Senators introduce bill to hold carriers accountable for ‘4G’ claims

If you are an everyday wireless consumer walking into a store to purchase a new smartphone, the terms HSPA+, WiMAX and LTE may mean very little to you. Yet, each of those networks is different and each is being advertised as “4G” in the United States, thanks to an International Telecommunications Union policy that allows carriers to market newer 3G technologies as “4G” networks. A new bill presented to the U.S. Senate this week hopes to force wireless carriers to clarify what exactly their “4G’ networks offer, including minimum and maximum data speeds. The bill was filed by Senator Amy Kobuchar and Al Franken from Minnesota as well as Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut. “Wireless providers need to make sure their customers can count on the speed, reliability, and the price they were promised when they signed up” Senator Franken explained. “And if they can’t fulfill their promise, they need to be held accountable.” The bill is in addition to The Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act, which was filed in June by Congresswoman Anna G. Eschoo, who applauded the new bill from Kobuchar, Franken and Blumenthal. Read on for the full press release from Eschoo’s office.

Rep. Eshoo Applauds Senate Introduction of 4G Legislation by Senators Blumenthal, Klobuchar and Franken

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, applauded Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) for introducing a Senate companion bill to the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act, which she introduced in the U.S. House in June.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting when they sign up for a two year wireless data plan,” said Rep. Eshoo. “Consumers want faster and faster phones, and demand for 4G is only going to increase. But they also deserve to know the truth about the speeds they’re actually getting. Wireless companies advertise 4G service as ‘lightening fast’ and ‘super-charged,’ but that’s not always the case. My legislation is simple – it will require truth in advertising.

“I’m proud that Senators Blumenthal, Klobuchar and Franken have introduced this legislation in the Senate. With their help, we can make sure that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed choice about which wireless data service to purchase.”

Senators Blumenthal, Klobuchar and Franken introduced the legislation earlier today in the Senate, and released the following statements:

Sen. Blumenthal said, “As consumers become more reliant on Internet capabilities from their mobile devices, it is essential that they have the most accurate and useful information about the products and plans they are purchasing. Whether they are using a tablet or a smartphone, wireless users deserve an honest description by companies of product capabilities. I’m proud to introduce the Senate companion to the bill that Representative Eshoo has worked so tirelessly on in the House to help bring fairness and certainty to consumers.”

Sen. Klobuchar said, “When consumers purchase a 4G wireless plan, they have the right to know exactly what they’re getting for their money. This legislation will help ensure that wireless companies are honest about their product’s capabilities so consumers can get a fair deal.”

Sen. Franken said, “While wireless data makes it easier for people all over Minnesota to do their jobs and to access music, movies, and books from virtually anywhere, it’s important that consumers know what they’ll be paying for when they sign a contract. Wireless providers need to make sure their customers can count on the speed, reliability, and the price they were promised when they signed up. And if they can’t fulfill their promise, they need to be held accountable.”

As it stands there is no standard definition for 4G wireless broadband internet, allowing the four major wireless companies in the United States to advertise several different technologies as “4G,” despite vastly different speeds based on their wireless provider and location. The Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act would require wireless companies to disclose the details listed below in their marketing and advertising at the point of sale and in all billing materials.

• Guaranteed minimum data speed

• Network reliability

• Coverage area maps

• Pricing

• Technology used to provide 4G service

• Network conditions that can impact the speed of applications and services used on the network

The legislation will further require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate the speed and price of 4G wireless data service provided by the top ten U.S. wireless carriers. This will provide consumers with access to a side-by-side comparison in their service area. For full background on Rep. Eshoo’s Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act (H.R. 2281), please click here. Rep. Eshoo’s legislation has been endorsed by several groups, including the Consumers Union, the National Consumers League, New America Foundation, the Media Access Project and Public Knowledge. A copy of the bill can be accessed here.

Eshoo serves as the Ranking Member on House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

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