WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is looking into the ability of consumers to choose their mobile handsets as well as the state of the media industry.
“We’re looking at a couple of different issues,” Julius Genachowski, a former telecommunications industry executive, said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.
One issue involves consumers who live in markets that are not served by carriers who have exclusive handset arrangements, and the other is how those arrangements affect competition and innovation, Genachowski said.
“In some markets, no matter what, you can’t get an iPhone or your can’t get a Pre,” he said, without indicating how long the review might last. “I don’t want to prejudge it. This is the kind of thing that an expert agency should look at based on facts, based on data.”
Such deals are common among the biggest U.S. carriers but they have recently faced strong opposition from small, rural carriers, which say they lack clout to make deals to carry the most popular advanced phones.
They have also been the center of some lawmakers’ concerns about whether the practice hinders innovation and competition.
Just one month into the job, Genachowski, a law school friend of President Barack Obama, is tightly focused on crafting a national broadband plan aimed at providing all Americans with access to high-speed Internet.
In that plan U.S. officials also want to promote innovation so that the United States emerges from the current level many experts consider far behind other countries.
“Broadband is the major infrastructure challenge of our generation,” Genachowski said, pointing to economic growth and job creation as benefits of such as plan.
In addition, he said he is focused on empowering the consumer and rebuilding an agency to rely more on data as the main driver of the policy decision-making process.
Another issue he is focused on is the state of media ownership in the United States as newspapers struggle to stay alive and some broadcasters have consolidated.
He said the agency will launch a review of the industry next year. Congress requires such a review every four years.
Genachowski said the United States needs a “vibrant” media landscape while keeping in mind the economic challenges facing the industry.
“There’s still serious concerns about consolidation in broadcasting,” he said. “For millions of Americans broadcasting remains the exclusive source for news and information, and consolidation is a real issue.”
Reporting by John Poirier; Editing Bernard Orr