The Government Accountability Office (GOA) today published a report geared toward consumer choice in relation to the wireless industry, concluding that the FCC needs to monitor more aspects of the industry on an ongoing basis to improve reporting capabilities and have a better grasp of what’s going on.
The analysis the GOA is providing via the 57-page in-depth report falls in line with the mission of the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC) and other groups such as Public Knowledge, which call on the FCC to invoke change in the wireless industry and turn the control away from the wireless carriers to create a more open environment for consumers and those wishing to conduct business within it.
The GAO said it collected and analyzed data and documents from a variety of government and private sources; conducted case studies in both rural and urban areas; and interviewed stakeholders representing consumers, local and state agencies. What they found is that over the last 10 years, not only have Americans increased their reliance on wireless, but there’s also been a tremendous amount of consolidation in the number of operators — which is a large contributing factor to the problems we face today.
”The biggest changes in the wireless industry since 2000 have been consolidation among wireless carriers and increased use of wireless services by consumers,” the GOA explains. “Industry consolidation has made it more difficult for small and regional carriers to be competitive. Difficulties for these carriers include securing subscribers, making network investments and offering the latest wireless phones necessary to compete in this dynamic industry. Nevertheless, consumers have also seen benefits, such as generally lower prices, which are approximately 50 percent less than 1999 prices, and better coverage.”
Despite the few advantages, the GOA is calling on the FCC to make some changes, including suggestions for tracking prices, special access rates, capital expenditures, and equipment costs. In particular, the GAO raised concerns about the practices of some carriers, such as early-termination fees and handset exclusivity arrangements. In the end, it’s yet another entity in the fight to persuade the FCC to finally make some much needed changes. We can only hope the GOA has the weight behind it to actually get something done.