I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by Washington think tank, the New America Foundation. The topic was wireless phone regulation. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at Slate Magazine had a wish list for the FCC on regulatory changes that could make cell phone service better for consumers. Here’s what is on Farhad’s list:
Collect better data about the wireless network in your local area
There is scant reliable information about actual wireless coverage throughout the country. Coverage maps used by providers as marketing material do not give consumers reliable information about whether their wireless service will actually be available where they need it. The FCC should collect more and better information about actual cellular service coverage to identify dead zones, provide consumers with better information when shopping for a service provider.
Simplified wireless phone bills
Do you understand all those charges on your cell phone bill? Do you understand what all the various tariffs and charges are? Can you easily make out how many minutes you use, how much data is used etc. etc? In short do you really know what you are paying for? Manjoo asserts that the FCC should tell cellular phone service providers to simplfy their bills, making it easier for consumers to understand what they are paying for.
Right to unlock phone
If you use an Apple iphone, Steve Jobs sees to it that you must use AT&T, at least for now. The FCC could require manufacturers to offer service from any provider on any device. This could improve market competition in the wireless service market and unleash innovation and in the handset market, all to the benefit of mobile phone consumers.
Encourage competition in the mobile phone market
Wireline or landline phone service providers must comply with rule known as Carterfone rules that require the telephone companies to connect any external device to the wireline phone network. This is what allows you to buy your phone from any consumer electronics retailer and plug it into your phone socket and get phone service. Manjoo and other’s argue that the same should apply to wireless phone service–any device should work on any network.
So what do you think? Would you like to see these changes to your cell phone service? Is there something you’d like to see that is not on this list? Can you hear me now?