4G Wireless Bill Aims to Educate, Protect Consumers

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.