Senator Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) introduced legislation Tuesday calling for a cell phone user bill of rights aimed at improving wireless service and making competition an “ingrained part of the wireless industry.”
Schumer’s bill would mandate number portability between companies, require wireless phone companies to provide contract and service information on solicitations and contracts and authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to monitor cell phone quality.
Schumer said last week’s decision by the FCC upholding the rules meant to spur local phone competition serve as a “stark reminder of the difficulty of inserting competition into the telecom industry.” He said his legislation is needed to keep “anti-competitive behaviors from becoming further ingrained in the wireless industry.”
Schumer said the bill is intended to foster competition in the cell phone industry by improving disclosure and making it easier for consumers to choose plans. Schumer said he rejected a mandate-based approach out of concern that external government fiats would stifle innovation and investment in the relatively young wireless industry.
The proposal drew the immediate fire of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), the principal trade organization of the wireless industry.
“Wireless was born in competition, evolved in competition and continues to innovate through competition,” said Steve Berry, senior VP for government affairs at CTIA. “Comparing the competitive wireless industry to monopolistic landline services is simply ridiculous. Adam Smith would turn over in his grave to hear that consumers would be better served by poisoning the competitive wireless market with unnecessary government regulations.”
Berry pointed out that over the last five years wireless service prices have fallen by more than 30 percent and that more than 90 percent of all Americans can choose among three or more wireless carriers.
Schumer countered that “Adam Smith had it right: competition is indeed a wonderful thing when it forces players to improve their performance. Sometimes, you need rules in order to set the teams in motion. This is what the Cell Phone Users Bill of Rights does.”
AARP, the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates are endorsing Schumer’s bill.