Will the Feds force Apple to break up with AT&T?

Since the iPhone's introduction in 2007, several handset makers have tried to emulate the popularity of Apple's device by offering exclusivity deals of their own

Are you fed up with exclusivity arrangements between cell phone carriers and handset makers? If so, you may have allies on Capitol Hill. Four U.S. Senators from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation have sent a letter to Michael J. Copps, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the FCC to examine the issue of exclusivity arrangements between handset carriers and manufacturers.

The letter, which is signed by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), expresses concern that handset exclusivity arrangements may be anti-competitive and reducing consumer choice in the marketplace.

The letter identifies five major issues the senators want the FCC to examine:

• The increasing prevalence of exclusivity arrangements between cell phone manufacturers and carriers

• How exclusivity agreements may be restricting consumer choice, particularly for consumers living in rural areas;

• How exclusivity agreements may 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;

• How exclusivity agreements may be inhibiting the ability of smaller, more regional carriers to compete;

• How exclusivity agreements may play a role in encouraging or discouraging innovation within the handset marketplace.

The senators' letter follows an FCC petition filed last month by the Rural Cellular Association asking the regulatory body to study how exclusivity arrangements affect consumers. On Wednesday, the Commerce Committee will hold its own hearing on these issues to determine if legislative action is necessary.

It's interesting to note that some concerns spelled out by the senators sound like they're a direct reaction to recent complaints over AT&T's status as the exclusive U.S. provider for Apple's iPhone. When last week Apple announced launch details for iPhone OS 3.0, AT&T was the target of scorn over delays to supporting the iPhone's new tethering and MMS capabilities. In the past, AT&T has also been accused of having spotty 3G coverage in rural areas.

Since the iPhone's introduction in 2007, several handset makers have tried to emulate the popularity of Apple's device by offering exclusivity deals of their own. Two recent examples include the Palm Pre, currently on Sprint's Now Network, and T-Mobile's G1, the first Android-powered handset.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags at&tiPhone

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?