The Federal Government Has Had Enough With Cell Phone Exclusivity

Annoyed by cell phone exclusivity deals? The federal government may agree with you. The FCC and Department of Justice are both looking into the issue, concerned about limitations on consumer choice and good old-fashioned competition.

Consumer Reports has the story:

The FCC has already announced they’ll open a proceeding to investigate handset exclusivity-another recent development-with the exact question they’ll be investigating expected to be announced within the next few weeks, after which comment will likely be received from interested parties representing consumers, carriers, and manufacturers, among others.

Today’s Wall Street Journal report indicates a parallel, broader investigation at the Department of Justice into whether cell phone carriers are abusing their market power to the detriment of consumers and competitors. Areas of investigation, according to the report, could include exclusivity deals and limitations on the types of competing services that can be offered on carriers’ networks-such as curbs on voice-over-internet calling from smart phones using third-party applications.

Consumers Union (owner of Consumerist) supports the feds in looking into this. Who, other than cell phone companies, wouldn’t support some change in the market?

Concern grows in Washington over exclusive cell-phone deals [Consumer Reports Electronics]
Telecoms Face Antitrust Threat [Wall Street Journal]

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  1. dave_coder says:

    I don’t agree with this. When my company makes a phone I should be able to choose how to sell it. If I want to partner with a provider I should be able to.

    Lay off with the regulations.

    • Xerloq says:

      @dave_coder: If I buy your phone, I should be able to choose how I want to use it, who with, unlock it, jailbreak it, step on it, or whatever.

      Lay off with the contractual obligations…

      • Adam Rahuba says:

        @Xerloq: Couldn’t have said it better myself. If I buy a tomato, I’m allowed to make juice, marinara sauce, or put it on a sandwich.

      • DangerMouse says:

        @Xerloq: Presumably, if you have a good product, this will actually mean that you sell more phones.

        • 89macrunner says:

          @DangerMouse:

          yes you will sell more phones, BUT

          They will make more margin selling the phones and getting a check from each customer’s monthly bill. which is what happens in these exclusive deals

      • RobertBaron says:

        @Xerloq:

        No one’s forcing you to buy the phone with such limitations. If you don’t like the limitations, buy a different phone. Unlocked phones are available all over the place.

        • Xerloq says:

          @RobertBaron: Craptastic argument. The point is that customer choice fosters competition, which benefits everyone. Exclusivity reduces choice.

          • Xerloq says:

            @Xerloq: Should add to that that no one is being forced to buy a phone at all. But when your options become so limited when buying a phone, you are, in effect, forced to buy certain phones or certain carriers.

            Ever walked into an AT&T store with an unlocked GSM phone to buy a sim and a plan. Few will do it because it’s not “their phone.”

            Ever tried to buy an iPhone to use with your TMobile account? Apple and AT&T want to make you a criminal with the DMCA for trying to do so.

            • xenth says:

              @Xerloq: “Ever walked into an AT&T store with an unlocked GSM phone to buy a sim and a plan. Few will do it because it’s not “their phone.”

              Actually its quite easy. I used my Razor on AT&T, T-Mobile, T-Mobile prepaid (totally seperate system as far as T-Mobile is concerned) and Orange in the UK. You go in and sign up like any other time and just pop the new sim in your phone.

              Locked phones are annoying, but if you do not like it then don’t buy it or pay the premium and buy the international unlocked version. We don’t need the government to babysit us on this.

            • jaredluse says:

              @Xerloq: The thing about apple really makes me mad. Here is an interesting scenario – let’s say I bought the original iPhone, which I was charged FULL PRICE for, as in no carrier subsidization, I am still locked into their service, and a contract. How does that work out. Even after I fulfill my contract, I do not have the right (according to them) to unlock my phone and take it elsewhere. How is that fair? That is mainly with the iphone, other phones you can call and request a Sim subsidy unlock, only the iphone (to my knowledge) does this apply to.

            • cerbie says:

              @Xerloq: O_o. I got just a card for my phone, which I specifically bought due to disliking the AT&T paid services being defaults in the menus of all their phones. No problem at all.

              The iPhone, or any other brand-specific-firmware phone, are much better examples. There’s a point where wanting features means giving up choice.

          • RobertBaron says:

            @Xerloq: but the thing is you do have plenty of choices and you also don’t have the birth given right to own whatever the hottest new phone on the market is. There are plenty of phones available that are unlocked. So it appears people accept the current business model and vote with their wallets. If more people started buying unlocked, unexclusive phones, you’d see a change in the model.

            But what this legislation is really all about, is people on t-mobile, sprint and verizon whining that they want an iphone and they can’t have one. Well boo-hoo. You chose your carrier. You accepted whatever agreements are in place when you purchased it. Deal with it.

            In addition, most of the phones people people want these days that are exclusive, would cost hundreds of dollars more without the exclusivity subsidies. In this situation, us, consumer can’t have our cake and eat it too.

            • jaredluse says:

              @RobertBaron: I am willing to pay more, explain, as I pointed out earlier how it works with the first iPhone. That was not subsidized at all by ATT, yet i was forced to use their service, and told how to use my phone (that I paid full price for).

            • asten77 says:

              @RobertBaron: Actually, exclusivity probably makes phones cost *more*. Subsidies have nothing to do with exclusivity. Subsidies are tied into you contractually agreeing to pay for that company’s service for a set term (usually 2 years).

              To get an exclusive on a hot phone, a carrier has to pay the manufacturer a fee, which is of course passed on to the customers.

            • jamar0303 says:

              @RobertBaron: And in the case of Verizon and Sprint there are no “unlocked phones” to speak of. Most CDMA operators in Asia have moved on to using SIM-like cards. Operators in North America have not. Try to bring over a Korean CDMA phone to America. The headache is too much for most.

            • PillowTalk says:

              @RobertBaron:

              “There are plenty of phones available that are unlocked. So it appears people accept the current business model and vote with their wallets. “

              No. I am currently researching phone prices, and unlocked phone cost far more for even simple talk & text models. For example, I can buy a Nokia pre-paid to plug my sim into for $20 from T-mobile, and the same simple phone is $120 or so unlocked. You have to pay way more just to be able to get an unlocked phone, so even those who deal in such a product are taking advantage of, and benefitting from cell phone exclusivity. If that was dissolved, unlocked phones would reduce in value. It’s still passing the buck along to the consumer to pay more.

              I don’t want the newest jangly phone, as you insinuate – in my case, I simply want a new phone, as mine is almost 4 years old and dying. In fact, I’m finding it’s harder to find the phone I want with LESS features as opposed to more – I’m looking for a flip-phone with a decent camera, and that’s all. Everything I’m finding via my service provider that fits that criteria plays mp3s, does your laundry, etc. I have found my perfect phone, but it’s with another provider, and unlocked it costs around $300, which is getting into smartphone territory – a lot for something that just texts and takes pictures. I’m at an impasse, where I have to either pay a lot of money for the simple product I want (that has LESS VALUE than products being offered to me by my service provider), or buy a product I don’t want, with more features than I even need, in order to save money.

              This is without going into the fact that I can buy a “pre-paid” phone with my carrier for $20 and insert my sim, but they sell that same phone retail around $80. It’s the exact same phone, so why is the value so different? I don’t think pricing of cell phones is regulated enough, if this can happen.

              Honestly, having had businessmen with conservative, “free-trade” values in my family, I can tell you this: generally, people who object to the federal regulations on this level are unscrupulous, and are annoyed/scared that their behaviour will be caught and cordoned off. They know they are making their money in a way that will be discovered as unethical, so they just want to government to butt out.

              Besides this, as everyone has pointed out, this can only help cell phone companies make money. Why be so resistant?

          • Hodo says:

            @Xerloq: EXACTLY. Normally this is THE test for DOJ inquiries such as this. Does the arrangement in question produce more or less competition? Does the arrangement in question result in higher or lower consumer prices? The answer to the first question is fairly obvious. The answer to the second question is probably a little “muddier”. For example, does Apple’s ability to produce the iPhone for ONLY AT&T (in the US) increase or decrease the cost of the product?

        • italianscallion33 says:

          @RobertBaron: Disagree. Why should someone have to buy a phone that is tampered with to get a competitive price on the plan and to be able to use the features the manufacturer put on the phone (e.g. MMS for iPhone). An unlocked iPhone is no longer new. It’s messed with, and sometimes it goes wrong. Why should people have to risk that if they want an iPhone? And don’t tell me people should just use another phone. My mother has a BB for work and an iPhone for her personal stuff and HATES the BB. One smart phone does not equal any other smart phone. I love my iPhone and I pay the price for it, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to.

      • rugman11 says:

        @Xerloq: If you don’t like the contractual obligations required to by our phone, don’t buy it.

        Lay off with the demands on the product that we have and you want…

        • elganador says:

          @rugman11:

          Lay off of the cartelling things up that negates the ability to choose based on contractual obligations.

          Also lay off the dictation of usage post-sale…this is almost as bad as DRM…

          • rugman11 says:

            @elganador: I’m not saying I like it, I’m just saying the government has no business telling anyone who they can or can not partner with to do business.

        • IronCrow says:

          @rugman11: When was the last time you bought a computer and were told what operating system had to run on it, or what roads you could drive your car on. When I buy a phone, its mine or its not. If it is not then cut the price (rather than just extending it out and rolling it into a service contract).

          Lay off with telling people they can buy stuff but that its not really theirs to do with as they please.

      • dave_coder says:

        @Xerloq: Except you’re not just buying a phone but the terms that go with that phone purchase. You are told these terms ahead of time so no deception exists.

        • italianscallion33 says:

          @dave_coder: This act isn’t about customers being lied to. Part of it notes the lack of healthy competition. When AT&T is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone, and jailbreaking it is illegal and most people don’t want to risk it, then AT&T almost has a monopoly, which is never good. The other carriers should be able to compete to lower the plan prices and allow the iPhone to be used to its fullest capacity, which AT&T currently does not allow.

