TIME Wireless

Can Wi-Fi Replace Your Cell Phone Plan?

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Cablevision is building a cell phone service that relies entirely on Wi-Fi

The wireless industry has seen its fair share of changes over the last two years, many sparked by T-Mobile’s disruptive “uncarrier” policies that have been since co-opted by its rivals. But there could be even bigger shakeups coming in the year ahead.

New York-based cable and Internet operator Cablevision is preparing to launch a new cell phone service that relies exclusively on Wi-Fi, the New York Times reports. That would differentiate it from traditional mobile carriers, which use networks of cell towers to let users make calls, send text messages and surf the web. Google is also reportedly prepping a wireless service that may make extensive use of Wi-Fi.

A switch from cellular to Wi-Fi networks could have a huge impact on both the cost and quality of wireless service in the future. Here’s a quick look at what Wi-Fi-based carriers could mean for your cell phone plan:

How is a Wi-Fi plan different from a regular cellular plan?

Historically, cell phones have delivered phone calls, text messages and Internet data using cell towers owned and operated by wireless carriers like Verizon or AT&T. This system has created extremely widespread networks that let people make calls and access the web from almost anywhere in the U.S. But it also means the networks are extremely expensive to operate, so carriers charge customers high monthly fees to maintain them.

An increasing amount of activity on mobile phones is now being done using Wi-Fi networks instead of cellular networks. People can easily set up Wi-Fi in their own homes, while many businesses and municipalities are starting to offer Wi-Fi access for free. Cablevision has also been building its own network of Wi-Fi hotspots for use by its home Internet subscribers when they’re on the go.

Cablevision is now betting that its Wi-Fi hotspots are so widespread that it can build an entire mobile network around them. That means you’d use Wi-Fi not only to surf the Web at home, but also to send texts and make phone calls while out and about.

What are the advantages of a Wi-Fi cell phone plan?

The biggest differentiator would be price. Cablevision’s new Wi-Fi service, dubbed Freewheel, will cost $29.95 per month for new individual customers or $9.95 per month for customers who already subscribe to the company’s Optimum Online Internet service. A recent survey by research firm Cowen and Company found the average monthly cell phone bill on Sprint, Verizon or AT&T is about $140, though that factors in both individual and family plans.

Cablevision’s service also won’t require an annual contract, and it will provide unlimited data. Traditional cell phone carriers often require two-year contracts and punish customers with expensive overage fees if they exceed their data caps.

What are the disadvantages?

At launch, the only phone compatible with Cablevision’s new network is Motorola’s Moto G, which will cost $99.99. The service also won’t be able to match the wide coverage of mobile networks like Verizon’s or AT&T’s — Cablevision’s 1.1 million Wi-Fi hotspots are found only in the New York metro area.

For now, Optimum’s service doesn’t seem to be geared toward typical mainstream consumers. Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Kristin Dolan told the Wall Street Journal that Freewheel could be appropriate for college students, children or people with a fixed income.

What does this mean for the future of wireless?

People aren’t going to abandon reliable wireless carriers and their cellular networks anytime soon. But there will be growing pressure on carriers to make more effective use of Wi-Fi connectivity in urban areas. Google’s rumored wireless service may end up mixing Wi-Fi and traditional cellular networks, helping users automatically find and connect to the fastest or cheapest network while on the go, according to the Journal.

In the future, cellular networks could be viewed as a back-up connectivity option when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Such a model would lower cell phone bills as customers opted for cheaper data plans.

Should I subscribe to Cablevision’s Wi-Fi Network?

If you already subscribe to Optimum Internet (so you qualify for the cheaper subscription rate) and you live near New York and you don’t travel much, then maybe. Otherwise, it’s best to wait and see how the arrival of Freewheel impacts the offerings of the major carriers — and keep an eye out for Google’s upcoming service, which the Journal speculates could arrive in the first half of the year.

TIME Mobile

Google Is Reportedly Prepping a Wireless Service

The Google Inc. company logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

New initiative would expand Google's quest to provide the world's Internet access

Google has been providing ultra high-speed home Internet to select cities for several years — but now it wants to be your mobile carrier, too.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own cell phone service, according to The Information and the Wall Street Journal. Google has made deals with T-Mobile and Sprint to resell portions of their networks under a Google-branded name, a common practice by small wireless carriers known as mobile virtual network operators. Though T-Mobile and Sprint would still own the networks, Google would set its own prices and deal directly with customers.

