FCC reacts, starts looking into carrier-exclusive deal

Well, that didn't take long.It was only a few days ago that four U.

Well, that didn't take long.

It was only a few days ago that four U.S. senators sent a letter to the FCC, asking the agency to investigate whether these carrier-exclusive deals - such as the Apple-AT&T deal for the iPhone - limit consumer choice.

Now, Michael Copps, acting chairman of the FCC, said he has instructed the commission's staff to start examining these deals. And Julius Genachowski, President Obama's choice to be the commission's new chairman, seems to be on-board with a review of these deals, as well, according to a Reuters report.

I've been pretty vocal in the past about AT&T's exclusive deal to power the iPhone's service. Google's Android phone works exclusively on T-Mobile and the recently-released Palm Pre runs on the Sprint network. As a consumer, I would love to have my choice of both device and service provider. But I also understand that there are business forces at work, as well.

Consumer rights group such as Washington-based Free Press, applauded the scrutiny, telling Reuters that "the path to innovation is paved by openness, and unlocking devices is a good start."

But the committee was also reminded by Barbara Esbin, senior fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, that these sort of deals can be necessary to offset the costs of bringing new devices to market faster, according to an Associated Press report. Exclusive deals, such as Verizon's launch of the Blackberry Storm earlier this year, have largely been recognized as competitors to the iPhone.

Granted, no one has been able to duplicate the iPhone's success. But there is competition out there. And as much as I hate to say it, once the FCC recognizes that consumers continue to have choices, despite exclusive deals, the less likely they'll be to intervene.


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