Consumer Info

Facebook’s Prevent Bullying Page

According to McAfee’s 2012 Teen Internet Behavior Study, 92.6 percent of teens surveyed said they have witnessed cyber-bullying on Facebook. As part of National Bullying Awareness Month, Facebook created the Prevent Bullying page, providing users with resources on how to combat bullying on Facebook. Users can learn how easy it is to report unwanted or harmful posts; the goal is to promote an environment where people treat each other with respect.

The following is a list of tools on the page that will help users report and learn more about bullying on Facebook:

  • A video outlining use of new tools from Facebook, including social resolution tools.
  • The Support Dashboard, located under Account Settings, where users can follow up on reported posts. (Must be logged in via individual Facebook account).
  • A link encouraging users to take the “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” pledge.

How To File An Informal Complaint With The FCC

You can file an informal compalint with the FCC regarding a problem with a telephone company, or any of the issues listed here, by using various FCC complaint forms. The easiest way to file your complaint is to go to the FCC’s online complaint forms, which can be accessed by clicking here. You will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the correct form and section of the form for providing all of the information the FCC needs to process your complaint. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

How To Inspect A Public File At A Radio Or Television Station

The “public file” is a collection of documents that the FCC requires all AM, FM, TV, and Class A TV broadcasters to keep on hand and make available to the public. A copy of the file must be kept at the main studio of the station. However, some or all of the file may be contained in a computer database, provided that members of the public are allowed to access that database upon their visit to the station. The file must be available for public inspection at any time during the station’s regular business hours, which generally are any eight-hour period between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you want to inspect the public file at your local station, take a look at NHMC’s Public File Checklist before you go, so that you can know what to expect!

FCC Expands Efforts to Serve the Public

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Bureau for Consumer and Governmental Affairs has recently updated its web-page, making more information about technology issues easily accessible to the public. Consumers can learn about anything from how to be placed on the Do-Not-Call Registry, to how parents can protect their children online, to how to complain about a local broadcaster’s failure to serve its community by visiting http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/. NHMC is particularly pleased to see that much of the information is also available in Spanish at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/spanish/; we will urge the FCC to ensure that as time goes on all information be available in Spanish and other threshold languages. For those consumers that do not have Internet access or who to prefer to communicate by phone, the FCC also takes phone calls in English and in Spanish at 1-888-CALL-FCC or 1-888-225-5322. The FCC is required by law to ensure that all consumers have affordable access to media and telecommunications services. If you believe that your media or telecommunications services are treating you unfairly please contact the FCC, or tell NHMC by e-mailing us at info@nhmc.org or calling us at 1-626-792-6462.

How To Receive A Broadcast TV Station If It Is Dropped From Your Pay TV

Cable operators and other pay TV service providers, such as satellite operators, carry local television broadcast stations based on contracts with the stations. When these contracts end, the parties generally extend or renew these contracts. The process by which the contracts are negotiated is known as “retransmission consent.” In almost all cases, agreement is reached and stations continue to be carried without interruption. On some occasions, the pay TV service provider and the station fail to reach an agreement, and the pay TV service provider is required by law to stop carrying that station until an agreement is reached. These are private agreements, though federal law requires the parties to negotiate with each other in good faith.

What can I do if a local broadcast television station is no longer available on my pay TV service?
If you wish to view the station, you may be able to do so through one of the following options:

  1. Watch the station (and other broadcasting stations) over the air using an antenna and a digital television.
  2. Watch the station (and other broadcasting stations) over the air using an antenna and an analog television attached to a digital-to-analog converter box.
  3. Subscribe to another pay service that is carrying the station. Available pay services vary based on your location. You should contact the pay service provider to determine whether it provides service to your residence. In addition, you should be aware that different pay TV service providers’ agreements for the same broadcast television station may expire on different dates. Switching to another pay service is not a guarantee that your new service will continue to carry a particular broadcast television station.
  4. In addition, some broadcast network programming is available on the Internet, though it is often delayed for some time after its initial broadcast.

How can I watch a station over the air without a pay TV subscription?
To watch a television station over the air, you need either: a digital TV set or an analog TV set connected to a digital-to-analog converter box.
In either case, you will need an appropriate antenna connected to the TV set or the converter box. Depending on your location, this could be either an outdoor rooftop antenna or an indoor antenna.
To check for the over-the-air signals that can be received at your location, use the DTV Reception Maps available at http://www.dtv.gov/maps/.
For more information on antennas, see the Antenna Guide at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/dtvantennas.html/

Why do I need a converter box if I have an analog TV set?
• Federal law required that by June 12, 2009, all full-power broadcast TV stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format. Although cable subscribers can still rely on analog TVs to work with their cable systems, if you are using an analog-only TV and want to watch a station over the air, you will need to use a converter box that receives the digital signals broadcast over the air and converts them so that you can see them on your analog TV.
• Converter boxes may be available from consumer electronics retailers in your community and online.

