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FCC Chair Calls T-Mobile Network Outage ‘Unacceptable’, Vows Probe

(Reuters) – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will probe an extensive T-Mobile network outage that impacted customers across the United States, the head of the U.S. telecommunications regulatory agency said on Monday.

“The T-Mobile network outage is unacceptable. The @FCC is launching an investigation. We’re demanding answers – and so are American consumers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said on Twitter.

Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile, said on Twitter Monday that engineers were working to resolve a voice and data issue that has affected customers around the country.

He said later that data services were now available and some calls were completing. “Alternate services like WhatsApp, Signal, iMessage, Facetime etc. are available,” he added.

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert addressed the outage on a network status page on the company’s website late last evening:

Starting just after 12 pm ET and continuing throughout the day, T-Mobile has been experiencing a voice and text issue that has intermittently impacted customers in markets across the U.S. We are recovering from this now but it may still take several more hours before customer calling and texting is fully recovered. Neville Ray has shared updates throughout the day but I wanted to share the latest on what we know and what we’re doing to address it. This is an IP traffic related issue that has created significant capacity issues in the network core throughout the day. Data services have been working throughout the day and customers have been using services like FaceTime, iMessage, Google Meet, Google Duo, Zoom, Skype and others to connect.

I can assure you that we have hundreds of our engineers and vendor partner staff working to resolve this issue and our team will be working through the night as needed to get the network fully operational. 

Pai

Early this morning, Sievert provided this update: “These issues are now resolved. We again apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”

T-Mobile had 86 million customers at the end of 2019. T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the outage.

In 2018, Pai backed the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint Corp saying it would lead to improved 5G coverage in the United States and would bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans.

T-Mobile on April 1 officially completed its $23 billion merger with Sprint, solidifying its position as the No.3 wireless providers in the United States.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Stephen Coates

Sprint Admits Its Network Not Fit for Purpose, Struggles to Keep Up With Competitors

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Executives from Sprint Corp testified on Monday that the U.S. wireless carrier has struggled to improve its network, hindering its growth and underscoring the need to merge with larger rival T-Mobile US Inc.

U.S. state attorneys general, led by New York and California, are suing to stop the merger.

The states seek to prove in Manhattan federal court that the deal between the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers would raise prices, particularly for users on prepaid plans. The state attorneys general, all Democrats, asked Judge Victor Marrero to order the companies to abandon the deal.

Sprint Chief Marketing Officer Roger Solé testified that the company’s strategy for enticing customers from competitors included slashing prices.

But he said the promotion’s “early success faded away pretty soon” due to customers having a negative experience with Sprint’s network quality.

In an effort to show how competition lowered prices, the states presented evidence that when Sprint introduced an aggressive promotion in 2016 to offer phone plans comparable to those of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, T-Mobile’s MetroPCS prepaid brand immediately lowered prices on its plans.

The evidence is central to the states’ argument that Sprint and T-Mobile as standalone companies force competition between carriers, providing the best deal for consumers.

Solé

Solé

Lawyers for the states also presented evidence suggesting Sprint wanted a deal so more money could be earned from each customer.

In WhatsApp messages from 2017 between Solé and Marcelo Claure, who was then CEO of Sprint, Solé suggested a merger with T-Mobile could raise Sprint’s average revenue per user by $5.

In his deposition before the trial, Solé said he was simply offering a thought that price increases could happen “very far down the road.”

The companies argue that the stronger T-Mobile that would result from the proposed $26.5 billion takeover would be better able to innovate and compete to reduce wireless prices. The case represents a break with the usual process of states coordinating with the federal government in reviewing mergers and generally coming to a joint conclusion.

The deal had been contemplated in 2014 during the Obama administration, but the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission urged the companies to drop it, which they did.

The Trump administration signed off on it after the companies agreed to sell Sprint’s prepaid businesses, popular with people with poor credit, to satellite television company Dish Network Corp.

But setting up DISH as a wireless carrier is “patently insufficient to mitigate the merger’s competitive harm,” the states argued in a court filing.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges, whose company is the largest shareholder of T-Mobile, will testify on Tuesday.

Reporting by Diane Bartz and Sheila Dang; Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler

Disney+ Launch Marred by Glitches as Demand Overwhelms

Phillip Dampier November 12, 2019 Consumer News, Disney+, Online Video, Reuters No Comments

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co said demand for its much-anticipated streaming service, Disney+, was well above its expectations in a launch on Tuesday marred by complaints from users about glitches and connection problems.

Disney+ is relying on its extensive library of movies and TV shows as well as a new slate of content to take on market leader Netflix Inc and Apple TV+, Apple Inc’s newly launched streaming service.

Disney shares were up about 2%, while Netflix was down 1%.

“The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our highest expectations. …we are aware of the current user issues and are working to swiftly resolve them,” Disney said in a statement.

Some users who tried to access the service were greeted by an image of “Mickey Mouse” on a blue screen, with a message asking them to exit the app and try again. Many others had trouble finding the Disney+ app in Apple’s App Store.

It was not immediately clear how many users were affected by the outage.

