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CTIA, RCA Oppose FCC Bill Shock Proposal

Wed, 01/12/2011 - 6:55am
Maisie Ramsay

Three top wireless industry groups have come out against the FCC's bill shock proposal.

CTIA, the Rural Cellular Association (RCA) and the Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) have filed comments opposing the FCC's move to mandate that wireless operators offer customers usage alerts and other information that will help customers avoid unexpected charges on their monthly bill.

CTIA argued in its comments that such mandates are unnecessary because carriers already offer customers adequate tools to monitor their usage. CTIA also claims the FCC lacks the authority to impose usage alerts and other information disclosures, and says the proposed rules would violate First Amendment protections.

The FCC should refrain from initiating prescriptive rules that not only would likely cost carriers (and therefore consumers) tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to put into practice, but that also would raise numerous legal issues, create substantial implementation challenges, and force companies to upgrade to a set of government standards instead of creatively competing in the provision of service to customers," CTIA said.

The RCA argued that the FCC's proposed customer service rules would be unduly burdensome for rural and regional carriers, and said that national carriers were the main culprits behind unexpectedly high wireless bills.

"Rural and regional carriers should not be subjected to an automatic bill shock mandate on account of the larger carriers' inability to provide their customers with accurate billing information," said RCA President and CEO Steve Berry in a statement. "I urge the Commission to look to the good example set by rural and regional carriers and encourage voluntary self-regulation, which is the most cost-efficient alternative to rigid regulatory requirements."

The RTG's argument against the FCC's bill shock proposal echoed CTIA's. The group said requiring carriers to reconfigure their billing system to accommodate the new mandate would "impose substantial costs on all carriers and have an inordinately harmful impact on smaller carriers."

"The tools for wireless users to monitor and limit usage already exist," the RTG said in a statement. "Any mandate that mobile service providers offer consumers the means to set their own usage limits would be overly burdensome for small and rural providers and should not be adopted."

An FCC survey released last spring found that one in six wireless subscribers had unexpected charges on their monthly bills. The agency used the survey to support its bill shock proposal in October, which would mandate that carriers notify customers when they are about to exceed their usage limits. The proposed regulations are similar to those used by the European Union, which requires carriers to notify customers when they reach 80 percent of their monthly data roaming limit.

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