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NEWS: US lawmakers call for AppleT&T probe, Wireless exclusivity spotlighted
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.
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 consumerís
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
consumerís geographic region, particularly for consumers living in
* "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.
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