Cellular Industry Calls For National Regulations

The cellular industry promises a "wireless Renaissance" if Congress simplifies how cellular operators are regulated.

May 19, 2006

2 Min Read
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The current mix of state and federal regulations covering the cellular industry should be replaced by a single federal regulatory framework, the trade organization representing U.S. cellular operators said Thursday.

Steve Largent, CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), made his plea to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He told the committee that a single regulatory framework should replace the current situation in which both state public utility commissions and federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission control the industry.

"A national wireless framework will eliminate confusion for consumers; provide a uniform set of rules for carriers to operate in a more efficient manner, which in turn will allow the industry to promote access to innovative and convenient wireless devices and services," Largent said in a statement to the committee.

Largent was providing testimony about the proposed Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006. He urged the committee to support creation of a single federal regulatory framework that would replace the current situation in which each state has different regulations about cellular service as well as federal regulations by agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission.

"I don't think it's much of a leap of faith to say that if this committee adopts a wireless national framework, the next wireless Renaissance will ensue," Largent told the committee.Derek Kerton, a telecommunications consultant, said that, while he couldn't comment on the specifics of the proposal, it makes sense to have the federal government be the only entity regulating the cellular industry.

"We're one country and cellular has evolved into a national service," Kerton said in an interview. "But we have state utility commissions and all kinds of fees and regulations that are being slapped on from state to state. It becomes very difficult and expensive to administer that."

Because of these two levels of regulation, cellular service in the U.S. traditionally been more expensive than it is in most other countries, where there's only federal oversight, Kerton said. He noted, for instance, that every state has a different set of regulations about how service is marketed.

"In some states, you can return a phone within a certain number of days of acquiring it while in other states, you don't have those kinds of regulations," Kerton said. "When it comes to this sort of thing, I'm a federalist. There are economies of scale for a national industry being regulated nationally."

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