The Federal Communications Commission today voted to approve a new rule that requires large carriers like Verizon and AT&T to agree to "reasonable" deals allowing smaller operators to roam on their networks for data use. A similar mandate is already in place for voice roaming, but today the FCC voted 3-2 to make data roaming agreements required, as well. The new rules say that larger carriers must offer data roaming deals to smaller companies at "commercially reasonable terms" and, if a deal can't be made, the smaller carrier can appeal to the FCC.
Obviously this is a pretty good deal for small carriers throughout the U.S. as well as their customers, but, unsurprisingly, Verizon and AT&T aren't exactly pleased with the decision. Big Red issued a statement today saying that they believe that the mandate "represents a new level of unwarranted government intervention" because it "discourages network investment in less profitable areas" and "is a defeat for both consumers and the innovation fostered by true competition." AT&T also believes that the FCC's ruling will "discourage investment," and that those in favor of the decision were simply trying to get the government to "regulate rates downward." Sprint also issued a statement on the FCC's vote, saying that "reasonable access to data roaming services is essential to the expansion of mobile broadband service" and that "it is absolutely critical that the FCC take steps to promote competition and level the playing field," especially in the face of AT&T's potential acquisition of T-Mobile.
It's not surprising that VZW and ATT aren't happy about the FCC's ruling, but it seems like a good decision for those more rural operators that are unable to build out data networks of their own for their customers. Still, the fact that Verizon and AT&T oppose the decision is kind of understandable since this means that they'll have more users accessing their networks. What do you all make of the FCC's new mandate?