FCC gives Verizon the third degree over $350 'advanced device' ETF

Early termination fees have always represented the flipside of subsidized pricing -- the necessary evil that keeps free phones free. Thing is, they were tough enough to swallow at $175 or $200, but Verizon's recently gone for the jugular in a hell-bent effort to keep subscribers locked in by upping the fee on vaguely-defined "advanced devices" (read: any phone a power user would ever want) all the way up to a mind-bending $350. Turns out the FCC is as confused and worked up as everyone else, though, having fired off a 4-page communique to Verizon's veep of legal and external affairs today asking how customers are notified of the new ETF, how the prorating formula is calculated (hint: they don't like that you still pay $120 after 23 months of a 24-month contract), and how an "advanced device" comes to be, among other things. Riding on the letter are a few extra questions about inadvertent mobile web charges for customers that aren't signed up for a data plan, totaling nine paragraph-long queries that the feds want answered by December 17. Your move, Verizon.

[Thanks, Daniel P.]