Posted by: samhenry | August 27, 2009

US regulators launch telecoms probe

The Democrats are busy at the FCC these days.  They say they are investigating anti-trust matters.  In the mobile phone arena. it appears there is widespread unhappiness at the anti-trust practices of the big 4 players.

By Paul Taylor in New York

Published: August 27 2009 18:50 | Last updated: August 27 2009 18:50

US regulators launched a broad assault on the US mobile phone industry on Thursday announcing an investigation into competition in the sector dominated by the ‘big four’ wireless network operators: AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile USA unit.

The Federal Communications Commission, now controlled by the Democrats, voted 5-to-0 to pursue the inquiry, which is seen as a further indication that the Obama administration is stepping up scrutiny of antitrust matters.

Consumer advocates and smaller mobile network operators have complained that the wave of consolidation that swept through the US mobile industry earlier this decade has damaged competition and put too much power in the hands of the big four national operators.

Among the issues likely to be considered by the agency are whether large companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwart competition by charging high fees for connecting smaller rivals’ calls over their networks and for using lines that carry data for wireless internet services.

The inquiry will look “broadly at all of the elements that affect what we understand to be the mobile marketplace,” said Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman. The Democrat was presiding over his second monthly meeting since taking office in June as President Barack Obama’s choice to run the agency that regulates television, radio and telephones.

Robert McDowell, the senior member of the FCC’s Republican minority, noted however that “the wireless market appears to be robustly competitive,” and added: “The phenomenal success of the wireless industry shows how well a light regulatory touch works.”

News of the inquiry also brought a swift response from the CTIA, the Washington-based industry association which said it welcomed the opportunity to ‘tell the industry’s story.”

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