Today, the FCC released its 2013 Wireless Competition Report. Rather predictably, the Commission has once again avoided concluding that the wireless market is competitive — despite the fact that four out of five consumers have a choice of five or more wireless service providers. In 2010, the Commission reversed the findings of six successive reports that acknowledged the mobile market’s success.
More Americans are choosing smartphones when they purchase a new phone (67 percent in 2012), and more are using them to go online (104 million in 2011). And according to today’s FCC report, “It is estimated that U.S. mobile data traffic increased 270 percent from 2010 to 2011, and that it has more than doubled each year for the past four years.”
The Commission is painting a picture of the market with this shade of gray to leave room for justification of future wireless regulation. But interestingly enough, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski this morning stated: “Today, the U.S. broadband economy is thriving. The United States has regained global leadership in key areas of broadband innovation and infrastructure. Thanks to innovative American companies and entrepreneurs — and smart government policies — the U.S. is now the envy of the world in advanced wireless networks, devices, applications, among other areas.”
When measured by availability of consumer choices, options for consumer plans, device alternatives, apps or services, the American wireless market is extraordinarily competitive, far more so than practically any other sector of our economy. Failing to find “effective competition,” as the FCC has again done in this report, is not reflective of market realities.
Federal policy makers should redouble their efforts to make additional spectrum available for auction to commercial broadband providers by quickly conducting incentive auctions, approving secondary market transactions, enacting spectrum sharing arrangements and initiating a process to repurpose additional federal spectrum.