All of the players roped into the FCC's early termination fee inquiry -- T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and Google -- have met the Fed's February 23 deadline for responding, and needless to say, you could destroy a small forest with the amount of paperwork that's been sent back to Washington. The majority of the inquiry focused on carriers' ETF pricing structure and whether there are different ETFs involved based on the device a customer chooses, and the subtleties in the differences between answers from different carriers are pretty fascinating.
T-Mobile seems resolute that a single $200 ETF is the way to go and emphasizes that its customers can avoid the fee altogether by going with an Even More Plus plan, while Sprint says that it "continue[s] to evaluate the market" with regard to a multiple ETF setup. Google, meanwhile, is quick to note that it's just dropped its $350 Equipment Recovery Fee down to $150, though that amount still effectively represents the only device in T-Mobile's subsidized lineup that commands a grand total ETF greater than $200 upon cancellation -- but it gets even better later on when they get snippy for being lumped in with carriers on the inquiry and remind the FCC that the ERF reduction had been in the planning stages prior to the inquiry being issued. At any rate, they note that the ERF isn't intended as a revenue stream -- rather, it's a way to recoup the losses Google incurs when T-Mobile asks for its commission back if a customer cancels within 120 days (as you might imagine, T-Mobile conveniently fails to mention this point in its own reply).
Verizon -- which effectively triggered this whole mess by introducing its two-tier ETF -- basically echoes much of what it said in its last response, a surprising move considering the Commission's general displeasure with it, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of reaction it garners this time around. AT&T takes perhaps the most pragmatic approach through most of its response, answering the FCC's questions very matter-of-factly, but goes into a great deal of depth rationalizing early termination fees at the tail end and takes the opportunity to remind everyone that they've offered both commitment-free month-to-month and prepaid service for many years.
Something tells us this isn't the last we've heard on the subject, but for the time being, check out everyone's responses in the galleries below (more after the break).
[Thanks, Dan P.]