Neither a launch window nor a price range for the service were disclosed.

Launching a wireless service would be another big step in Google’s quest to deliver Internet service directly to customers. Google Fiber is already providing broadband access in several U.S. cities, Project Loon aims to use balloons to bring remote areas online, and the company’s big investment in SpaceX could be a sign that it wants to use satellites to expand Internet connectivity as well.

But well-established ISPs and telecommunication companies won’t simply stand idle as Google takes their business. Sprint is reserving the right to renegotiate its terms with Google if the new service proves popular, according to the Journal.

Google and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sprint declined to comment.

TIME Mobile

T-Mobile to Pay $90 Million to Settle Cramming Case

T-Mobile
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An employee sets up a new Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy 3 smartphone for a customer at a T-Mobile US Inc. retail store in Torrance, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.

Wireless carrier had originally called FTC lawsuit "unfounded"

T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $67.5 million in customer refunds to settle claims that its customers were the victims of cramming, the Federal Trade Commission said Friday. Cramming is a once-common tactic in the telecom industry through which third parties hide unwanted charges for things like horoscopes and love tips in customers’ wireless bills.

In addition to the refunds, T-Mobile will pay $18 million in fines and penalties to attorneys general in every state and Washington D.C., as well as a $4.5 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Mobile cramming is an issue that has affected millions of American consumers,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “Consumers should be able to trust that their mobile phone bills reflect the charges they authorized and nothing more.”

The FTC originally filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile over cramming claims in July. At the time, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who has staked the company’s reputation on being more fair to customers than rival wireless carriers, called the allegations “unfounded and without merit.” T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

T-Mobile will be required to contact all current and former customers who had unwanted charges crammed into their bills and offer them refunds. The company will also have to get customers’ consent before putting third-party charges on their bills in the future.

The T-Mobile case is the latest in a series of cramming settlements that the FTC has brokered. AT&T agreed to pay $105 million in refunds and fines for cramming charges in October.

MONEY Customer Service

3 Industries That Desperately Need Customer Service Makeovers

Chimpanzee on a telephone
Brad Wilson—Getty Images

Comcast is hardly the only company that should be doing some soul searching and commit—not only with words but actions—to making customer service genuinely better.

Because the state of customer service has been bad for so long, and because we’ve heard many times over that some or another big initiative would improve customer service dramatically only to have little or no impact, we’re skeptical about the effectiveness of any broad campaign supposedly crafted to address age-old customer grievances. Nonetheless, it was good to see Comcast’s recent announcement that a long-serving executive named Charlie Herrin had been named as the company’s new senior vice president of customer experience. “Charlie will listen to feedback from customers as well as our employees to make sure we are putting our customers at the center of every decision we make,” a message from Comcast president and CEO Neil Smit explained on Friday.

Read between the lines and it sure looks like Comcast is acknowledging that in the past, customers haven’t exactly been top of mind when it comes to company decisions. That’s no revelation to consumers, of course, who have routinely dinged Comcast for terrible customer service. In 2014, Comcast “won” the annual Worst Company in America competition as voted by Consumerist readers, the second time in recent years it has nabbed that dubious honor.

While it’s unclear what Herrin and Comcast will do to improve customer service, the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that you have one, which Smit did more squarely when he said, “It may take a few years before we can honestly say that a great customer experience is something we’re known for. But that is our goal and our number one priority … and that’s what we are going to do.” To which the consensus reaction among consumers is … it’s about damn time. Followed by, we’ll believe it when we actually see real,meaningful change.

To be fair, it’s not just Comcast that’s sorely in need of a customer service makeover. Here are three entire business categories that are regularly bashed for not putting customers’ needs first on the agenda.

Pay TV & Internet Providers
Current Comcast competitor and likely merger partner Time Warner Cable is also a regular contender for the worst service title, as are other pay TV-Internet providers including DirecTV and Verizon.

