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New Legislation Targets Inflated Wireless Speed Claims: 4G Means Anything Carriers Want

Phillip Dampier June 22, 2011 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband No Comments

Rep. Anna Eshoo

Legislation forcing carriers to tell the truth about their 4G wireless speeds is scheduled to be introduced today in Congress by its author and chief sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)

The Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act would require carriers to disclose the minimum data speed of their respective networks and better explain plan pricing and coverage.  While many consumers believe “4G” means vastly superior speeds and performance, in reality some wireless carriers have labeled even incremental network upgrades as delivering “4G” service, even if speeds are only incrementally better.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan,” said Rep. Eshoo. “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:

  • Guaranteed minimum data speed
  • Network reliability
  • Coverage area maps
  • Pricing
  • Technology used to provide 4G service
  • Network conditions that can impact the speed of applications and services used on the network.

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.

“Consumers want faster, more reliable wireless data service, and I look forward to working with industry and consumer groups to achieve this goal,” Eshoo added. “We need to enhance transparency and ensure consumers are fully informed before they commit to a long-term service contract.”

The bill faces tough prospects in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and industry groups are likely to oppose the measure.  Eshoo has tangled with both in the recent past as a prominent supporter of Net Neutrality.

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