          • dragonfire81 says:

            @italianscallion33: The vibe I’m getting here says that it’s unrealistic that any company or person expect to have any control over a product they sell after it is purchased by the customer.

            As I understood when you buy a piece of software, you are buying a copy of a program someone else owns, you are not buying the entire program itself. You might be able to do whatever you want with the disc, but IMO shouldn’t have the right to say, access and dissect the source code.

            Consider a Xbox 360 game disc. You buy the disc, you buy the right to play the game on your 360. You DO NOT buy the right to make copies of it, transfer it to different media, etc.

            I don’t see why it’s unfair for the owner of a certain technology to want to exert some control over it.

            • consciousj says:

              And to think the FCC and DOJ have to step in because cell carriers want to offer a tangible product. It’s insecurity at some of the most obscene levels.

              Ideally, if you could buy phones from electronics stores unlocked and select a carrier on your own time, this would no doubt bring in smaller profits for these carriers, as it would sever the connection between the SERVICE they offer and the array of TANGIBLE products 0that go with it.

              While I don’t mind that a lot of people want carriers to be separate from manufactured devices (unless carriers can step in and make their own), the lowered revenue impact on the overall infrastructure would be felt, with many wondering how they could bring in more money to keep things current. Obviously I’m describing something that has already happened, but what’s more obvious is that the overall infrastructure for cellular and even internet providers in the US is abysmal at best, and even includes commercials warning you against ‘dead zones’ – as if those should ever exist at all.

              So with the greed of cell providers (who tapped into a gold mine by offering exclusive phones for their service)becoming more and more apparent, they are now being taken to task. If this all goes through, it would drastically change the business model of carriers and make them appear more ‘hands-off’ to the public, which is an image they don’t want.

              But when it’s all said and done, who’s supposed to step in and tell these bloated corporations to build the back-end and upgrade towers? Who wins here?

              • cerbie says:

                @consciousj: so, if you pay $50/mo, and are subsidizing the phone cost, they will be making less money than if you pay $50/mo, and are not subsidizing the phone cost? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

            • Tiber says:

              @dragonfire81: Actually, legally you are allowed to copy CD’s as many times as you want, so long as they are for personal use. The reason this everyone hates the DMCA (or a big one) is because lobbyists had it made illegal to break the encryption that prevents you from making a copy.

              Also, being a copy does not give special exception. That’s why, for instance, companies have tried to prohibit the resale of DVDs and video games and failed. Imagine if a car company tried to forbid you from being able to open up the hood. Now, if you dissected a car, and copied the plans into some new car you were trying to sell, that would be different. But there is nothing wrong with giving it a better engine, for example.

              The problem isn’t trying to control what you made. The problem is trying to control what you’ve made when it’s no longer your possession.

            • Inglix_the_Mad says:

              @dragonfire81: They also want to say you can’t resell it (e.g. trade the game in, sell it at a flea market, not copy and sell it) later. Do you agree with that EULA bullsh*t?

          • Aesteval says:

            @italianscallion33: But what does AT&T have a monopoly on? One type of handset. There are more smartphones out there than Blackberries and iPhones and there are unlocked smartphones readily available. If you have a problem with a particular company, etc., then don’t do business with them. Why exactly would we need government intervention in this when the consumer can flip off the companies involved themselves and not do business with them? There are a variety of products on the market, shop around to find one that suits your needs. Any company that is involved in something that you don’t want to be a part of doesn’t get your business and eventually they realize “hey, we could be reaching a bigger market share by doing X instead of Y.” It’s not that hard. It doesn’t require government mandates.

            • Hobz says:

              @Aesteval: Although I agree that government intervention is never a good thing, it’s sometimes a necessary evil. Corporations have proven time and time again that they can not regulate themselves.

              I ask you this? Why do cell providers sell phones? That’s like gas stations selling cars. Why can’t cell companies just sell the service they provide? Because their service sometimes sucks. So they NEED to lock customers in with either hardware or contracts to keep them, rather than improving the service.

              Can I buy an iPhone without a data plan? Last I checked, no. Why would I want an iPhone without a data plan? Because wifi is everywhere I need to be and I don’t want to spend an extra $100 on something I don’t need.

              This is the same way that cable companies operate. Why do I have to buy a package that includes channels I could care less about? If I don’t like it I can just go else where… Nope, it’s either Comcast or Dish and I like my TV an rainy days.

              I digress,

              Sometimes it takes the government to stick up for the consumer because the consumer has no one else to turn to. If companies listened to their customers then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

              • Aesteval says:

                @Hobz: You know we really don’t have much to disagree on here other than who should stick up for the consumer first. Your listed reasons involving the iPhone are the reasons why I bought an unlocked phone entirely on my own when I last upgraded. I paid more for the phone, but have no contractual obligations and have no required monthly features. I looked at what the providers were requiring as a part of an upgrade, and I made a personal decision that I was not going to be a part of that. I won’t even get on a new plan because current plans have no advantage over the old plan I already was on.

                So really my entire point is to let the consumer empower the consumer first. Cable and phone providers only have as much power as we let them have. The sad thing is that we have been very complacent. Changes will come faster if someone can stage a mass rebellion against the telecommunications industry than they ever would through government involvement.

                But that’s not to say that some regulation wouldn’t be useful. However, the problem is not with exclusive phones (except for possibly indirectly if providers think that offering exclusive phones is all that they need to do to be competitive.) The problem is that the providers are not being competitive with each other with providing better service for a better price. And how about price fixing? How many providers have merged together or been bought by other providers over the past five years? There are much more severe issues at hand than whether someone wants to buy their phone of choice but doesn’t want to have to deal with all of the terms and conditions that come with it. Of course there is still the problem that government intervention isn’t going to magically change a crappy company into a good one.

              • the_wiggle says:

                @Hobz: can not? nay, rather will not.

        • Inglix_the_Mad says:

          @dave_coder: Except for the fact that market forces have utterly failed to provide for a compatible system. You don’t have to buy different TV’s to use different cable companies.

          That, in and of itself, is a failure of Capitalism in the US.

          As far as phone exclusivity, it would matter less if we had a true national standard. That and, I’m sorry Dave, but if it’s on a standard you’ll see more of a push for this. That’s WHY cell companies fight to keep the 4 standard system. AT&T service sucks in most place (more bars in more places you wouldn’t use your phone along with data on our sh*tty edge network) Sprint CS sucks but has a great data network, Verizon’s kinda middle ground. You’ve got a choice in a market that’s (at best) a Confusopoly.

          Force a single national standard (just f*cking pick one) and you’ll see phone exclusivity slowly die. Heck, we’ll end up with better coverage overall.

        • lvhotrain says:

          @dave_coder: Which is why the current business model is broken. I don’t have the option of buying a phone, whatever the model is, and hooking it up to my own service. I can’t buy a smart phone out of the box and use it over wifi. I am forced by an oligopoly (yeah, there’s no collusion here!) to purchase a plan to only use the phone over their network. You are in fact limiting what I can do with something I have legally purchased.

          Yes, I do vote with my wallet. I have not purchased one of these phones on principle, even though I would like one. Now if all of the parents who are trying to buy their teenager’s love with a $100/month plan would follow suit, we might get somewhere.

          You are in fact limiting competition and I wish they would hurry up with this and fiber to every home. Then I can dump my cable/satalite/phone company too.

      • Moe Fiathug says:

        @Xerloq: you sir are awesome

      • the_wiggle says:

        @Xerloq: perfectly put.

    • Rhainor says:

      @dave_coder: Why would you want to put limits on your customer base? Locking phones to a single carrier doesn’t directly help the manufacturer, it only helps the carrier. The only reason they do it at all is because the carriers pay for the exclusivity.

    • Anonymous says:

      @dave_coder:

      Cell phone exclusivity is like a car company selling you a car and telling you that you can only use that car with BP gas or only travel within the confines of the state that you purchased it in, and in the event that you try and use it under your own terms you must pay an exorbitant amount more for your car.

      I am just waiting for the iphone to get out of the clutches of AT&T, whenever that will happen.

    • bohemian says:

      @dave_coder: If your selling me a tangible item, after I buy it what I do with it is my business, not yours.

      The current cell phone system is a scam worse than the cable companies. Go look at what people get in other countries, we are being suckered.

      • rugman11 says:

        @bohemian: Last time I checked, jailbreaking a phone wasn’t illegal. However, using services not associated with the hardware (such as upgrading the firmware) requires you to sign a licensing agreement that says you won’t mess with the hardware.

        Nobody is stopping you from using the phone however you like, but if you want to use the software associated with it you have to follow the rules, just like with any other software agreement.

        • silver-bolt says:

          @rugman11: Actually, Jailbreaking a phone IS illegal. Re: DCMA. You are breaking encryption on a copyrighted piece of software. It is illegal.

          • SpruceStreetPhil - in a new Pine flavor says:

            @silver-bolt: And that is one of the many reasons why the DCMA fails. If the corporations want to compare digital media (software, music, videos) to tangible objects in their lawsuits (cars) in order to push across an anti-theft point, they MUST carry the metaphor all the way through. If I buy a car, I am allowed to open up the engine, modify it, or pour thermite on it. It is MINE. Just like this software. They develop it, we buy it. We are not renting, we own it. Thus, we should be allowed to rip it apart in a digital sense.

            • sonneillon says:

              @SpruceStreetPhil – doggarn bike thieves:
              I would love to see you pouring thermite into a car. Not because I have anything against your car merely because that sounds like it would be awesome to watch.

              I could go either way on cell phone exclusivity. If the iPhone wasn’t locked most people would contract up to avoid paying 500 bucks for one. I don’t really care for the iPhone the only 2 thing it does well is look pretty and have gee wizz apps. I think there are better products out with better services, but then I would be locked into a different carrier. Someone is going to get my money the question is who?

