The roiling debate over net neutrality rules got another jolt Wednesday when two of the FCC's Democratic commissioners pushed for strong net neutrality regulations, and one indicated that strict net neutrality rules should apply to wireless as well as wireline networks. Meanwhile, the CTIA and wireless carriers continued to push back against the notion that the regulations should cover mobile technologies.
The U.S. mobile broadband experience is the stuff of lore around the world, in part due to the smartphone revolution that started here, enabled by large, reliable wireless networks and innovative pricing strategies. The U.S. was also the first to roll out fully commercial large-scale LTE networks that offered significantly higher speeds than ever before, and still leads the world in LTE subscribers and deployment.
Google and Microsoft are keeping up the pressure as they lobby the FCC to include technical rules enabling the use of unlicensed devices in the 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum that will be auctioned next year.
Comcast filed a rebuttal totaling 337 pages to the FCC, accusing opponents of its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable of using their voice in the regulatory process to "extort" business advantages.
T-Mobile US indicated it plans to discontinue its support for the federal Lifeline phone program, which provides subsidized phone service to low-income Americans, as of the end of 2014. The carrier said the move will impact its operations in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York and Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
AT&T and Verizon not only think that 4 Mbps is a sufficient definition for broadband, but they have told the FCC that the regulator should not look at data caps when defining whether an Internet service should be qualified as a broadband service.
There have been three broad themes to the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler, reinforced in his remarks at the recent CTIA trade show: more competition, more spectrum, and an open, non-discriminatory Internet. The significant items on the FCC docket that play into these themes--the pending AT&T-Direct TV and Comcast-TWC deals, the 600 MHz incentive auctions, and the ongoing discussions on network neutrality--show that the FCC has taken a lot on, and has had a lot thrown at it. An intransigent Congress and the upcoming mid-term elections are an additional wildcard that could impact how and how quickly these major items are addressed.
The success of the mobile broadband industry is due in part to a light regulatory touch that has encouraged massive investments and resulted in one of the most successful industries of all time. This industry, however, is still in the relatively early stages and will grow and evolve in ways that cannot be predicted. It will be successful to the extent that unnecessary regulatory strangleholds, especially ones that treat wireless and wireline equally, do not hold it back.
Over 90 of AT&T's wireless industry partners have come together to jointly make their voice heard at the FCC in protesting the service provider's pending acquisition of DirecTV.
A bill renewing the ability of satellite operators to take broadcast signals from far-away stations and deliver them to about 1.5 million rural subscribers without local access to various broadcast outlets has passed the Senate by voice vote.