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Background: Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order establishing new rules for wireless boosters. Boosters are devices consumers can buy that boost their wireless signal to provide better cell phone reception in dead spots and in areas with thinner cell tower coverage. The Order sets technical standards, but will require consumers to get permission from their cell phone carrier to use boosters legally. The approximately 2 million consumers who previously purchased boosters will need to contact their carriers for permission to continue using them, or face potential fines from the FCC.
The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President:
"The FCC has gone half-way to improving the wireless service for the millions of Americans who daily contend with wireless problems ranging from dead spots in their home to poor reception in rural areas. The order today creates technical standards for wireless boosters that will hopefully promote sale and adoption of these very useful devices. As Commissioners recognized today, wireless boosters generally improve our wireless networks for everything from routine calls to reaching help in an emergency.
"Unfortunately, the FCC has chosen carriers over consumers in setting the rules. The initial proposal from the FCC last year would have given consumers the right to purchase whatever boosters that wished that met the technical standards. Today's Order requires subscribers to get consent from their carriers. That includes requiring the two million consumers who previously purchased boosters,to get permission from carriers to continue to use a product they purchased legally -- with no showing that the existing boosters cause interference. The order also gives carriers the right to restrict what brands and models of boosters consumers can buy. A family where one member has a Verizon subscription, and another a Sprint subscription, may now have to buy two boosters where one would work just fine. Carriers are free to impose needless "user fees," or otherwise make consumers pay twice for the privilege of filling in the dead spots left by the carriers themselves.
"The FCC's original proposal to give consumers the right to purchase any booster that complied with the technical rules would have provided much greater protection for consumers and done much more to promote a robust and competitive market. Instead, the FCC caved to carrier demands to give carriers, rather than consumers, the ultimate choice on what products consumers can use. The FCC has warned carriers that it will review the rules in two years, if carriers gauge consumers too badly. We must hope that carriers take this warning seriously, or that in 2 years the FCC can find the courage to put consumers before carriers."