Mobile Device FCC regulations for 2015 help the user
1. Carriers can’t throttle ‘unlimited” data plans
The FTC made it clear this week in a statement that it will now consider throttling of “unlimited” plans a clear-cut case of false advertising. Both throttled plans and unlimited plans will still be legal. But they can no longer be the same plans.
2. Carriers can’t sell you slow data connectivity as ‘broadband’
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday unceremoniously redefined what “broadband” means. The previous definition of “broadband” was a meager 4Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads. That standard was set four years ago.
The new minimums are 25Mbps for downloads and upload speeds of at least of 3Mbps.
As with cases that involve throttling of “unlimited” plans, this is a marketing matter. Providers can sell connectivity at any speed they want, but they can’t advertise it as “broadband” unless it meets the new criteria.
The fact even that 25Mbps is legally considered “broadband” hints at the pathetically low standards that data providers are held to in the U.S. Still, it’s a lot better than nothing.
3. Hotels can’t block your personal Wi-Fi hotspots
Long story short: Some hotels and other businesses, and most famously Marriott hotels, wanted to force hotel guests to pay up for a separate Wi-Fi connection for every device used in the hotel.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler both said in no uncertain terms that such blocking should not be allowed. Further, Rosenworcel said that even more unlicensed spectrum should be opened up for personal use.
4. You don’t have to die needlessly because emergency personnel can’t locate you indoors.
When you’re in a crisis situation — one that involves, say, a medical emergency or criminal activity — a 911 call enables first responders to use your smartphone’s GPS to find out where you are with some degree of accuracy — as long as you’re outside. They do this through your carrier, and it’s information that carriers are required to provide.
This week, the FCC approved new rules that require carriers to, within two years, start using technology that’s able to provide the location of a 911 caller within 50 meters in at least 40% of cases.
5. You don’t have to tolerate slow airplane Wi-Fi anymore.
Gogo, which provides Wi-Fi service on airplanes, recently got approval from the FCC for a new service called 2Ku to be installed on 1,000 aircraft. The new service is satellite-based and several times faster than most airplane Wi-Fi systems — up to 70Mbps.
6. The entertainment industry can’t use emergency alerts in movie promotions
The FCC recently fined Viacom and ESPN $1.4 million for using official emergency alert tones in a promotion for a movie called Olympus Has Fallen. The warning sound was part of the movie, but people who heard it might have thought there was a real emergency.
In levying the fine, the FCC made it clear that, well, you just can’t do that.
7. It now is easier to file a complaint
The FCC this month launched a new website where consumers can complain about their cable, broadband and wireless service providers.
The new site replaces an old one that was plagued with antiquated design that made filing a complaint difficult.