The major wireless carriers and Google filed their responses to the Federal Communication Commission's questions about early termination fees, but they surely won't put the issue to rest. The FCC isn't likely to be satisfied with the answers it got from the carriers, especially Verizon Wireless, which reiterated much of what it told the agency in its previous response on the subject.
That reply, which justified the doubling of its ETF on smartphones to $350 by citing increased operational costs for high-end devices, earned a tongue-lashing from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and led Chairman Julius Genachowski to say Verizon's response "raised more questions than it answered." Its letter submitted Tuesday to the FCC frequently refers back to its December filing regarding its fee hike and carries a tone of vague annoyance at having to repeat answers.
Verizon in the interim made a minor concession by reducing the number of phones that impose the $350 ETF, but that alone isn't likely to persuade the FCC to back off from its investigation. Google took the more significant step of cutting the $350 "equipment recovery fee" on its Nexus One smartphone to $150 in response to the regulatory pressure.
Even so, that amount coupled with the $200 fee carrier partner T-Mobile applies to service plans with the Google phone brings the total someone would pay in early-termination fees to Google and T-Mobile to $350. The FCC may still take issue with consumers getting hit with that ETF double whammy.
So with the wireless carriers clinging fiercely to their ETFs and related disclosure policies, don't be surprised to see more sharp words coming from FCC Commissioners and stronger action taken by the agency to alter the status quo on fees.