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Blog Posts by Kris Monteith

Preventing Smart Phone Theft & Protecting Your Personal Information

by Kris Monteith, Acting Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 8, 2015 - 01:41 PM

Combatting smart phone theft is a multi-faceted challenge that requires the efforts of and coordination among industry, consumers, law enforcement and others.  Part of the equation is enforcing the rules the FCC has in place today to protect private customer information.  Second, we must continue to inform consumers of ways to guard against phone theft.  And lastly, we can continue to adopt policies to discourage cell phone theft by preventing re-use.

The FCC has been proactive and strong in its enforcement of our consumer privacy rules.  Just today, the Bureau announced a record-breaking settlement with AT&T to settle an investigation into a data breach that affected nearly 280,000 consumers.  Read more about the settlement: here.

To discourage re-use of stolen devices, Chairman Wheeler has encouraged the industry to make lock/wipe/restore functionality operational by default on all devices.  To help guide us in future policy efforts, Commission’s Technology Advisory Committee compiled a report on smart device theft prevention.

Consumers are encouraged to take the following actions to avoid becoming a victim of smart device theft: 

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Celebrating National Consumer Protection Week

by Kris Monteith, Acting Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
March 2, 2015 - 01:44 PM

This week, March 1-7, 2015, the FCC is celebrating National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), joining with a coalition of more than 85 consumer advocacy groups and federal, state and local government agencies in a coordinated campaign to help raise awareness about consumer protection. Together we’re encouraging consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. 

At an NCPW kickoff event in late February, the FCC  joined a number of coalition member in face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and their staff to discuss consumer issues and disseminate helpful consumer information.

Each day throughout NCPW we encourage you to check our website –– for tips and links to helpful information about issues such as smart device theft protection, phone bill cramming, accessibility to consumer help, emergency communications, and more.

Our coalition’s web site ( also offers consumers a wealth of tips and information on topics such as finances, health, privacy, technology and more.

You can download and print the materials and share them with friends and neighbors, or order materials from select partners if you're planning a larger event such as a conference or workshop.

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau works year-round with the Commission’s other bureaus and offices to educate consumers facing issues and challenges around communications technologies and services, with the goals of consumer protection and empowerment.

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Wireless Providers Fulfill Commitment to let Consumers Unlock Mobile Phones

February 11, 2015 - 02:40 PM

One year ago, the FCC announced a voluntary commitment among a number of mobile wireless service providers to adopt policies that allow their customers to switch networks while keeping their existing devices – a process called cell phone unlocking.  That commitment came with a one-year deadline. Today, we are proud to report that the country’s major providers have met their commitment.

Specifically, the principles adopted into the CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service include pro-consumer provisions on disclosure, postpaid and prepaid unlocking, notice, customer response time, and unlocking phones for deployed military personnel.  When CTIA adopted these six principles, participating providers committed to a one-year implementation deadline.  

Under this commitment, participating wireless providers will unlock your postpaid mobile device upon request, provided the terms and conditions of your service contract or installment plan have been met and your account is in good standing.  Participating wireless providers will unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time and usage requirements.  Participating providers will clearly notify you when your postpaid device is eligible for unlocking if the device is not automatically unlocked.  Additionally, your wireless provider will post on its website a clear, concise, and easily found policy on mobile wireless device unlocking.

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New Consumer Help Center Is Designed To Empower Consumers, Streamline Complaint System

January 5, 2015 - 12:47 PM

The first responsibility of the FCC is to represent consumers. Facilitating consumer interface with the Commission is a major component of that responsibility. Today, we are proud to announce the launch of a new online Consumer Help Center.

The Consumer Help Center will make the FCC more user-friendly, accessible and transparent to consumers. This new capability is part of Chairman Wheeler's comprehensive review of the agency's processes and operations. A significant goal of this effort is to take advantage of advances in technology to provide better service and support for consumers, now and in the future. The new tool launched today replaces the Commission's previous complaint system with an easier-to-use, more consumer-friendly portal for filing and monitoring complaints.

We see the Help Center as a new approach to enhancing communications between the Commission and the public. In addition to being easier to use for consumers, the information collected will be smoothly integrated with our policymaking and enforcement processes. The result will be better results for consumers and better information for the agency. The insights we gain will help identify trends in consumer issues and enable us to focus Commission time, money, and resources on the issues that matter most.

Here are some key features of the Help Center:

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Hurricane Season’s Coming: 11 Practical Tips to Help You Stay Connected When Disaster Strikes

May 27, 2014 - 11:08 AM

When an emergency occurs, most of us reach for the phone to check on loved ones and, if needed, call for help. Yet in past disasters, some forms of communications – and the electricity that powers them – have been disrupted for days or even weeks. The FCC is working with providers and communities to make communications more reliable, but there are some actions that only you can take. So with hurricane season on the way, now is a good time to review our tips on communicating during an emergency – 11 practical steps to help you stay connected when disaster strikes.

As a first step, we suggest you take stock of what type of phone service and equipment you have. Many consumers no longer subscribe to “traditional” landline telephone service delivered over copper wires, which generally continues to work during a power outage. (You may need a “corded” phone to use it, however; cordless phones typically require electric power.) Many now subscribe to telephone service delivered over a broadband connection that relies on electricity or battery back-up power to operate. If you fall into this category, and if your electricity is out for days, you will need a plan to keep communicating. We offer some solutions.

