Can the Government Stop Mobile Providers from Robbing You Blind?

by Matt Klassen on June 25, 2010

Or rather, will you let them? While I certainly never meant for several of this week’s articles to form an impromptu forum on consumer ignorance in America, I might as well go with it now.

For years now American broadband wireless providers have got away with providing their customers with some of the worst wireless network service on the planet, with many third world countries enjoying the lightning fast network connections that even the wealthiest barons of industry only dream about here.

The reason behind this travesty:  Americans don’t know any different, so they’re happy to pay for what they ignorantly assume is the norm for wireless broadband speeds. Further, as a recent survey conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found, a staggering 80 percent of American’s don’t even know the speed of their wireless broadband connection anyways.

The quandary for both the government and the public in the United States is the role of governmental regulation in the wireless broadband market, with free market lobbyists arguing strongly for the government to refrain from any sort of wireless regulations. But if the free market is doing such a good job at providing quality broadband networks, shouldn’t the richest nation in the world be enjoying the fastest network speeds?

While the debate rages on across the country, one thing is abundantly clear, Americans rarely get the network speeds they pay for, and even if they did, a Maasai warrior in Africa is still enjoying faster data transfer rates on his mobile phone than any of us ever could here.

American wireless providers would have us believe that it’s a matter of the increased volume of data traffic in this country that slow the networks done, but several technologically advanced nations that boast similar network populations have almost none of the persistent difficulties wireless customers experience in the States.

But the real kicker, if you haven’t guessed it already, is that Americans, in general, pay more for their wireless connections, whether it’s mobile or otherwise, than the rest of the world, while receiving much less in return.

It is this sort of corporate bilking and consumer ignorance that the Federal government is looking to combat not only plans like the FCC’s Net Neutrality, but also through additional corporate accountability, closer Federal scrutiny over actual wireless services delivered, and increased consumer education. In addition, the FCC is providing a numbers of tests that consumers can now run on their own wireless connection, to see if the speeds match what they thought they were paying for. (Click here for one such consumer test).

The overarching issue, as I see it, is America’s Reagan-like fear of the encroachment of socialism that is perceived as accompanying increased governmental interference. It is this, I believe, that will continue to stand in the way of the FCC’s ongoing push to increase regulations over wireless broadband in general, and mobile wireless networks in particular. But isn’t it about time you started receiving the mobile connection that you’re paying for?

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