The Tech News Blog

January 8, 2015

AT&T to Launch Shareable Rollover Data

AT&T Logo Building On the heels of a similar announcement from T-Mobile, AT&T today announced that it too will offer rollover data.

Starting Jan. 25, new and existing customers on an AT&T Mobile Share Value plan will see their unused data automatically roll over to next month.

"Rollover Data is an added benefit of being an AT&T Mobile Share Value customer and it's just another way that we're saying thanks to our more than 50 million plus Mobile Share Value subscribers," Glenn Lurie, President and CEO, AT&T Mobility, said in a statement. "We're providing even more value and flexibility, and the best part is it's simple, shareable and easy to track for our customers."

Everyone on a Mobile Share plan, regardless of which level, will get the rollover data perk, and this excess data can be used by anyone on the plan.

You can't just bank all your unused data for a rainy day, though. If you go into a new month with unused data, AT&T will first tap into your monthly allotment before draining your unused data. If you don't use your rollover data the next month, it goes away.

"As an example: If you have four lines and have a 15GB AT&T Mobile Share Value Plan and only use 10GB in a given month, you'll roll over 5GB and have a total of 20GB available to use within the next month," AT&T said. "If you were to only use 10GB in the second month, you'll again roll over 5GB and have a total of 20GB available the next month."

November 18, 2014

Share 15GB of AT&T Data for $100

AT&T Logo Building Starting today, AT&T Mobile Share Value customers can get 15GB of sharable data for $100.

Usually, the $100 plan includes 10GB of data, but with this limited-time offer, new and existing subscribers earn 5GB of extra data for the same price.

That's equivalent to streaming 160 hours of music and 30 hours of video, surfing the Web for 300 hours, sharing 1,000 social media posts (with photos), downloading 100 mobile apps, and sending and receiving 10,000 emails.

There is no word on when the promotion ends, so act fast. New users can visit to sign up, while existing customers can select the new plan via their myAT&T mobile app.

As added incentive, AT&T is throwing in unlimited international messaging (text, picture, and video) on all Mobile Share Value plans at no additional cost.

With an AT&T Mobile Share plan, you pick your data bucket (from 300MB to 50GB per month) and then pay a monthly access charge for each smartphone ($40 per month for those on a two-year contract). If you want to add other devices to your plan, that's an additional charge ($10 for tablets and $20 for laptops).

November 14, 2014

FCC to AT&T: What’s Up With the Gigabit Internet ‘Pause’?

Gigabit Internet

The FCC would like some answers on AT&T's plan to "pause" its rollout of gigabit Internet service.

AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said during a conference this week that there is too much uncertainty surrounding net neutrality regulations for AT&T to invest in the costly rollout of its U-verse with Gigapower service.

"We can't go out and just invest that kind of money [without] knowing under what rules that investment will be governed," he said.

Stephenson committed to wiring up 2 million households as required by the AT&T-DirecTV merger deal, but beyond that, all bets are off.

The FCC, however, would like a bit more information about AT&T's plans. Jamillia Ferris with the FCC's Office of General Counsel penned a Friday letter to Robert W. Quinn, Jr., AT&T's SVP of federal regulatory affairs, that requested specific details about AT&T's fiber rollout.

October 28, 2014

FTC Sues AT&T for Reducing Data Speeds on Unlimited Plans

AT&T Logo Building Note to mobile carriers: You better watch out how you use the word "unlimited." Because you might just find yourself in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission if the service you're offering isn't truly without limits, in terms of data.

Case in point—the FTC on Tuesday announced it is suing AT&T for misleading customers by charging them for "unlimited" data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that AT&T failed to adequately warn customers that unlimited data doesn't necessarily mean unlimited high speed data.

"AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "The issue here is simple: 'unlimited' means unlimited."

In a statement, AT&T called the allegations "baseless" and said it has been transparent about its throttling practices from the very beginning of the program, which started in 2011.

"We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented," the company said. AT&T added that the throttling program has only affected about 3 percent of its customers, and before any customer is affected, they are notified by text message.

"It's baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts," AT&T said.

Like many other carriers, AT&T slows—or throttles—data speeds after users reach a certain amount of data in a given billing cycle. The FTC complaint alleges that AT&T throttles speeds to the point that many common smartphone apps—like Web browsing, GPS navigation, and streaming video—become difficult or nearly impossible to use.

At the same time, AT&T's marketing materials emphasize the "unlimited" data which customers can get on its plans. Even when unlimited plan customers renew their contracts, AT&T failed to mention its throttling practices, the FTC claimed. And when customers cancel their contracts after being throttled, they are hit with early termination fees typically amounting to hundreds of dollars.

The agency estimated that AT&T has throttled at least 3.5 million customers a total of more than 25 million times since 2011. AT&T's throttling often results in speed reductions of 80 to 90 percent, or more.

