We've detected that you're using an ad content blocking browser plug-in or feature. Ads provide a critical source of revenue to the continued operation of Silicon Investor. We ask that you disable ad blocking while on Silicon
Investor in the best interests of our community. If you are not using an ad blocker but are still receiving this message, make sure your browser's tracking protection is set to the 'standard' level.
Wash. Post -- govt. program to cut bill. Verizon using it to force a new data plan .................................
May 17, 2021
The government has a program to cut your Internet bill. Verizon is using it to force you onto a new data plan.
Help Desk: Readers tell our tech columnist about shenanigans signing up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which is supposed to knock $50 off monthly bills
By Geoffrey A. Fowler Technology columnist
The government has a new program to help Americans pay their Internet bills. Unfortunately, companies like Verizon are twisting it into an opportunity for an upsell.
Last week, I wrote about the arrival of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, or EBB, the largest federal program ever to help people afford Internet access. The EBB can cut $50 off monthly Internet bills and is available to tens of millions of Americans hit economically by the coronavirus pandemic. There’s $3.2 billion up for grabs, until the program ends when money runs out in the months ahead.
All Internet service provider participation in the program is voluntary, and each ISP gets to write some of its own rules for how to hand out the money. Soon after the EBB launched, I started hearing from Washington Post readers about their frustrations signing up with certain ISPs.
None of this should stop eligible Americans from trying to claim their broadband benefits read this piece for my advice but it’s important to call out some of the shenanigans.
Verizon elicited the most ire from readers. It requires customers to call a phone line to register for the EBB, rather than just signing up online. And when you do, Verizon tells some customers the EBB can’t be used on “old” data plans, so they’ll have to switch. That might be allowed by the letter of the law but certainly isn’t the spirit of the program.
Reader Eric from Hopedale, Mass., who asked to be identified only by his first name, was told his current no-contract Internet service, which costs $62 per month, would need to become part of a new Verizon Fios plan. That would run him $79 per month.
Yes, Eric would save money in the short term thanks to the $50 government discount, but when the EBB program runs out, he’ll have to pay more each month. “I’m sure the whole point of Fios doing this is to get more people to sign up for either their TV or mobile services,” he said in an email.
Annie Styles from Arlington, Va., who pays $79 per month for her Internet, says Verizon told her she would have to switch to a plan that would cost her closer to $95. “I stopped pursuing it with them after the math didn’t work out,” she says.
Sharon from Harrisburg, Pa., who asked to be identified only by her first name, said she was told by two customer service representatives that she could receive the EBB discount only if she increased her current Internet speed and reconfigured her TV package, too. She said the ultimate price would have depended on what video package she was forced to switch to, as well as new equipment with fees but she dropped her EBB application out of frustration before she got that far.
When the EBB ends, she estimates, her overall monthly Internet and TV bill would be at least $50 higher. “In my case, it seems like EBB only benefits Verizon,” she said.
Verizon spokesman Alex Lawson said the company makes it clear on its site that the EBB can be used on only “qualifying plans.” And those include only its newer Mix & Match plans.
Mix & Match lets customers drop services like home phone that used to be bundled into Verizon’s packages, and Lawson says Verizon has found it saves customers money compared with its older bundles.
“There’s really no story here. We’re on the side of the customer and want to ensure they pay for what they need, and not for what they don’t,” Lawson said.
But Verizon’s new deals don’t mean everyone will save money. Eric said he got his $62-per-month contract for Gigabit Internet as a sign-up special. If he changes his plan at all, he loses the deal.
And unfortunately, Verizon isn’t the only ISP saying it won’t support older plans. AT&T, which also makes customers call to activate the EBB for home Internet, says existing customers will have to select from one of a handful of options, and the plan they select will become their plan after the EBB program ends. Charter says that “an extremely small percentage of customers” who have legacy Internet plans will have to switch to a Spectrum Internet plan as part of enrolling in the EBB.