            • gaywolverine says:

              @drdom: The problem with your argument is a little thing called th econstitution.The Federal government has this right under INTERSTATE COMMERCE CLAUSE. The other issue most “free market” types go wrong with is, if you truly believe in free market, then you believe there is nothing wrong with businesses sharing information to increase their profits. As long as they aren’t selling anything illegal. You could also say EVERYTHING, is buyer beware. So sorry it does not work, but you bought it. if you don’t like it, I guess you need to go to another company but we wont do shit for you.

          • Munchie says:

            @silver-bolt:Just FYI its not illegal to jail break an iphone. Its illegal to make software and distribute it to people to help them do it.

            • silver-bolt says:

              @Munchie: No. It is illegal. The makers of the software are breaking the same law that the users of the software are breaking. Both are breaking the encryption. One is just pressing a button to do it, while the other toiled in software code to find out how to do it. Use is just as illegal as production of the encryption breaking.

              • jamar0303 says:

                @silver-bolt: And where does purchase of pre-jailbroken phones from countries that allow it fall under? In that case the purchaser did neither (and can expect no warranty from Apple but that’s neither here nor there).

        • italianscallion33 says:

          @rugman11: If you don’t jailbreak it you can’t use everything the phone has to offer because of AT&T. But most people don’t want to tamper with it, and they aren’t supposed to. It’s just a big fat catch-22 and AT&T knows it.

      • jaredluse says:

        @bohemian: So true. The feds should also look into other things like SMS. That is just a big load of SH*T on the customers. They (cell providers) don’t have to pay anything for them. They are selling us something that is built into their systems. We are getting screwed by them, and on top of it, they give our information (call log, and other such info) to our government to spy on us. They are screwing us coming, and going.

        • Yujin Ghim says:

          @jaredluse:
          very very true SMS just sends the messages with the reception that you get on the phone anyways
          they are really fucking you over on something they used/can do for free or really really really cheap

    • dee1313 says:

      @dave_coder: Basically, by doing this, (I’ll use the iPhone as an example), the carrier gets to say, “If you want an iPhone, you have to go by my rules.” And that is crap. There is no room for competition. And what about the people who live in places that doesn’t get good service from AT&T, yet want an iPhone?

    • JohnDeere says:

      @dave_coder: @dave_coder: again you are wrong. phones and contracts are two totally different entities. i got a verizon phone i didnt like and switched back to my old phone, i offered the phone back to verizon to get out of the contract. what do you think they said.

      • Weewolf says:

        This can be boiled down to:

        Carrier: We are now selling Y!
        Consumer: We don’t want Y! We want X!
        Carrier: Too bad we are selling Y, take it or leave it.

        Consumer: Government, make them sell me X! I don’t want Y!

        • Weewolf says:

          @mrsultana:

          Last time I checked the federal congress is not charged with protecting citizens from unagreeable prices. Nor are they charged with ‘putting to a stop’ anything that it’s citizens are not happy with.

          (I’m not that familiar with the constitution, so if you can point out the clause that gives them this power I will happily yield)

          But you are more than welcome to dictate prices (or stopping stuff) at a state level. They do have that power.

          • cerbie says:

            @Weewolf: if they aren’t charged with putting a stop to things the citizenry is not happy with, then what are they charged with (IE, everything they are meant to do is that, to some degree or another)?

          • kd5jos says:

            “Nor are they charged with ‘putting to a stop’ anything that it’s citizens are not happy with.”

            How, exactly, do you think new laws come about? Citizens aren’t happy with something, they ask for a law (like one protecting a species, stopping drunk driving, or allowing women to vote).

            “(I’m not that familiar with the constitution, so if you can point out the clause that gives them this power I will happily yield)”

            Article one section one.

        • kd5jos says:

          @Weewolf: Actually, your argument correctly stated would be:

          Carrier: We offer a service that is compatible with X,Y, and Z. But our best interest is to sell you Y.

          Consumer: But Y isn’t compatible with (list of things). Z is compatible with (list of things) but the carrier for Z doesn’t have enough infrastructure in the area I live in. Sell me a Z, and I’ll buy your service.

          Carrier: Grumble, grumble, CONTRACTS, grumble, grumble, but, buy a Y.

          Consumer: Government, make them use common sense and sell me a Y so that I don’t have to be punished for (carriers) inability to provide quality service.

    • kd5jos says:

      @dave_coder: Nobody has said you can’t choose how to sell a handset. If you want to use hotair ballons to transport sales people to locations do it. You won’t be stopped. If you want to sell your handset through Best Buy, or Amway, git er done.
      If partnering with a provider is good (you get some money for it), then partnering with all providers would get you even more money. Unless they stop paying for nonexclusive handsets (which could happen). Why should a handset developer get to determine which provider I use when Dell, Apple, and eMachine doesn’t determine which ISP I use? Why is your ego so big you think you have to tell me, the consumer, the person buying the device, the reason you get paid at all, what provider I HAVE to use with your device?

  2. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    How about regulating text messaging rates? There’s no artificial limit on how many people can produce cell phones, but there sure as hell are limits we place on how many people can provide service.

  3. drdom says:

    I still remember the days back when this was a free country and businesses were free to decide how they would distribute and sell an otherwise legal product.

    If a manufacturer is forced by the government to sell things through a distribution channel that doesn’t want to adhere to standards for support, service, or who pays their bills on time, why even bother being in business.

    Isn’t Congress charged with making laws. The FCC and the DoJ have no business regulating legal commerce in circumstances such as these.

    • mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

      @drdom:
      Congress is charged with protecting its citizens and putting a stop to things that citizens can’t put a stop to by themselves. All that a completely “free market” benefits is greed. Corporations don’t have the best interest of the consumer in mind and the people must be protected. If that falls under the purview of enacting anti-trust or pro-consumer regulations, then the corporation will just have to grow a little slower than the owners would like.

    • theodicey says:

      @drdom: I remember back when there was only one oil company (Standard Oil), and they could decide how to distribute and sell their legal product, bankrupt farmers and railroads, and drive their competitors out of business, and no one could tell them otherwise. That was in the 1890s, before the Antitrust Act.

      Since then, we’ve learned that competition at all levels — in the case of mobile phones, that means networks, handsets, and software — is good for consumers and good for the economy.

      Anyone who understands the meaning of freedom will take freedom for 200 million people over the freedom for 10 monopolist corporations to collude without limits.

      • acklenheights says:

        @theodicey: Great argument in support of free-market capitalism. One thing you forgot to mention was that the federal government was entirely complicit in Standard Oil’s monopoly.

        Government creates and facilitates monopolies. Monopolies can’t exist on their own in a free market but most of the commenters here have clearly been indoctrinated with the “OMG OMG big corporations = evil OMG” dogma.

    • H3ion says:

      @drdom: I still remember the days back when this was a free country and phone rates were regulated by the government as well as utility rates. Airlines had to file a tariff and abide by the rates quoted in the tariff. Lack of regulation is not all gumdrops and sugar cookies, and when businesses act in a predatory fashion, someone has to rein them in and in the US that’s the government.

      BTW, before the AT&T antitrust suit, you couldn’t buy a phone and attach it to the network. You had to rent your phone from AT&T, use their long distance service, etc. Well, you get the picture.

      • H3ion says:

        @H3ion: Oh, also by the way, the breakup of AT&T and the competitive landscape has been changed and not for the better. There is no more BellSouth, BellAtlantic, Nynex, etc. All that’s left is AT&T (which used to be Southwestern Bell), Verizon and Quest of the ILECs.

      • asten77 says:

        @H3ion: Ah, but there is a good point therein. Explain to me how AT&T then telling me i had to buy their phone to use their service is any different than AT&T now telling me I have to buy their phone to use their service? Yah, yeah, there’s other options now that may not have been around back then, but the point is it’s illegal tying/bundling. The DoJ went ape$#!+ at Microsoft for tying, despite there being alternatives such as Macintosh. Why is this somehow different?

    • Chase Teschendorf says:

      Congress actually chartered the FCC and DoJ so they do have the business in regulating cellphone companies.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @drdom: yeah! stop regulating my private companies (that use public airwaves)! i say all the cellcos tell the fcc to get bent. right after they turn in their bandwidth leases.

    • kd5jos says:

      @drdom: The FCC has the jurisdiction of enforcement of telecommunications. DOJ can review businees practices (i.e. interpret the law falling under the Judicial branch) to see if they are following the laws set by Congress. No one is threatening that a handset has to go through a particular distribution channel. Just that it has to work with any carrier. Sprint is a telecom company, AT&T is a telecom company, Verizon is a telecom company. No one is requiring that any of the stores carry any or all of the handsets in existance. The only requirement is that the handset work with any provider regardless of who sells it, or where it is sold.

  4. bohemian says:

    They also need to force the carriers (Verizon) to provide some sort of converter chip so you can use non CDMA phones on their network if you want. Or better yet force all phones to be carrier portable.

    I want to buy outright a smart phone but right now our best option is Verizon. But if I buy one I am then stuck with Verizon or throw the phone in the trash.

    • rugman11 says:

      @bohemian: That’s pretty much how it’s done in Europe, but you forget how expensive cell phones actually cost. A “free” phone actually runs about $200 before carrier subsidies. The $99 IPhone is acutally $300 bucks. If there’s no way to tie a phone to a carrier, there will be no incentive for carriers to offer phone subsidies, which will cause the cost of the phones to skyrocket.

      • frank64 says:

        @rugman11: I would rather see an option for a de-linking of the phone cost and the rate. I think it ends up costing us more this way.

        The subsidies get built into the rate and a must be realized in around 1 1/2 years. Now if I buy a phone outright my rate is as high as if I have a subsidized phone. The rates must be like 10-20 a month extra- just to pay for the “free” phone. So keeping a phone more than 2 years in the real world might end up saving money, in this world there is no method to save by buying a phone less often. I further question what the phone prices would actually be if the phones weren’t subsidized. I bet those prices would be cheaper too.

