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US wireless not competitive enough - FCC

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The FCC has published its annual report on the competitiveness of the US wireless industry, and says there's not enough of it - despite industry howls to the contrary.

The report covers part of 2008 and most of 2009, and leaves industry body the CTIA "disappointed and confused as to why [the FCC has] chosen not to make a finding of ‘effective competition’ for that year". The CTIA goes on to express its concerns about the threatened "policy levers" that might be used to increase competition in a business that the industry believes is already fiercely competitive.

Not everyone involved thinks more legislation is needed. Republican members of the FCC argued against more rules, though in his comment Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps suggests: "We are going to need an extra dose of vigilance going forward and use whatever policy levers we have available to ensure good outcomes for American consumers."

The problem, of course, is that the numbers can be applied to give any result one wishes. Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell points out that more than three quarters of Americans can now choose between three or more wireless providers, and almost 90 per cent can decide between two, but Democrat Mignon Clyburn uses the same figures to show that 2.4 million Americans are stuck with only one wireless option, while 900,000 have no wireless provider at all.

In his summary (pdf) Julius Genachowski (FCC Chair) tries to argue that declaring whether the industry is competitive or not is too simplistic, rather stacks of statistics should be obtained that can be referenced over time to establish trends.

The report is in its 14th year, and so far that trend is for more devices providing more services to a greater proportion of the population. So while there may be concerns about excessive consolidation of wireless businesses and too much concentration in radio spectrum holdings, for the moment everything is progressing acceptably. ®

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