T-Mobile Facing Big FCC Fines in Wake of Failed AT&T Merger

By Steve Anderson April 17, 2012

T-Mobile and AT&T recently undertook an effort to merge, but the effort didn't go off quite as well as was hoped, and thus, the two decided not to merge after all. T-Mobile got a payoff from AT&T after the failed merge, but it looks like a chunk of that payoff may be going to the government...and not for taxes, either.

T-Mobile is facing fines from the FCC, following the FCC's claims that T-Mobile violated rules dating back to 2003; specifically, that T-Mobile failed to stock a number of hearing-aid compatible handset models as required by the Hearing Aid Compatibility Order that the FCC issued back in 2003. The handsets in question were required to offer support for acoustic coupling, as well as a set of devices that worked with inductive coupling.

While T-Mobile did offer the required devices, the problem that led to the FCC fine was over a matter of the total numbers of devices in each bracket offered, which did not meet FCC guidelines. As a result, the FCC is planning on issuing fines of $819,000 in response.

Naturally, T-Mobile issued a statement asserting their commitment to providing the devices that the FCC demanded, as well as their commitment toward ensuring that hearing aid users could get devices that work with their particular hearing aids. Since the problem seems to be one of numbers rather than a complete failure to offer the devices in the first place, it's hard to fault T-Mobile particularly hard, or see where a six-figure penalty is justified, especially a high six figure penalty.

But still, considering that T-Mobile takes in $21 billion in annual revenue, a fine of $819,000 is minor by comparison. And it's certainly important that hearing aid users have a variety of choices in the handset market, so some kind of penalty was likely appropriate. Hopefully this will result in more options for hearing-aid handset users, who certainly deserve as much choice in their handsets as users without hearing aids.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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