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Eshoo Introduces 4G Carrier Transparency Bill

in Congress/FCC/House of Representatives/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2011 – Wednesday Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced legislation that would require wireless 4G carriers to provide consumers with complete and accurate information about their 4G services.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan,” said Rep. Eshoo in a statement released on Wednesday.

“My legislation is simple – it will establish guidelines for understanding what 4G speed really is, and ensure that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”

The legislation would also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate the speed and price of 4G service provided by the top ten U.S. wireless carriers. The measure would provide consumers with access to a side-by-side comparison in their service area.

Jeffrey Nelson, Executive Director of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wireless, agreed that the congresswoman identifies a very real problem, stating that some wireless companies simply rename their 3G networks “4G” despite there being a clear technological difference between the two types of networks.

“When companies exaggerate their claims, and relegate technology advances into nothing more than marketing games, they shouldn’t be surprised when elected officials insist that consumers receive truthful and accurate information,” said Nelson.

CTIA-The Wireless Association was not convinced that legislation was the answer and viewed solving the looming spectrum crunch as a more relevant in solving carrier speed problems.

“We are concerned that the bill proposes to add a new layer of regulation to a new and exciting set of services, while ignoring the fact that wireless is an inherently complex and dynamic environment in which network speeds can vary depending on a wide variety of factors,” said Jot Carpenter, CTIA-The Wireless Association Vice President of Government Affairs, in a statement on Wednesday.

According to information from Eshoo’s office, she understands that differences in service speeds exist, but feels it is necessary for carriers to be forthcoming with consumers about what they are selling.

Sites like RootMetrics.com, an independently crowd sourced carrier coverage mapping company, are made by consumers, for consumers who want to capture and use data to make informed carrier choices. Such efforts, however, demonstrate the lack of wireless carrier transparency towards consumers. Bill Moore, CEO of Rootmetrics, agreed with Rep. Eshoo about the confusion over what 4G means.

“The major carriers are each touting 4G coverage, but our testing reveals that all 4G technology is not the same,” said Moore in a response to an email query.

“In addition, it is important for consumers to know that 4G today is about data speeds, but does not have anything to do with voice.”

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

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