Feeds

US lawmakers call for AppleT&T probe

Wireless exclusivity spotlighted

The Power of One Infographic

A quartet of US senators has asked the acting chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review whether mobile phone manufacturers should be allowed to enter into exclusive contracts with wireless service providers.

In a letter signed by four lawmakers - including Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate's Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet - acting chairman Michael Copps is asked to "act expeditiously should you find that exclusivity agreements unfairly restrict consumer choice or adversely impact competition in the commercial wireless marketplace."

Although such exclusivity agreements are commonplace, the request for an investigation is a direct shot across Apple and AT&T's shared bow.

How direct? Very direct. One of the concerns enumerated in the letter is "Whether exclusivity agreements place limitations on a consumer’s ability to take full advantage of handset technologies, such as the ability to send multimedia messages or the ability to 'tether' a device to a computer for internet use."

Sounds like a direct poke at AT&T's inability to provide those two exact services to owners of Apple's iPhone.

The letter raises other concerns, as well:

  • "Whether exclusivity agreements are becoming increasingly prevalent between dominant wireless carriers and handset manufacturers;
  •  
  • "Whether exclusivity agreements are restricting consumer choice with respect to which handsets are available depending on a consumer’s geographic region, particularly for consumers living in rural America;
  •  
  • "Whether ... the ability for a dominant carrier to reach an exclusive agreement with a handset manufacturer is inhibiting the ability of smaller, more regional carriers to compete; and
  •  
  • "Whether exclusivity agreements play a role in encouraging or discouraging innovation within the handset marketplace."

The letter notes that in May 2008, the Rural Cellular Association, a trade group with 90 smaller wireless-provider members that provide coverage to a claimed 73 per cent of the US, filed a petition requesting rule-making by the FCC on exclusivity.

The process begun by the petition, according to the letter, resulted in a wealth of comments from large and small service providers, consumer groups, regulatory agencies, and handset manufacturers - information that could be used by the FCC to jump-start its investigation.

The debate is sure to be fierce on both sides of the issue. Pro-exclusivity proponents argue that such contracts enable mobile-device manufacturers to cut deals with service providers that result in lower prices to consumers. Such deals can also enable more innovation by juicing manufacturers' R&D budgets.

Anti-exclusivity champions contend that locking competing providers out of contracts with popular device manufacturers engenders a "We don't care, we don't have to" attitude in exclusive providers of popular handsets, as well as squeezing smaller providers out of the picture entirely.

These and undoubtedly many other arguments will be heard at a hearing on "The Consumer Wireless Experience" to be held this Wednesday in Washington, DC by the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.