FCC Probes Wireless Industry


The Federal Communications Commission is launching an investigation it hopes will give it better insight into competition in the mobile wireless market -- and the effects of that on the U.S. consumer. The FCC estimates that wireless mobility has become central to the economic, civic and social lives of more than 270 million Americans.

"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," said the organization in a statement.

The commission released three Notices of Inquiry (NOI) regarding the topic this week, announcing the investigations to look into wireless innovation and investment as well as mobile wireless competition and the protection of consumers.

The FCC's investigation into wireless innovation and investment will address spectrum availability and use, as well as devices, applications and business practices of each wireless network. As it looks into mobile wireless competition, the FCC will include new market segments not covered thoroughly in previous reports, such as device and infrastructure segments, and will inquire about vertical relationships between "upstream" and "downstream" market segments, and how such relationships affect competition.

Previously, when the commission has looked at protection of consumers and information disclosure, it has focused on the formatting of consumer bills. However, the commission noted that issue is of concern only after a service provider has been selected.

The current NOI indicates the FCC is interested in asking questions about the information available to consumers as they select their providers, choose service plans, manage the use of their service plans and decide whether and when to switch providers. It also is asking for comments on mandatory information disclosure, as in other industries, such as nutrition labels on food.