At a hearing conducted by the House Communications, Technology and Internet subcommittee, panel chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) promised legislation that would create a national regulatory framework for wireless services, as Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups voiced concern over what they perceive to be the competitive stranglehold held by Verizon Wireless and AT&T over the U.S. wireless market. Officials of the Consumers Union, Sprint-Nextel, and the U.S. Telecom Association were included among the witnesses at the hearing that took place on May 7. Although Verizon and AT&T were invited to testify at the hearing, neither company was able to send a representative. Describing the hearing as the first step of a congressional inquiry into the adjustment of wireless industry policies to improve competition, Boucher said his proposed legislation would be based on a similar draft measure that was circulated last year by former subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-MA). In establishing a uniform national regulatory regime for wireless services that would also require the FCC to enact new rules on consumer protection, the bill would preempt state jurisdiction over wireless service terms and conditions, although Boucher said the states would “have a role in dispute resolution and enforcement.” States would also be barred from prohibiting municipalities and other “public providers” from entering the broadband services market, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration would be directed to launch a survey of spectrum that could be auctioned to accommodate new bandwidth-intensive wireless applications. As several committee members and witnesses voiced concern with the dominance of AT&T and Verizon in the special access market, Markey urged action “on long delayed special access rules and a reinvigorated consumer protection regime that . . . [ensures] freedom and choice for wireless subscribers.” Although Republican lawmakers acknowledged the need for an FCC ruling in the special access proceeding, ranking subcommittee member Cliff Stearns (R-FL) recommended against Boucher’s proposed legislative approach, declaring: “the way in which consumers use wireless service varies widely from person to person, and thus we should resist imposing ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulations that would likely reduce choice and innovation.”
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House members consider change in regulatory approach for wireless market
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