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4G Confusion: Watchdog Group Holds FCC’s Feet to the Fire

The Federal Communications Commission intends to measure mobile broadband performance.

Such a measure could help Americans more accurately compare the high-speed data offerings of competing wireless carriers.

Although the FCC is only in the preliminary stages of its plans, the regulatory agency already faces criticism from a California-based advocacy organization that its policies won’t adequately protect consumers.

“The FCC’s mobile broadband testing and measurement program does not go far enough,” said Laura Antonini, staff attorney with Consumer Watchdog, in a statement Wednesday. “The public may finally get some reliable information on mobile broadband data speeds, but it will not prevent wireless carriers from fooling consumers with inaccurate and confusing data speed claims.”

In a petition last month, Consumer Watchdog asked the FCC to require U.S. wireless carriers to accurately and clearly disclose their mobile broadband performance.

Consumer Watchdog claims wireless carriers are using deceptive marketing when promoting their fourth-generation, or 4G, services.

The wireless industry isn’t in agreement on what technologies actually meet the definition of 4G, and standards bodies haven’t clarified the issue. That has further muddied the waters for consumers who are inundated with TV advertisements and other promotions from the likes of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Consumer Watchdog also blames the FCC for not clarifying what constitutes 4G.

“The lack of clarity on the FCC’s website description opens the door to abuse and misuse of the 3G and 4G terminology by the industry, and contributes to consumer confusion,” Consumer Watchdog declared in the petition.

Consumers might not be confused for much longer. The FCC on Tuesday announced plans to hold a public meeting Sept. 21 to discuss a program to measure mobile broadband performance. Agency staff plan to discuss with interested parties a variety of issues, including approaches to remotely acquiring and analyzing data on mobile broadband Internet service.

The FCC wants to leverage the success of its fixed broadband program. In July, the agency released its second “Measuring Broadband America” report, which provided data on broadband performance and service offerings by landline Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon Communications.  The comprehensive report divulged that the Internet industry has made significant improvements over the last year matching expectations to realities.


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