The wireless industry was spotlighted in two key items that were adopted by the FCC at the agency’s monthly open meeting yesterday. Following on a recent bureau-level inquiry, the FCC adopted unanimously a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) to consider whether and how mobile phone carriers should be required to notify subscribers who are close to exceeding monthly usage limits that would incur extra charges on their bills. The NPRM responds to the issue of wireless “bill shock” that has been the subject of hundreds of consumer complaints filed with the FCC. Citing a November 2009 Government Accountability Office study that shows one in three wireless phone users have been subjected by unexpectedly high charges, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski described bill shock as “a significant consumer issue.” To address this problem, the FCC is seeking comment on proposed rules that would require wireless firms to provide their customers with “baseline information that would allow them to control their mobile costs.” Such information would include over-the-limit alerts, such as text or voice messages, which warn subscribers of potential overage charges as they approach or surpass usage limits and disclosures of tools provided by wireless carriers that enable customers to set or review usage limits. While voting for the item, both of the FCC’s Republicans—Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker—advised their colleagues to proceed with caution as they cited the potential cost burdens that carriers could face in deploying technical modifications that would bring their networks in compliance with bill shock mandates. Meanwhile, in a separate item that corresponds to the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, the FCC launched rulemaking proceedings to create a mobility fund within the Universal Service Fund (USF) that would provide one-time support for infrastructure improvements needed to bring third- or fourth-generation wireless coverage to rural and other unserved areas. Under the proposed rules, up to $300 million in seed money for the Mobility Fund would come from a portion of USF funds that were surrendered voluntarily by Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel and that had been targeted to areas served by other mobile carriers. Among other things, the NPRM seeks comment on (1) what areas should be identified as unserved by 3G wireless operators, (2) whether support should be offered to any unserved area or to limited, specific areas, (3) minimum performance and coverage requirements for carriers that receive mobility funding, and (4) the use of a reverse auction scheme in which prospective unserved area operators would bid for mobility funding by proposing the lowest amount of USF support they would require. Applauding the item, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps predicted: “while it’s not going to get everyone and every place into advanced wireless service, it is going to help.”