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7 smartphone rules changed this week

Mike Elgan | Feb. 3, 2015
The FCC and FTC have been on a roll lately, using their power to side with smartphone users. Here's what you need to know.

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.

If you're indoors, on the other hand, there are no rules for making the 911 system able to find you.

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.

Gogo says 2Ku will be available to airlines in the second half of this year.

6. The entertainment industry can't use emergency alerts in movie promotions anymore.
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. You don't have to jump through hoops to complain anymore.
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.

Here's the new site.

I don't know why the FCC is suddenly so pro-user. All these new rules are real improvements

Now we need three more things from the FCC.

First, we need the agency to approve true Net neutrality rules that classify data providers as common carriers. No more shell games and weasel wording from the industry.

Second, we need the FCC to allow phone carriers and other companies to block advertising robocalls as a service to users. There's a movement afoot by these companies to block robocalls. And we, the users, want the companies to block robocalls. But, of course, the companies that want to waste your time without wasting their own time want the FCC to interfere. We need the FCC to resist, and allow carriers to give their customers what they want.


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