Congress is getting curious these days. First, they inquire about crude oil speculators and now they’ve set their sights on text messages.
As it turns out, some in the legislative branch are mighty interested in learning why the price of text messaging has doubled industry-wide in the last three years. And legislators are taking their questions directly to the four major wireless carriers:Â AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
I was happy to learn of this potential Congressional examination for two reasons – first, to provoke more widespread discussion about the concentrated control of an industry, and to foster a debate that may ultimately help protect texter’s and mobile marketer’s pocket-books.
Senator Herb Kohl, chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee in the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the four big guns in mobile to “explain the dramatic price increases for text messaging services.”
“Some industry experts contend that these increased rates do not appear to be justified by any increases in the costs associated with text messaging services, but may instead be a reflection of a decrease in competition, and an increase in market power, among your four companies,” Kohl said in his letter.
As we know, the number of major US carriers has shrunk from six to four while the remaining quad continues to absorb little competitors everywhere. In my opinion, it’s great to see some attention given to this matter now, before a monopoly dominates an industry that, in order to thrive, will need to be affordable, accessible, and available to virtually everyone.
“I am concerned with whether this market consolidation, and increased market power by the major carriers, has contributed to this doubling of text messaging rates over the last three years,” Kohl said. And I’m concerned too.
The senator has asked the companies to “provide evidence of how their respective text messaging pricing structures differs from those of their competitors, along with evidence of what factors led to price increases.” Kohl has requested a response by October 6.
This discussion will likely bring out debaters on both sides – the free market advocates and the regulatory junkies who want greater consumer protections. No matter what results from this investigation, it’s already a victory for texters and mobile marketers, whose ultimate authority rests on the strength of their numbers. And this story is bound to reveal just how powerful texting has become to those who still underestimate it’s pervasive growth and potential.
Your thoughts, please.