FCC to scrutinize wireless industry competition

The FCC yesterday said it will launch a review of wireless industry practices to determine the state of competition in the industry and to figure out ways to encourage further innovation and investment. The commission also plans to look into the fees that wireless subscribers are charged to see if changes need to be made to ensure subscribers know what these extra fees are actually funding. The commission will issue a notice of inquiry on these items and seek public input.

Wireless trade association CTIA said it looks forward to responding to the FCC's inquiries. "We're looking forward to educating not just the [FCC] but other policy makers about the evolution of the industry and the innovation that's occurring, not just by carriers but across the ecosystem," Christopher Gutman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA, told the Wall Street Journal.

This latest scrutiny of the wireless industry comes just weeks after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the FCC would look into exclusive handset deals between carriers and device makers that in some cases make it impossible for customers in rural markets to access trendy phones. Tier 1 wireless carriers, notably Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, have said the exclusive handset deals help spur innovation. Smaller regional carriers though argue the deals limit industry competition by preventing them from offering the industry's hottest gadgets.

The FCC isn't the only government agency looking into the competitiveness of the wireless industry. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice had started an initial review into the business practice of telecom operators. However, the agency has not yet opened an official inquiry.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this ZDNet article

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