Among the complaints are that there is a lack of true competition in the category, because roughly three-quarters of Americans have exactly one local choice for a high-speed Internet provider. A survey published this summer indicated that more than half of Americans would leave their cable company if they could, and nearly three-quarters said that pay TV providers are predatory and take advantage of the lack of competition. Among the most hated pay TV practices that consumers would love to see changed are promotional rates that are replaced by skyrocketing monthly charges, frustrating and time-consuming run-ins with customer service reps, and bundled packages overloaded with channels and options the customer doesn’t want (let’s add smaller packages and a la carte channel selection, please).

Wireless Providers
The good news for cell phone users is that customer satisfaction is on the rise, increasing 2.6% according to the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The bad news, however, is that while we’re happier with the actual gadgets (from Samsung in particular), satisfaction with the companies providing our cell phone service—including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—remains stagnant and below average.

Plenty of other studies also show just how frustrated and dissatisfied consumers are with wireless providers nowadays. A vote-off at Ranker.com, for example, placed AT&T at the top of the list of “Companies with the Worst Customer Service.” Among the many problems consumers have with wireless providers is that choosing a handset and data-minutes-texting package is absurdly complicated, with countless permutations, obfuscations, and mysterious add-on charges. This past weekend, a New York Times columnist presented a painstaking step-by-step analysis of why the $199 price advertised for the new iPhone 6 is a joke—because by the time fees and monthly upcharges are tacked on, upgrading to the new phone will easily run more than $600.

“Wireless service has always been one of the most complex purchases a human can possibly make,” Eddie Hold, a wireless industry analyst with market research firm NPD Group, summed up in a Consumer Reports story last year. “It’s always been horrific.”

Banks
Number 3 on the Ranker list of companies with the worst customer service, just below AT&T and Time Warner Cable, is Bank of America. Another study, from 24/7 Wall Street, used customer service surveys to put Bank of America in the #1 spot for its Customer Service Hall of Shame, and two other banking institutions, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, are in the top (bottom?) 10. (The study factored in ratings for these institutions’ banking and credit card services.)

What may come as a surprise—a sad and ironic one, at that—is that customer satisfaction with banks is apparently at a record high. The 2014 J.D. Power study on U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction indicates that big banks and regional banks have made some strides in terms of making customers happier (or less disgusted) with their service, and that overall bank scores are higher than they’ve ever been since the study has been conducted. Yet the J.D. Power study shows there’s a long way to go: The most common reason given for switching banks is poor customer service, and millennials, minorities, and affluent consumers stand out as being particularly dissatisfied with today’s banks.

“Even with record high satisfaction, there are some banks that fall far short in meeting customer needs,” J.D. Power’s Jim Miller said via statement. “It is easy for banks to become complacent. To stay at the top of their game, banks should focus on those customers who are not satisfied. And consumers should keep in mind they have the opportunity to shop banks to find the right combination of services, products and fees to meet their needs.”

What’s your pick for the company with the worst customer service? Tweet us at @MONEY with the hashtag #unhappycustomer. Here’s what readers have already said. Add your nomination, and we may publish your feedback in a future post.

Related:
5 Packages That Could Replace Pay TV As We Know It
How to Pick a Bank

TIME Gadgets

iPhone 6 Wireless Plans Compared

Over at Yahoo Tech, Rob Pegoraro has taken up the unenviable task of comparing iPhone 6 wireless plans from major carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

This was all a somewhat simpler endeavor back when a phone cost $200, you picked a minutes/data/text messages plan, and signed a two-year contract. But newly-added pricing plans have saddled up alongside traditional pricing plans, resulting in a far murkier melange of minutes and megabytes.

The assumption with this exercise is that you’ll be buying a base-model iPhone 6 and will need two gigabytes of monthly data. All of these plans include unlimited minutes and text messages and, aside from network quality, your biggest decision is whether or not you want to be able to use tethering. Tethering lets you share your phone’s data connection with another device such as a tablet or laptop. It’s good for road trips and other instances where you’d get a cellular signal but wouldn’t have access to an open Wi-Fi network.

