|Rep. Eshoo Introduces Legislation to Improve Consumer Information on 4G|
Eshoo: Consumers Deserve to Know If They're Getting What They Pay For
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, introduced the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act.
As more consumers use their smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices to stream video and other data-intensive apps and services, speed really matters. Americans are excited about the latest generation of advanced wireless broadband, commonly referred to as "4G," but without a standard definition of the technology, consumers often experience vastly different speeds depending on the wireless provider and location. This legislation aims to ensure that consumers have complete and accurate information about the speed of 4G service before committing to a plan. The bill also helps consumers understand network reliability, coverage and pricing.
"Consumers deserve to know exactly what they're getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan," said Rep. Eshoo. "The wireless industry has invested billions to improve service coverage, reliability and data speeds, and consumers demand for 4G is expected to explode. But consumers need to know the truth about the speeds they're actually getting. 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."
Specifically, the legislation would provide consumers with the following information at the point of sale and in all billing materials:
The legislation also requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate the speed and price of 4G wireless data service provided by the top ten U.S. wireless carriers in order to provide consumers with access to a side-by-side comparison in their service area.
Rep. Eshoo continued, "Consumers want faster, more reliable wireless data service, and I look forward to working with industry and consumer groups to achieve this goal. We need to enhance transparency and ensure consumers are fully informed before they commit to a long-term service contract."
Several groups have announced their support of the legislation to make it easier for consumers to have all the information necessary to make smart decisions when choosing a wireless data plan:
Parul P. Desai, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, said, "The Eshoo bill will empower consumers who are shopping for wireless broadband service. It will help people cut through the clutter so we can compare prices and options, and we can better understand what really constitutes 4G data service. Right now, there aren't a lot of consumer protections for mobile broadband customers, and the Eshoo bill would help ensure consumers have certain rights and information when they sign up for a plan."
"I commend Congresswoman Eshoo for introducing legislation that gives consumers more clear and concise information about the mobile broadband services they are buying," stated Sascha Meinrath, Director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative. "Today, more than ever, as mobile broadband providers employ Orwellian doublespeak advertising that tout 'unlimited plans' that are in fact not unlimited and market '4g' speeds in terms of 'lightning fast' and 'supercharged,' transparency rules that provide consumers with basic information regarding the actual price, minimum speed, and plain language terms of service are desperately needed."
"This bill might not have been necessary if there were enough competition in the wireless market, but there isn't," said Andrew Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director for the Media Access Project. "Representative Eshoo is performing an important service by making sure that wireless companies give consumers accurate and useful information."
"This much-needed legislation will require mobile providers to clearly and prominently disclose terms and conditions of their "4G" service in marketing materials, at the point of sale, and in monthly bills," said Gigi B. Sohn, President of Public Knowledge. "This legislation will empower consumers to make more informed decisions on their choice of wireless service, and this increased transparency within the mobile space will enable consumers to better understand a product before committing to a lengthy contract with a particular provider. Simply put, Rep. Eshoo's legislation will empower consumer choice and remedy this situation."
The Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act has been referred to the House Energy & Commerce Committee. A copy of the bill can be accessed here.
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