Who Regulates Cell Phone Companies?

by Steven Miller; Updated September 26, 2017
Man talking on a mobile phone

Cell phone providers come under the eye of several state and federal government agencies. The Federal Communications Commission, just one of the government's regulatory entities, licenses carriers and allocates radio frequency bands. And while you can file a complaint about your wireless provider with the FCC, the agency does not oversee the contractual agreements between consumers and cell phone companies, as that can be found at the state level.

Licensing and Frequency Allocations

The FCC regulates and manages all the frequency bands that broadcasting and telecommunications companies use to transmit data over the air. This includes wireless providers, as well as radio and television broadcasters and even the free-to-the-public frequency bands used for CB and Ham radios, two-way frequencies and more. The agency licenses carriers that provide cellular service to the public and allocates the specific bands that each carrier must transmit within. When televisions stations abandoned the 700 megahertz bands used for ultra high frequency TV channels when upgrading to digital, the FCC auctioned these new bandwidths to various wireless providers.

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau within the FCC oversees the national wireless telecommunications programs and policies for the agency. It creates the policies for fair licensing across the wireless telecommunications industry including fixed microwave links, antennas and towers and even amateur radio and mobile broadband licensing. It's involved in setting the environmental standards for tower and antenna locations used by cellular providers to ensure historic and environmental protection of these sites.

State Agencies

State agencies involved with consumer affairs or protection are in place to help consumers when they have issues with cell phone service providers or other businesses. Each state sets its own regulations for cell phone companies by establishing standards, such as requiring providers to give you coverage maps. Some states require cell phone companies to allow you to return your phone within three days if you do not like it -- or find it doesn't work right -- without charging you for activation or other service-related fees.

CTIA Assocation

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is an international nonprofit wireless organization. Wireless carriers, suppliers, providers and manufacturers are a part of this organization. The CTIA advocates and lobbies on behalf its members at all levels of government. This organization does not regulate cell phone companies, but it influences the policymakers who create the guidelines for the industry.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

When it comes to health issues related to cell phone use, the FDA is able to influence the cell phone industry by ensuring that carriers make their devices free from potential health risks. This organization can also enforce carriers to warn consumers about any possible health hazards that may occur by using a cell phone.

About the Author

Steven Miller earned his associate degree in the field of education and is currently continuing his education at Ohio Dominican University. A freelance writer since 2010, Miller enjoys gaining valuable experience and growing as a writer.

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