FCC expands ETF inquiry, fires off letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Google

Verizon might be getting picked on for introducing its whopper $350 "advanced device" ETF, but the FCC has decided that it wants answers from everyone on concerns that "there is no standard framework for structuring and applying ETFs throughout the wireless industry." The commission has sent letters (via fancy certified mail, in case you're wondering) to all of the other biggies -- AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile -- along with Google, asking a series of questions probing how each carrier's ETFs are determined and applied. Google gets roped in for its nasty equipment recovery fee, but all of the recipients share a common dubious distinction: the frickin' FCC -- a bureaucracy filled to the brim with lawyers and... well, bureaucrats -- can't figure out terms that everyday customers are expected to understand. Of course, most customers don't have the distinction of being able to send a certified letter to their carrier probing fees and require a prompt and complete response, so we're happy to see the feds get to the bottom of this. Sure, ETFs may ultimately prove to be completely justified in their current form considering the expense that carriers put up to subsidize hot hardware, it's true -- but regardless, it's in everyone's best interest to make sure they're spelled out in ways even FCC commissioners (and Engadget editors) can appreciate.