FCC Hears Both Sides on Mobile Competitiveness

Gathers input for next mobile market report

The FCC is collecting information for its Twentieth Mobile Wireless Report, a report that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has signaled might actually draw a conclusion about how competitive the mobile broadband market is vis a vis wired broadband, and it is getting input on both sides of that argument.

The Competitive Carriers Association, in a filing on the upcoming report, said the mobile wireless marketplace is not as generally competitive as has been suggested—including by Chairman Pai—and warned the FCC against such a finding.

Under Pai's predecessor, the report did not draw conclusions about competitiveness, though the clear signal was that mobile was a potential, rather than an actual, substitute for wired.

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CCA was not against the FCC drawing a conclusion, just not the one Pai signaled.

“The fact-of-the-matter is that competition is not present nationwide and varies significantly by geographic location, and it is high-time the Commission makes a conclusion to that effect," said CCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry. "Competitive carriers serve some of the most rural and hard-to-reach areas, and their experiences more than validate the unfortunate reality that many parts of the country do not receive, much less have competitive choice for, mobile wireless service. By the end of 2016, the duopoly continued to command 71% of service provider market shares by service revenue, and their shared subscriber count was nearly five times greater than that of a single competitor," he said.

"Compounding these numbers, AT&T and Verizon continue to engage in secondary market transactions that dilute the competitive mobile landscape and threaten other providers’ access to spectrum and content resources. The FCC cannot responsibly conclude that this data represents a competitive market without trivializing the significant contributions rural and regional carriers make to their communities every day," he added.

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On the other side was the media-centric free market think tank, the Free State Foundation. In its comments to the FCC, it said: "[T]he Commission's 'analysis of whether or not there is effective competition' in the wireless market should result in a positive finding; second, the Commission must align its wireless policies with the market's effectively competitive conditions by removing harmful regulations, rejecting new controls, and promoting infrastructure investment."

FSF said that to do that, it must "remove unwarranted public utility-style Title II regulation of wireless broadband services, return broadband privacy jurisdiction to the Federal Trade Commission, and re-establish a light-touch regulatory policy."