A report on the US wireless market issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) lends credence to findings on wireless competition published by the FCC in May, but also calls on the agency to “assess whether expanding original collection of wireless industry inputs and outputs . . . would better satisfy its requirement to review competitive market conditions.” Released last Thursday, the GAO study examines changes to the U.S. wireless industry over the past decade and is based on data provided to the GAO by representatives of the four national carriers, eleven regional and small wireless operators, four equipment and device makers, three tower firms, seven trade associations, six consumer groups, and eight academic sources. The study also follows a related GAO report last December that urged the FCC to improve its oversight of the wireless industry and to better educate consumers about the FCC’s complaint process. Conclusions outlined in the latest GAO study constitute a mixed bag for the wireless industry, which was found to offer pricing today that is 50% lower than the rates of 1999 as well as vastly improved coverage. Subscriber uptake has also surged over the past twenty years from 3.5 million to 285 million customers nationwide, and the penetration rate has more than doubled since 1999, from 38% to 91% today. However, in a finding that reflects concerns outlined by the FCC in the agency’s report last May on wireless competition, the GAO also noted that the U.S. wireless industry since 2000 has become much more concentrated and that such consolidation “has made it much more difficult for small and regional carriers to be competitive.” According to the GAO, some of the difficulties faced by smaller carriers include “securing subscribers, making network investments, and offering the latest wireless phones necessary to compete in this dynamic industry.” Although some stakeholders have also complained “that they are charged high special access rates or provided substandard service,” the GAO found that the FCC does not “regularly monitor and measure the development of competition for special access” in spite of its authority to collect data on special access rates. The GAO added that the FCC “generally has not collected data on many industry investments or consumer switching costs because of the complexity and burden associated with gathering these data.” Notwithstanding such challenges, the GAO asserted that such information “could help the FCC better fulfill its statutory reporting requirement” and “help assess the competitiveness of small and regional carriers.” Agreeing “that data-driven analysis of the wireless marketplace is essential for pro-innovation, pro-competition policies,” Rick Kaplan, a senior legal advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, promised that the FCC “will soon be taking steps to address many of the issues raised in the report.”