Wednesday, April 6, 2011

FCC to Require Mobile Data Roaming

The FCC voted 3-to-2 along party lines to require facilities-based providers of commercial mobile data services to offer data roaming arrangements to other such providers on commercially reasonable terms and conditions.

Supporters of the measure included Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners Copps and Clyburn, who argued that mandatory data roaming will enable consumers to remain connected wherever they go because coverage will be available on a competitive basis. Roaming is already required for voice services. Supporters also expect the measure will increase competition and benefit consumers by making more choices available, especially in rural areas.

Commissioners voting against the measure included McDowell and Baker, who argued firstly that the FCC does not have the authority to establish the requirement, secondly that it will discourage investment in mobile broadband infrastructure, and thirdly that the market does not require additional government intervention.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski -- "Roaming obligations have helped fuel competition, investment and consumer choice in America's wireless marketplace since the first cellular voice service in 1981. Today, we take a
vital step to update this framework for the 21st century, as Americans increasingly use their mobile devices for data as well as voice. The framework we adopt today will spur investment in mobile broadband and promote competition. It will ensure that rural and urban consumers have the ability they expect to use their mobile phones throughout the nation for voice calls or data—like email or mobile apps."

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell -- "Even though the order attempts to explain otherwise, in mandating the provision of data roaming and establishing a means for dispute resolution that includes adjudicating terms and rates, my colleagues in the majority are, in essence, imposing a Title II common carrier regulatory regime in violation of Title III of the Communications Act and contrary to Commission precedent."

Verizon's Tom Tauke: "Today's action represents a new level of unwarranted government intervention in the wireless marketplace. By forcing carriers that have invested in wireless infrastructure to make those networks available to competitors that avoid this investment, at a price ultimately determined by the FCC, today's order discourages network investment in less profitable areas. That is directly contrary to the interests of rural America and the development of facilities-based competition and potential job creation. Therefore, it is a defeat for both consumers and the innovation fostered by true competition."

See also