Are non-broadcast television programmers such as ESPN and the Discovery Channel affected by the negotiations between broadcasters and pay TV service providers?
Sometimes, retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and pay TV service providers also involve the continued carriage of non- broadcast television programmers such as ESPN and the Discovery Channel. If a television broadcaster and a pay TV service provider fail to renew or extend their agreement to carry an associated non-broadcast television programmer, such as ESPN or the Discovery Channel, the pay TV service provider must stop carrying that programming service. Non-broadcast television programmers are not governed by the FCC’s retransmission consent rules, and are not available over the air. They may, however, be available from other pay TV services in your area. You can find out from the pay TV service providers serving your area what programming networks they carry.

Protecting Your Family From Identity Theft: Deter, Detect and Defend

President Barack Obama has declared that October 2010 is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Identity theft strikes nearly 10 million U.S. consumers annually, and inflicts $50 billion in unnecessary costs on the nation’s businesses every year. 15,000 to 20,000 consumers contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) each week to complain about identity theft. The number of complaints to the FTC has grown from 1,380 in 1999 to 278,078 in 2009. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and thousands of dollars – cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of a good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims of identity theft may lose job opportunities, be refused loans for education, housing, or cars, and even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. Humiliation, anger, and frustration are among the feelings victims experience as they navigate the process of rescuing their identity.

United States’ digital infrastructure is critical to laying the foundation for economic growth, government efficiency, and free exchange of information, however, that same technology also presents new threats. In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or even banking information. During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, consumers are asked to learn about the risk of cyber attacks and the important steps that they can take to strengthen their digital literacy and cybersecurity.

The FTC has launched a new website as a one-stop national resource to learn about identity theft with detailed information to help consumers deter, detect and defend against this widespread problem: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html. The information is also available in Spanish at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/en-espanol/index.html. The FTC has a broad range of tips on how consumers can protect their social security numbers, how to be on guard when using the Internet, how to recognize signs of identity theft, how to prove consumers have been victims of identity theft, and how to file a complaint to the FTC.

FCC Changes Position on Cell Phone Radiation and Safety Guidelines

[SOURCE: Benton Foundation, AUTHOR: Cecilia Kang] 9/30/10

The Federal Communications Commission has updated its views on cellphone safety in a move criticized by a public interest group for downplaying the potential risks that radio frequencies could pose to users.

The agency, without issuing a press release, made the update on its Web site, saying that its guidelines on radio frequency limits were confusing and did not necessarily show whether one phone is safer than another.

Specifically, the FCC revamped its Web entry on cell phone health guidelines, removing a suggestion that users concerned about the radiation emitted from cellphones could choose devices with lower SAR values. SAR stands for “specific absorption rate,” which is a measure of the rate of radio-frequency energy absorbed by the body.

“The FCC requires that cell phone manufacturers conduct their SAR testing to include the most severe, worst-case (and highest power) operating conditions for all the frequency bands used in the USA for that cell phone,” the agency wrote on its consumer and governmental affairs section.

The issue of cellphone health risks has captured the attention of several jurisdictions, most notably San Francisco, which adopted a “Right to Know” ordinance that requires cell phone companies to label phones with radiation levels. San Francisco is scheduled to hold public hearings Thursday on the ordinance. A similar measure is also being considered by nearby Burlingame, Calif.

Public interest groups, scientists and some lawmakers have called for an overhaul of the way regulators assess the safety of cellphones. They say that testing of phones’ specific absorption rates should be conducted by regulators, and they cautioned that the current testing approach does not account for the fastest growing group of users: youth.

All of this has put the cellphone industry trade group, CTIA, on the defensive. It filed a lawsuit against San Francisco seeking to block the ordinance, said it would not longer consider the city for future trade shows and ramped up a lobbying campaign against similar measures elsewhere.

Scientists say the higher the SAR, the greater the potential danger to humans. To be sure, scientists do not agree on the effects of cellphone use on humans. Some studies show that radio frequencies absorbed by brain tissue have led to cell mutations and tumors – with the greatest threat posed to children. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and state lawmakers in Maine and California have called for a sweeping federal review of its oversight of cell phone safety.

The Environmental Working Group says the FCC’s changes mimic a message pushed by CTIA. The FCC said that measuring safety by SAR ratings can be misleading and cause confusion. A phone has different SAR levels depending on how far the phone is located from a cell tower base station and how closely it is being held to the body.

The FCC said that using cellphones with a lower SAR value doesn’t necessarily decrease a user’s exposure to radio frequency emissions or and isn’t necessarily safer than using a phone with a higher SAR value. Sources close to the FCC’s thinking on the change said the agency had been reviewing its approach to cellphone health guidelines for some time and that the decision wasn’t the result of lobbying by the cell phone industry. Instead, it was evaluating how effective its current rating system was in adequately informing and protecting consumers.

“While SAR values are an important tool in judging the maximum possible exposure to RF energy from a particular model of cell phone, a single SAR value does not provide sufficient information about the amount of RF exposure under typical usage conditions to reliably compare individual cell phone models,” the FCC said. “Rather, the SAR values collected by the FCC are intended only to ensure that the cell phone does not exceed the FCC’s maximum permissible exposure levels even when operating in conditions which result in the device’s highest possible – but not its typical – RF energy absorption for a user.”

