GAO Report Backs Applying Net Neutrality To Wireless: Public Knowledge

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Public Knowledge argues that a just-released GAO report on the wireless industry adds weight to its argument that the FCC should apply open Internet rules to wireless broadband.

That was just one of a number of comments that came over the e-mail transom in the wake of the report's release Thursday by members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

"The report paints a disturbing picture of an industry in which the top four carriers control 90 percent of the market, and industry consolidation is strangling smaller, regional carriers," said PK president Gigi Sohn. The report also cited upsides to that current market, including lower prices and better service, according to the legislators who asked for the report.

But Sohn said the consolidation trend "did not bode well for consumers," despite what she called "benefits of the moment."

"The report shows that the Federal Communications Commission should act soon on a wide range of pending pro-consumer items, ranging from handset exclusivity to text messaging, in addition to making certain any policy on an open Internet includes wireless access as well," she said.

PK has taken issue with a policy accord between Verizon and Google on Internet openness principles, particularly the companies' agreement that most of those principles should not apply to wireless broadband, which they argue is a more competitive market and has very different network management challenges from wired broadband.

PK sees it as exempting an already-big, and increasingly bigger, broadband player from openness rules that should apply to all.

Free Press joined in reading the report as an indictment of a concentrated industry.

"The GAO's findings, together with the FCC's recent report on wireless competition, paint a clear picture of an increasingly concentrated industry, in which competitors and consumers pay high prices to pad the high profit margins of AT&T and Verizon. Inflated backhaul costs, misguided spectrum policies and exclusive rights to popular devices have fostered an environment where companies cannot compete on a level playing field," said Free Press Policy counsel Chris Riley in a statement.

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