This practice, naturally, doesn't sit well with consumers. Participants in AT&T focus groups "strongly objected" to AT&T's throttling practice and an investigation revealed that the company received thousands of complains about slow data speeds under the throttling program, the FTC said.

October 14, 2014

Going Abroad? AT&T Reveals New International Plans


Traveling out of the country, and don't want to rack up insane roaming charges? AT&T has a new solution.

The carrier on Monday morning launched AT&T Passport, its "best-ever value plan for international travel." AT&T is offering three different packages that can keep you connected while abroad for up to 30 days.

All plans offer unlimited text, picture, and video messaging, but you'll pay more or less depending on how much cellular data you think you'll need.

The cheapest AT&T Passport plan costs $30 and comes with 120MB of cellular data, with overages running 25 cents per MB, and calls priced at $1.00 a minute. Upgrade to the $60 Passport Plus plan and you'll get 300MB of data, with a 5-cent discount on overages (20 cents per MB), and calls for 50 cents a minute.

The priciest plan, dubbed Passport Pro, costs $120 and comes with 800MB of data, with overages at 15 cents per MB, and calls for 35 cents a minute. For a quick look at the plans, check out the chart below.

AT&T Passport

Unlike some other carrier's international plans, these are valid for just 30 days and expire automatically, meaning you won't have to remember to cancel once you're back home from your trip. To sign up, visit myAT&T or call 800-335-INTL (4685) to add a plan.

The new AT&T plans come after rival T-Mobile last year dropped international data and text roaming charges in more than 100 countries, allowing U.S. customers to update Facebook, check Google Maps, or send an email while traveling without incurring a massive roaming bill.

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October 8, 2014

AT&T to Pay $105 Million for Bogus Cell Phone Fees

AT&T Logo Building AT&T has agreed to pay $105 million for adding unauthorized cell phone charges to its customers bills, the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission announced today.

AT&T will pay $80 million to the FTC, which will be used for customer refunds; affected customers can go to to seek a refund. AT&T Mobility will also pay $20 million to state governments participating in the settlement, and will make a $5 million penalty payment to the U.S. Treasury.

At issue are bogus charges for monthly subscriptions to things like ringtones, wallpaper, and text messages with horoscopes, flirting tips, celebrity gossip, and more. Most of these charges were $9.99 per month, though in some cases they were as high as $60 per month.

In many cases, customers did not agree to these charges, which were hidden on phone bills, the FTC said. Meanwhile, AT&T colluded with these third-party services to make sure users did not get refunds since AT&T got a 35 percent cut of all sales.

"AT&T told these companies that it would 'help lower refunds' by only providing refunds up to two months worth of charges," Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC, said during a Wednesday press conference.

The move comes several months after the FTC filed suit against T-Mobile for failing to stop bogus charges on customers' bills, also known as cramming - charges T-Mobile denies. Will other carriers - like Sprint or Verizon - get also be hit with cramming charges? "Stay tuned," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said today.

Chairman Wheeler said the deal is the largest cramming settlement and largest FCC enforcement action in history. It is notable, he said, because it is co-signed by 51 state attorneys general.

"For too long, consumers have been charged on their phone bills for things they did not buy," Wheeler said today. "It's estimated that 20 million consumers per year are caught in this type of [cramming] trap, [but] it stops today for AT&T."

"Today, we reached a broad settlement to resolve claims that some of our wireless customers were billed for charges from third-parties that the customers did not authorize," AT&T said in a statement. "This settlement gives our customers who believe they were wrongfully billed for PSMS [Premium Short Messaging Services] services the ability to get a refund."

AT&T pointed to a pledge it made alongside Sprint and T-Mobile last year to stop charging for spam or "premium" texts.

"In the past, our wireless customers could purchase services like ringtones from other companies using Premium Short Messaging Services (PSMS) and we would put those charges on their bills," AT&T said. "While we had rigorous protections in place to guard consumers against unauthorized billing from these companies, last year we discontinued third-party billing for PSMS services."

When asked about that pledge today, Chairwoman Ramirez said that "the carriers agreed to stop the premium text messaging services as of January 2014," but today's settlement "applies to all forms of direct-carrier billing, so this continues to be an issue."

As part of the deal, AT&T committed to the FCC that it will obtain express consent from consumers about third-party billing going forward, and revise its billing practices so consumers can easily see what they are paying for, and offer the option on block all third-party services.

October 1, 2014

Sprint Fires Back at AT&T’s Double-the-Data Offer

Sprint Logo The wireless carrier wars are alive and well.

Sprint on Wednesday fired back at rival AT&T's new promotion, which offers double the amount of data on certain mobile share plans, with a promise to double that amount for its own Family Share Pack plans. The promotion is available to new and existing Sprint customers today through Oct. 31 — the same day AT&T's deal expires.