        It would be like getting a TV for free and then having to pay $30 extra a month for cable. And always having to even after the TV was paid for. I guess I would get a new TV every few years though.

      • H3ion says:

        @rugman11: Consider what would happen if, say, Sony were to partner with HBO so you could only get HBO programming on a Sony television set. How long do you think it would take the government to act?

        • rugman11 says:

          @H3ion: You’ve got your analogy reversed. Your analogy would be the same as if AT&T service were only available on the IPhone and on no other handset. The proper analogy would be if Sony televisions only got over-the-air broadcasts and couldn’t connect to cable. In that case people would simply buy other TVs, as they are more than welcome to buy other phones. Don’t have AT&T? Get a Pre or a G1 or a Blackberry. There is plenty of competition in the handset market, just because you can’t get the exact phone you want with the exact carrier you want.

          • H3ion says:

            @rugman11: Actually, I’m pretty happy as long as the phone makes and receives calls so I really don’t pay much attention to the Apple/AT&T connection, but as long as I’m not asking for a subsidy (that is, I’m buying the phone at retail), why shouldn’t I be able to use it on any network? I guess an easy analogy would be trying to use a Cox cable box on a Comcast cable network, but I’ve never tried that and don’t know if it would work.

            • NeverLetMeDown says:

              @H3ion:

              It wouldn’t, since the boxes are owned by the cable company, and specific to their system. There are boxes you can buy (i.e. TiVos) that work with all cable operators, but you have to buy them yourself.

      • Jacob Morgan says:

        @rugman11:
        You actually can buy an iPhone without a contract and without subsidization, but it’s still tied to AT&T.

        Cell phones are able to be offered at subsidized prices because you agree to a contract that will make money for the carrier in the long term.

        As long as that can still be done, it won’t matter to the carrier what you do with your phone after the contract period.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @rugman11: Then you haven’t been to China. The main carriers there will subsidize phones for you even though they’re unlocked. That’s because they understand that they’re recouping the subsidy cost in the contract so there’s no beepin’ reason to lock the phone. The lone exception is the tiny iDen carrier, but then again, no need to subsidize THAT. Time for Sprint to move on too on that front.

      • TheFingerOfGod says:

        @rugman11: My position would be that they are free to require you to be on their network when they sub the phone. If you can purchase it without the sub then the phone should be able to be used wherever it can be used. Further, if you have paid up (as in finish the terms of your contract) you should again be free to do with the phone what you can (bring it to T-Mobile in the US or use it in GSM friendly Europe). As it stands now if I had a contract with AT&T and I finished it and would like to leave, that phone I just paid a lot of money for is a brick! I can’t even use it as an iPod. There is something WRONG WITH THIS and it should be stopped! Again, I am not saying that they can’t have their exclusive contracts but it seems to me that when MY contract with them has ended (in two years) then the phone is mine. I no longer have a contract with them and yet they are forcing me to perpetually abide by a contract whose terms have been successfully completed on my part. They no longer have an obligation to me but it seems that my obligation to them is perpetual. What kind of shit is that?

    • silver-bolt says:

      @bohemian: Gen 4 cell networks that everyone is moving to (LTE) will mean every phone will be portable.

    • igoooorrrr says:

      @bohemian: A GSM phone is significantly different from a CDMA phone. It’s like saying you want to easily convert your car from gasoline to diesel.

  5. XTC46 says:

    One of the main reasons, especially with newer phones, that these exclusivity deals occure is becasue the carriers need to make changes on their network to support the devices, and staff training to support the devices when they fail.

    Take the iPhone for example. ATT was one the only provider who was willing to meet apples price and make the required network changes to support visual voicemail and some of the other network features that arent available when you jailbreak/unlock the phone to use elseware.

    Apple does a fantastic job of selling an experience, they control their hardware, and the software that runs on their hardware. This gives them the ability to control the user experience and make sure it is a good one (most of the time) cell phone designers want the same. They want their phones to work well and to be supported well. They dont want me picking up a phone meant to be used on the ATT network, unlocking it, going to tmobile, then it breaking and me getting pissed when i call for support and no one helps me.

    This isnt a government issue.

    • theodicey says:

      @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter: Yes, let’s take the iPhone. Everyone agrees that AT&T’s service sucks; in most cities, they don’t have anywhere near enough 3G capacity to support everyone’s iPhones.

      I would gladly take my business to another network if I had the option. I would lose visual voicemail, but I would get MMS and probably push notifications, which AT&T is also currently failing to support.

      Apple didn’t partner with AT&T for the experience. They partnered with AT&T because AT&T offered them lots of money, and the consumer is the one who got screwed. It’s long past time to break this corporate collusion.

      • XTC46 says:

        @theodicey: Actually, other networks were NOT willing to give apple the control they wanted or make the changes they wanted, thats why ATT got the deal (many were will to pay the price for the exclusivity, just not give up control or invest in infastructure)

        And you legally CAN unlock your phone and move away from ATT, but to get the phone to begin with you need to sign a contract with ATT, thats the sellers choice, and they have the right to decide how they want to sell their product. once its your product you can go to whatever network you want.

        Apple also has a right to tell you that they will void your warranty for the phone if you decide to do something they say they are not going to support (like going to another network).

        I like the iPhone a lot, but hate ATT. Guess what? I wont buy an iPhone. Its that simple and every consumer has that right.

        • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

          @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter:

          I like the iPhone a lot, but hate ATT. Guess what? I wont buy an iPhone. Its that simple and every consumer has that right.

          Kind of ironic that you are arguing for companies to have the right to that set up?

          Wouldn’t it be best for the consumer to buy the iPhone and take it to whichever carrier is good in your area?

          • XTC46 says:

            @WiglyWorm: Its not irony. I respect the right of the company to choose how to market the product they created.

            It would be in my best interest to kill people that bother me, rob banks so I have tons of money, and do a number of any other things that would make my life better. But in doing so it hurts those people and businesses, and thus, is not allowed by law.

            The point is, just becasue something is better for me, doesnt mean its better over all. I can get an iPhone, brand new right now and go to tmobile (who is my provider and who I have no trouble with). It would cost me $99 for the 3g, and then the early term fee from ATT (so under $300). I would then have to jail break it (all of 10 minutes of my life) and pop in my sim. T-Mobile has already proven to be willing to support iPhones with the functionality they give all of their other phones (no visual voicemail etc).

            I dont do it becasue I have a perfectly good phone. I might consider it when this phone breaks, but the option is available. What people really want is all phones to be available at the subsidised rate, and not have a contract, and thats not fair to the companies who make the phones or provide the service.

            • nuton2wheels says:

              @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter: What about the recent rate hike by all cell phone companies on SMS messages, unless you subscribe to some lame plan they offer (collusion?), the early upgrade fees, early termination fees, and hindrance to mobile phone technology stateside?

              One of my Norwegian friends informed me that a good cell phone plan in Bergen with unlimited voice, SMS, and data was roughly $30 USD a month. This is a country where everything costs nearly twice as much, due to the high standard of living. And still, $30? We’re being bilked, and these corporations aren’t doing us any favors, so I say fight fire with fire.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter: Funny thing, that- T-Mobile was more than willing to give over that control in their home market, why wouldn’t they do the same in the US? It has to be that AT&T offered massive incentives.

    • kd5jos says:

      @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter: No, it doesn’t require network infrastructure redesign based on the particular handset. This would be COSTLY and stupid. The only thing that is needed to handle the iPhone is more infrastructure (enough network to carry data). There is no “iPhone specific” equipment in AT&T’s internal network. iPhones work on T-Mobiles network in the U.S. T-Mobile sells iPhones overseas. People that use it there, would want to use it here (like when on vacation). So why would T-Mobile turn down Apple using it state side, but support it elsewhere in the world? Only reason: AT&T offered incentives to Apple.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I simply cannot wait until the LTE network becomes mainstream. Even if the FCC requires some measure of carrier portability or limits exclusivity, there is still the little matter of which radio the manufacturers build into the phones. I dont believe the FCC will require makers to include, at any expense, both GSM and CDMA radios in all phones, so we will not truly have broad portability and compatibility until both GSM and CDMA are obsolete.

  7. bkdlays says:

    I agree that this is not a government issue.

    I too would like to be able to have the Iphone without crappy ATT service or the Google G1 (or G2) phone without even worse Tmobile service, but most people don’t seem to understand most networks are very different and phones would not physically be compatible anyways.

    Verizon phones, such as the one I have, don’t work on basically any other network. (They bought most of their competitors)

    GSM is more open (ATT and TMobile) and the phones are able to work with a bit of modifying anyways

    Bottom line is all manufacturers will make the phones for each carrier that agrees to carry them, eventually.

    No matter what the FCC decides, its not going to change much in the near future.

    • H3ion says:

      @bkdlays: Perhaps I simply don’t understand the European system. I use a Motorola phone. I used to have Nextel service before they were acquired by Sprint. The phone switches carriers as necessary depending on where I am at the moment but always seems to work just fine. I haven’t tried my Verizon world phone yet but expect to this fall. It is also a Motorola product. Granted, these are phones and not smart phones but data and voice shouldn’t be handled all that differently on the carrier’s end.

      • silver-bolt says:

        @H3ion: The Euros use mainly Euro Bi-Band GSM. Tmobile and ATT here use American Bi-Band GSM, with different alternative bands. A Tri-band or Quad-band phone works on most or all GSM networks (Respectfully). As long as the technology is the same (GSM) and the bands the carrier supports match what the phone can deal with, you are golden. That is why the iPhone can work on ATT and Tmobile, but not verizon. Additionally, it is why the Euro version of the Pre can work in the US on ATT or Tmobile, because it is a GSM phone.