If you don’t care about tethering:

  • Verizon can be had for $1,640 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,680 over two years
  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years

If you want to tether:

  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,920 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years
  • Verizon can be had for $2,360 over two years

These figures don’t take into account network quality in your area, family plans, equipment trade-in bonuses, taxes or other stuff like that. Each carrier offers a trial period, though, so make sure to exercise your right to return your phone if you’re not happy with it.

Check out Pegoraro’s post for more info on the various plans and pricing schemes.

[Yahoo Tech]

TIME wireless carriers

The Best Family Smartphone Plan

Family Plans
Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

If you’re paying a large cellphone bill for a large family, then you’ve no doubt noticed all the ads on TV and the Internet about the latest, greatest “family plan” offering huge discounts for families of four or more. Every carrier has a family plan, and yes, some of them are solid deals.

But as you can imagine, there’s fine print to every deal. Joining a family plan is harder than it sounds, and you might need to put up a lot of cash up front first. Here are all the details on each of the major carriers’ family plans, fine print included.

Verizon

Verizon’s most affordable family plan is called MORE Everything with Edge. It offers a family of four unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). That price doesn’t include fees, taxes and data surcharges, which could add another $10 to $20 to your bill per month.

There’s a catch, however: Verizon’s Edge plans require you to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you’re a current Verizon customer, you can join an Edge plan with your own phone when your current contracts expire. But you’ll have to pay full price for phones from that day forward.

AT&T

AT&T’s most affordable family smartphone plan is called Mobile Share Value. Like Verizon’s plan above, it also offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). Fees, taxes and data surcharges are extra.

AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan has the same limitations that Verizon Edge plans do: You need to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you don’t already have AT&T compatible phones, you’ll need to buy the four at full price.

Sprint

The pricing of Sprint’s Unlimited Framily Plans is a bit complicated, as your price per line decreases as you add new ones. For a family of four, Sprint’s Framily plan offers unlimited talk and unlimited text, but just 1GB of high-speed data per line, for $160 total ($40 per line x 4). Larger families save more – the cost drops by $5 per line with each additional line until you hit $175 for a “framily” of seven ($25 per line x 7). Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Sprint throttles your speed when you hit your max, instead.

Sprint no longer offers contracts, so the only concern with switching is obtaining the four or more Sprint-compatible phones you’d need.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s new family plan, which became available July 30, is called T-Mobile Simple Choice. It offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data (2.5GB per line) for a total of $100. With T-Mobile, the first line you activate costs $50/month, the second $30/month and then $10/month for each line thereafter. Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Like Sprint, however, T-Mobile throttles.

T-Mobile no longer offer contracts, either. You can purchase new phones at full price, or make a down payment and have the remaining cost added to your monthly bill in equal monthly payments.

Which family plan is best?

If you look simply at the raw plan numbers, T-Mobile has the best deal for a family of four. Plus, T-Mobile is willing to pay your current carrier’s early termination fees, But making the switch to the carrier isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk for your family. You’ll have to pay for new phones to join if your current phones aren’t compatible with the T-Mobile network. If they aren’t compatible, check the trade-in value of your phones to see if you can get enough cash to cover enough of the cost of the great low-cost Android devices currently available.

Or maybe skip the family plan entirely…

Alternatively, you may decide that it’s in your family’s best interest to skip these family plans entirely. They’re cheaper mainly because you need to give up your lucrative new phone subsidies to join them. If you’re a current Verizon or AT&T customer who enjoys cutting-edge phones like the rumored iPhone 6, it may be in your best interest to avoid having to pay for several $650+ devices up front.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Wireless

T-Mobile and the FTC: What Is Text Message ‘Cramming?’

T-Mobile Cramming
Bloomberg/ Getty Images John Legere, chief executive officer of T-Mobile US Inc., speaks during an event in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

The FTC says T-Mobile made millions off "cramming," but what is that, anyway?

Government watchdogs on Tuesday charged T-Mobile with making hundreds of millions of dollars by turning a blind eye to a text message scam scheme known as “cramming.” Here’s what you should know about it:

What is cramming?

Cramming happens when scammers attach hard-to-spot charges to text message services like horoscopes or trivia games. Those charges either come without your permission or at a higher rate than you expected. The fees are attached to your monthly phone bill, and your carrier often takes a cut, as it would for other forms of third-party billing-by-text. The crammers hope their charges stay hidden in plain sight on your often-confusing monthly phone bill.

