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CTIA Opposed To Arizona’s Cellphone Users Bill Of Rights

Arizona Capital Roof

It seems like I’ve been ragging on the CTIA quite a bit lately, but these guys make it so easy.

In what turns out to be absolutely no surprise to anyone, the fine folks at the CTIA–the
industry association for the mobile operators in the U.S.–are opposing Arizona Senate Bill S-1010: The Cellphone Users Bill Of Rights. Why might they be doing that? Let’s see what the CTIA association president Steve Largent says:

The truth is that when you attempt to regulate a modern, high-tech industry as if it were a 1970’s public utility service, you wind-up hurting the people you’re seeking to protect. Just imagine the cost increases and customer confusion that would ensue if wireless carriers were forced to abandon their national calling and data plans, advertising campaigns, billing and customer care systems in order to set-up and comply with dissimilar regulations in 50 - or even two - different states.

Are they really asking for anything that would affect that? Let’s see what S-1010 is asking for:

  • 44-1799.72. talks about a lot of what the carriers already provide voluntarily: provide detailed coverage maps, a detailed list of charges, taxes, fees, included minutes, contract length, etc.
  • 44-1799.73. restricts contract length to not more than 12 months, requires written notification of any changes to service with the 30-day out clause, and allows subscribers to get out of contracts when the providers violate a provision of the contract.
  • 44-1799.74. requires some billing practice changes: only things that are actual state, federal, and local taxes can be listed under a taxes section of the bill, roaming calls must be billed within 60 days and provide the location the call was made from, itemized bills can be asked for on request for no cost, subscribers aren’t to be held liable for use of wireless service if their handset if lost/stolen and it is promptly reported to the service provider, and subscribers can’t have their services terminated while there is a billing dispute.
  • 44-1799.75. requires providers to obtain written consent from subscribers before giving their name/phone number to any sort of directory service and must disclose to customers that they may be charged for unsolicted calls/text messages from telemarketers.
  • 44-1799.76. requires providers that provide warranty exchange not to require a contract extension when a handset is replaced, must provide new (not refurbished) phones on a warranty swap, and must provide proof of reason for not honoring a warranty swap.
  • 44-1799.77. requires providers to submit detailed reports to the state Attorney General twice a year on:
    • Blocked calls
    • Dropped calls
    • Known dead zones/coverage gaps
    • Predicted Street-level Signal Strength

I seem to recall that most of this is already being done by the carriers, or would require very minor chanegs to existing practices. The most likely part of this they object to is the restriction on contract length. At least that’s what folks at the Media Freedom Project are complaining about. To quote their letter:

The cost of a cellphone is subsidized significantly by the service provider because of the length of contract; those costs can be recaptured over time. Without that incentive, attracting customers without a corporate subsidized phone would be difficult and cost consumers significantly more to enter the cellphone market. Or, if a provider still wanted to provide a subsidized phone, the monthly service fee would have to account for that initial outlay, therefore significantly cost consumers more on a monthly basis.

Everyone thinks handsets are too expensive, and thus we have to roll their cost into a 2 year agreement so people can afford them. How about for folks in Indonesia, India, and other places? In these locations, handsets can be purchased starting at under $50 US–without a carrier subsidy. And you know what? Even in these poor places, some people still manage to buy high-end Nokia phones–without a subsidy.

I’m sure a $50 handset could easily be rolled into a 1-year service agreement quite easily–if handset manufacturers sold them in the U.S.. I’m also sure that if people really want a nicer handset, they’ll pay the difference. They do for many other things.

Now if the CTIA wants to amend their “Consumer Code” to limit contract length and require open handset policies–allowing consumers to use any compatible handset on any providers network–then I’m all for it. They will have to change those rules if they don’t want those rules–or worse–written into law for them by local, state, or federal bureaucrats.


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