FCC Chairman: 'We will continue to defend competition, an open internet'

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Where competition exists, the commission must protect it, said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during his keynote address at CTIA 2014 in Las Vegas. Wheeler discussed several key themes, including the continued consolidation of mobile providers, net neutrality and increased consumer mobile adoption.

The FCC will continue to be skeptical of means to achieve scale by the consolidation of the major players, Wheeler said, referencing the FCC's decision to oppose the AT&T purchase of T-Mobile.

"The absence of meaningful competition invites government regulation," he explained. "What [the mobile] industry does to create a competitive market has a bearing on how government responds. The mobile industry has proved that competition has driven capital investment."

Open internet

Wheeler also said the fast pace of technology has destroyed the walls of a closed ecosystem. As a result, the FCC will continue to work to guarantee the internet remains open as consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband to access the internet.

Wheeler said the FCC will continue to look at what's reasonable and how network practices can be transparent to consumers.

Spectrum and Incentive Auctions

Speaking about mobile spectrum demand and whether providers will be able to keep broadband prices affordable for consumers, Wheeler said whether or not wireless carriers will fully participate in the auction is in the hands of the mobile industry. Wheeler championed the FCC's Broadcast Television Incentive Spectrum Auction, which the FCC maintains presents a financial opportunity for broadcasters to remain on the air to continue providing the public with diverse, local, free over-the-air television.

Wheeler asked the mobile industry to back the plan.

"If mobile operators don't put their money where their mouths have been, the future of spectrum policy will look very different," Wheeler said. "When the Broadcast Incentive Auction is a success it will be a template for all other incentive auctions to follow. We're heartened by AT&T and Dish's interest in the incentive auction. The rest of the industry has been strangely silent."

CTIA's take

Prior to Wheeler's keynote, CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker said the CTIA will work hard to keep the government out of the consumer's way. She said the organization will fight hard to maintain an open internet.

"We need more cleared use spectrum," she said. "Spectrum policy is harder than it used to be. But harder does not mean we walk away from a difficult approach."

Baker said the industry must work together to ensure that the next 100, 200 and 300 megahertz of spectrum can be delivered to maintain a fast and open internet.