“Not too surprised but @disneyplus looks like it’s already falling over. On FireTV Stick can’t load main page (Unable to connect to Disney+) and couldn’t play The Mandalorian (some account issue),” user @pmhesse here tweeted.

“The Mandalorian,” the latest in the “Star Wars” movie and TV franchise, is an eight-episode live-action series which stars “Game of Thrones” actor Pedro Pascal as a helmeted bounty hunter.

“While it’s easy to focus on the temporary problems, there’s no doubt that this also shows an enormous demand for Disney’s services,” said Clement Thibault, an analyst at financial markets platform Investing.com.

“Big launches often have their hiccups when consumers are fighting to be the first to have a given service.”

Users who accessed Disney+ were upbeat about content from the Marvel superhero universe, the “Star Wars” galaxy, “Toy Story” creator Pixar Animation and the National Geographic.

“Today is the perfect day to just stay home all day on my couch in my PJ’s binging all of my favorite Disney movies on #DisneyPlus,” tweeted @JulieDwoskin.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur

Trump Administration Can’t Stop States From Enacting Net Neutrality Protection, Court Rules

Phillip Dampier October 1, 2019 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't, Reuters 3 Comments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday rejected the decision of the Federal Communications Commission to declare that states cannot pass their own net neutrality laws and ordered the agency to review some key aspects of its 2017 repeal of rules set by the Obama administration.

The court, which upheld most of the FCC’s December 2017 order, said the agency “failed to examine the implications of its decisions for public safety” and must also review how its decision will impact a government subsidy program for low-income users.

The decision means the more than 10-year-old debate over net neutrality will continue to drag on for months or more likely years. The ruling is a setback to the Trump administration’s efforts to reverse rules adopted under former President Barack Obama in 2015 which barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the decision affirmed the FCC’s “decision to repeal 1930s utility-style regulation of the internet. A free and open internet is what we have today. A free and open internet is what we’ll continue to have going forward.”

Pai added that the FCC would address “the narrow issues that the court identified.”

Championed by large tech companies and consumer groups, net neutrality was formally adopted by the FCC in 2015. Major telecommunications companies argued it limited their ability to offer new services to content providers, and under the Trump administration, the FCC overturned the policy.

California passed sweeping state net neutrality protections but agreed not to enforce the measure pending the court challenge.

The court threw out the part of the order that barred all states from setting net neutrality rules and argued that states were preempted by federal law.

“The commission lacked the legal authority to categorically abolish all 50 states statutorily conferred authority to regulate intrastate communications,” the court said.

The FCC could still make “provision-specific arguments” to seek to block individual aspects of state net neutrality rules.

Judge Stephen Williams wrote in his dissenting opinion that “On my colleagues’ view, state policy trumps federal; or, more precisely, the most draconian state policy trumps all else.”

The Trump administration rules were a win for internet providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc but opposed by companies such as Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Shumaker

U.S. Federal Appeals Court Deals Setback to FCC Push to Deregulate Media Ownership Rules

Phillip Dampier September 24, 2019 Competition, Public Policy & Gov't, Reuters No Comments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Communications Commission suffered a setback on Monday in a long-running legal battle when a federal appeals court struck down its latest effort to loosen U.S. media ownership rules.

The Republican-led FCC in 2017 voted to eliminate the 42-year-old ban on cross-ownership of a newspaper and TV station in a major market. It also voted to make it easier for media companies to buy additional TV stations in the same market, and for local stations to jointly sell advertising time and for companies to buy additional radio stations in some markets.

The court in a 2-1 decision Monday told the FCC to take up the issue again, saying the regulator “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that despite instructions from Congress to review media ownership regulations a majority of federal appeals court judges for 15 years “has taken that authority for themselves, blocking any attempt to modernize these regulations to match the obvious realities of the modern media marketplace.”

Pai added that “there is no evidence or reasoning — newspapers going out of business, broadcast radio struggling, broadcast TV facing stiffer competition than ever — that will persuade them to change their minds.”

The FCC plans to challenge the decision, he added.

Pai

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said “over my objection, the FCC has been busy dismantling the values embedded in its ownership policies.” She said the “court rightly sent the FCC’s handiwork back to the agency because the FCC’s analysis was so ‘insubstantial.’”

Judge Anthony Scirica, who dissented from the opinion, said “Rapid technological change had left the framework regulating media ownership ill-suited to the marketplace’s needs. The public interest analysis at the heart of the FCC’s ownership rules is as dynamic as the media landscape.”

Big media companies including Tegna Inc, CBS Corp and Nexstar Media Group Inc cited the 2017 rule change as motivation for considering expansion opportunities.

The FCC is weighing other changes to U.S. media ownership rules. In December, it sought comments on a rule that bars one company from owning two TV stations in the same market except under certain circumstances. The FCC asked if those rules continue “to serve the public interest and remains necessary.”

The FCC is also considering if existing rules that limit the number of local radio stations in a single market should be rescinded, asking if the rule “remains necessary to promote competition, localism, or viewpoint diversity.”

Free Press, an advocacy, group, said the ruling “marks the fourth time this court has rejected the relentless attempts from the FCC and the broadcast industry to weaken media-ownership limits.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown

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