One refreshing standout was Comcast, the nation’s largest ISP. “If a customer is on an old plan that’s not offered anymore, they are still eligible as long as they meet the qualification criteria for EBB,” spokesman Joel Shadle said.
WSJ -- AT&T, Verizon to Delay 5G Rollout Over FAA’s Airplane Safety Concerns ........................
Nov. 4, 2021 5:50 pm ET
AT&T, Verizon to Delay 5G Rollout Over FAA’s Airplane Safety Concerns
Wireless carriers postpone planned Dec. 5 launch of new spectrum to address concerns about potential interference with cockpit safety systems
By Andrew Tangel and Drew FitzGerald
AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to delay their planned Dec. 5 rollout of a new 5G frequency band so they can work with the Federal Aviation Administration to address concerns about potential interference with key cockpit safety systems.
The cellphone carriers said Thursday they would delay their planned 5G deployments until Jan. 5, responding to the aviation regulator’s warnings while disputing claims that the proposed cellular signals would represent a danger.
The FAA, a unit of the U.S. Transportation Department, had been planning to issue official mandates as soon as this week that would limit pilots’ use of certain automated cockpit systems, such as those that help planes land in poor weather, according to government and industry officials familiar with the planned orders. Those limits would aim to avoid potential interference from wireless towers on the ground transmitting new 5G signals.
Such limits for pilots could disrupt passenger and cargo flights in the 46 metropolitan areas where the towers are located, aviation industry officials have said.
Telecom industry officials have disputed the need for more safeguards, saying that available evidence doesn’t show that the proposed 5G signals will interfere with flight equipment. Cellphone carriers in some other countries already use the wireless frequencies in question.
The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees telecom regulations, issued a statement with the FAA later Thursday confirming the voluntary pause. “Aviation safety and technology leadership are national priorities, and with today’s announcement these companies have demonstrated their commitment to both,” the federal agencies said, naming both carriers. The agencies said they would continue working closely together to ensure the U.S. keeps pace with the rest of the world regarding the latest communications technologies, without undue delay.
Verizon, the country’s largest wireless company by subscribers, said it postponed its rollout “in the spirit of good faith” but remained on track to bring 5G services over the frequency range in question, known as C-band, to 100 million Americans in early 2022.
“We appreciate the FCC’s work in its discussions with the FAA and others to ensure a data-driven analysis that will again demonstrate that 5G operations in this band pose no risk to flight safety,” a Verizon spokesman said in a statement.
AT&T said it would continue to work with the FCC and the FAA to understand the FAA’s concerns. “It is critical that these discussions be informed by the science and the data,” AT&T said. “That is the only path to enabling experts and engineers to assess whether any legitimate coexistence issues exist.”
Shares of Verizon fell 2.1% and AT&T declined 1.5% Thursday while broader U.S. stock indexes were mixed.
C-band spectrum covers a swath of radio frequencies measured between 3.7 and 4.2 gigahertz. The spectrum is considered highly suitable for 5G networks and already serves cellphones in other countries. The technology, short for fifth-generation wireless, offers internet speeds much faster than today’s 4G service.
AT&T and Verizon spent tens of billions of dollars to buy the licenses for the 5G-friendly airwaves, with billions more reserved to compensate the band’s previous satellite users and install new equipment. The two carriers and rival T-Mobile US Inc. also won licenses for C-band spectrum that would be activated in late 2023. Only a portion of the band was scheduled for cellular use in December.
The gradual pace of 5G infrastructure upgrades means AT&T and Verizon’s one-month delay isn’t likely to significantly alter their bottom lines, according to industry executives. But a longer pause could pressure the carriers. Verizon, which recently said more than a quarter of its users had upgraded to a 5G-capable smartphone, is counting on C-band frequencies to address the mounting demands from its customers’ appetite for app downloads, games and streaming video.
