The Federal Communications Commission could be doing a better job of monitoring wireless competition by gathering a wider variety of market data, according to a report released yesterday from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report authors identified four industry measures they said lack original data collection on the part of the FCC, including three that appear fairly straightforward to measure and a fourth that appears more challenging. The three recommendations that appear most easy to implement include tracking network investment, end user pricing, and special access rates paid by wireless carriers to other carriers.
The more challenging recommendation is to compile information about the impact of devices and equipment on market competitiveness. “Obtaining more data to gain a better understanding of the role equipment costs and early termination fees play in making carriers competitive and hindering customers’ movement between carriers is important,” the report authors noted.
It was not the purpose of the GAO report to make a judgement about the state of wireless competition. Nevertheless, the report authors noted that “Industry consolidation has made it more difficult for small and regional carriers to be competitive.” Difficulties for these carriers, the authors said, include obtaining spectrum and obtaining the latest mobile devices from manufacturers.
The GAO report comes just three months after the FCC annual report on wireless competition for the first time failed to conclude that the U.S. wireless market was “effectively competitive.”
The GAO report was based on documents from a variety of government and private sources and on interviews with industry stakeholders, consumer groups, and local and state agencies and officials.
The FCC has not taken a position on GAO’s recommendations.