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Handset exclusivity is a common practice by mobile cell phone carriers—so common, in fact, that most people may take it for granted. “Handset exclusivity” happens when mobile networks make exclusive, anti-competitive deals with device manufacturers. Think iPhone/AT&T (and now also Verizon), Droid/Verizon, and Palm Pre/Sprint.
“Handset exclusivity” hearkens back to the days when you had to rent your landline phone from the telephone companies. The practice severely limits consumer choice over devices and providers.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Imagine if, instead, you could have any phone on any network. The competition this would create would inevitably lead to greater innovation, lower costs, and better data plans.
Public Knowledge believes that if you’re paying to connect to the network, you should be able to attach any non-harmful device to that network. This general principle is hardly a new one. It is this principle, once applied to telephone networks, that allowed for the creation of dial-up Internet.
Prohibiting exclusivity arrangements would encourage innovation and promote beneficial competition, reducing prices for consumers and improving quality of service, by taking carrier control out of the device market.
What you can do to help
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For more information
- Read the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition’s (PISC) comments in support of the Petition for Rulemaking filed by the Rural Cellular Association, which proposes limiting the widespread use and anticompetitive effects of exclusive handset deals
- Read Verizon’s argument in favor of handset exclusivity — And our reasoning for why it’s inadequate