OVERNIGHT TECH: Klobuchar calls on phone companies to ban 'cramming'

THE LEDE: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called on the national phone companies on Wednesday to join Verizon in banning third-party charges on consumers' landline phone bills.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) plans to introduce a bill in the coming days to ban the unwanted charges, a practice known as "cramming." 

"Consumers shouldn't have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of ghost charges they never authorized," Klobuchar said. "I am pleased that Verizon has agreed to ban these cramming practices, and now the rest of America's phone companies need to step up to the plate and do the same. I will continue to fight to make sure that consumers are protected from deceptive billing practices."

Klobuchar sent letters to AT&T and CenturyLink urging them to ban the practice.

An investigation by the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee last year found that phone companies had placed $10 billion in third-party charges on customers' landline phone bills over the last five years — and that a large percentage of those charges were unauthorized.

Some people unwittingly enrolled in services by submitting their phone number to companies online or by agreeing to services over the phone. Others never did anything to participate in the programs but were charged anyway.

House set to vote on FCC overhaul bill: House Republicans plan to move legislation next week that would slow the ability of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt new regulations. Supporters of the bill say it will increase transparency and accountability at the FCC, but Democratic critics claim it is really an attempt to hamstring the agency's efforts to protect consumers. 

The bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate; an aide on the Senate Commerce Committee said earlier this month the panel has no plans to take up the legislation.

Dish reacts to FCC vote: The FCC voted on Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to convert a block of airwaves from satellite use to cellphone use.

Much of the spectrum, which is in the 2 GHz band, belongs to satellite television provider Dish Network, which hopes to launch its own wireless carrier. It plans to use the spectrum for a next-generation 4G mobile broadband network.

Dish's statement: “DISH Network Corporation is pleased that the FCC launched today a proceeding to free up 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band for mobile broadband. The rules proposed today advance some of President Obama’s and the FCC’s highest priorities — namely freeing up additional spectrum for commercial use while introducing new mobile broadband competition.  DISH looks forward to working with the Commission on this critical NPRM, and we hope the process will move forward expeditiously so that more wireless innovation can be introduced to American consumers.


Lawmakers questioned a set of deals between Verizon and a group of cable companies at a hearing on Wednesday of the Senate Judiciary's subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

In its first step toward implementing spectrum auctions authorized by Congress, the FCC announced a task force on Wednesday to study the issue.

President Obama's reelection website drew more voting-age visitors in January 2012 than those of his four Republican challengers combined.