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Senate Dems to keep an eye on wireless amid positive signs for industry

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDurbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.) also reiterated her concerns about fees on wireless bills. She introduced a bill last year to limit consumers' early termination fees.

"I remain concerned that early termination fees or ETFs unfairly prevent consumers from switching providers, even when they are dissatisfied with their service or move their work or home to areas with inadequate service," she said.

Klobuchar added that there should be more "pro-consumer measures" brought to the wireless industry.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.) also sounded a concerned note, homing in on competition issues. The GAO report found consolidation in the wireless industry has made it tougher for small and rural carriers to compete in the last decade.

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"We need to continue to ensure that wireless service is competitive and serves all of our rural communities. The FCC needs to police anti-competitive practices," he said, naming ETFs, restrictive contracts and network practices as areas on the watch list.

Making perhaps the single recommendation, at least from this Democratic trio, that big wireless providers will like, Wyden urged Congress to protect wireless companies from multiple and discriminatory state and local taxes.

A GAO report released Thursday found consolidation in the wireless industry during the last decade has been coupled with a skyrocketing customer base and lower prices for consumers.

The decade also saw it become tougher for small and rural carriers to compete, according to the report.

The four largest carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, serve more than 90 percent of wireless customers, the report said.

The wireless industry faces increased scrutiny as their services become more important for accessing the Internet. Some analysts expect the majority of Internet users to access the Web on wireless devices within the next five years.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast said in a panel discussion earlier this week that wireless broadband is one of the top telecom areas where industry and policymakers will interact in the next few years.

The growth in wireless broadband "creates a lot of opportunity, but it also create a lot of obstacles for government policy to make sure the necessary inputs are there," she said.