The U.S. Wireless Industry – It’s All About the Consumer

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm

By Mike Bennett, AT&T Executive Director-Consumer & Government Affairs

Did you know that during the last half of 2009, the wireless industry handled the equivalent of the entire catalog of books in the Library of Congress every single hour of every single day?  And that amount of traffic is projected to double each year through 2014.  Impressive, huh?   How about the fact that, in addition to this incredible data growth, the industry handled over 2 trillion voice minutes, over 1.5 trillion text messages, and 35 billion picture/video messages?

It’s pretty incredible when you think about all the benefits the U.S. wireless market brings to consumers, and the country, every day.  It is a true American success story.  Since it was released May 20, we’ve been addressing various aspects of the Commission’s 14th Annual Wireless Competition Report, which failed to celebrate this success by not concluding that there is effective competition in the wireless marketplace.  This was both baffling and troubling.   The wireless industry may well be the most competitive industry in America, and we have shown that it is certainly the most competitive wireless market in the world.

All that we have highlighted in this series of blogs – from investment to price competition to non-price competition – accrues to the benefit of the consumer.   The industry has rolled out numerous consumer-friendly practices in the past several years, including the elimination of roaming and long distance charges as well as the introduction of unlimited calling plans.  Customer disclosure material at the point of sale has been substantially improved and detailed street level coverage map tools are now widely available. The return period for service and equipment has increased, as have customer self-service capabilities.  Consumers can also easily set limits on their usage, and carriers now provide courtesy usage alerts to help customers manage monthly bills.  

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Empowering the Consumer

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm

By Celia Nogales, Assistant Vice President of Regulatory

Today, CTIA – The Wireless Association, released an updated version of the “Consumer Code for Wireless Service.”  Developed seven years ago, the Code is designed to ensure consumers have the information they need in choosing and managing wireless services.  With the rapidly changing marketplace, consumers can choose from a wide, and ever expanding, variety of exciting mobile technologies and services.

AT&T has been a proud supporter of the Code since its inception and we are pleased to join CTIA and our fellow industry members in today’s effort.  The 2010 updates to the Code include critical changes that reflect the growing marketplace and address issues such as data usage and network management practices. 

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TOPICS: Wireless
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The USF Beat – Part 2: The Mississippi and Alabama Situation

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on July 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

My previous blog post examined how a wireless provider like AT&T mobility ended up getting money from the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF), and why AT&T continues to receive money from a fund which it has been urging the FCC to reform for years. In this blog, I take a closer look at the USF funding that AT&T receives for its wireline operations in rural and high cost areas.

As I mentioned last time, AT&T’s USF receipts are split about 50/50 between its mobility business and its traditional wireline local phone business.  And, on the wireline side, well over half of the money AT&T receives is for just two of the twenty-two states where AT&T provides traditional wireline phone service – Mississippi and Alabama. (You can get all the gory details here.)

If that seems odd to you, be assured that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the good company of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which has twice told the FCC to fix the program that creates this situation. The FCC in turn has made no changes to this program, but has most recently told the court that the program is in fact serving the policies set out by Congress, and, by the way, the FCC plans to phase the program out entirely as it transitions universal service support to broadband.

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The Not So Elusive Middle Ground

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on July 27, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Amidst the flurry of blogs and op-eds on net neutrality, Title II and broadband reclassification that cross my desk on a daily basis, it was a welcome and refreshing change to read Paul Misener’s piece that ran in CNET last week.

Although I don’t agree with everything the vice president for global public policy at had to say (what do you mean network operators haven’t deployed innovative new services?), Paul does lay out a fair airing of the issues to help reach what some people think is an elusive middle ground.

I was particularly pleased to read Paul’s clear recognition that certain quality-of-service/network management practices by ISPs are not only necessary but in the best interest of consumers.  I couldn’t agree more.

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Walking the USF Beat

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on July 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm

If, like me, you’re in a sports fan diaspora (i.e., you grew up someplace else and continue to follow the teams you rooted for when you were a kid), you’re probably familiar with the feeling you get when the local paper has a full-length article about one of your teams.  It’s a mix of excitement (yay! they’re writing about the Sox) and concern (I just know they’re going to somehow get the story wrong).  Well, that’s pretty close to the feeling I had when I saw this story about universal service reform in The Washington Post the other day (If you have not noticed yet, USF is one of the “teams” I follow closely).  As it turned out, I got to indulge both emotions.

First, on the concern front, readers of the Post article may have gotten the misconception that the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF) spends more than $8 billion annually on subsidies for rural America. In fact, the parts of the fund that focus on rural/high cost areas, account for about $4.6 billion. The rest of the money is divided among the E-rate program, about $2.7 billion, (which funds services provided to schools and libraries), the Low-Income program, approx $1.2 billion, (which provides discounts to qualified low-income consumers), and the Rural Healthcare program, approx $214 million, (which funds eligible health care providers for services, including broadband).

Now, on to the excitement.  The WaPo article asked, but did not answer (at least not directly), a very interesting question.  Why is it that AT&T and Verizon, which are the largest recipients of USF dollars, are supporting fundamental changes in the FCC’s high-cost support mechanisms? I mean, why would anyone want to turn down free money?  While I can’t speak for Verizon, I can explain why AT&T wants these mechanisms changed (and don’t worry, I’m not going to say that it’s out of the goodness of our heart).  But, in order to do so in a way that makes sense, I’m first going to provide a little more detail about some of the component parts of the high-cost program. 

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