×

Is Mobile Service Competitive? With a Possible Big Merger, FCC Commissioners Disagree

WASHINGTON — The FCC has concluded that there is a competitive market for mobile wireless service, a finding that could have implications on how the Republican-controlled agency makes future decisions.

The finding was made in an annual report to Congress on the wireless marketplace, and the FCC staff made its conclusions by citing falling prices, network investment and improved quality. The study looked at the marketplace in 2016 and early 2017.

But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, challenged the findings and cited the reports that T-Mobile and Sprint are talking about a merger. That could reduce the number of major mobile providers from four to three.

“While the commission should not prejudge what is not yet before us, I think this agency sticks its collective head in the sand by issuing this report and implying ‘Move along, there is nothing to see here,'” she said at Tuesday’s meeting. “For my part, any transaction before us will require someone to explain how consumers will benefit, how prices will not rise and how innovation will not dissipate in the face of so much more industry concentration.”

She was joined in her criticism of the report by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who cited the dearth of service in some rural areas.

“Not a week passes in Washington, and various parts of our nation, where the buzz about the promise of 5G is not heard,” Clyburn said. “The reality, however, is that far too many in this country do not have reliable and affordable 3G service.”

She said that the report took a “myopic view” of the mobile wireless ecosystem.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, however, defended the conclusion. When asked what impact that rumors of potential future mergers had on the conclusion, he said, “The key word is ‘rumored.’ Congress has tasked us with the state of ‘effective competition,’ and that does not include rumors of mergers that may or may not happen.”

“Looking at the bigger picture, most reasonable people see a fiercely competitive marketplace,” he said.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that “providers are actively improving their products to meet consumer expectations.” He said that what the report showed was that “we are entering an era of tremendous investment.”

“As the report details, wireless prices are falling.  Speeds are increasing.  Network coverage and capacity are expanding,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, at his first open commission meeting since being confirmed.

Another pending flashpoint between the commission’s Republican and Democratic appointees is over how the FCC sets the benchmark for high-speed Internet service.

Pai has put up for public comment a proposal that would count mobile service at speeds of at least 10 Mbps as a sufficient standard in determining whether consumers are getting sufficient access to broadband service. That is lower than the 25 Mbps for broadband set by the FCC under Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.

Rosenworcel blasted the proposal on Twitter last week. “FCC proposing to lower US #broadband standard from 25 to 10 Mbps. This is crazy. Lowering standards doesn’t solve our broadband problems.”

More Politics

  • Kamala Harris

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Face Rematch in Next Democratic Debate

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris will have the opportunity to square off again in the second debate among Democratic hopefuls vying for their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election CNN, which will broadcast the next round of debates on July 30 and 31, televised a draw Thursday night that decided [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Donate

    Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Join Hollywood's Buttigieg Bandwagon

    Pete Buttigieg has built a devoted following in Hollywood over the last few months, helping him lead the Democratic field in fundraising for the second quarter. In a filing released Monday night, Buttigieg disclosed contributions from a bunch of bold-faced names, including Jennifer Aniston, Tig Notaro and Larry David. Buttigieg held numerous fundraisers in the [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk — and success — hanging [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein Bail Decision Delayed, More Accusers Coming Forward

    Jeffrey Epstein won’t find out if he’s going to be released on bail until July 18, even as prosecutors argued that the multimillionaire businessman presents a flight risk and could endanger his accusers unless he remains in jail. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, Epstein’s legal team said their client is willing [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    FTC Approves $5 Billion Fine Against Facebook for Privacy Violations

    The Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Facebook around $5 billion for violations of the FTC’s consumer-privacy rules, according to multiple media reports — the biggest privacy-related fine in the commission’s history. The $5 billion figure may be a record-breaker, but it represents less than Facebook reported in net profit ($5.43 billion) for the first [...]

  • United States Secretary of Labor Alexander

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta Resigning Amid Epstein Controversy

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has tendered his resignation to President Trump after facing criticism for a plea deal he struck with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 after Epstein was charged with luring teenage girls to his mansion for sex. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump made the announcement Friday, telling reporters that Acosta [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content