Senators urge FCC to probe handset exclusivity deals

A group of senators has asked to the FCC to review exclusivity agreements between wireless carriers and handset makers and assess whether or not such deals limit consumer choice.

"We ask that you examine this issue carefully and act expeditiously should you find that exclusivity agreements unfairly restrict consumer choice or adversely impact competition in the commercial wireless marketplace," the senators wrote in a letter to Michael Copps, the acting FCC chairman. The senators who signed the letter, dated June 15, include John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on communications, technology and the Internet, Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The issue has gained steam in recent months. In May, the Rural Cellular Association, which represents 80 small and rural wireless carriers, filed a petition asking the FCC to investigate the matter. The group argued such deals pose serious challenges to smaller carriers unable to get access to exclusive handsets. Further, a coalition of public-interest groups just this week sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in anticipation of hearings for two FCC nominees, urging that the committee address, among other issues, the connection between wireless devices and services.

Thus, the issue of exclusive handsets may well come up during the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing to consider the nomination of Julius Genachowski and Robert McDowell to the FCC.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see the release

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