As the big wireless companies roll out super-fast 5G technology, they're facing a significant crunch in airwave spectrum to cover the whole country. There's a possible swath of airwaves that they're eying to solve the problem, but other communications industry players don't want to surrender the space easily. The years-long battle, which is now playing out at the Federal Communications Commission, pits some of the most powerful players in Washington, D.C. on opposite sides.
AT&T’s decision to label some of its most advanced 4G LTE mobile network as “5G Evolution” has drawn scorn from rivals and some analysts who claim the carrier is misleading consumers about the real arrival date of faster fifth-generation technology called “5G.” Competitor Sprint went a step further and filed a lawsuit to block AT&T from using the term and having a label show on customers’ phones as “5GE.” “AT&T has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it currently offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth generation wireless network, k
T-Mobile’s pricing is under scrutiny as both federal and state regulators continue to evaluate its proposed merger with Sprint. CEO John Legere recently sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai pledging not to raise prices for three years on any of its current mobile plans if the merger is approved. Critics said perhaps T-Mobile’s pledge was leaving wiggle room for higher-priced, new 5G plans. Legere said emphatically that was not the case.
The trend of people cutting their home Internet connections in favor of wireless online connectivity is accelerating, according to the latest survey from Pew Research. No doubt fed by falling prices for wireless service and the spread of unlimited data plans, Internet cord cutting has now reached one in five Americans, almost double the level of two years ago. The percentage of people who say they depend solely on their smartphones to connect to the Internet has risen steadily from 8% in 2013, to 12% in 2016, to 20% in 2018.
The Trump administration proposed plans giving two big wins to the nation's largest communications companies. President Donald Trump proposed tax cuts that would make AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast among the biggest winners of his plan. Later, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed lifting net neutrality rules that put limits on Internet service providers.
A former ally of Vice President-elect Mike Pence with a strong focus on deregulation could be in line for an appointment to the Federal Communications Commission, possibly as the next chairman. Brandt Hershman, a longtime Indiana state senator, is rumored to be the leading candidate for an opening on the agency, which oversees the telecommunications, broadcasting, and cable industries, apparently. Hershman worked closely with the vice president-elect after Pence was elected Indiana’s governor in 2012. Hershman, the senate majority floor leader, authored a massive law to deregulate telecommunications in Indiana a decade ago. The bill ended government regulation of phone rates, freed up cable companies from needing to get dozens of local licenses to offer service, and stopped cities and towns from setting up their own municipal broadband services.
Federal network neutrality rules are supposed to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers—but also from unfairly favoring their own content. The wireless industry has been testing the boundaries of the rules, an effort that’s taken off over the past few days with moves by Verizon Communications and AT&T, the two largest mobile carriers. Some critics are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on the two carriers, which have exempted some of their own video services from customers’ monthly data allowances, a practice known as zero rating.
“AT&T is using its latest data-cap exemptions to prop up its satellite-TV business by disfavoring the competitive and diverse video choices people have online,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. Wood was similarly critical of Verizon’s Go90 data exemption, when it became public in February.