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.
Consumers are certainly taking notice of these improvements. For example, just look at the America Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which reported that their Overall Business Quality Index from 2004 through 2010 increased only 2% while the wireless industry improved 10.8% in that same span. In 2010, the wireless industry set an all time high in this index for the second straight year. According to JD Power, network quality, retail sales and customer service have all improved year-over-year from 2009 to 2010. And, according to the Better Business Bureau, since 2004, the monthly complaint rate for the wireless industry has fallen 22%. Finally, at the FCC, complaints related to marketing, advertising, contracts, early termination fees, network quality, billing, and rates were significantly lower in 2009 than they were in 2008, even as subscribership increased.
Importantly, this has been accomplished under a very light regulatory touch from the FCC and state governments, and this needs to continue so consumers can reap all the benefits this industry delivers for years to come.
So, as we wrap up our blog series on the FCC’s 14th Report, we are now gearing up to weigh in on the Commission’s 15th Report. Yep, that’s right. Here we go again. Comments are due tomorrow. Here’s hoping the Commission actually pays attention to the facts this time around.