The legislation would provide consumers with speed, cost and coverage information in all billing materials.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D.-Calif., introduced
the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act to help consumers understand
network reliability, coverage and pricing-which are becoming pressing concerns as more
consumers use their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to stream
video and other data-intensive applications and services.
The bill states that without
a standard definition of 4G wireless technology, consumers often experience
vastly different speeds, depending on the wireless provider and location. The
legislation aims to ensure that consumers have complete and accurate
information about the speed of 4G service before committing to a plan. The Next
Generation Wireless Disclosure Act has been referred to the House Energy &
Commerce Committee, according to a statement posted on Eshoo's Website.
"Consumers deserve to
know exactly what they're getting for their money when they sign up for a 4G
data plan," Eshoo said. "The wireless industry has invested billions
to improve service coverage, reliability and data speeds, and consumers' demand
for 4G is expected to explode. But consumers need to know the truth about the
speeds they're actually getting. My legislation is simple-it will establish
guidelines for understanding what 4G speed really is, and ensure that consumers
have all the information they need to make an informed decision."
The legislation would
provide consumers with the following information at the point of sale and in
all billing materials: guaranteed minimum data speed, network reliability,
coverage area maps, pricing, technology used to provide 4G service, and network
conditions that can impact the speed of applications and services used on the
network. The legislation also requires the Federal Communications Commission to
evaluate the speed and price of 4G wireless data service provided by the Top 10
U.S. wireless carriers in order to provide consumers with access to a
side-by-side comparison in their service area.
Several groups have
announced their support of the legislation to make it easier for consumers to
have all the information necessary to make smart decisions when choosing a
wireless data plan.
"The Eshoo bill will empower
consumers who are shopping for wireless broadband service. It will help people
cut through the clutter so we can compare prices and options, and we can better
understand what really constitutes 4G data service," said Parul P. Desai of the
Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
"Right now, there
aren't a lot of consumer protections for mobile broadband customers, and the
Eshoo bill would help ensure consumers have certain rights and information when
they sign up for a plan."
Sascha Meinrath, director of
the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, applauded
Congresswoman Eshoo for introducing legislation he said gives consumers more
clear and concise information about the mobile broadband services they are
buying. "Today, more than ever, as mobile broadband providers employ
Orwellian doublespeak advertising that touts 'unlimited plans' that are in fact
not unlimited and market '4G' speeds in terms of 'lightning fast' and
'supercharged,' transparency rules that provide consumers with basic
information regarding the actual price, minimum speed, and plain language terms
of service are desperately needed," Meinrath said.