    • Nick Sheppard says:

      @bkdlays:
      The FCCs findings are going to be much more relevant in a couple of years when AT&T and Verizon are both on LTE.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @bkdlays: With some messing around, Verizon non-world phones can be made to work on other carriers in North America, South America, and parts of Asia.

  8. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    I would much rather have a system like britain or japan:

    You buy your phone outright (no subsidies on phones like there in america), and you take it to the carrier of your choosing.

    Since the phones are open to every carrier, every phone directly competes. You don’t get crap like AT&T not allowing other smart phones because it would hurt Apple’s sales. You don’t get crap like having to go to a horrible wireless carrier (say, sprint in my area) to get the phone you like.

    Since the carriers do not have the luxury of exclusive “must have” phones (the AT&T iPhone, and the Razr on Sprint before that), they are left with having to compete with things like quality of service, minutes, texting, data plans, coverage, and price.

    This seems like a win/win to me. There is a higher up front cost on the phone, but you are no longer paying off the phone cost over the life of a contract, so your monthly expenses are far cheaper.

    • XTC46 says:

      @WiglyWorm: Here in ameria, people wont pay the 600 for a nice new phone, they want it for $99 or free. You already have the option to buy unlocked phones from tons of sources, and can buy phones from providers outright most of the time without a contract (the iPhone is an exception)

    • frank64 says:

      @WiglyWorm: Yeah, the decisions would be much less convoluted, and everything would be competitive on its own merits.

    • Major-General says:

      @WiglyWorm: The RAZR was a Cingular exclusive, not Sprint, which was really late getting them.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @WiglyWorm:

      YOU might like to buy phones that way, but what about the people who want the big subsidy? Do their opinions not count?

      • italianscallion33 says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Exactly. Not everyone wants to pay $600 up front for the phone, they’d rather spread the payment out and have a cheap upfront price and yes, higher monthly payments, but it doesn’t require saving up for a huge purchase. Americans SUCK at saving.

        • frank64 says:

          @italianscallion33: But because of this system everything gets complicated and we have to pay MORE. I am not saying your option shouldn’t be available I just wish I could get a lower rate by buying a phone outright and also my choice of a cheap phone. I bet BOTH would be cheaper as real competition does that. Right now they play one off of the other very well. The system we have right now works best for the carriers and the providers, but really worse for us.

          • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

            @frank64: Exactly. In a perfect world, you could sign a contract, get a subsidy, and get a cheaper phone. OR you could save up that wad, buy a phone and bring it to the carrier for a lower rate.

            It would be better for the consumers and better for the state of the art as well. Companies would resist it, but it might actually end up better for them. Higher revenues, more services they could charge a monthly fee for.

    • italianscallion33 says:

      @WiglyWorm: AT&T does offer other smartphones. Ever heard of Palm? Pre is Sprint-only right now as I understand but AT&T sells other Palms, don’t they?

    • colorisnteverything says:

      @WiglyWorm:

      You are starting to get more of the subsidy based thing even here in the UK. Orange had a deal on my phone, so I bought it through them. When I go back to the US, I am bringing it back unlocked. It works in the US so I will get a free phone and replace the sim in mine and then I will have a great phone that I still only paid $75.00 for!

      Yeah, I paid to unlock it as well, but they are doing that in the UK. If you want an unlocked phone like mine, you still only pay about $100.00. My boyfriend has an HTC that was free when he signed up for his data plan.

      He only pays $50.00 for an unlimited data, talk, and text plan here. I’m not even kidding! That is what my line for just 500 minutes a month costs back home!

      Phones here are much cheaper and people upgrade them all the time. I have been using PAYG because I was only here a year. I have easily spent less than $200.00 my entire year on calls/texts due to the fact that I only pay for what I need and PAYG in the UK is reliable and cheap! Plus, you can get even an HTC on PAYG if you want, which is awesome!

      The phone that I have would have been $200.00 easily in the US, so with the added memory (It’s a Sony Ericsson Walkman), it was still only $75.00!

  9. Sneeje says:

    I think we need to start some kind of non-profit group that makes up a mock industry with some really complex and sexy-sounding problems for Congress to go solve so they can stop bothering the rest of us.

    If we can just get the constituencies in on the con, we’re golden!

  10. dreamsneverend says:

    Boo! The Feds need to stay out of this crap and concentrate on the bigger problems with the economy.

    OH GOD WHY CAN’T A I BUY A FORD CAMRY!!!!?

    It’s about as stupid as that. Or hell why don’t you just buy the phone unlocked at the full unsubsidized price off the net from the plethora of vendors that are easily found with a google search.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @dreamsneverend:

      OH GOD WHY CAN’T A I BUY A FORD CAMRY!!!!?

      You do realize that both Ford and Toyota are car companies, right? Apple makes a phone. ATT is a carrier.

      Imagine a scenario where you can only use shell gas in your ford, or only drive your toyota on certain streets? That’s what we’re talking about here.

      Boo! The Feds need to stay out of this crap and concentrate on the bigger problems with the economy.

      What would you rather have the Federal Communications Commision be doing, exactly than investigating communications devices?

      It’s about as stupid as that. Or hell why don’t you just buy the phone unlocked at the full unsubsidized price off the net from the plethora of vendors that are easily found with a google search.

      You and I both know that it was the iPhone that sparked this. You and I also both know that the iPhone can’t be bought without a contract.

    • Con Seannery says:

      @dreamsneverend: Not exactly. That would be like if we had roads JUST for Toyotas, JUST for Ford, and so and and so forth. You buy your car and for the length of a contract can ONLY drive your Camry on the Toyota roads or pay a hefty fee to take it on the Ford and Chevy roads. You also got the car free or very cheap because you’d be paying to use these roads, paying off the car as you go. So, if you can use your car on whatever road you want, you’ll pay more for it AND pay the subsidy in the tolls. However, what THIS will do is make it so Toyota can sell Fords for their roads and arrangements of that nature. You just might want to consider if this would hurt the subsidies and make our phones cost more.

  11. Major-General says:

    I’m curious as to whether there is any sort of federal involvement in business that Consumers Union doesn’t support. Or for that matter, life.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @Major-General: People really need to stop drinking the cool-aid that unfettered capitalism is a flawless system… one need only look at the current economy to see what companies (like, say, banks) will do when left completely unregulated.

      • TheUncleBob says:

        @WiglyWorm: Which bank was completely unregulated?

      • Matthew Hoy says:

        @WiglyWorm: What gave you the idea that banks were “left completely unregulated”? If anything it was government regulations requiring banks to make loans available (see Community Reinvestment Act) to people they wouldn’t have if left to their own devices. And don’t get me started with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

        No one here is arguing for “unfettered capitalism”. The government’s job is to create a fair marketplace where everyone can compete. That doesn’t mean that the government should be picking who sells what handset, whether CDMA or GSM should be the standard or what the price of widgets in Wichita should be.

        • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

          @Matthew Hoy: The Community Reinvestment Act certainly played a part. Deregulation of securities played another part. It’s the part that allowed these banks to securitize and sell junk mortgages. The bond ratings agencies are also at fault for rating junk bonds as AAA.

          That’s getting off topic, though. Fine, for another example of unregulated capitalism, check out Enron. Or go read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

          That doesn’t mean that the government should be picking who sells what handset,

          They wouldn’t be. They’d be forcing hand set makers to compete with handset makers and service providers to compete with service providers. This would only be good for everyone. I would agrue that it would even be good for the carriers and handset makers.

          [or] whether CDMA or GSM should be the standard or what the price of widgets in Wichita should be.

          I would definately argue that it is explicitly the business of the FCC to set CDMA or GSM as a standard, if they so choose. Imagine for a second a world in which TV stations broadcast with different standards, and only certain models can pick them up. You can get ABC and CBS with a Panasonic, but you have to buy an LG to get NBC.

        • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

          @Matthew Hoy: The Community Reinvestment Act certainly played a part. Deregulation of securities played another part. It’s the part that allowed these banks to securitize and sell junk mortgages. The bond ratings agencies are also at fault for rating junk bonds as AAA.

          That’s getting off topic, though. Fine, for another example of unregulated capitalism, check out Enron. Or go read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

          That doesn’t mean that the government should be picking who sells what handset,

          They wouldn’t be. They’d be forcing hand set makers to compete with handset makers and service providers to compete with service providers. This would only be good for everyone. I would agrue that it would even be good for the carriers and handset makers.

          [or] whether CDMA or GSM should be the standard or what the price of widgets in Wichita should be.

          I would definately argue that it is explicitly the business of the FCC to set CDMA or GSM as a standard, if they so choose. Imagine for a second a world in which TV stations broadcast with different standards, and only certain models can pick them up. You can get ABC and CBS with a Panasonic, but you have to buy an LG to get NBC.

          • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

            @WiglyWorm:
            Screwed up that blockquote.

            [or] whether CDMA or GSM should be the standard or what the price of widgets in Wichita should be.

            I would definately argue that it is explicitly the business of the FCC to set CDMA or GSM as a standard, if they so choose. Imagine for a second a world in which TV stations broadcast with different standards, and only certain models can pick them up. You can get ABC and CBS with a Panasonic, but you have to buy an LG to get NBC.

            Dear Consumerist:

            Please add an edit feature.

          • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

            @WiglyWorm:
            Screwed up that blockquote.

            [or] whether CDMA or GSM should be the standard or what the price of widgets in Wichita should be.

            I would definately argue that it is explicitly the business of the FCC to set CDMA or GSM as a standard, if they so choose. Imagine for a second a world in which TV stations broadcast with different standards, and only certain models can pick them up. You can get ABC and CBS with a Panasonic, but you have to buy an LG to get NBC.

            Dear Consumerist:

            Please add an edit feature.

