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CTIA President Fires Back At FCC Chairman

Las Vegas — Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler had some tough words for the wireless industry on Tuesday, and CTIA president/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker pushed back today.

Wheeler hinted strongly that when the FCC finalizes open-Internet rules, it might not carve out exceptions for the wireless industry as it did in 2010 when it created a set of rules that were struck down by a court. He cited “significant changes” in the mobile market since 2010, where there were only 200,000 4G LTE subscribers in 2010 compared to 120 million today. LTE service now reached 300 million people, and LTE is promoted as offering faster service than fixed broadband, he said.

Baxter, however, took exception to Wheeler’s remarks. “Since its inception, the mobile Internet has been open,” she said. And LTE expanded rapidly with a regulatory light touch that “worked so well,” she said.

It’s “troublesome” that some people want to treat broadband as a utility like roads and the electrical grid in the name of an open Internet, she said, asking her audience at a Super Mobility Week keynote to imagine “5G with brownouts and potholes.”

Regulating mobile broadband like wired broadband isn’t needed because there is no “consumer harm” to overcome or industry problem to fix, and it will place jobs and investment at risk, she said.

Baker suggested wired broadband companies would benefit from extending the same rules to the wireless industry. “Rival platforms want their thumb on LTE,” she said. “If I were a wired company, I’d be nervous about how successful” the wireless industry has become.

Eight of 10 Americans, she noted, can choose from four [mobile broadband] providers.”

New Internet rules “must provide incentives for investment and must be mobile-specific,” she said.