Mobile Future

NEW SURVEY: U.S. Mobile Consumers Overwhelmingly View More Regulation As Impediment to Innovation

“From Emerging Business Models to Speeding the Arrival of Apps and Services, Consumers’ Message to the FCC is Clear: Less is More”


Washington, DC—As the Federal Communications Commission weighs new rules it argues are necessary to ensure U.S. mobile consumers can continue to enjoy an open Internet, a new nationwide survey finds wireless consumers deeply skeptical of an expanding regulatory role for government in the wireless sector. In fact, 90% of consumers said they believe today’s level of regulation or less would be best to speed the arrival of new products, apps and service choices.

The survey, conducted for Mobile Future by Social Lens Research, reflects the views of a representative sample of 865 U.S. mobile consumers who were polled via the GfK Knowledge Panel over the weekend of October 17, 2014.  The Knowledge Panel is the only online probability-based panel.  The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Among the key findings:

  • 90% of Consumers Believe Today’s Level of Regulation or Less Would Help Spur More Innovation.

Only 8% of consumers believe more regulation will speed the arrival of new products, apps and service choices, as compared to 54% who believe regulations should stay the same and 36% who favor less regulation.

  • 72% of Consumers, 79% of Millennials and >88% of Heavier Data Users Are Open to New Business Models and See Consumer Benefits.

The survey tests a number of emerging business models that could be at risk if new government regulations over-reach—from $12 wireless service that allows only voice, texting and Facebook access to offerings that allow consumers to stream content from sponsored websites without incurring data charges.  64% of consumers found one or more of the scenarios would benefit consumers.  An additional 8% said they were open to other business models.

  • 88% of Consumers Believe the Government Should Not Block—or Be Involved at All—In Approving New Wireless Business Models.

Consumers overwhelmingly want the power to determine the fate of emerging business models.  More than half at 56% felt the government should not be involved in approving new business models.  An additional 32% said government should not block new choices that could save consumers money and/or better meet their needs.  Only 10% said the government should block.

  • Only 10% of Consumers Say Their Wired and Wireless Habits Are Similar—Demonstrating Awareness of Mobile Network Differences.

44% said they don’t usually stream or download large files.  Among those who do bandwidth-intensive activities (video stream/ download), 62% said they wait to download large files when they are on their computer or Wi-Fi-network (47%) and/or stream movies and TV shows to their computer to avoid loading delays or using mobile data (36%).

  • Consumers Are Twice as Likely to Use Smartphones, But Basic Phone Use Remains Significant.

By a nearly 2:1 margin, consumers say they regularly use smartphones (66%) rather than basic phones (35%).  Additionally, 36% say they regularly use a tablet.  Consumer wireless habits are similarly diverse.  For example, while 27% of consumers engage daily on a social network via their mobile, 43% have never done so.  And, while 24% stream/download music at least weekly, 74% say they rarely or never do.

“At this critical moment when the FCC is finalizing rules that will impact consumers’ wireless experience, we felt it was important to ask consumers themselves several questions at the center of the debate,” said Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter.  “What came back challenges several core assumptions.  From emerging business models to speeding the arrival of apps and services, consumers’ message to the FCC is clear: Less is more when it comes to imposing new rules.  Everyone supports maintaining an open Internet.  But in writing its rules, the Commission should keep a very narrow focus and recognize, as so many consumers do, that there are clear differences between wireless and wireline networks.”

“A key finding is that there is no one ‘mobile consumer’,” said Julie Diaz-Asper, Founding Partner and CEO of Social Lens Research.  “Some consumers are heavy data users, others use their mobile devices only for basic functions, such as texting and phone calls.  Across the board though, significant majorities of mobile consumers are planning to use their devices even more in the future and are open to new business models and service offerings that could directly benefit consumers.”

The complete research brief can be found here.


About Mobile Future

Mobile Future is an association of cutting-edge technology and communications companies and a diverse group of non-profit organizations, working to support an environment that encourages investment and innovation in the dynamic wireless sector.

About Social Lens Research

Social Lens Research makes research a more social experience. Social Lens creates engaging research experiences that are social and mobile to help companies better understand and engage hard-to-reach audiences. The experienced team of Fortune 100 marketers and researchers specialize in helping organization understand how mobile and social media adoption impacts their target audiences. The firm is based in Washington D.C.

About the GfK Group

The GfK Group offers the fundamental knowledge that industry, retailers, services companies and the media need to make market decisions. It delivers a comprehensive range of information and consultancy services in the three business sectors Custom Research, Retail and Technology and Media. GfK, one of the leading market research organizations worldwide, operates in more than 100 countries and employs over 11,000 staff.