Is More Regulation Headed For Wireless Industry?


The FCC is looking at various practices in the wireless industry -- including the setting of fees and exclusive deals with smartphone makers -- leading some to wonder if this is a prelude to more regulation in the market by the Obama administration.

According to the FCC's agenda for its next meeting, slated for Thursday, Aug. 27, the government organization will look at three topics concerning wireless: investment, competition and fee structure.

In the agenda summary regarding investment, the group noted, "the FCC will be seeking to understand better the factors that encourage innovation and investment in wireless and to identify concrete steps the Commission can take to support and encourage further innovation and investment in this area." This coincides with the push by the administration to grant stimulus funds to companies working to provide broadband service to rural areas. Some of those applications for funding include Wi-Fi and Wi-Max in the proposals.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently said that the FCC plans to look into whether exclusive handset arrangements, such as Apple's exclusive carrier arrangement with AT&T for the iPhone, are hampering competition and limiting customer choice. Carriers defend the exclusivity contracts claiming they do foster innovation by encouraging companies to offer new products.

Finally, the FCC will study the fees charged by the wireless carriers to determine whether there are opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.