On August 27, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced three Notices of Inquiry (NOI) into the mobile wireless marketplace. One relates to wireless innovation and investment, the second relates to mobile wireless competition, and the third relates to consumer information and disclosure/truth-in-billing. Through these inquiries, the FCC is seeking comment on a variety of issues that will shape its future policies and affect entities throughout the wireless and mobile marketing industries.

WHAT HAPPENED:

The three NOI are all geared toward helping the FCC learn more about the mobile wireless marketplace — with the goal of helping the FCC understand what policies it could implement to spur further innovation and growth. The Wireless Innovation and Investment NOI seeks to identify concrete steps that the FCC can take to support and encourage further innovation and investment in the wireless marketplace, specifically focusing on spectrum availability and use, wireless networks, devices, applications, and business practices. The NOI also seeks comment on how the public has used wireless services and technology to solve real-world problems related to topics such as health care, energy, education, and public safety. Comments related to this NOI are due by September 30, 2009, with replies due by October 15, 2009.

A separate NOI was issued seeking information for the FCC’s next mobile wireless competition report. This NOI seeks information about the competitive conditions in the mobile wireless marketplace with an emphasis on how these conditions affect consumers. It is meant to build on the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Public Notice on wireless communication that was released in May 2009. The focus is on three issues: 1) which analytic framework and data sources will most clearly descibe competition in the wireless market, 2) which new market segments have not been covered in previous reports, and 3) how do vertical relationships between “upstream” and “downstream” market segments affect competition. Comments related to this NOI are due by September 30, 2009, with replies due by October 15, 2009.

The third NOI seeks comment on whether there are opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services. The goal is to refresh the FCC record on truth-in-billing and consumer information issues in light of the significant technological innovations since the last examination of these issues. The NOI specifically asks questions about the information available to consumers at all stages of the purchasing process, including 1) choosing a provider, 2) choosing a service plan, 3) managing to the use of the service plan, and 4) deciding whether and when to switch an existing provider or plan. It also seeks comment on costeffective best practices in information disclosure. Comments related to this NOI are due by October 15, 2009, with replies due by October 30, 2009.

WHAT IT MEANS:

Any company involved in the mobile wireless marketplace should consider whether to comment on these issues. These inquiries amount to a significant expansion of the FCC’s prior examination of the marketplace and will undoubtedly shape the FCC’s wireless policies and rules going forward. The inquiries are clearly an opportunity for wireless carriers to present their opinions on important issues. They also present an opportunity for entities such as marketers or advertisers who utilize mobile technology as part of their business models to help influence FCC policy. Although marketers are not mentioned specifically in the NOIs, this may be an opportunity for marketers to advance any concerns they might have about stringent regulation of the mobile wireless marketplace by the FCC. Notably, the Mobile Marketing Association is planning a response to the FCC to “highlight the self-regulatory needs of the industry.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

If you believe that increased FCC regulation of the mobile wireless marketplace would impact your company, or if you believe your company has valuable insights to offer to the FCC, you should consider filing a comment with the FCC.