Earlier this year the FCC, in a 3 to 2 vote, said that AT&T and Verizon have to offer smaller operators the ability to roam on their data networks on “commercially reasonable” terms and conditions. Verizon, last Friday, filed an appeal to that decision, saying that the FCC is over regulating the market and that they’ve already voluntarily signed over 40 data roaming agreements for use of their EV-DO network and 7 agreements for their new high speed 4G LTE network. Steve Berry, the President of the Rural Cellular Association, had this to say in light of Verizon’s appeal: “Verizon has fought competitive policies for a long time. They have opposed data roaming, they have opposed interoperability, and they have opposed putting an end to exclusive handset deals.”
What’s at stake here is just how much power the FCC actually has beyond issuing licenses for spectrum. This battle, to put it bluntly, is of competing ideologies. Some feel that the government should be able to legislate how operators should operate, while others feel the laissez-faire approach is the right way, the American way, to ensure innovation in the wireless space. Considering how much more advanced networks are in Europe, and how heavily they’re regulated over there, we wish the FCC would actually grow a pair and set forth some rules that make the networks we have today superior to anything else on the market.
Here’s a short wish list: The bill customers receive every month should specifically say how much of the total amount due goes toward actual service versus paying off a handset subsidy. Locking handsets to perform on one and only one network should be banned. Incoming calls and text messages should be free of charge, just like they are in damn near every other country. And finally: Operators should pass coverage tests or else they’ll have their spectrum revoked.