN! For the third time in as many months, MCI plans to boost long-distance telephone rates for some customers Feb. 1. And AT&T, the nation's largest carrier, raised some of its rates on New Year's Day. And on March 1, AT&T plans to raise its basic international rates by 8 percent to selected countries.
Student arrested in DirecTV piracy case The FBI on Thursday arrested a 19-year-old Los Angeles man and charged him with stealing and distributing documents that might have allowed consumers to pirate broadcasts from satellite-TV provider DirecTV Inc.
Vodafone blocks stolen phones in Australia Australian telco Vodafone announced it will block lost and stolen mobile phones from its network, a move which further hinders the market for stolen handsets.
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