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Mobile devices and mobile internet connections have drastically changed the way organizations engage with the public; the way companies reach their customers; and the way people engage with each other, with culture, and with the economy.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Increasingly, people rely on their mobile phones for access to the Internet – this is especially true in minority groups. (See this Pew study.) With this in mind, it is absolutely essential for democracy that we have a competitive, innovative wireless mobile market where consumer choice reigns. PK seeks practical solutions to freeing the mobile economy by empowering consumers.
This new area of communication is still a relatively young market, and one that changes quickly. There are a number of relevant issues and barriers that affect innovation and consumer choice in this growing industry.
In March 2011, AT&T announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile USA for a whopping $39 billion. Were the two companies allowed to merge, two companies—Verizon and a post-merger AT&T—would control nearly 80% of the wireless market.
A merger of this scale is simply unthinkable. We know the result of arrangements like this: higher prices and fewer choices, less innovation, and the loss of American jobs. That is why Public Knowledge is strongly opposed to this merger—there are no conditions that could possibly remedy the harmful outcomes.
“Spectrum” is an invisible, natural resource made up of radio waves that technologies like radios, broadcast television, and mobile phones rely on to function.
Opening up these public airwaves for more unlicensed uses and increasing the efficiency of all spectrum uses will greatly benefit competition in wireless broadband, innovation in technology that relies on short-distance radio communication, and even first-responders, like firefighters and ambulances, who rely on immediate radio communication to save lives.
Freedom to Text
Mobile carriers currently can and do discriminate in who is allowed to send and receive text messages.
Public Knowledge believes that text messaging is an important and rapidly growing medium of free speech in the United States today. Mobile carriers should not be the gatekeepers who decide what speech is allowed and what speech is not, and should not be permitted to leverage their control over this medium to stifle competition.
Handset exclusivity is a common practice by mobile cell phone carriers—so common, in fact, that most people may take it for granted. “Handset exclusivity” happens when mobile networks make exclusive, anti-competitive deals with device manufacturers. Think iPhone/AT&T (and now also Verizon), Droid/Verizon, and Palm Pre/Sprint.
This practice not only restricts device manufacturers, but also severely limits consumer choice over devices and providers.
What you can do to help