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Mercatus Gathers Experts to Debate Mobile Competition

in FCC/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2011 - The Mercatus Center, a market orientated research center located at George Mason University, gathered key industry insiders to discuss how the Federal Communications Commission analyzes market competition in the wireless industry on Wednesday.

“The FCC needs to look beyond just the numbers to determine if competition is actually occurring,” said Thomas Hazlett, professor of law & economics at George Mason University School of Law. “The Commission should take into account the analysis conducted by Wall Street to see how the financial market views the mobile market.”

Robert Frieden, professor of telecommunications & law at Pennsylvania State University, agreed with Hazlett’s suggestion that the FCC should expand their competition analysis to include the findings from the consumer shopping experience.

“The Commission should send out a secret shopper to see how the competition between the mobile providers actually affects consumer choice,” Frieden said. “My research has found that the four major carriers currently offer the same price for the same set of services which shifts competition from service to hardware choice.”

To further hardware choice and availability Frieden along with Harold Feld, Legal Director at Public Knowledge, advocated the implementation of the Caterfone ruling for the mobile market. The 1968 FCC ruling allows consumers to connect their choice of devices to the telephone network, so long as those devices do not harm the network. Feld and Frieden would like consumers to be able to connect their choice of devices to a mobile network as long as the device is technologically compatible.

Feld also suggested that the Commission breakdown competition between rural and urban areas.

“Those of us who live on the coast or near the major population centers have a plethora of choices when it comes to mobile providers but in large parts of rural America those choices dwindle down, sometimes to just a single option,” Feld said.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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