FCC adopts rules to drive wireless competition

Apr 07, 2011 By JOELLE TESSLER , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- Federal regulators adopted rules Thursday to drive more competition in wireless broadband as more people access the Internet using iPhones and other popular mobile devices.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to require big wireless carriers to open their data networks to smaller regional operators in places where they don't have their own systems. The large carriers have to offer network access at reasonable prices, and the FCC would resolve any disputes.

The so-called "data roaming" rules are a response to consolidation in an industry dominated by two nationwide carriers, AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless. And they come just weeks after AT&T, the nation's second-largest wireless company, announced plans to buy T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest, in a $39 billion cash-and-stock deal.

Existing voice roaming rules already allow regional competitors to use the big carriers' networks to handle phone calls outside their own service territories. That enables Leap Wireless, for instance, to offer nationwide calling service. It pays other carriers for access to their systems when customers make calls outside Leap's service area.

But smaller wireless providers say they need to be able to be able to do that with data, too, as subscribers increasingly use smartphones not just to make phone calls but to send pictures, watch online video and access bandwidth-hungry mobile applications.

"Consumers ... expect to use their mobile phones throughout the nation for voice calls or data - like email or mobile apps," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat.

Parul Desai, policy counsel for the consumer watchdog group Consumers Union, said the new rules should help lower prices by giving consumers more choices for nationwide data services.

Steven Berry, president and chief executive of the Rural Cellular Association, added that the rules should make it easier for rural carriers to grow by ensuring that they can get the nationwide data roaming agreements they need to attract customers and funding for their networks.

"In this day and age, consumer expectations are that their devices work anytime, anyplace, anywhere," Berry said. "What consumer would buy a phone that only works in one small regional area?"

The FCC's three Democrats voted to adopt the data-roaming rules over the opposition of the agency's two Republicans. Republican Robert McDowell said he believes the agency lacks the legal authority to impose such requirements on the wireless industry.

AT&T and Verizon warned that they will have less incentive to invest in their high-speed wireless networks if they have to share them with competitors at regulated rates. In a statement, Verizon said the rules represent "a new level of unwarranted government intervention."

But Sprint Nextel Corp., the nation's third largest wireless carrier, and Leap Wireless, parent of the smaller Cricket phone service, welcomed the rules.

Explore further: Scientists twist radio beams to send data: Transmissions reach speeds of 32 gigabits per second

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Government report: 4 cos. control wireless market

Aug 26, 2010

(AP) -- Consolidation over the past decade has left just four big carriers in control of 90 percent of the wireless market, making it harder for small and regional companies to compete, according to a government report released ...

LightSquared cleared to offer wireless broadband

Jan 26, 2011

(AP) -- Federal regulators have given a satellite start-up called LightSquared clearance to use its allotted airwaves to provide wireless broadband services that could compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

FCC inquiries could spawn new wireless regulations

Aug 27, 2009

(AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission is taking a closer look at the practices of the wireless industry, potentially the first step toward more regulations intended to push down prices and increase choices for consumers.

Leap adds free nationwide roaming to Cricket

Mar 23, 2010

(AP) -- Leap Wireless International Inc. said Tuesday that it's eliminating most roaming fees for its Cricket contract-free wireless service, continuing a series of price cuts and service enhancements in the growing and ...

Regulators seek to avoid surprises on cell bills

May 11, 2010

(AP) -- Federal regulators are considering rules that would require wireless phone companies to alert consumers before they reach roaming or data usage limits on their wireless plans.

Recommended for you

Cutting congestion on the data network highway

Sep 12, 2014

Perhaps no other consumer-driven technology has made such incredible advances in such a relatively short space of time as the mobile phone. Today's smartphones are used to stream videos, access social media ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
We don't need more competition, fools, we need more cooperation.

If everyone was to share technologies, and if not for patents restricting the ability to combine existing technologies, computers would be far more advanced than they are today. Why compete? Cooperate.
dan42day
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
One only has to look at the explosion of telecommunication advances and features at affordable prices that came about after the dismantling of the AT&T phone monopoly to understand why competition is essential.
Skultch
not rated yet Apr 17, 2011
Cooperate.


Hippy! ;) jk