Tag Archives | mobile devices

Incoming FCC Chief Wants Inquiry of Handset Exclusivity

Yesterday, Senators grilled AT&T on the subject of mobile phone handset exclusivity deals. Today, it was revealed that incoming FCC chief Julius Genachowski plans to take a look at these deals as well, saying he wants to promote competition and choice. Genachowski’s plans were revealed as part of a response to questions from the same  committee that held hearings on the subject this week.

Senator John Kerry pleaded with the FCC to act after the Rural Cellular Association, a interest group representing 80 rural carriers, complained about the practice. Genachowski acknowledged RCA’s petition, saying he planned to act on it if confirmed.

The moves to end exclusivity deals would signal a major victory for rural carriers, which are typically shut out of such deals. In addition, it would also likely mean broader availability of top handsets regardless of carrier.

Current acting chairman Michael Copps also has spoke out against the deals, saying “the Commission as the expert agency should determine whether some of these arrangements adversely restrict consumer choice or harm the development of innovative devices, and it should take appropriate action if it finds harm.”

He is also asking officials within the FCC to start investigating these deals, meaning by the time Genachowski is confirmed an inquiry could already be well underway.


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Mama Apple, Please Don’t Take My iPhone Away

Apple iPhone 3G SAT&T is trying to make the case for exclusive deals for phones, saying they “stimulate” innovation. Yes, you heard that right: by sticking it to the consumer and forcing them to a certain carrier, we’re enjoying innovative products. I’m not exactly following this, and neither is Capitol Hill either.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing on Thursday in which AT&T made this exact case in front of bewildered Senators. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was one of them, saying that why he understood the economic benefits, he wasn’t seeing a benefit otherwise.

Kerry said that he failed to see why a manufacturer would develop innovative products for a single outlet rather than build it for the biggest market possible, to paraphrase his statements.

AT&T retail sales chief Paul Roth responded that often, carriers and manufacturers will work together closely in order to bring phones to the market. However, it’s pretty likely given the way Apple operates that this wasn’t the case with the iPhone.

Opposition just wasn’t a Democratic thing — even Republican senators like Mississippi’s Roger Wicker expressed displeasure, saying the deal could harm rural residents right to choice.

In addition the AT&T/iPhone deal opened a new chapter in the debate over exclusivity contracts. Rather than the typical several-month period, the iPhone deal gave AT&T several years. This concerns regional carriers most as they typically can not compete for these exclusivity deals.

It’s high time the government got involved in this debate. There really is no benefit to allowing carriers to shut out others when offering mobile devices. Yes, I understand the iPhone does require some network changes in order for it to work to its fullest extent, however to me consumer choice trumps all others.

A lot of folks on AT&T right now sure as heck wouldn’t be there if the carrier didn’t have a stranglehold on the device here in the US. Count me as one of them — I’d rather be back with T-Mobile.

(Hat tip: PC World)


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