Uh-oh, the FCC is getting serious about doing its job, which probably means more memos like the one Apple posted last week from companies like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Yesterday the FCC announced three “Notices of Inquiry”—all unanimously voted for by a full, bi-partisan commission—that will look at different aspects of the cellular industry.
Ars Technica took a good look at the three notices and summarized what impact they might have on both the FCC’s regulatory scope and the cellular industry.
Regarding the “truth-in-billing” notice, Ars Technica says it’s about “far more than billing.”
It will ask whether there are “additional opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.” What that means in plain English is that the agency wants to know whether it should protect consumers not just after they’ve bought a wireless service contract, but even before.
Translation: the agency effectively wants to get into the realm of truth-in-advertising as well as billing.
The second notice has to do with expanding the FCC’s annual review of the competitive landscape to now include “upstream” and “downstream” market segments. Translation: mobile phone apps.
“We are transitioning from a voice-centric world to a world of ubiquitous, mobile Internet access,” he said. “This transition promises to increase the pace of innovation and investment, but only if we have an open and competitive marketplace that gives every great idea a chance to make its way to consumers so that the best products or services win.”
And once again, while the FCC’s Republican minority supported the item, they did so with warnings. “We must be mindful that we may be seeking information about services that the Commission may not have the authority to regulate,” Meredith Attwell Baker advised.
The third inquiry will be into whether the government should support more research and development, or leave it to the industry to foster. This third subject seems more to do with establishing how much of a role the FCC plays in telephony R&D, with the Democrat and Republican commission members falling on either side of the debate as you’d expect.
“FCC launches far-reaching investigation of cellular industry” [Ars Technica]