Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–May 19, 2014

FCC Vote Could Determine How Fast, Well, Cell Phones Work
A meeting in Washington D.C. could determine how much wireless costs and how well and how fast it works. The open meeting by the Federal Communications Commission will consider proposals for rules governing an “incentive auction” of airwave spectrum set to take place next year. The basic idea is simple. The FCC wants TV stations to sell it back licenses to low band spectrum they don’t use. Those low bandwidths are the most valuable to wireless carriers, because those wavelengths can go long distances and reach deep into buildings, meaning fewer dead spots for cell phones. Story by Elizabeth Weise for USA Today.

Minnesota Enacts Nation’s First ‘Kill Switch’ Law for Stolen Cellphones
Minnesota smartphones next year must include a way to disable them when stolen. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill into law Wednesday requiring mobile telephone companies to include “kill switches” on smartphones and connected tablets sold beginning July 1, 2015. This new process will allow owners to disable lost and stolen devices as a way to discourage thefts. Story by Don Davis for the Forum News Service.

Being “Connected” after Work Hours Linked to Higher Stress Levels
A new survey from Gallup shows that workers who use remote technology to keep up with their jobs after work experience much higher stress levels than those who do not. Nearly half of users who said they experienced “a lot of stress yesterday” worked remotely for more than seven hours per week. 48% of users who frequently checked their emails outside of work hours said they experienced high stress levels, compared to 36% for those who never check emails after work. This survey was conducted with a random population of 4,475 working U.S. adults. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Former FCC Official to Head Cell Phone Lobby
Verizon, AT&T, and the other cell-phone service providers have a new top lobbyist. Meredith Attwell Baker, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, will be the new CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association. The explosive growth of the wireless industry over the past decade has helped CTIA become one of the most influential lobbies in Washington. A top priority for the group is to gain access to more airwaves for the industry. Surging demand for wireless data could lead to congestion and slower speeds for smartphones in the coming years. Baker said she will develop a five-year plan for future use of the airwaves, and will put more emphasis on technical and engineering expertise at the group. Story by Brendan Sasso for the National Journal.

Louisiana Senate Rejects Ban on Cellphones When Driving in School Zones
Motorists can continue to chat on their cellphones while driving through school zones. Legislation that would have banned the use of wireless telecommunication devices by drivers in school zones during posted hours failed Tuesday in the state Senate. House Bill 370 received 16 favorable votes. It needed 20 for passage. Under the measure, first time violators would face fines of $175. Story in the New Orleans Advocate.

Just 30 Minutes of Mobile Use a Day Could Triple Cancer Risk
Using a mobile phone for more than half an hour a day over five years can triple the risk of developing certain types of brain cancer, a French study suggests. Researchers found that people who used mobiles for 15 hours per month on average had a two to three times greater risk of developing glioma and meningioma–the main types of brain tumour–compared with those who used their phone rarely. The findings, by researchers at Bordeaux University, supported other international studies, suggesting a “higher threat of a brain tumour observed solely among heavier [mobile phone] users”. Story in the New Zealand Herald.

Facebook Smartphone Patent Revealed: Touchpad on the Side & Lots More
Rumors surrounding Facebook secretly building a smartphone have been going on around since 2010. Now for the first time, a report from the Patent Bolt blog claims that Facebook is working on developing a device that would stand out from other products. The smartphone features a touchscreen, with touchpad on the side that would respond to gesture recognition library. In the patent filed way back in 2011, Facebook described the device as a ‘smartphone with a curved surface’. Filed originally under the name of ‘Mobile Device with Concave-Shaped Back Side’, Facebook demonstrated via images how users would be able to use it describing the concavely-shaped back side as a protector of touch surface from accidental activations and abrasions. Story by Christy Gren for Industry Leaders Magazine.

Cuba’s First Mobile Email Experiment Causes Chaos, Widespread Problems with Cell Phone Service
On an island where most people have no Internet access, the arrival of mobile phone email service was embraced with joy. Tens of thousands of Cubans began emailing like crazy in March–for days, until the service started to fail, taking much of Cuba’s already shaky voice and text-messaging mobile service down with it. The island’s aging cellphone towers became swamped by the new flood of email traffic, creating havoc for anyone trying to use the system. Users had to make eight or nine attempts to successfully send an email. Even voice calls by non-subscribers’ began to drop mid-conversation. Callers sounded like they were phoning from the bottom of the sea. Ordinary text messages arrived days late, or not at all. Since then, the state telecom monopoly Etecsa has issued a rare apology and the troubles have eased. Story by Andrea Rodriguez for the Associated Press.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of SaveOnPhone.com. He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.