  12. Cant_stop_the_rock says:

    As a consumer I’m not a fan of exclusivity agreements, but there is no reason the government should intervene here. All major carriers have good phones available.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Cant_stop_the_rock: No, Verizon has terrible phones. They are notorious for creating “gimped” versions of phones for their service. I hate living in the middle of nowhere. I have made peace with the fact that if I want to have a useful device in my pocket I need to move to a city.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @Cant_stop_the_rock: However, many service providers are horrible in many areas. AT&T is the best in my area, but I hear them nearly universally panned by others. Some people love their TMobile, it is junk where I live.

      This is the problem: Carriers are competing based on what cool exclusive phones they have, not the quality of the network. If you want an iphone, you get it with ATT or you go home. If you don’t like AT&T’s service, tough. No iPhone.

      How does that serve the public intrest in the slighest.

      In fact, when the sh*t hits the fan, the people, the government, and the carriers themselves have a vested interest in a broad, overlapping, redundant radio network for cellular communications.

    • Tiber says:

      @Cant_stop_the_rock: Actually, they’re doing this for the smaller carriers, who can’t afford exclusive agreements, and are put at a competitive disadvantage.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is the most insane thing I’ve read today, and that’s saying a lot.
    Show me in the US Constitution where the powers are given to the Feds to insert themselves into private contracts? And don’t give mt any BS about Congress “protecting us”. Not being able to use whatever phone you desire with whatever network you desire is not abuse.
    AT&T and Apple have a contract they both agreed to. When you purchase an iPhone you sign a contract indicating you and AT&T agree to abide by certain rules. Where’s the victimhood?
    We’re ringing up trillions in debt and the feds are spending time and our money “investigating” private companies engaged in consensual business?

  14. redclear55 says:

    couldn’t we argue that the current system is stifling the advancement of technology? I read the following excerpt and was astounded by how far behind we are technologically:

    “The first data services appeared on mobile phones starting with person-to-person SMS text messaging in Finland in 1993. First trial payments using a mobile phone to pay for a Coca Cola vending machine were set in Finland in 1998. The first commercial payments were mobile parking trialled in Sweden but first commercially launched in Norway in 1999. The first commercial payment system to mimic banks and credit cards was launched in the Philippines in 1999 simultaneously by mobile operators Globe and Smart. The first content sold to mobile phones was the ringing tone, first launched in 1998 in Finland. The first full internet service on mobile phones was i-Mode introduced by NTT DoCoMo in Japan in 1999.

    In 2001 the first commercial launch of 3G (Third Generation) was again in Japan by NTT DoCoMo on the WCDMA standard.”

    sourced from: [en.wikipedia.org]

    the common theory is that competition provides an environment to evolve more quickly. reverse engineering that thought against our telecom industry would assume that we’re lacking competition.

    just a thought.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @redclear55: It absolutely is. I have seen the top end cell phones japan and euroland have to offer. It is astounding what you can do with these things. The iphone is a joke.

      • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

        @WiglyWorm: And why? Because phones are not competing with phones in America, and carriers are not competing with carriers.

        Phone companies are getting huge paydays for exclusive contracts, so they don’t care about competition, and carriers are competing by what phones they carry, so they don’t have to compete on quality of network.

  15. NeverLetMeDown says:

    This is a really slippery slope, if we’re looking at prohibiting companies from, in essence, choosing their sales channels.

    Porsche dealers are the only vendors who can sell Porsches – should Porsche be forced to sell cars wholesale to Ford dealers as well?

    • italianscallion33 says:

      @NeverLetMeDown: Not the same thing. A dealership doesn’t limit how much you can use your car, or where you can drive it. And if you don’t like one Porsche dealership, you can go to another one, which will be owned by someone else, and can be like an entirely different company, to get one. Also, the dealerships are competitive with each other. Tell dealership #1 that dealership #2 offered the car for you for $1,000 less and #1 might budge.

      If you want an iPhone, to abide by the law you have to get a locked phone and use it through AT&T. It’s not like if you don’t like the AT&T store by your house, that the one 6 blocks down would be any different. And AT&T limits how you can use the iPhone. And if you went to one AT&T store and said another AT&T store offered you the phone/plan for cheaper and you want to negotiate with them, they will laugh at you. Unless you bitch and moan a lot and threaten to report them for something, they’re not going to budge.

      So phone carriers and car manufacturers are not analogous.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        @italianscallion33:

        Actually, they are excellent analogies. Apple chooses to only sell you a phone through one reseller, and lets that reseller set the terms of the sale. Porsche, if it wanted to, could have just one dealer in the US, and say, if you want a Porsche, talk to that guy, and that guy could say “if you want to buy one from me, you have to agree to not drive it backwards.” Frankly, that would be dumb for both Porsche and the dealer, but it would be their right.

    • cerbie says:

      @NeverLetMeDown: no, but it doesn’t work that way. Porsche makes cars, and Porsche dealers sell them. Motorola makes phones, but Motorola, AFAIK, does not have their own stores selling them. AT&T does not make phones, nor does any other provider. They make buggy firmware for otherwise good phones, and slap a piece of plastic on them with their logo (iPhone being the one exception to the firmware).

  16. LJKelley says:

    There is a huge difference between phones prior to the iPhone and what has come after. Sure I’ve had locked phones, but all were unlockable after calling the carrier. Exclusive agreements lasted 6 months. Even now you can buy a T-Mobile G1 and ask for it to be unlocked and put it on AT&T. The iPhone changed that. There is no way to unlock even a 2 year old original iPhone. Sure you can jailbreak but its technically illegal. And its over 2 years, still exclusive to AT&T.

    • outphase says:

      @LJKelley: You could always import an iPhone from one of the countries that require factory unlocked handsets. If this costs too much for you, then don’t get it.

  17. dubs29 says:

    What I would prefer is they look into how companies like AT&T only charge $30 for a Shared Unlimited Family Data Plans on almost all SmartPhones except the I-Phone a Blackberry. These SPECIAL Phones they charge $30 PER Plan which is complete crap! Same Data but for a family of three that is $90 compared to $30 for three phones with unlimited data! That is what is WRONG not Exclusive Hook-ups! Investigate and dismantle this monopolistic garbage. That would be useful!!!!!

    • cerbie says:

      @dubs29: er, that’s kind of the idea. AT&T would have a card tied to your account, and not be able to give two ****s about what phone is hooked up to that card.

    • Anonymous says:

      @dubs29: Verizon does the same thing. You buy a smartphone, you are paying $30 extra per line…be it blackberry, samsung omnia, palm. ATT isn’t the only ones doing this. Govt just needs to mind their own business. There are far worse things they need to be worrying about than phone exclusivity!

  18. Erik Bagby says:

    The problem is much more than exclusivity agreements alone. In the USA we have multiple standards for wireless networks: CDMA, iDEN, and GSM, all three are very different from the ground up in how they work and handsets are built to order specifically for these network operators who are the actual customers, not the consumer.

    Making it unlawful for carriers to enter into exclusivity agreements with their handset vendors is pointless until we address the hodgepodge of standards in place for wireless systems in the USA.

    For example, if Apple sold the iPhone to other GSM carriers, it would not do anything for us CDMA or iDEN users as it would have to be redesigned to function on the other network standards, and may only be able to have limited functionality (as in the case of iDEN which lacks high speed data capability) so what is the point?

    We also enjoy the reduced cost of new devices through contract subsidy. Go price what a new handset costs outright without a contract and see if that’s such a bargain. There are too many standards in place and thus, the handset market is specialized and their customer is the carrier not the end user.

    Until we have a single standard for wireless telephony as in the EU and other parts of the world where you buy your cellphone at BestBuy as you would buy your home phones, this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors by the FCC and FTC and wasting more valuable time and taxpayer money and won’t do anything spectacular to benefit the consumer.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Erik Bagby: my unlocked quad-band gsm phone (with camera, speakerphone, bluetooth, etc.) cost $99 at tigerdirect (on sale; regularly $179).

      actually beat the hell out of anything the cellcos were offering me at the time.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        @mac-phisto:

        An unlocked iPhone, if Apple were willing to sell it, would cost you $600.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: Funny thing, that- they’re quite willing to sell it, just not in America. And not always for $600.

          • NeverLetMeDown says:

            @jamar0303:

            Depends on the market. In Europe, they’re only available with a contract in Germany (and I believe the UK), and very very expensive (E500 or more) without the contract in the markets where it’s allowed, unless something’s changed recently that I’m not aware of.

  19. Deezul_AwT says:

    Why restrict it to cell phones. I like my DirecTV DVR. So it should be able to work with cable as well. But it doesn’t. Does the Government need to step in?

    I don’t WANT an iPhone. I like my subsidized Verizon phone. I don’t want to have to buy a $500 phone, and end up paying the same rates. Is the Government also going to dictate the rates we pay, since we’re not locked into a provider?

    You want and iPhone, you sign up for AT&T. There is no bait and switch, and it’s not like Apple is hiding this. Life isn’t fair. Deal with it.

    And what if you do get your phone of choice, but the local cell network doesn’t support all the services. Does the government step in and force providers to fix this?

    Why are cell phones being singled out? Is Epic Games going to be testifying because Gears of War is exclusive to the Xbox 360/PC, and won’t be out for the PS3? What makes a game console different in this regard from a cell phone provider? I want to use the Microsoft Live software on the PS3, since it’s better. Make it so, FTC and FCC!

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Deezul_AwT: perhaps they’re being singled out b/c they’re cashing government checks while raking in record profits, screwing the piss out of their customers & flipping off federal agencies at every opportunity they get.

      keep acting like the spoiled rich kid & eventually someone’s gonna torch your jag.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        @mac-phisto:

        Gov’t checks? Actually, they’re (a) writing huge checks to the gov’t to buy spectrum, rent poles, etc. etc., and (b) avoiding those gov’t stimulus checks like the plague because of all the restrictions that come with them.

