Consumers can’t wait to get their hands on the latest tech releases like the iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy, or Amazon Echo. The demand for these new devices is no surprise considering there are now more wireless connections than people in the U.S. The truth is we are witnessing a golden age of innovation in the marketplace. For proof, just look to last week’s Federal Communications Commission report confirming competitiveness in the wireless industry. The report shows some remarkable benefits for mobile users during the year.
- Faster download speeds. The FCC reported that mean LTE mobile broadband download speeds increased more than 60 percent between 2014 and 2017.
- Better prices. Even as inflation has risen about two percent during the past 12 months, the cost for wireless services has declined 13 percent, according to this month’s Federal inflation report.
- Better choices. Unlimited data offerings, once nearly extinct, are once again everywhere. Indeed some carriers now go beyond “unlimited” and throw in video services like HBO and Netflix — for free!
Against this backdrop, the FCC’s report on wireless competitiveness offered what Chairman Ajit Pai called “strong, incontrovertible evidence” of benefits for wireless users. The report’s well-documented bottom line is that wireless competition is a healthy and an unmitigated success. Beyond that, the report gives a crucial but largely unspoken caution about imposing heavy-handed regulations on mobile broadband services, including the Title II rules passed in 2015. The FCC is wisely on the right path to correct that approach with a notice of proposed rulemaking, titled "Restoring Internet Freedom."
This action should come as no surprise given the dynamic evolution of mobile services for consumers. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr noted this week, the country has reached a tipping point: “For the first time ever, the majority of American households are wireless-only.” Specifically, 51 percent of US households no longer have a landline telephone.
Today, wireless is all about data and video services and the benefits they offer to consumers, healthcare workers, farmers, manufacturers, cities and more. According to a recent Accenture report, 5G stands to bring more than $275 billion in infrastructure investment by telecom operators, it could create more than three million jobs, and could contribute nearly $500 billion in GDP.
Given these changes and the emergence of lightning-fast 5G wireless broadband, it’s more important than ever for federal regulators to apply the light touch approach to regulating wireless as they have used in decades past and which propelled the industry to produce the consumer benefits it has. It has dramatically improved many people’s access to affordable healthcare and emergency services, and farmers have adopted it to improve crop yields and protect the environment.
For consumers, the potential benefits go far beyond just saving money on bills or getting access to easier streams and downloads. This is about how to keep the innovation going on networks and services that enhance our daily lives.
The FCC should be commended for embracing the data and reaching a finding, after a careful analysis, in its report. It is important that the agency continue this trend and pursue a regulatory pattern for mobile and fixed broadband that recognizes real consumer benefits in the marketplace, all without harming the investment environment that is needed to reach the full potential of 5G sooner rather than later.
Debra Berlyn is the president of Consumer Policy Solutions, a firm centered on developing public policies addressing the interests of consumers and the marketplace, and is executive director of the Project to Get Older Adults onLine (Project GOAL).