Chairman Rockefeller's Remarks on the Consumer Wireless Experience

June 17, 2009

Throughout the last decade, consumers have grown to rely on the mobility, convenience, and safety that wireless service can provide.
Ten years ago, less than 100 million consumers had wireless phones.  Today, the wireless industry counts more than 270 million American subscribers.
However, in light of this success, we have a serious responsibility to ask what the consequences are for an industry that has grown up so fast in such a short period of time.
Have our regulatory models kept up?
If consumers choose to make their wireless phone their only phone, do they get the service quality they need for such an essential service?
I, for one, have some concerns.
I have concerns that too many consumers are bound to confusing contracts with their wireless carriers. 
I have concerns that too many consumers are confounded by the charges on their wireless bills.
I have concerns that the Federal Communications Commission gets so many consumer complaints about wireless service—but then does so little with them.
And I am extremely concerned for my great state of West Virginia that we have second-class wireless service in too many rural communities throughout America. 
We have too many places in this country where wireless call quality is low and service is unreliable—places where wireless broadband is only a pipe dream. 
This is absolutely unacceptable to me.
Let me illustrate.
What you see is a map of the Eastern United States.  The colored areas reflect places where wireless broadband service—the best wireless service we have—is available.
Note the great gap in coverage that is West Virginia.  In far too many areas, the state has no wireless broadband service.   
So when people tell me wireless service is ubiquitous, I have my doubts. 
I worry that rural states like West Virginia will be left behind and I simply will not stand for that. 
With that said, I am grateful to all of our witnesses for being here today. 
Thank you for your willingness to participate in what I hope will be a frank and fair conversation about the consumer benefits of wireless service, the viability of our existing regulatory models, and the pros and cons of handset exclusivity.
I look forward to your testimony.