        Given that, in pretty much any vaguely sizable market in the country, you have at least four wireless carrier options, and some have five or six, I hardly see this market as uncompetitive. You can get unlimited talk and text for $40/month by now – I remember when $40/month would get you 40 minutes of usage!

        • mac-phisto says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: UCC. know it, love it, get pissed off that you have dead zones in the middle of a city, but hawkeyes get 5 bars in the great north wood. that’s what i mean by “cashing gov’t checks”.

          • NeverLetMeDown says:

            @mac-phisto:

            Mostly, those checks go to small rural carriers, not AT&T & Verizon – if AT&T and Verizon could make UCC go away tomorrow (allowing them to either cut prices and goose demand or boost their margin), they’d do it in a heartbeat.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: The problem is portability. I have an unlocked Toshiba from Japan. It will only play nice with T-Mo and AT&T. What are they doing such that their service costs so much more than the CDMA carriers? Why is it so much work to bring a CDMA phone with a decent feature set over from Korea and make it work on Verizon?

          • NeverLetMeDown says:

            @jamar0303:

            I’m not sure what your complaint is here – do you want to be able to use a CDMA phone on a GSM network? Well, they’re two different standards, so you’d have as much luck driving a locomotive on a highway.

            • jamar0303 says:

              @NeverLetMeDown: No, but I want to be able to bring over a CDMA phone from another country and have it work here trouble-free. Or at the very least find out why CDMA networks are so much cheaper than GSM ones.

  20. kwjayhawk says:

    I’m bummed the iPhone isn’t on Verizon but the government doesn’t need it to happen. Ever.

  21. Matthew Hoy says:

    I want to know when the government is going to have had enough with OSX being exclusive to Apple computers!

    I don’t think this is any of the government’s business.

  22. chucklebuck says:

    Jesus Christ, if you don’t want to be on AT&T, then don’t buy a phone that only works on AT&T. How hard is that to figure out? You don’t have to buy an iPhone! You can buy any phone you want, or no phone at all. Maybe a cell phone can be considered a necessity now, but I cannot be convinced that an iPhone is a necessity. Buy some other phone. Buy an unlocked phone, buy a prepaid phone.

    Dammit, few things make me mad, but the mass crying about this whole iPhone exclusivity thing. It’s like people forget that they are the ones with the money, so they decide what to spend it on. You don’t have to lock yourself into AT&T, just make the adult decision to not spend your money.

    • Skaperen says:

      @chucklebuck: I have no problem with NOT buying a phone that only works on AT&T … provided that EVERY phone is available in a form that can be used on other carriers. That way I can buy the same exact phone model either locked to another carrier, or unlocked.

      The iPhone is certainly not a necessity. I can do without it. I *AM* doing without it.

      But this anti-competitive strategy of big business that results in an unfair transfer of wealth from the people that work to create it just needs to come to an end. The really sad part of this is that it looks like we’re going to end up getting socialism along with it because conservatives have lost their way.

      • chucklebuck says:

        @Skaperen: See, but I don’t even think that there should be regulations that say every phone should be available in a form that can be used on other carriers. If there’s a phone you want that’s not available on a carrier you like, just don’t buy it. There can’t be any unfair transfer of wealth if you decide not to spend the money.

    • erikislame says:

      @chucklebuck:

      You do understand that Apple offered the iphone to Verizon first, yes?

      And they turned it down. Because they wanted to release crappy locked down carrier stupid handsets.

      That just how they do business. Like shit. It’s why the govt needs to intervene not at all.

  23. DaBull says:

    We all know that the iPhone caused this debacle. I would like to have an iPhone, but I like Verizon’s coverage and will not leave it for AT&T, so no iPhone for me.

    However I do think that there should be some governance that helps consumers. Come to think of it, I think the only company that benefits from the deal between AT&T and Apple is AT&T. Apple is going to sell iPhones no matter what carrier their on. AT&T on the other hand would have probably been bankrupt had it not been for the iPhone. Their service is inferior to that of Verizon.

    If the government forces the end of their exclusivity, maybe AT&T will be forced to build a better network in order to earn/keep customers.

    If you could get ANY phone for ANY carrier, then the carriers would concentrate on offering better coverage and lower prices, instead of worrying about the next cool phone they can peddle.

    • John Henschen says:

      @DaBull: I beg to differ with you. In my area, AT&T is far superior to Verizon, especially if you’re in a moving vehicle. AT&T switches from tower to tower with ease while Verizon drop calls when you get out of range of the calls originating tower.

      That being completely off topic, and as much as I hate to admit this, because I hate big business and I don’t LIKE what the wireless carriers are doing, I don’t think the government should get involved in this. *sigh* God that hurts to type.

    • Powerlurker says:

      @DaBull:

      But the carriers DO compete on network coverage and quality, unless the coverage maps I see on every wireless company’s website are an illusion. From what I’ve seen price tends to be correlated with coverage where Verizon tends to have slightly more expensive plans and better coverage while T-Mobile tends to have the lowest prices and worst coverage.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @DaBull:

      Clearly, the exclusive deal with AT&T is a plus for Apple as well, otherwise they wouldn’t have entered it.

    • goodcow says:

      @DaBull: The iPhone PHYSICALLY can’t function on Verizon’s network due to the CDMA standard.

  24. Joseph F. Becker says:

    The Constitution doesn’t give the government any right to legislate any such thing. This is completely outrageous. This should be determined by the states, just like ANYTHING that isn’t explicitly stated in the Constitution should be.

    • Damocles57 says:

      @Joseph F. Becker:
      The Constitution does grant the right (albeit highly abused now) for the federal regulation of commerce between states. The federal government does sell and regulate the frequencies used by the cell phone companies (and TV and radio and police etc.). It would be a nightmare to have each state set its own standards for cell phone usage and then enter into separate agreements with any/all cell companies who would then negotiate with the other states and then try to make the 50+ agreements mesh when calls are made between states or long-distance charges are assessed.

      It seems a natural extension for the feds to get involved in this (even if it means creeping closer to the slippery slope). Common sense would lead us to believe that a uniform standard with open access would (should) lower the overall costs to the Consumer (each of us who ultimately pay for cell phones and all the equipment to support our calls).

      While I am hopeful some good will come from the feds involvement, history has proven that big government with the help of big business can take a good idea and make the ensuing solutions worse than the original problem.

  25. nuton2wheels says:

    For example, I’m sick of Verizon’s crippled CDMA phones. Since they tacked on a plan that requires smart phone owners to purchase an additional “Smart Phone Data Plan” for $29 a month, I’ve decided to go with a different provider. Sure, the reception’s great, but their phones are all pre-2000 technology with a few extra bells and whistles thrown in.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @nuton2wheels: Well, they’re trying to change that… sort of. They’ve insisted that Casio drop the nice big WVGA screen from their Exilim phone for sale on them, as well as other instances of messing around and removing features from Casio phones sold in America as opposed to Japan.

  26. Joe Ibern says:

    I have no problem with exclusivity.

    Heck, it’s part of reason why the iPhone is only 200 instead of 600.

    If I should break that contract I should pay a termination fee.

    The problem I have is that it’s MY phone, I should be able to do with it what I want. I have no intention of leaving AT&T, but when I leave the country, I shouldn’t have to get a new phone.

    Anyway, allow exclusivity – ban permanent subsidy locks.

    • ChristopherDavis says:

      @Joe Ibern: Anyway, allow exclusivity – ban permanent subsidy locks.

      Exactly. AT&T will unlock all of their phones ([www.wireless.att.com]) after the contract commitment is up (though they don’t publicize the policy), except one. (Yes, it’s the iPhone: [www.wireless.att.com])

      Of course, they say it “cannot be unlocked” even though that isn’t actually true; Apple’s own list of carriers selling the iPhone has a column for “Carrier offers authorized unlocking”. That column, of course, doesn’t have a checkmark in it next to AT&T…but does for many other carriers, meaning that it can be unlocked, but AT&T won’t do it.

  27. Alys Brangwin knows who's bad says:

    Let the trust-busting begin!

  28. Canoehead says:

    iPhones are not oil, oxygen or food – you won’t starve without one. There are also plenty of viable smartphones, and each carrier has at least a couple.

    Somebody call the Waaahmbulance.

  29. Corporate_guy says:

    You want to protect consumers? Ban contracts. Biggest scam ever. Because of contracts phones are over priced by hundreds of dollars. Making it very lucrative when phones are sold by themselves, but basically guaranteeing people will sign a contract just to be able to afford a phone.

    If apple couldn’t have bundled their phone with a contract, they wouldn’t have made any exclusive deals with a carrier. And the phone would have to be more reasonably priced.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @Corporate_guy:

      Yes, because the lack of a contract will magically cause the iPhone to cost less to manufacture. In fact, the lack of contract option would likely _slow_ innovation, since without it, volumes would be lower (smaller number of people willing to pay $600 upfront), and costs come down with volume.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Been to iSuppli before? A real eye-opener if you want to talk about cost of manufacture.

      • Corporate_guy says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: The reports on the internet are that the iphone costs 197 dollars. But even that is an exaggeration. I bought a dell axim x50 in 2003 for $260. “520MHz processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth” Only in 2009 does the iphone 3gs finally have a faster processor.

      • RogWilco says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Actually, the cost to manufacture the phone has nothing to do with the cost end users pay for it. The marketplace determines a product’s value, not the sum of its parts. Just because I spend $8k building a giant wooden dildo doesn’t mean it’s worth $8k. It could be more, or it could be less.

        What the manufacturing costs do affect are whether or not a product can viably be brought to market. If the market won’t pay enough to cover the cost to build the phone, there simply wouldn’t be a phone.

        That being said, it can be surprising how much a price can come down when some pressure to do so is applied.

  30. calstudios says:

    Who is in favor of allowing car manufacturers to restrict owners to one fuel provider? No one, because that’s absurd. Buy a Ford? You can only buy gas from Chevron for two years. Everyone knows it’s stupid and that cell companies are making out like criminals by restricting the market. The Feds finally woke up.