Here’s what a cramming charge would look like on a T-Mobile bill, according to the FTC:

tmobile-samplebill

Is cramming legal?

Some states have passed anti-cramming laws, but monitoring for and responding to cramming schemes is largely the job of the FTC, the nation’s federal consumer watchdog, and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees wireless carriers and other telecoms.

The FTC has been successful in clamping down on cramming before: a group of companies which the Commission said were running a massive cramming scheme recently settled those charges to the tune of $10 million. The FCC, meanwhile, says it’s penalized companies nine times for cramming — and will look at the FTC’s T-Mobile charges as well. And Verizon agreed last year to settle a class-action cramming lawsuit, agreeing to refund every single cramming charge to any customer who asked for his or her money back in a big win for consumers.

Should I be worried about cramming?

At this point, not really. Not long after that Verizon settlement — and under pressure from state attorneys general — the four major American carriers — Big Red plus AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, agreed to drop most forms of third-party text billing. That effectively eliminated text message cramming as a worthwhile scam, so it’s not happening so much anymore. The carriers still let you make some payments via text, like to the Red Cross during emergencies and, more recently, to political campaigns.

But if you think you’ve been crammed, you can complain to your carrier and to the FTC to get the ball rolling on a refund — an option available to you even before the carriers’ pact. You can also contact the FTC about pretty much anything else confusing about your phone bill.

But wait, I thought the FTC said T-Mobile was allowing cramming?

You’re right! But the FTC’s accusing T-Mobile of allowing cramming back before the carriers made their pact against the practice. The Commission’s saying that so many T-Mobile customers were requesting refunds for certain third-party charges, it should have been clear to T-Mobile that something fishy was going on — but according to the FTC, T-Mobile didn’t act on those red flags. Instead, the FTC says, T-Mobile made millions by taking 30-40% of the obviously fraudulent charges.

What’s all this mean for T-Mobile?

T-Mobile is in hot water here. Under the leadership of feisty and controversial CEO John Legere, T-Mobile’s branded itself as the “un-carrier,” a hip wireless carrier that’s more consumer-friendly than rivals Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Getting hit with a charge like this could put a serious dent in that image, as my colleague Victor Luckerson writes: What’s consumer-friendly about reaping millions off text message scams? Legere himself has already responded to the FTC’s charges, calling them “factually and legally unfounded” and “misdirected.” Legere also says T-Mobile’s been working to refund cramming fees.

The cramming charges could also throw a monkey wrench into Sprint’s plans to merge with T-Mobile in a massive $32 billion deal that has yet to pass regulators’ smell tests — it’s likely the charges will need to be addressed before that deal can be given the green light.

TIME Video Games

Go Ahead, Wirelessly Connect Your PS4 Controller to Your PS3

Sony

The DualShock 4, which ships with Sony's next-gen PlayStation 4, now works wirelessly with Sony's last-gen PlayStation 3.

It’s finally happened: Sony just made it possible for players with PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controllers to connect them to their PS3s without tethers.

You could previously mate a DualShock 4 to a PS3 by plugging the former into the latter directly, using the USB cable, but the PS3 wouldn’t recognize the DualShock 4 absent that cable. Now that’s possible using good ol’ Bluetooth, to the extent that tapping the DualShock 4’s PlayStation button will even wake up the PS3 properly.

The “fix” arrived unceremoniously with a low-key PS3 firmware update (version 4.60, which dropped on June 24), or at least that’s the presumption some are making at Reddit, though there was also a PS4 firmware update to version 1.72 released around the same time, which for all we know did something to the DualShock 4 controller itself.

Here’s the blow-by-blow:

  • Under “Accessory Settings” on your PS3, locate and select “Manage Bluetooth Devices.”
  • Select “Register New Device.” The PS3 will begin Bluetooth scanning.
  • Simultaneously press and hold the DualShock 4’s “Share” and “PS” buttons until the controller’s light bar starts blinking. The controller should appear in the PS3’s list as a “Wireless Controller.”