CTIA has argued that the labeling adopted in San Francisco would also be misleading. It says that a phone with a specific absorption rate of 1.0 isn’t necessarily safer than a device with the national limit SAR of 1.6. All phones approved by the FCC are safe, CTIA says, and SAR values vary by how the phone is used.

At stake is the profitability of a multi-billion-dollar industry that has been a rare bright spot in a stubborn recession that has hurt nearly every other sector in the U.S. economy. Apple, Verizon, and AT&T have lobbied against a state measure in Maine that was defeated earlier this year. That bill would require cellphone retailers to sell devices with warnings about the potential dangers of radio frequencies to children, who have thinner skulls and should be subject to stricter SAR limits, some scientists say.

“The revised FCC website devotes considerable space to casting doubt on the usefulness of comparing maximum SAR values for determining potential health risks for consumers,” the Environmental Working Group wrote in a blog entry. “Yet this exercise raises a pointed question: if the FCC is not sure that SAR tests are effective for determining health risks, how can the agency say with confidence that cell phones are safe?”

Ruling Allows ‘Jailbreaking’ of iPhones

[SOURCE: The New York Times, AUTHOR: The Associated Press] 7/26/10

WASHINGTON (AP) — Owners of the iPhone will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that haven’t been approved by Apple Inc., according to new government rules announced Monday.

The decision to allow the practice commonly known as ”jailbreaking” is one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized use of copyright-protected material. The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain non-infringing uses of copyright-protected works.

For iPhone jailbreakers, the new rules effectively legitimize a practice that has been operating in a legal gray area by exempting it from liability. Apple claims that jailbreaking is an unauthorized modification of its software.

Mario Ciabarra, founder of Rock Your Phone, which calls itself an ”independent iPhone application store,” said the rules mark the first step toward opening the iPhone app market to competition and removing the ”handcuffs” that Apple imposes on developers that want to reach users of the wildly popular device.

Unless users unlock their handsets, they can only download apps from Apple’s iTunes store. Software developers must get such apps pre-approved by Apple, which sometimes demands changes or rejects programs for what developers say are vague reasons.

Ciabarra noted that Google Inc. has taken a different approach with its Android operating system, which is emerging as the biggest competitor to the iPhone. Google allows users of Android phones to download applications from outside the Android Market.

Although Apple has never prosecuted anyone for jailbreaking, it does use software upgrades to disable jailbroken phones, and the new government rules won’t put a stop to that. That means owners of such phones might not be able to take advantage of software improvements, and they still run the risk of voiding their warranty.

Apple spokesman Natalie Kerris said Monday that the company is concerned about jailbreaking because the practice can make an iPhone unstable and unreliable.

”Apple’s goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone, and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience,” she said.

In addition to jailbreaking, other exemptions announced Monday would:

— allow owners of used cell phones to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers.

— allow people to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.

— allow college professors, film students, documentary filmmakers and producers of noncommercial videos to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism or commentary.

— allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.

— allow blind people to break locks on electronic books so that they can use them with read-aloud software and similar aides.

Although the jailbreaking exemption is new, all the others are similar to the last set of exemptions, which were announced in November 2006. The new rules take effect Tuesday and are expected to last a few years.

The exceptions are a big victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had urged the Library of Congress to legalize several of them, including the two regarding cell phones.

Jennifer Stisa Granick, EFF’s civil liberties director, said the rules are based on an important principle: Consumers should be allowed to use and modify the devices that they purchase the way they want. ”If you bought it, you own it,” she said.

FCC: Mobile Minutes Made Simple

(May 2010)
The Federal Communications Commission Consumer and Intergovernmental Affairs Bureau released “Mobile Minutes Made Simple: Tips for Avoiding Bill Shock Now.” It is an initiative to help consumers avoid high wireless bills. Click here to read the Tip Sheet.

Notice From FCC Wireless Bureau

(February 2010)
As of June 12, 2010 ALL wireless microphones that operate in the 700MHz band must cease operation to prevent interference with public safety entities and commercial users.
For more information and to find out if your wireless microphone operates on a 700MHz band please use the following websites for reference:
The FCC’s web-site, dedicated exclusively to providing consumers with information on wireless microphones that operate on 700MHz band: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/.
For any additional information please call this the FCC Hotline at 1-888-CALL-FCC. Please pass this important message along to other organizations that use wireless microphones.

Keeping Your Telephone Number When You Change Your Service Provider

What You Need To Know
(May 2009)
Under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) “local number portability” (LNP) rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number. If you are moving from one geographic area to another, however, you may not be able to take your number with you. Therefore, subscribers remaining in the same geographic area can now switch from a wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider to any other wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider and still keep their existing phone numbers.

The FCC has changed its number porting rules to shorten the porting period for “simple” ports from the current four days to one business day. The new deadline applies to all simple ports, including “intermodal” ports such as wireline to wireless, wireless to wireline, wireline or wireless to VoIP, or any other combination. Simple ports generally do not involve more than one line or more complex adjustments to telephone switching equipment. Wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers are required to meet this new, simple port deadline, which will take effect in late summer 2010 for most carriers. Small, rural carriers have a longer period, until the beginning of 2011, to meet the new porting deadline.

Click here to read the full details.