FCC to scrutinize wireless industry

FCC will look at state of wireless competition, truth-in-billing

The Federal Communications Commission next week will hold a broad-ranging meeting next week that will take a hard look at competitive and billing practices in the wireless industry.

The Federal Communications Commission will hold a broad-ranging meeting next week that will take a hard look at competitive and billing practices in the wireless industry.

Specifically, the FCC will examine three key aspects of the wireless industry. In the first portion of the meeting, the FCC will consider ways it can better “support and encourage further innovation and investment” within the wireless industry. In the second portion, the FCC will assess the state of competition within the wireless market. And in the final portion, the FCC will discuss whether carriers can do more to disclose relevant billing information to their customers.

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The scheduled hearings on the wireless industry is yet another signal that the FCC under chairman Julius Genachowski is taking a much more hands-on approach to regulating the telecommunications industry than it did under former chairman Kevin Martin. The commission this month launched an investigation into why Apple had decided to not allow the Google Voice application onto its popular iPhone handset. Apple, AT&T and Google are all due to respond to the FCC’s questions about the Google Voice protocol today.

Additionally, the FCC is looking more deeply into why many areas of the country lack access to broadband services as part of its national broadband plan. And the FCC isn’t the only federal agency that’s giving the wireless industry closer scrutiny under the Obama administration, as the US Department of Justice last month began contemplating whether to launch an investigation into the exclusivity agreements that devices manufacturers often sign with incumbent telecom carriers. At issue, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, is whether having exclusive rights to certain high-profile wireless devices such as the Apple iPhone and the Palm Pre gives larger carriers an unfair competitive advantage over smaller wireless carriers that can't afford to pony up the cash needed to get top devices on their networks.

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