FCC Wireless Report Does Not Conclude Market Is Competitive

The FCC's
14th annual report on competition in the wireless industry did not
conclude that there was effective competition. It did not conclude the
opposite, either. But telcos were calling it a troubling
reversal from six prior reports that had drawn that conclusion.

released the report at its monthly public meeting May 20, and the lack
of that conclusion drew the attention and criticism of commission
Republicans, who "concurred" in the report,
which is a step short of fulll-throated support.

Commissioner Meredith
Attwell Baker said that the marketplace was characterized by robust
wireless competition demonsrated by the report itself, so she saw no
reason why the FCC should depart from past precedent.

Milkman, chief of the Wireless Bureau, said the report was focused on
presenting data rather than drawing any conclusions.
FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowsk, explaining why the report did not include that
competition conclusion, said that it did not "seek to reach an overly
simplistic conclusion about the overall level of
competition in this complex and dynamic ecosystem comprised of multiple
markets. He said the report complies with the congressional mandate of
assessing market conditions "by providing data on trends and competition
and choice over time." He said that approach
"fits best with the role of the FCC as as fact-based, data-driven
agency responsible for promoting competition and protecting consumers."
He said the
report shows both areas of "vibrant competition" and "of concern."

Asked if the
report would be used to justify regulations on the wireless industry,
the chairman said in some cases it could lead the FCC to do "absolutely
nothing," and in others to take "some smart
actions to spur competition." Genachowski
also said the report's data on an "explosion of mobile innovation"
supports the national broadband plan's efforts to accelerate wireless
broadband deployment and reclaim spectrum.
to the FCC vote to approve the report, Verizon senior VP Kathleen
Grillo agreed with Baker that "the facts and the record establish
conclusively that the wireless marketplace is 'effectively
competitive,' as the FCC has found in the previous six wireless
competition reports."

"For six
successive reports, the FCC has confirmed what is obvious to any
consumer who watches television, walks down a busy main street or reads a
newspaper-that the wireless market is intensely competitive,
with new choices in services, applications and devices available almost
weekly," said
Robert Quinn, AT&T senior VP of federal regulatory affairs. "That's
why it's so disappointing that this FCC seems reluctant to acknowledge
the market's success."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.