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Does the U.S. need a cellphone user’s Bill of Rights?



mobilephne Does the US Need a Cellphone User’s Bill of Rights?

I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by Washington think tank, the New America Foundation. The topic was wireless phone regulation. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at Slate Magazine had a wish list for the FCC on regulatory changes that could make cell phone service better for consumers.  Here’s what is on Farhad’s list:

Collect better data about the wireless network in your local area

There is scant reliable information about actual wireless coverage throughout the country. Coverage maps used by providers as marketing material do not give consumers reliable information about whether their wireless service will actually be available where they need it. The FCC should collect more and better information about actual cellular service coverage to identify dead zones, provide consumers with better information when shopping for a service provider.

Simplified wireless phone bills

Do you understand all those charges on your cell phone bill? Do you understand what all the various tariffs and charges are? Can you easily make out how many minutes you use, how much data is used etc. etc? In short do you really know what you are paying for?  Manjoo asserts that the FCC should tell cellular phone service providers to simplfy their bills, making it easier for consumers to understand what they are paying for.

Right to unlock phone

If you use an Apple iphone, Steve Jobs sees to it that you must use AT&T, at least for now. The FCC could require manufacturers to offer service from any provider on any device. This could improve market competition in the wireless service market and unleash innovation and in the handset market, all to the benefit of mobile phone consumers.

Encourage competition in the mobile phone market

Wireline or landline phone service providers must comply with rule known as Carterfone rules that require the telephone companies to connect any external device to the wireline phone network.  This is what allows you to buy your phone from any consumer electronics retailer and plug it into your phone socket and get phone service. Manjoo and other’s argue that the same should apply to wireless phone service–any device should work on any network.


So what do you think? Would you like to see these changes to your cell phone service? Is there something you’d like to see that is not on this list? Can you hear me now?

Melanie is the Senior Technology Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors. That means she lobbies Congress and Federal Agencies on technology policy issues of importance to the real estate industry. In her pre-NAR life Melanie has been a practicing attorney and a software start-up executive. Like any native Californian, Melanie loves good wine and bountiful farmers markets.

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  1. Lani Rosales

    April 6, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I support the above items and I would add that cell phone bills should not only be redesigned but should include clear information on which governmental agency oversees grievances. Try asking an hourly employee which regulatory committee oversees cell phone user abuses and you’ll get deer in the headlights.

    For example, we were charged taxes for Arizona and Texas for five years and continually had to ask the Arizona taxes be removed since we live in Texas and clearly not in Arizona, yet for years we had to call in over and over and be reimbursed the amount they could not make disappear (and yet it shows up from time to time). We asked to speak to supervisors on the phone, asked people in the store to look at it, blah blah blah, but when we finally asked what regulatory agency was over Sprint, the answer was refused. It should be clear on my bill, just like warnings on cigarettes, MY RIGHT should be that of recourse.

    All that said, I understand the times call the most attention to unlocking phones right now given the pace of technological advances, but in rural areas, coverage is promised but not received, leaving users with a two year contract and no service.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

    This is rather two fold, if it’s not about device exclusivity (iphone, palm, etc…) and only about choosing carriers then you get better carriers, not better devices. I don’t see a BOR as incentive to inspire creativity as it is a move to drive choice.

    Soon the federal government will oversee an overhaul of telephone carriers from landline to voip similar to the move from analog to digital television- when this happens, any bor should be in place, because that’s when things are going to get buck wild.

  3. CassieS

    May 20, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I grew quite fed up with constant bill hassles, hidden charges etc and decided to vote with my wallet. When the time came to renew my cell contract I simply didn’t bother. I went with a prepaid carrier (NET10) and what a relief! No more bill issues, no more hidden charges, no more roaming charges, no contract – hence no ETF and I can switch at the drop of a hat. The carrier obviously knows this because I find they try harder, they have lower prices and yet they provide excellent coverage! If more people just voted with their money/support we wouldn’t have to rely on regulation. Just MHO.

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Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?



Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.



aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.



zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub,, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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