‘What’s Hot’ List: 5/15/15

Verizon Agrees to Buy AOL for $4.4 Billion (Wall Street Journal, 5/12/15) Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. in a $4.4 billion deal aimed at advancing the telecom giant’s growth ambitions in mobile video and advertising. The all-cash deal values AOL at $50 a share, a 23% premium over the company’s three-month volume-weighted average price. AOL shares rose 18% in morning trading to $50.18. Verizon shares fell 1.7% to $48.98.

FCC Contemplates Subsidized Broadband Services (Forbes, Steve Pociask, 5/12/15) The Federal Communications Commission is contemplating a new universal service program that would subsidize broadband services for low-income consumers, and it is looking to use its Lifeline program, which currently subsidizes low-income telephone service consumers, as the model to follow.

Verizon and Sprint to pay $158 million for cramming charges on customers’ bills (The Verge, 5/12/15) Verizon and Sprint are paying a combined $158 million to settle investigations into unauthorized charges placed on their customers’ phone bills. The practice is known as “cramming,” and with today’s announcement, the Federal Communications Commission has now made cramming settlements with all four major wireless carriers — AT&T settled in October for $105 million, and T-Mobile settled in December for $90 million. Of today’s $158 million, $90 million will come from Verizon and $68 million will come from Sprint.

FCC kills wireless net neutrality petition (RCR Wireless, 5/11/15) The Federal Communications Commission said it won’t reconsider the part of its net neutrality policy that classifies the Internet as a public utility. AT&T Mobility and CTIA were the wireless industry’s standard bearers in a group that petitioned the agency to delay implementation of the Open Internet Order pending judicial review.

Facebook hires former FCC Chairman (Washington Post Switch Blog, 5/12/15) Facebook on Tuesday announced it hired Kevin Martin, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, as vice president for mobile and global access policy, as the social network continues to build its executive ranks with former government officials. Martin, a Republican who led the FCC between 2005 and 2009, will oversee the company’s initiatives on wireless and other broadband Internet policies. He has been a consultant for Facebook for the past two years.

Bipartisan FCC Process Reform Act Resurfaces (Multichannel, 5/12/15) A Federal Communications Commission process reform bill is being reintroduced in the House Communications Subcommittee and will be one of the subjects of a May 15 hearing on agency transparency and reforms. House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), ranking member Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) have circulated a discussion draft of the FCC Process Reform Act, which passed the House last March but failed to get traction in the Senate.

Frontier gets FTC’s okay for Verizon deal (Hartford Business, 5/12/15) The FTC this week granted early termination of a required waiting period under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act for Frontier’s proposed $10.54 billion acquisition of Verizon’s wireline assets in California, Florida and Texas.

Report: Licensed Spectrum Spurs Big Economic Growth (Wireless Week, 5/11/15)Spectrum devoted to wireless networks goes for a premium at auction because it’s generating over $400 billion in economic activity annually. That was the finding of a report conducted by the Brattle Group and prepared for CTIA. According to CTIA, the $400 billion figure includes direct and indirect economic impact generated by the mobile carriers, but excludes billions more in economic benefits produced by mobile health, mobile education, the app economy and other sectors that use licensed spectrum as a platform for their own business models.