As part of the new offer, Sprint customers can get "virtually double" the sharable data for the same price as AT&T, the carrier said. AT&T's promotion, announced over the weekend, offers 30GB of shared data for $130, 40GB for $150, or 60GB for $225. For the same prices, you'll now get 60GB, 80GB, or 120GB of shared data on Sprint.

Once you sign up, you can keep the shared amount you chose at the promotional pricing until you switch data allowances or change plans, Sprint said.

"This is yet another example of Sprint standing behind its commitment to offer the best value in wireless," CEO Marcelo Claure said in a statement.

The company is also extending the offer to businesses. Starting Friday and through Oct. 31, business customers can get double the sharable data on Sprint Business Share Plans. This gives customers 80GB of data for $135, 120GB for $200, 160GB for $270, or 200GB for $330.

On top of that, Sprint is waiving its monthly access charge for customers who switch over their number from another carrier. These offers are available in Sprint stores, or if you're an existing customer, you can just dial *2 on your device to sign up.

September 25, 2014

DirecTV Shareholders OK AT&T Deal

AT&T Logo Building DirecTV stockholders today voted almost unanimously to approve the company's proposed merger with AT&T.

The final results indicated more than 99 percent of votes cast were in favor of the deal, which is still subject to government regulatory review and approval.

AT&T in May announced plans to acquire DirecTV in a deal worth $48.5 billion. The move, according to AT&T, will provide more customers with mobile, broadband, and pay-TV service bundles.

"This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens—mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in the spring.

The deal, if it passes muster with the Department of Justice and FCC, is expected to be complete in the first half of 2015.

Though each company is a heavyweight in its own division, neither has the equipment to provide the full package: DirecTV lacks broadband capabilities, and AT&T's limited U-Verse video service reaches fewer than 6 million customers.

But together, they can supply high-speed broadband and high-quality videos from a single carrier, fostering what AT&T said would be increased industry competition by offering consumers more choices.

One key aspect of the deal that appears to be unresolved is the acquisition rights to DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package, which provides subscribers with the full slate of National Football League games on their TV, tablet, and game console during the season.

"U.S. consumers will have access to a more competitive bundle; shareholders will benefit from the enhanced value of the combined company; and employees will have the advantage of being part of a stronger, more competitive company," DirecTV CEO Mike White said in May.

Together, AT&T and DirecTV will be "well positioned to meet the evolving video and broadband needs of the 21st century marketplace," he added.

September 23, 2014

AT&T Appeals to Cord Cutters With $40 HBO, Amazon Deal

AT&T Logo Building AT&T is looking to entice cord cutters with a new $40-per-month package, complete with high-speed Internet, HBO and HBO GO access, and a one-year subscription to Amazon Prime.

Following in the footsteps of Comcast, which launched a $40 broadband-plus-HBO deal last year, AT&T is throwing in a year of Amazon programming.

With broadband speeds up to 45Mbps, customers can catch up with Girls and binge-watch The Leftovers without a full cable subscription, and try out online-only fare like Amazon's Betas.

Just remember to read the fine print: The arrangement requires users to sign up for a full year of service, and includes taxes, equipment costs, and a $49 activation fee, among other charges.

Of course, the bundle is available only in areas where AT&T has launched U-verse; interested consumers can check their availability online.

September 13, 2014

DirecTV Sees Smooth Path to AT&T Merger

AT&T Logo Building DirecTV CEO Mike White told investors Friday that his company's acquisition by AT&T should be complete by April 2015, according to reports.

"We are optimistic that we will be able to get this deal closed in the first half of next year. My best guess right now is early April," White said during an investors conference, according to Reuters.

In May, AT&T announced its intention to acquire the satellite TV provider for $48.5 billion.

One key aspect of the deal that appears to still be unresolved for AT&T is the acquisition of rights to DirectTV's Sunday Ticket package, which subscribers can purchase to receive the full slate of National Football League games on their TVs, tablets, and game consoles during the NFL season.

"We have made good progress on the (NFL) deal," Reuters quoted White as saying. AT&T and the NFL are expected to reach a deal on Sunday Ticket by the end of 2014, according to the DirecTV chief.

As part of deal, AT&T said in May that if it is greenlighted by regulators, the carrier and Internet service provider would commit to expanding the reach of its high-speed broadband service to 15 million customers, largely those in rural areas, within four years.

"This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens–mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars, and even airplanes," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said when the deal was announced.

White said Friday that the merger would also "allow the combined company to explore opportunities in Latin America it would not have otherwise pursued," according to Reuters.

"I wouldn't look at acquiring wireless as a stand-alone company in Latin America just from a risk perspective. That is just not our core competency," White was quoted as saying. "But with AT&T and DirecTV together, I think we are going to have enormous opportunities."