If you've ever lusted after a handset (but not the network it's on), or cursed the cellular gods for not letting a buzzworthy new smartphone come to your carrier, then this one's for you. PCWorld reported that the FCC will be launching an investigation into exclusivity arrangements between phone makers and cellular carriers.
The commission wants to know if these deals limit consumer choice or advances in the industry. FCC Chairman Michael Copps hinted that, if these concerns hold true, then regulation wouldn't be out of the question. And regulation is something cellular bigwigs like AT&T don't want.
Imagine if the company didn't have a lock on the iPhone. The mere thought should send shivers straight down the spine of Paul Roth, president of retail sales and service at AT&T. And predictably, he has something to say about all this. What wasn't expected was that he?d make kind of an interesting counterpoint: Love them or hate them, these deals can help keep the mobile phone industry from devolving ?into the lowest common technological denominator.? In his written testimony, Roth said, ?The current business and regulatory framework ? which allows service providers and device manufactures to partner and share risks to develop the most compelling devices -- ensures innovation, lower prices, and choice.?
Okay, I sort of understand that logic, but I don't completely agree with it. Competition is what has proven time and again to propel industries forward. And as for lower prices ? oh, come on. Seriously?
Case in point: With stiff competition for consumers, more regional carriers and greater selection in cell phone OSes, the barriers to entry for cell customers should be going down. And yet, an upgrade to the iPhone 3GS (if you?re able to get one) brings the monthly data cost for AT&T subscribers to $50 per month for unlimited data and texts. (It was only $20 a year and a half ago.) Not only is this a ridiculous price that exceeds plans on other carriers, but it's also a 150% increase from its own original iPhone data price. And that doesn't even include calling.
The company does it because it can. When it comes to the 3GS, your only options are to forego the handset you want, or swallow hard and hand over your wallet. But, if the devices were also available on Verizon and T-Mobile, how likely would it be that AT&T could get away with this kind of price gouging?
A new study from Crowd Science shows that four out of 10 smartphone users want an iPhone. For Apple to truly optimize those numbers, many experts say that it will have to start looking at other carriers. And chances are, the tech company will do that ? either on its own at some point or at the urging of federal officials.
The FCC rulings will impact what phones you will be able to get and where, so stay tuned as the investigation unfolds.
[PC World via Gizmodo]