Trouble is, that designation — “Wireless Controller” — means the PS3 still sees the DualShock 4 as a generic controller, thus neither SIXAXIS nor haptic feedback nor its DualShock 4-specific features (like the touchpad) are going to work properly, meaning you’re liable to run into compatibility problems with certain games.

The other piece to bear in mind is that the DualShock 4 can only sync with one device at a time, so if you pair with your PS3, you’ll have to re-pair with your PS4 and vice versa if you frequent both. All told, wonderful as the DualShock 4 gamepad is (it’s my personal favorite on any platform at the moment), I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble. But if you want to fiddle anyway, no strings attached, now you can.

TIME Companies

Feds: T-Mobile Charged Customers for Spam Text Frauds

T-Mobile
Andrew Burton—Getty Images A T-Mobile store is seen at 7th Avenue and 49th Street on March 23, 2012 in New York City.

The consumer watchdog says T-Mobile should have spotted text message scams hitting its customers

Update: July 1, 5:02 p.m. ET

The Federal Trade Commission accused wireless carrier T-Mobile on Tuesday of placing unauthorized charges on customers’ bills for unwanted premium SMS services such as flirting tips, horoscopes and celebrity gossip. T-Mobile generated hundreds of millions of dollars by taking a portion of the typical $9.99-a-month subscription fee charged for such services, according to the FTC.

Wireless carriers often agree to include third-party charges in customers’ monthly phone bills (AT&T customers, for instance, can pay for Beats Music as part of their cell phone plan). However, sometimes these charges are not authorized by customers and are hidden deep within their bills, a practice known as “cramming.” Several cramming companies targeted T-Mobile subscribers, but the wireless carrier continued to let them charge its customers even after there were indications of fraud, according to the FTC, which says up to 40 percent of the customers who were charged for these services asked for a refund. The FTC argues that figure should have indicated fraudulent activity.

Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said credit card companies typically investigate instances of potential fraud if at least one percent of customers claim they have been wrongly charged from a specific vendor.

“It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

Beyond allowing the charges to occur, the FTC also claims that T-Mobile made it difficult for customers to discover the charges on their own phone bills. The carrier also refused refunds to some customers or told them to try to get their money back from the scammers, according to the FTC.

The FTC will seek refunds for customers who were the victims of fraudulent charges, an amount that Rich says could be hundreds of millions of dollars. The commission will also seek a court order to ban T-Mobile from allowing cramming in the future.

The accusation of subscriber-duping undercuts T-Mobile’s customer-friendly “Un-carrier” marketing campaign the carrier has pursued in the last year. As part of that strategy, the company has gotten rid of cellphone plan mainstays, like two-year contracts and overage charges, while constantly vilifying its competitors as overly greedy.

In a statement, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the FTC complaint was without merit. “T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry rather than the real bad actors,” he said.

The company is hardly the only wireless carrier that has allowed cramming. Last fall Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all agreed to stop billing customers for unwanted charges from third-party services in most states. Legere also pointed out that T-Mobile already has a program in place to provide refunds to customers who felt they were fraudulently charged via cramming.

TIME Tech

Comcast Turns 50,000 Homes into Wi-Fi Hotspots

Comcast Launches Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspots
John Greim—© 2012 John Greim A Comcast worker installs Xfinity into a home.

Comcast turned 50,000 home routers in Houston into public Wi-Fi hotspots on Tuesday, the first stage in the company’s plan to launch hotspots across the country.

Customers with newer wireless routers will now host a Wi-Fi network named “xfinitywifi,” which other Comcast subscribers can join at no cost, the Houston Chronicle reported. The cable company will reach 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014, covering more than half of the U.S.’s major cities, according to a press release. The move will allow Comcast to compete with companies like AT&T, which offers WiFi hotspots through Starbucks and McDonald’s.

While customers had the opportunity to opt out of the initiative, more than 99% chose to enable their hotspots, a move that will improve Xfinity Wi-Fi accessibility among Comcast users and help them cut cellular data costs. In the past year, the number of out-of-home Xfinity WiFi sessions has increased by 700%.

According to Cisco, 88% of all U.S. data traffic from mobile devices will travel via Wi-Fi by 2018.

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