FCC will investigate handset exclusivity deals

The FCC will investigate whether exclusive deals for hot phones between wireless carriers and handset makers stifles competition. 

Acting chairman Michael Copps said that he has already directed the FCC to look into the matter. "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," Copps said at a conference in Washington, D.C., yesterday. 

Julius Genachowski, who is awaiting confirmation to become the agency's new chairman, said he supports the review. "Yes, if confirmed, I will ensure that the full record on the [rural carriers' complaint] is reviewed, and act accordingly to promote competition and consumer choice," he said.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and three other senators had requested earlier this week that the FCC look into the matter. The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the issue Wednesday, in which the nation's largest wireless carriers were pitted against smaller, regional competitors. Larger carriers argued that the market remains competitive despite the deals while smaller players said such deals limit consumer choice.

In other FCC news, the Commerce Committee yesterday approved Genachowski's nomination, along with that of Robert McDowell. McDowell is up for one of the two Republican seats on the commission. The full Senate still has to confirm them, but it is unclear when that vote will take place.  

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Reuters article

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