On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights held a hearing entitled, “An Examination of Competition in the Wireless Market.” The hearing considered several issues relating to the competitiveness of the wireless market including net neutrality, allowing users to “unlock” their phones, and encouraging forward looking policy on spectrum.
The witnesses addressed a range of issues. Roslyn Layton Ph.D, Fellow at the Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies at Aalborg University, Denmark and a Visiting Fellow at American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Communication, Technology, and Internet Policy provided a long view, arguing that America’s success in the wireless sector is dependant on competing mobile technologies, Americans benefit from this competition, and the mobile ecosystem is highly complex and requires operators’ investments.
Matthew Wood, Policy Director at Free Press, encouraged the Senate to promote competition and protect consumers. He encouraged the FCC and antitrust agencies to continue to regulate the wireless market to prevent spectrum concentration, promote unlicensed use of spectrum, and allow consumers control over their wireless devices.
Eric Graham, Senior Vice President of Strategic Relations for Cellular South, the provider of C Spire Wireless service, discussed his company’s concerns over the current concentration of the wireless market held by AT&T and Verizon. Kathleen O’Brien Ham, T-Mobile’s Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs, echoed those concerns, arguing that the current concentrated market is bad for consumers and that, while T-Mobile is popular with consumers, it is difficult to compete with the two largest carriers.
On the other side of the debate, Randal Milch, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon, and Jonathan Spalter, Chairman of Mobile Future, told the Committee that the industry is competitive, due in part to a light touch regulatory model. Milch discussed how extremely unlikely it would be that Verizon or another company would buy spectrum for the purpose of foreclosing it to others. Spalter stressed that wireless consumers have countless choices.
All witness testimony as well as a webcast of the hearing can be found at: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=f00b2bec76ceca7ac77335d8aa10b8fd