THE BLOG
05/07/2013 03:39 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2013

Consumers Are Talking; Policymakers Need to Listen

Mywireless.org released the results of their annual survey today and found some surprising, and unsurprising, results. The survey was conducted over the second week in April and, among other things, delves into consumer attitudes regarding consumer satisfaction for wireless services. In all, the respondents to the survey seemed to be highly satisfied with their service, despite the high costs, and more often than not thought that adding more regulation to wireless services will increase their costs.

Overall, most consumers are extremely satisfied with their service, with 91 percent of respondents saying they're satisfied with their current wireless provider and 73 percent being satisfied with their choices when it comes to selecting a provider. Contrary to what the regulators might think, consumers appear to be rather happy with their current choices and services in the wireless market.

One of the more interesting aspects of the survey is how wireless services are becoming the only source for telecommunications services for some consumers. According to the survey results, a sizable 32 percent of those surveyed are wireless-only households. When broken down by age, 51 percent of those 18-29 have given up their landlines, with 41 percent between the ages of 30-40 having gone cell-phone only.

The same section of the survey shows that most of the respondents, a full 43 percent, say that having a wireless phone service is more important to them than having broadband Internet, cable television or landline telephone service. There are major differences in the importance of having a wireless phone when you break down the numbers amongst whites, African Americans and Hispanics. Specifically, the survey found that 41 percent of whites, 48 percent of African Americans and 51 percent of Hispanics reported that wireless phone service was of more importance than other communications services.

The high importance of wireless service among consumers raises questions on why regulators are so rushed to impose new taxes, fees and regulations on consumer cell phone bills. While public policies should encourage the adoption of technology and broadband, regulations and taxes would raise consumer costs and impede subscribership. That will have implications on future investment and job creation, as well as consumer satisfaction.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that wireless services are an integral part of their day-to-day lives. When so many rely on their wireless service to such a great extent, especially minorities and the young, and as the economy still struggles to recover, consumers are not in a good position to deal with the increased costs of such a vital service.

Consumers are rightly concerned about wireless costs, which is why the Wireless Tax Fairness bill winding its way through both chambers of Congress should be passed. It would provide much-needed cover and relief for consumers.

As the survey reminds us of the extensive use and reliance on mobile phones, it serves as a reminder for the need for more spectrum in the marketplace. As we've shown over and over, spectrum is scarce. As more people rely on their mobile phones in their everyday lives for communications, navigation, videos, banking, news, shopping and browsing the Internet, the need for increased capacity on our nation's wireless networks grows exponentially.

When asked what the most important issue is to them, 43 percent of respondents said getting better value for their service and 24 percent said improving cell phone service and coverage. So fully 69 percent of respondents gave answers that directly reflect on the need for freed-up spectrum. Unless spectrum shortages can be averted, consumer prices will rise and quality of service will suffer. For these reasons, releasing more spectrum into the marketplace will help bring down costs and improve service for everyone.

These sentiments are in the newly released survey data. It's time for policymakers and regulators to listen.

Zack Christenson and Steve Pociask write for the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonprofit educational and research institute. For more information, visit www.theamericanconsumer.org.