In comments filed late last week on the FCC’s upcoming annual report on the state of competition in the U.S. wireless market, wireless association CTIA offered the FCC a wide assortment of statistical data to support CTIA’s claim that previous FCC findings against an effectively competitive market should be reversed. Since President Obama took office in 2009, the FCC has submitted annual reports to Congress depicting a lack of competition in the U.S. wireless market. Describing the U.S. as “the epicenter of wireless innovation and competition,” CTIA told the FCC that, today, more than 99% of Americans are able to connect to fourth-generation (4G) LTE wireless services offered by at least one provider and that 82% of Americans can select from four or more providers of 4G LTE wireless broadband services.
CTIA also noted that, between 2014 and 2015, capital spending by wireless carriers rose by 7.4% to $462 billion. Adding that, in 2015, wireless subscribers in North America consumed more data per customer than in any other region and that 74% of wireless “app” developers worldwide are based in the U.S., CTIA declared: “it is thus not surprising that the U.S. continues to be the source of most of the world’s leading technology companies and innovators.” Echoing CTIA’s claims, AT&T advised the FCC that wireless carriers nationwide “compete vigorously on price, both by lowering the price of service plans and by giving consumers more for their money.” AT&T further observed that, over the past year, “carriers have further expanded their 4G LTE deployments” and that these and other improvements “have driven increased mobile adoption and data usage.”
Notwithstanding these claims, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reminded the FCC that wireless data coverage in rural areas remains poor. As it explained that “one-way streaming video service substantially degrades when the user moves from urban to rural areas,” the CPUC told the FCC that such degradation “is characterized not only by a decrease in video quality, but also by a dramatic increase in locations with no video capability at all.” Meanwhile, the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) took a middle-road stance. Although it agreed with CTIA and AT&T in proclaiming the wireless market to be competitive, WIA said the FCC should act to make the market more competitive, arguing that “WIA’s membership still faces obstacles at the federal, state and local levels that require further examination by policymakers.”