Discouraged by larger rivals’ exclusive handset deals, the Rural Cellular Association (RCA) filed a petition with the FCC asking it to investigate exclusive handset arrangements between carriers and handset manufacturers.
The trade association, which represents about 80 small and rural wireless companies that mostly serve fewer than 500,000 customers each, wrote” “RCA requests that the commission initiate a rulemaking to investigate the widespread use and anticompetitive effects of exclusivity arrangements between commercial wireless carriers and handset manufacturers and, as necessary, adopt rules that prohibit such arrangements when contrary to the public interest, consistent with its obligations under the Communications Act.”
Citing the example of Apple’s deal with AT&T for the iPhone, RCA’s petition explains that the exclusive arrangement between the two means that most Vermont residents, as well as residents in rural areas of 15 other states, can’t use the popular handset as AT&T only offers roaming service in the state and local carriers cannot sell the iPhone.
The petition also cites exclusive handset deals between LG and Verizon Wireless, and Samsung and Sprint Nextel, saying exclusive handset arrangements create “another “digital divide” between urban and rural America.”
RCA’s complaint comes at a time when carriers are facing increasing pressure to open their networks and allow consumers more choice about what devices and applications they wish to use over networks.