“A month doesn’t make that much of a difference,” said Harold Feld, a telecom industry specialist at Public Knowledge, a Washington-based tech advocacy group. “What makes a difference is when it starts to look indefinite. Then you get to a situation where a whole investment cycle gets blown up.”
Aviation industry groups have been warning federal officials about what they believe are potential safety implications from the new 5G service and potential economic fallout, according to people familiar with the matter.
A presentation by a coalition of aviation groups to White House officials was expected this week to warn that the potential FAA restrictions could result in airports or even regions being shut down as passengers and shippers experience flight cancellations, delays and diversions, according to a draft of the presentation seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The FAA had been expected to issue official mandates, known as airworthiness directives, that would restrict flights in U.S. airspace that require gauges known as radio altimeters that measure the distance between aircraft and the ground, according to a recent draft of a directive viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The FAA and FCC have been tussling over the issue for months, though the plan to use the spectrum for cellular networks goes back several years. The FAA has sought specific data about 5G towers’ locations, power and angles to determine whether they could interfere with planes’ glide paths on final approach.
“At this time, the FAA has no way of determining which airports or areas within the U.S. have or will have 5G base stations or other devices that could provide interference with airplane systems,” according to the FAA directive draft. The draft added that such interference “could lead to loss of continued safe flight and landing.”
Earlier this week the FAA issued a special bulletin to pilots, airlines and aerospace manufacturers warning of the potential for 5G interference.
The FCC set its rules for use of the spectrum in early 2020 after reviewing the potential impact on aviation, creating a “guard band” as a buffer between the two uses. Some airplane equipment operates in nearby frequencies, between 4.2 and 4.4 GHz.
The FCC reviewed various industry studies about the safety risks and said in its March 2020 order that “well-designed equipment should not ordinarily receive any significant interference (let alone harmful interference).” The commission later issued new licenses that allowed wireless companies to start operating in parts of the C-band on Dec. 5 of this year, in addition to other frequencies already in use for 5G.
Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at email@example.com
AT&T, Verizon CEOs reject U.S. request for 5G deployment delay...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chief executives of AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) rejected a request to delay the planned Jan. 5 introduction of new 5G wireless service over aviation safety concerns but offered to temporarily adopt new safeguards.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg late Friday for a commercial deployment delay of no more than two weeks.
The wireless companies in a joint letter on Sunday said they would not deploy 5G around airports for six months but rejected any broader limitation on using C-Band spectrum. They said the Transportation Department proposal would be "an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks."
The aviation industry and FAA have raised concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
The exclusion zone AT&T and Verizon propose is currently in use in France, the carriers said, "with slight adaption" reflecting "modest technical differences in how C-band is being deployed."
"The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France," the CEOs wrote. "If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States."
The FAA said in a statement on Sunday that it was "reviewing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to mitigate interference from 5G C-band transmissions. U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions."
FAA officials said France uses spectrum for 5G that sits further away from spectrum used for radio altimeters and uses lower power levels for 5G than those authorized in the United States.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, on Sunday said pilots, airlines, manufacturers and others "have NO incentive to delay 5G, other than SAFETY. What do they think … we’re raising these issues over the holidays for, kicks?"
Officials said the exclusion zones proposed by the wireless carriers is not as large as what has been sought by the FAA.
The FAA and Buttigieg on Friday proposed identifying priority airports "where a buffer zone would permit aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the interference potential."
The government would work to identify "mitigations for all priority airports" to enable most "large commercial aircraft to operate safely in all conditions."
The wireless carriers, which won the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion government auction, previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months to limit interference.
Trade group Airlines for America, representing American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL), FedEx Corp (NYSE: FDX) and other carriers, on Thursday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt the deployment around many airports, warning that thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.
The airline group has said it may go to court on Monday if the FCC does not act.
Former FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly praised the wireless carriers for moving ahead.
"We can have safe wireless and safe flights. Reasoned people should accept US wireless industry not have more C-Band limitations than France," he said on Sunday.
Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and spectrum is being used in about 40 other countries....