Of course if you use a wireless device, you already know the importance of battery power. Our tips remind you to charge your device when a storm is expected and consider keeping an extra battery on hand. We also suggest ways to conserve battery power when needed. You may also want to keep a charging cord in your car.

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Adoption of Unlocking Standards Offers Consumers Additional Choices

February 21, 2014 - 11:47 AM

Consumers often question why they may not have the choice of using their existing mobile wireless device when they change between compatible wireless service providers.  The answer is usually a practice called cellphone locking and it is about to change.

On February 11, 2014, CTIA-The Wireless Association adopted six standards on unlocking into the CTIA Code for Wireless Service.  Implementation of these six standards by major mobile wireless service providers will give consumers greater freedom and flexibility while increasing competition among service providers to innovate.  Participating wireless service providers will implement three of these six standards by May 11, 2014, and all of these standards by February 11, 2015.

Once these standards are fully implemented, your service provider will unlock your postpaid mobile device upon request, provided the terms and conditions of your service contract or installment plan have been met and your account is in good standing.  Service providers will unlock prepaid wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time and usage requirements. Service providers will clearly notify you when your device is eligible for unlocking if the device is not automatically unlocked.  Additionally, your service provider will post on its website a clear, concise, and easily found policy on mobile wireless device unlocking.

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Preparing for Text-to-911

July 1, 2013 - 03:49 PM

For the millions of Americans who use text messaging on their wireless phones, it may come as a surprise that you typically can’t reach 911 by text message. That is beginning to change, however.

Text-to-911 service is currently available on a limited basis in a few locations across the country. Itcan provide a lifesaving alternative in many situations – where a person with a hearing or speech disability is unable to make a voice call, where voice networks are congested, or where a 911 voice call could endanger the caller. In fact, it has already saved lives and thwarted crimes, including preventing a suicide in Vermont and, in Iowa, protecting women and children from abuse who were silently able to text for help.  

To build on that progress, the four largest U.S. wireless companies – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – have voluntarily committed to make text-to-911 available by May 15, 2014, in all areas served by their networks where the local 911 call center has the technical capability to receive texts.  

In addition, the FCC has sought comment on proposed rules to require all wireless carriers and “interconnected” text message providers to likewise make text-to-911 available where the 911 call center has the technical capability to receive texts. 

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National Consumer Protection Week

by Kris Monteith, Acting Chief, CGB
March 5, 2013 - 04:26 PM

The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) strives to make life better for the American consumer.  One way we work towards that goal is through partnerships like the one we have with the Federal Trade Commission in celebrating the 22nd Annual National Consumer Protection Week, which runs from March 3-March 9, 2013.  National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. 

Here at the FCC, CGB is responsible for developing and implementing the agency’s consumer policies and for educating consumers about the work of the Commission.  We work diligently to ensure consumers have the information and tools available to help them make informed decisions.  For example, you can find consumer guides on our website on topics such as Cramming, Bill Shock, and Slamming.  Our Household Broadband Guide  can be used to compare minimum download speed (Mbps) needs for light, moderate and high household use with one, two, three or four devices at a time (such as a laptop, tablet or game console).  And you can compare typical online activities with the minimum Mbps needed for adequate performance for each application by using our Broadband Speed Guide.

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FCC Chairman Genachowski Honored By D.C. Chief of Police for Spearheading Fight against Smartphone Theft & Related Assaults

by Kris Monteith, Acting Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
March 1, 2013 - 12:29 PM


Last night, D.C. Chief of Police Cathy Lanier honored Chairman Genachowski with the Chief of Police Medal of Merit Award for spearheading efforts to combat massive nationwide smartphone theft and related assaults.

In April 2012, Chairman Genachowski joined major police department chiefs, including Chief Lanier, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Senator Chuck Schumer, and wireless carriers to announce an industry commitment to develop a shared, centralized database to record unique identifiers of stolen wireless devices in order to prevent reuse and make it harder for thieves to resell them.

I accepted the Chief of Police Medal of Merit Award last night on behalf of Chairman Genachowski at Police Department’s Annual Awards Ceremony. (Chairman Genachowski is currently in California for the FCC’s Second National Hearing on Network Resilience and Reliability.)

As Chief Lanier explained, smartphone theft is a serious issue. In the District of Columbia, New York City, and other major cities, police say as much as 40 percent of all robberies now involve stolen cell phones and other small electronic devices.  These robberies endanger both the physical safety of victims as well as the safety of the information on the stolen devices.

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Lifeline To Our World

by Kris Monteith, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Acting Bureau Chief
September 10, 2012 - 04:53 PM

Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without a phone, corded or wireless. How would you contact emergency services if there was a fire or a serious injury? How would you contact a potential new employer, or keep in touch with a current one? How would you contact your utility company about a power outage, or a doctor about your sick child? How would you keep in touch with your loved ones and your community?; In this day and age, telecommunications services are a real necessity, and not being able to afford them is a real liability.

Since the creation of the Lifeline benefit program in 1984, millions of low-income Americans have depended on it to make basic telecommunications services affordable to them. Without this program, countless households would be deprived of contact with health care providers and government services, access to work opportunities, and communications with family and their communities.; As more and more essential functions and services of our economy and our public sectors shift to wireless and online formats, the Lifeline program has been reformed to help low-income Americans overcome obstacles to Internet access and wireless communications. As part of this effort, the FCC has adopted an express goal for the program of ensuring availability of broadband for all low-income Americans, allowing Lifeline support for bundled services plans combining voice and broadband or packages including optional calling features.

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