FCC expands wireless industry inquiries

fcc-mobileHere, in this glorious land of the free and home of the brave, there is generally one thing that most all Americans can agree on: the major mobile wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) suck leave much to be desired.

As more and more people come to depend solely on their cell phones and the related services (voice, data, multimedia), it becomes that much more important for the FCC to ensure that the wireless industry remains legitimately competitive for the sake of reliability, innovation, and most importantly, for all of us, the American consumers. Fortunately, by law, the FCC is required to report annually on the state of competition in the “commercial mobile services” market.

In an effort to gather more useful information for its next mobile wireless competition report, the FCC announced (pdf) yesterday a Notice of Inquiry that seeks to enhance its analysis of competitive conditions in the mobile wireless market.

Wireless mobility has become central to the economic, civic, and social lives of over 270 million Americans. We are now in the midst of a transition from reliance on mobile voice services to increasing use of and reliance on mobile broadband services, which promise to connect American citizens in new and profound ways. A robustly competitive mobile wireless market will be essential to realizing the full benefits to American consumers and channeling investment into vitally important national infrastructure. The FCC is seeking to ensure that competition in the mobile wireless market continues to bring substantial benefits to American consumers.

Today’s NOI builds on the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Public Notice on mobile wireless competition, released May 14, 2009, by seeking input on new issues and topics. The FCC said it is seeking to enhance its understanding of the mobile wireless industry in three main ways. First, the FCC inquires about which analytic framework and data sources will most clearly describe competition in the mobile wireless market. Second, it adjusts the inquiry to include new market segments not covered thoroughly in previous reports, such as device and infrastructure segments. Third, it inquires about vertical relationships between “upstream” and “downstream” market segments, and how these relationships affect competition.

In addition, the FCC also announced (pdf) yesterday a Notice of Inquiry on whether there are additional opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.

As communications technologies and services become more essential, and the communications market more complex, information is key to consumer protection and empowerment. The Commission seeks comment from communications service providers, academic researchers, consumer groups and third-party analysts on how best to ensure consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions in the communications marketplace.

In light of the recent Apple / AT&T / Google brouhaha, these inquires have that much more significance riding on them. The FCC has an increasingly tough job of balancing the carriers’ needs and rights alongside the (more important) needs and rights of American consumers. And although the FCC is just doing what is required of it, it is reassuring to see that the federal agency actually appears to be concerned with the current state of the mobilesphere and that it appears to have a sincere interest in making the future of mobile wireless communications better for everyone.

So what do you think, dear readers, about the current state of the mobile wireless market? We’d love to hear your opinions on everything from iPhone / any-phone exclusivity to VoIP to long-term contract agreements. In the meantime, let’s hope that the FCC not only gathers useful data for its upcoming reports, but also puts its money where its giant federal agency mouth is…and succeeds in increasing competition and empowering the American people with more information and choice.

via AppleInsider