Regulation is a slow but powerful force, and it can be very positive or negative. Movement is currently being made in how service providers treat their customers and it should have a positive effect on the industry in the long term. The recent implementation of net neutrality regulations
, announced in December 2010
, has raised issues regarding competition among broadband and mobile providers as well as controversy over regulation in what has typically been an unregulated market. Also, bill shock is being tackled
by FCC regulation and self-regulation among service providers, as a result of growing concern from consumers. With both of these new regulations, consumers will get what they want: better service. And while operators may argue that regulation stifles competition and innovation, these regulations may actually provide more opportunities to do so.
Bill shock has recently made headlines due to consumer horror
stories. Because of the intense reactions by consumers to high bills without notification, the FCC and CTIA have announced
an "industry-led program to warn consumers when they are reaching monthly limits on voice, texting and data services." Pre-empting a rumored federal law requiring this action, and hoping to establish their self-sufficiency, mobile operators have taken the responsibility of warning customers
, rather than expecting end users to monitor their own data usage and charging, representing an industry shift in where this responsibility lies.
More controversial are the net neutrality rules
, which would prevent operators from slowing or blocking online traffic. After multiple challenges from the US Senate and a variety of lawsuits
, the regulations officially went into effect on Sunday. Supporters of the net neutrality rules have argued that Internet providers need to be regulated by an external body in order to prevent monopolies and encourage competition and innovation among industry players. Those on the other side of the debate claim that this is simply a power play by the FCC to assert themselves as the regulators of the Internet, and that no regulation is necessary to encourage competition. However, it's important to note that slowing and blocking is quite different from prioritizing and offering tiered network speeds. The net neutrality laws will set a standard for network perforamnce that service providers must meet, allowing them the opportunity to offer faster and better service for an increased price.
Regulations surrounding bill shock and net neutrality have been slow moving and have faced a number of obstacles. However, these regulations are pushing the comms industry into the future of mobile and Internet performance, and are enabling the next generation of charging models to take form.