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Briefs

Builders report rise in permits

The Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne on Wednesday said there were 64 Allen County residential construction requests in October, compared with 33 permits the same month a year ago.

Typically, housing officials have attributed major swings in the number of permits to one-time developments or similar activity. Year-to-date figures showed a 2.2 percent decline at 595 permits.

The average sale price in October was $251,386, compared with $239,832 in October 2011.

AT&T, government settle data-plan feud

AT&T agreed to pay the federal government $700,000 and offer refunds to customers for mistakenly forcing some smartphone users into monthly data plans.

In late 2009, AT&T began to require new smartphone customers to subscribe to monthly data plans. Existing subscribers with pay-per-use plans or no plan at all had to get a monthly plan when they upgraded to a new smartphone.

The requirement wasn’t supposed to apply when subscribers replaced a lost or broken phone through an insurance program or warranty, or if they moved to a different AT&T service area. But a computer error moved those customers into monthly plans anyway.

AT&T Inc. now must offer to restore the older plans and give refunds, which the Federal Communications Commission said could be up to $30 a month.

Microsoft drops IM, switching to Skype

Microsoft is scrapping its instant-messaging program and forcing most users to switch to Skype.

Maintaining Windows Live Messenger made less sense after Microsoft Corp. bought Skype for $8.5 billion last year.

A new version of Skype released a few weeks ago allows users to sign in with a Microsoft account. By merging the two services, people won’t have to maintain two separate contact lists.

Microsoft says much has changed in how people communicate. There’s more use of text messaging and social networking, for instance.

Sprint buying some US Cellular markets

Sprint Nextel Corp. on Wednesday said it has agreed to buy U.S. Cellular Corp.’s service areas in the Midwest for $480 million to boost its network capacity in that region.

Sprint, the third-largest U.S. cellphone carrier, is buying spectrum and 585,000 customers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. That’s about 10 percent of U.S. Cellular’s customer base and includes its key metropolitan markets in Chicago and St. Louis.

U.S. Cellular said 980 jobs will be lost with the sale. Sprint isn’t taking over any employees. U.S. Cellular’s headquarters will stay in Chicago.

The company’s remaining network spans states that include Wisconsin, Iowa, Oregon, Maine and North Carolina.

Home prices rise in 81% of US cities

Prices for single-family homes rose in 81 percent of the nation’s cities as the property market extends a recovery from the worst crash since the 1930s.

The median sales price increased in the third quarter from a year earlier in 120 of 149 metropolitan areas measured, the National Association of Realtors said in a report Wednesday.

In the second quarter, 110 areas had gains.

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