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FCC Examines Wireless Industry

Mon, 08/24/2009 - 7:44am
Jennifer LeClaire

Editor's Note: We need better and more intelligent regulation and oversight of our communications infrastructure, wired and wireless.

CC Federal Communications Commission(newsfactor.com ) - As Apple and AT&T file responses to a Federal Communications Commission inquiry into why Apple recently rejected Google Voice from its App Store, the FCC is launching a broader investigation into several aspects of the wireless industry.

The FCC's move may be in response to growing consumer upset over wireless industry practices, such as price structures for texting and data plans. The FCC and Congress also recently examined exclusive smartphone deals between handset makers and wireless carriers. AT&T and Apple's iPhone were also included in that probe.

Investigating the Wireless Industry

Late Thursday, the FCC announced plans to examine the wireless industry more closely, seeking a better understanding of the factors that encourage innovation and investment in wireless and identifying ways the commission can help spur the industry on both fronts.

The FCC also plans to analyze competitive market conditions in the mobile industry, including commercial mobile services. The Commission signaled it may solicit information on the status of competition in the wireless mobile market for its annual report to Congress.

Finally, the FCC will look into consumer information and disclosure issues, such as truth-in-billing and billing formats, and consider seeking comments on whether there are opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by making sure they have access to relevant information about communications services.

Tearing Down the Walled Garden

"The threat of federal interference is going to get carriers moving. The walls of the walled garden have been coming down for some time," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "We are going to eventually get to an all-IP world. The question is how quickly and in what fashion."

As Greengart sees it, some people don't seem to understand wireless industry technologies. It's not always a simple contractual matter, he explained. It often involves what can and can't work.

"You can't take a GSM phone and magically make it work on CDMA. It's not going to happen. It's simply impossible," Greengart said. "If you are going to mandate that every phone must support every frequency and every technology standard that's being used in the U.S., you are going to impose a massive cost burden on handset manufacturers which will get passed on to consumers, so kiss all your inexpensive phones goodbye."

National Broadband Moves

Meanwhile, the FCC is also seeking to better define broadband services. In a Thursday notice, the FCC said it is seeking comments on broadband so it can develop a National Broadband Plan in light of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Act contains two sections that deal with broadband.

"Advertised throughput rates generally differ from actual rates, are not uniformly measured, and have different constraints over different technologies," the FCC's notice said. The commission also said "it is unclear what the end points of the connection are over which throughput is measured or whether the performance of the end point is reflected in the stated throughput."

 
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