American wireless customers have seen a positive trend in decreasing cell phone service costs over the past decade, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report highlighted that despite the reduction in prices, consumers have a limited selection of carriers to choose from. Here are some key takeaways from the report:


  1. How have wireless service prices trended over the last decade?

    • The average price for wireless services has steadily declined each year from 1999 to 2008.
  2. What does the GAO report reveal about consumer benefits?

    • Consumers are now receiving more wireless services at lower costs compared to a decade ago, as confirmed by the GAO.
  3. What is the perspective of the CTIA, the wireless industry trade group?

    • The CTIA acknowledges the competitive nature of the wireless market and emphasizes the benefits consumers are experiencing.
  4. How dominant are major U.S. wireless operators in the market?

    • Four major carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA, control approximately 90% of the market share.
  5. What concerns have been raised by consumer advocates?

    • Consumer advocates are worried that the market’s concentration among a few major players could lead to higher prices and limited choices for consumers.
  6. How has the FCC characterized the wireless industry’s competitiveness?

    • The FCC has noted a shift towards market concentration rather than competitiveness, with a significant portion of subscribers and revenue controlled by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
  7. What initiatives has the FCC taken to promote competition in the industry?

    • The FCC is working towards increasing spectrum availability for wireless operators and attracting new service providers to enhance competition.
  8. How has the FCC encouraged openness in the wireless network infrastructure?

    • Through auction provisions, the FCC has mandated that certain spectrum winners must allow other carriers and devices access to their networks.
  9. How might the GAO report influence policy decisions?

    • The findings could shape future wireless auction rules and impact policy discussions on Capitol Hill, especially regarding Net neutrality.
  10. What are the perspectives of phone companies on regulations for wireless networks?

    • Phone companies advocate for differentiated treatment for wireless networks due to perceived constraints and higher competitiveness compared to wireline networks.
  11. How has wireless subscription growth evolved over the past decade?

    • Wireless subscriptions have surged from 3.5 million in 1999 to 285 million by 2009, with nearly 40% of U.S. households primarily relying on wireless services.
  12. What is the GAO’s stance on assessing competition in the wireless market?

    • The GAO emphasizes the need for additional data to evaluate the competitiveness of small and regional carriers and the impact of switching costs on consumers.

The GAO report sheds light on the evolving landscape of the wireless industry, emphasizing the decline in service costs alongside concerns regarding market concentration. While acknowledging the benefits to consumers, there are calls for increased competition to ensure affordability and choice in the market. As policymakers consider the implications of these findings, it becomes crucial to foster a balanced regulatory environment that encourages innovation and safeguards consumer interests. For further insights and updates on wireless industry developments, visit our website.