Minnesota Senators asking tough telecommunications questions


Last week Senator Franken spoke about broadband and telecommunications; this week it’s Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken is asking about smartphones and privacy. They are keeping the topics in the playing field!

Senator Klobuchar is speaking out on the AT&T merger. As The Hill reports…

Days ahead of a Senate Judiciary hearing on the AT&T merger, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is pushing the company to make commitments on how it will operate if the deal with T-Mobile is approved by federal regulators.

A fierce advocate for consumer-friendly wireless policies, Klobuchar wrote to the chief executives of AT&T and T-Mobile on Friday with 10 questions on the consequences of the merger.

The Benton Foundation provides a succinct list of those ten questions:

  1. How will you ensure that the proposed transaction will not lead to higher prices for consumers?
  2. What impact will decreased competition in the wireless industry have on practices that impact consumers such as cell phone exclusivity, early termination fees, and bill shock?
  3. Will AT&T commit to continuing to sell T-Mobile’s lower-priced plans after the merger to all T-Mobile and AT&T customers?
  4. Will the acquisition of T-Mobile enable AT&T to reach rural parts of the country that AT&T could not reach if it simply entered into data roaming agreements with T-Mobile or other wireless carriers?
  5. Will AT&T support device interoperability and ensure that devices built to work on AT&T’s future Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks are usable on the LTE networks of other carriers?
  6. AT&T and Verizon will control 75 percent of the wireless market. Given this concentration, can the wireless market be competitive? If yes, can you articulate any specific level of concentration that would render the wireless market no longer competitive?
  7. Will AT&T allow existing T-Mobile customers to switch providers without penalty if they do not want service from AT&T?
  8. Will AT&T offer smaller carriers data roaming agreements at reasonable rates?
  9. Will AT&T commit to forgo any handset exclusivity agreements with cell phone manufacturers?
  10. What impact would a potential merger have on T-Mobile employees and will the combined company commit to maintain current employment levels?

According to Politico,

Sen. Al Franken is planning to take a hard look Tuesday [May 10] at the way iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys — and the apps that run on them — collect and use personal information about their owners, including their locations.

The hearing itself is Capitol Hill’s first explicit foray into the burgeoning industry debate over iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys, and the amount of information those popular devices collect and store about their owners.

To Franken, it isn’t just the devices themselves that pose key challenges to consumers — but also third-party applications, like games and other downloadable content, which most consumers aren’t aware are collecting their personal details.

I’m personally interested to see how these meetings go. I’m amazed at the types of information some apps will request before you can install. Often I opt out based on the seeming unrelated info they want, but there are some applications where usefulness tips the balance enough for me – but I wish there was a better way to share less just to gain the ability for one-click dinner reservations.