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January 28, 2013

Technology News Briefs — Jan. 28, 2013

Unlocking New Smartphones Purchased from Carrier Now Illegal

It is now illegal in the U.S. to unlock any Smartphone purchased from a carrier without that carrier’s permission.

Under the new law, first-time offenders could face fines of up to $500,000, be imprisoned for five years, or both. Repeat offenders face a fine of $1 million, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.

The Library of Congress, which handles the rulemaking for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted the law in October with a 90-day transition period. That transition period ran out Jan. 26.

According to the Librarian of Congress, “there is now a wide array of unlocked phone options available to consumers. While it is true that not every wireless device is available unlocked, and wireless carriers’ unlocking polices are not free from all restrictions, the record clearly demonstrates that there is a wide range of alternatives from which consumers may choose in order to obtain an unlocked wireless phone.”

Phones purchased before the law was enacted can still be unlocked without consequences.

AT&T Shells Out $1.9B for Verizon Airwaves

AT&T is digging deep — to the tune of $1.9 billion — to acquire airwaves from longtime rival Verizon Communications.

The purchase is part of AT&T’s plan to give its network a boost.

The 700 MHz licenses cover 42 million people in 18 states — California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

“This acquisition complements AT&T’s existing holdings in the 700 MHz B band and will allow AT&T to continue to quickly deploy 4G LTE services to meet demand for mobile Internet services on a wide array of Smartphones, tablets and other devices,” the company said in a press release.

The company announced last November it plans to reach 300 million people in the U.S. with its 4G LTE network by the end of 2014.

In addition to cold, hard cash, AT&T will also give Verizon 10MHz of AWS spectrum in Western markets such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Fresno and Portland, Oregon.

Facebook Block’s Twitter’s New App

All is fair in love and war and it appears Facebook and Twitter are in a war of sorts.

Not long after Twitter announced it had purchased video sharing app Vine, Facebook blocked the app from using the social network’s ‘find people’ function. This means Vine cannot find friends with Facebook accounts.

The move does not come as a surprise. Twitter blocked Facebook’s Instagram app from using its API to find friends with Twitter accounts within Instagram last summer.

Facebook has also denied access to Russian search engine Yandex’s new Wonder app. The app enables users to search social data streams.

Facebook posted a blog Jan. 25 to clarify its position. It reads:

For the vast majority of developers building social apps and games, keep doing what you’re doing. Our goal is to provide a platform that gives people an easy way to login to your apps, create personalized and social experiences, and easily share what they’re doing in your apps with people on Facebook. This is how our platform has been used by the most popular categories of apps, such as games, music, fitness, news and general lifestyle apps.

For a much smaller number of apps that are using Facebook to either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook, such as not providing users an easy way to share back to Facebook, we’ve had policies against this that we are further clarifying today (see I.10).