    Why is cell service any different than landline phone service? Buy a phone. Use whatever long distance carrier you want (PNG is a good one). End of discussion.

  31. Chris Walters says:

    It’s natural that we’re all looking at this from the consumer level, but one reason for the investigation is that smaller carriers are being shut out by the big national ones because of exclusivity deals. They can’t compete because bigger players like AT&T are making deals with manufacturers to have the top-of-the-line phones exclusively. So there’s the question of whether or not this is too anti-competitive and bad for the market.

    At the customer level, the real problem is this: customers in areas not serviced by a carrier with an exclusivity deal are shut out of the opportunity to buy top-end technology at an affordable price, so there’s the threat of a digital divide. I’m not sure I totally buy that argument in 2009, but I can see it growing more salient in the coming years.

    Also, remember that exclusivity != subsidized. You could still get a $200 iPhone from a competitor willing to subsidize it. It’s just that the competitor isn’t able to compete with AT&T’s purchasing power and enter into an exclusivity deal, and so can’t offer it in the first place.

    I don’t know that I’m for or against it yet–I haven’t read enough about it all and I’m not sure if the current hype is being generated mostly by the smaller carriers looking for protection. But I think those are two big things to remember about the topic.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @Chris Walters:

      You’re right that this is the real issue. The people really screaming about exclusive deals are the rural mobile carriers.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Chris Walters: I don’t see why they can’t find alternative top-of-the-line phones to subsidize and make deals with, though. A perfect example is Fujitsu. The F-01A blows the iPhone away hardware-wise, and it’s waterproof. That wouldn’t be too hard to sell.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Simple, I think.
    If you do not approve of the methods of the providers or the manufacturers don’t give them your money.

    The absolute most effective way to force a company to change its methods is to refuse to give them your money and tell them why.

    In this case the Government should stay away.

  33. Saboth says:

    Good, this needed to happen. The way cell phone providers work now, it’s almost like they are in collusion. .20 for text messages, when data cost goes down yearly?

    I should be able to get a plan for $25 at this point, not $75.

  34. Brian Gruidl says:

    Shouldn’t the price of broadband be prioritized higher than cell phone exclusivity? This is all spurred by the exclusive deal on the iPhone. I’m much more concerned about people having internet access period, rather than how they access.

  35. Hobz says:

    Although I agree that government intervention is never a good thing, it’s sometimes a necessary evil. Corporations have proven time and time again that they can not regulate themselves.

    I ask you this? Why do cell providers sell phones? That’s like gas stations selling cars. Why can’t cell companies just sell the service they provide? Because their service sometimes sucks. So they NEED to lock customers in with either hardware or contracts to keep them, rather than improving the service.

    Can I buy an iPhone without a data plan? Last I checked, no. Why would I want an iPhone without a data plan? Because wifi is everywhere I need to be and I don’t want to spend an extra $100 on something I don’t need.

    This is the same way that cable companies operate. Why do I have to buy a package that includes channels I could care less about? If I don’t like it I can just go else where… Nope, it’s either Comcast or Dish and I like my TV an rainy days.

    I digress,

    Sometimes it takes the government to stick up for the consumer because the consumer has no one else to turn to. If companies listened to their customers then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  36. Sarah Bonar says:

    Grr, that picture incenses me. My parents cat chowed down on my phone while it was innocently perched on the couch armrest and made a 1/2″ crack in the screen! Beware of cats with large teeth!!!

  37. vladthepaler says:

    i just think it’s amusing that iPhones are so popular, and ATT is so awful, that the federal government is getting involved.

  38. wkm001 says:

    My comment from yesterday is gone. What the hell happened?

  39. kd5jos says:

    This is nothing like Ford selling a Porche. This is nothing like OS X being confined to Mac’s. This situation has nothing to do with carriers having to buy equipment that caters to a certain handset.

    In the early 90’s there was little internet use. The web (html) wasn’t invented until 1992. AOL, Compuserve, or Prodigy was how most computers got on line (I worked for 2 of the 3). I remember friends that had Macs would sometimes have to pretend to be Windows users to get tech support. Some techs that worked for these companies would tell people that a Mac wouldn’t work with the service, or couldn’t be set up to use it. Mac users would have to get around this ignorance, and get their systems operational again.

    The fact is all computers used by the general public are Von Neuman machines. They all operate on the same principals, and can be made to do the same things (different speeds, but ultimately the same things). Don’t waste your time arguing that I’m saying an 8086 can play Quake 4. I’m saying it could solve all of the math problems the program Quake 4 presents, given sufficient time.

    Now for my point. I can hook a Mac, a PC, a C64, a DEC Alpha, an Altair, an Apple II, a PC jr, or an Arduino in to the Internet. The hardware platform I choose to use is irrelevant. I can do this with any provider I’ve ever heard of (in the U.S. at least). The internet does not care which device I use as long as it supports the 7 layer OSI model, and is connected correctly at the correct layer/s.

    The information on the internet is distributed to me through my hardware and software. I can acquire parts and build a computer or acquire one prefabricated.

    Apple can sell an iPhone to me. Nokia can sell a phone to me. Sony can sell a phone to me. I can get hardware support from the vendor that sells me the phone (just like Dell supports their computers, and Apple supports theirs). Why can I not take my iPhone and use it on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile or any other provider I choose?

    Thos of you using the technical argument: You’re right. Different frequencies, different modulation, different technologies are all present with each carrier. However, saying this prevents the use of (handset) with (carrier) is a lie. Any handset can be designed to work with any carrier. My computer works with internet providers in the U.S. and around the world.

    Ford selling Porches has nothing to do with this. We’re not talking about Dell selling iPhones.

    For those who’s comment is: if you don’t like (carrier) don’t buy a phone that works with (carrier). This is sheer stupidity on your part. Why should (carrier) get to determine which product I buy? (ISP) doesn’t pick which computer I buy.

    For those who’s comment is: (Operating system) is only on (architecture). You have a closer argument. It fails because (Operating system) isn’t available in (language). To state that a piece of software has to exist in every language before it can be sold is as absurd as making it work for every conceivable architecture. There is no OS that works on everything/with everything. However, you can make a cellphone work on every carrier, w/o significant cost increase.

    Should the government get involved? Carriers have been given time to fix this on their own. They show no indication of doing so. I think Ronald Reagan once said, the scariest words in the English Language are, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Everybody is throwing a fit about this. I have yet to see a solution that doesn’t require government intervention.

    To summarize: If you don’t like the idea to solve the problem, come up with a better one and solve the problem. If you can’t, STFU. Whining isn’t the solution, ever.

  40. Ryan Baker says:

    The message we all need to get from this is that America needs to standardize its network. Get rid of CDMA/TDMA bullshit and let’s all just use the same network the REST OF THE WORLD uses.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Ryan Baker: The thing is, though, CDMA, at least, is used by Asia and South America. As such, CDMA is also home to some very advanced phones and technology. Unfortunately, it rarely crosses over to America, and when it does it’s but a shadow of its former self (the Gz’One phones sold in Japan now come with 3-inch WVGA screens- yes, higher resolution than the iPhone-, A2DP Bluetooth, and a RFID payment chip, all while retaining that IPX-spec ruggedness; compare to the model currently sold by Verizon)

  41. ProfessionalCritic says:

    I never cease to be amazed that AT+T can’t/won’t improve their coverage in a city that is literally seven square miles. I reliably drop calls with my iphone the same places in San Francisco where I dropped calls with my freebie five year old LG. But I wanted an iphone (it’s cool!) and was hoping naively that AT+T would get it together. But since they won’t, this might help.

  42. erikislame says:

    This OP has a lot of consumer based backlash, and rightly so.

    As much as I *WANT* my iphone to be on a better network like Verizon–Verizon decided they DID NOT WANT my money and shot me down as a customer in not working w/ apple on the R&D.

    So now they don’t have my money. I don’t feel it’s the governments job to fix this–I think it’s the carrier’s job to act like less of a dumbass in how they do business.

    Verizon has a great infrastructure and fucking terrible phones to run on it. Shit. There is NO NEED for this legislation.

  43. godospoons says:

    Why stop at exclusivity? Why not also look at the lobotomies given to phones by operators in order to comply with their business model?

    Verizon was legendary for demanding configurations with limited Bluetooth functionality, allowing headsets but preventing transfers of photos and other device-based data. This limitation made it so that users HAD to use for-fee services, provided by Verizon, to get access to their own photos.

    The Nokia E71 ships with free Ovi Maps in its default configuration, but AT&T’s E71i ships with AT&T Navigator, their own for-fee Mapping software.

    Innovation requires a Carterphone ruling for modern mobile services. We’re beyond the wild west of mobile services–the claim that “uncertified handsets” could “damage” their networks is BS. If it’s sold in the US legally, it has an FCC certification. Operator certification is just another way to curtail competition.

    Additionally, we need to break the device subsidy model in the United States, as it inflates monthly costs of service. Try buying a mobile plan without a device–it’s the same cost. How is that even legal/possible?

  44. seth_lerman says:

    I disagree with this investigation and see it as leading to higher prices for consumers.

    Using the iPhone as an example, because of the Apple/AT&T relationship, you can get an iPhone for a low subsidized price. Look at say Australia where the phone isn’t subsidized, the same phone is over $800US (after conversion).

    Are you willing to pay that extra money to have the iPhone in a manufacturer approved unlocked state?

    The carrier making these deals with the equipment makers is part of what brings the price down. The contract you agree to 912 or 24 months) and the equipment being locked to the carrier is what enables the carrier to sell it at th elower price.

  45. SonicPhoenix says:

    @WiglyWorm: It doesn’t serve the public interest. Companies are not there to serve the public interest; they’re there to make money. The government has no business regulating which handset can be used with which provider. As much as I would like to see more interoperability, I have to respect that the private companies have rights as well.