New Report From The FCC Deems US Mobile Market “Competitive”

September 26, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

A new competition report approved by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deems the wireless market in the country to be competitive, noting how “effective competition” is observable in the industry. The same report also states that the term itself isn’t defined by its statue, which some Democratic politicians used as an angle for criticizing the FCC’s findings. The agency’s own Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel disagreed with the report and voted against it, with the document still being accepted in a three-to-one ruling. Ms. Rosenworcel suggested that the FCC’s failure to define what “effective competition” entails essentially renders its report useless, adding that the agency’s reluctance specify the term is “unacceptable” because legislative bodies often define new terms and indicating how effective competition doesn’t exist in many rural areas across the country.

Her notion has yet to be directly addressed by opposing politicians, though the FCC led by President Trump-appointed Chairman Ajit Pai was previously rather clear that the agency will make no attempts to act as a legislative body in most matters, stating that it’s adamant to reverse some of the policies enacted under former Chairman Tom Wheeler nominated by President Barack Obama. While the FCC cannot propose or enact laws, its statues can interpret some of them, consequently granting it considerable power in regards to regulating the wireless industry. Under Mr. Wheeler, the FCC adopted the so-called Title II regulations which defined wireless carriers as utility providers and prevented them from selling prioritized access to their services in a bid to preserve net neutrality, which is one example of such legislative-like measures that Mr. Pai is now seeking to abolish, arguing that strict regulations hurt innovation in the industry, consequently discouraging investments and preventing job growth, a notion that his Democratic opponents promptly dismiss.

The FCC’s latest report may come into play later this year if the agency will be required to evaluate a proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint that’s now said to be in the works, with the two companies reportedly being close to agreeing to preliminary consolidation terms. If the federal agency is to use the report as a basis for stating that the U.S. wireless industry is already competitive, it could greenlight the deal in a relatively short period, some industry watchers speculate. The FCC’s blessing isn’t the only one the third and fourth largest carriers in the country would need to acquire, with their potential merger also being subject to approvals from antitrust departments of the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice.