Rural Carriers Question Exclusive Phone Deals
Exclusive deals between carriers and handset makers establish monopolies and harm consumers, says an advocacy group.The Rural Cellular Association wants the Federal Communications Commission to ban exclusive deals between telecommunications carriers and handset makers. The small carriers claim the exclusivity deals are monopolistic and anti-competitive. The so-called Big 5 carriers-AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Alltel Wireless-frequently cut deals with handset manufacturers to gain control over the features, content and design of a particular handset. The deals also give a carrier absolute control over the market availability of a product.
Small and rural carriers, however, are rarely privy to such deals. Vermont residents, for instance, are unable to use an iPhone without violating the terms of AT&T's two-year contract with Apple since AT&T provides only roaming service in Vermont. The iPhone is also unavailable to most rural residents of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.