Consumers deserve affordable access to wireless networks

But before wireless, access to the Internet was a major issue. If you lived outside a major city or town, broadband providers weren’t willing to build the infrastructure if it wasn’t going to be profitable for them. So people who lived in rural and other underserved communities were often out of luck and left unconnected. And now in the midst of the wireless age, broadband infrastructure is required for organizations and businesses to even consider investing in a community.

The good news is that wireless has made it a lot easier for people to access the Internet. Wireless networks can be less expensive to build than wired networks, making it easier for providers to reach more remote areas.

If you listen to the claims of the major wireless providers, it would seem that nearly the entire country has access to wireless networks now. So what’s the real challenge?

Too often, the high cost of broadband puts it out of reach for consumers. The 4G networks now being deployed need to provide the speed and robustness that will allow all Americans to tap in to the opportunities that broadband provides.

As Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work out the complex systems to realize this goal, it is critical that their solutions encourage innovation and lower barriers to entry which will ultimately lead to lower prices for consumers. 

These smart solutions and policies will enable community groups, neighborhoods and cities to use wireless networks to truly stand up and challenge the cable and telephone giants. We hope that Congress and the FCC will focus on removing the obstacles, such as making sure that all wireless companies have access to popular devices and can access needed infrastructure, so that these wireless 

competitors can bring true competition in the marketplace.

Consumers Union also applauds the Administration’s plan to invest $3 billion of the proceeds from the auction of the spectrum on research and development into new wireless technologies. It’s this type of commitment to innovation that will help us, in the President’s words, “win the future” and address the issues of access and affordability that will enable consumers to actualize the power of the Internet.

A strong commitment to wireless access is one of the best steps we can take to out- educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world.

Parul P. Desai is the Communications Policy Counsel for the Consumers Union.