Wireless Carriers Ramp Up Competitiveness Rhetoric

Wireless carrier trade group CTIA claims it welcomes the FCC inquiry into the competitiveness and innovation of the industry and even admits it might have brought on the probe itself after years of consumer complaints over everything from jamming to early termination fees. However, as CTIA sees it, no further regulation is needed, particularly regarding network neutrality.

WASHINGTON-Less than a week after the Federal Communications Commission launched an inquiry into the state of competition and innovation in the wireless carrier industry, CTIA-the wireless industry's chief voice-is cranking up a publicity campaign to tell "our story." Steve Largent, CTIA's president and CEO, has even gone so far as to say he welcomes the inquiry, which consumer and advocacy groups consider long overdue.
The inquiry reflects a likely change in direction for the FCC, which has spent the last eight years promoting a hands-off, no-regulation agenda for the wireless industry. New Chairman Julius Genachowski, though, has pledged to pursue a "pro-consumer" agenda with open networks and network neutrality principles guiding the agency.
For some, the FCC inquiry foreshadows more regulation for wireless carriers. In addition to the wireless inquiry now under way, the FCC under Genachowski has already plowed into the Google Voice controversy involving Google, Apple and AT&T, asking all sides to explain their positions. The agency is also exploring exclusive handset deals and is working on a national broadband plan that could lead to new regulations, including additional network neutrality rules.
"My job is to always be concerned about additional regulation regardless of who's in office," Largent told reporters here Sept. 1 at the trade association's Dupont Circle headquarters. "Regardless of who the president is, regardless of who's in Congress, regardless of who's at the FCC, my job is to keep an eye out for harmful regulation of the wireless industry."
Largent said the election of Barack Obama and his subsequent appointment of Genachowski didn't set off any particular alarms for his members. "We knew they'd be looking into everybody's business."