Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to require data-roaming agreements between mobile broadband service providers. The two "no" votes came from the commission's Republicans, who argued that the agency did not have statutory authority to impose such rules in the mobile broadband space.
According to PCWorld, the vote followed repeated requests from smaller carriers for some parity, given the refusal of AT&T and Verizon, the two largest providers, to even negotiate.
Commissioner Michael Copp said of the rules:
What good is that smartphone if it can't be used when a subscriber is roaming across the country or even across the county? Our regulations must reflect today's reality and not make artificial distinctions between voice and data telecommunications.
The rules won't require the FCC to set the rates to be used. They allow the carriers to negotiate, but provide a means by which the FCC can step in if the parties can't reach an agreement, the story says. But even that is too much government involvement as far as Verizon is concerned. IntoMobile quotes the company this way:
[F]orcing carriers that have invested in wireless infrastructure to make those networks available to competitors that avoid this investment, at a price ultimately determined by the FCC, discourages network investment in less profitable areas. ... [I]t is a defeat for both consumers and the innovation fostered by true competition.
Verizon already stands to lose ground in the mobile market if the AT&T-T-Mobile deal passes regulatory muster, so this turn of events only adds insult to injury.