By Paul Barbagallo
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, said she will soon reintroduce a bill that would require wireless carriers to disclose detailed information about their fourth-generation mobile broadband services to consumers.
In remarks during the Broadband Breakfast Club Jan. 15, Eshoo suggested that the bill will be similar to the one she introduced in June 2011, the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act (H.R. 2281), which failed to advance.
That measure set forth new disclosure mandates for 4G speeds, coverage areas, network reliability, pricing, and network conditions.
Eshoo said the forthcoming bill's goal, much like its 2011 predecessor, is to “ensure that consumers know what they're getting for their money before committing to a two-year wireless service contract.”
The reintroduced version, she noted, will also force carriers to provide a “clear and concise explanation” of “any limit, cap, or network management policy that would impact the user's experience.”
Though the bill is not likely to emerge out of the committee, it could provide fodder for ongoing debate on Capitol Hill about whether Congress or the Federal Communications Commission should act to limit the ability of internet service providers to impose data caps on subscribers.
David Grossman, Eshoo's senior technology policy adviser, said during a panel discussion following his boss's remarks that the marketing of 4G has left consumers confused and in the dark about what to expect from the service, including how caps will be applied.
“'Fastest 4G,' 'largest coverage,' 'best 4G'--consumers hear these terms, they sound snazzy, but what do they really mean?” Grossman said. “Wireless has become an expensive monthly service for many consumers between voice, data, and texting. There should be some clear disclosures out there at the point of sale and marketing materials about what consumers are signing up for.”
The nation's largest wireless carriers, led by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., continue to move aggressively to upgrade their networks to 4G.
4G, the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards, promises data rates of 100 megabits per second--sufficient for ultra-broadband internet access, internet protocol telephony, gaming services, and streaming multimedia on laptops, smartphones, and tablet computers.