Free Your Cell Phone!

Want a cool new iPhone, but don't like AT&T's pricing or service? Too bad, you're stuck. Own a Blackberry Storm, but hate Verizon? Tough luck, you're stuck.

Eight of the 10 most popular phones and wireless devices on the market today are shackled by "exclusivity deals" -- meaning you can only get service from a certain provider.

In Asia, 80 percent of cell phones sold can work on any network. But in the United States, you're either stuck with one company, or your phone is effectively worthless. That's not a free market, that's just un-American!

Tell Congress to change the wireless market, and free our phones so we can shop around for the phone we want, and the service deal we want.
In 1968, Americans finally had the choice of picking their home telephones rather than being forced to buy a one-size-fits-all phone serviced by Ma Bell. Yet today, we still don't have freedom of choice in the cell phone market, because most of our wireless devices are chained to the company that provides exclusive service to them.

I urge you to bring real choice to the wireless market, and "free our phones" by opening up the market to give me the choice of using my cell phone on any provider's network. These 'exclusivity deals' make it extremely difficult to shop around for a better bargain, a basic tenet of the free market system. And there are many parts of our country where these exclusive providers won't service -- particularly rural areas, making residents there second-class citizens when it comes to wireless connectivity. That's just plain un-American.

Exclusivity deals between companies who make wireless devices, and companies who provide the service, are not only harmful to my pocketbook, they're harmful to the free market and our nation's innovative spirit. Of the 10 most popular wireless handsets on the market in 2008, eight were shackled by these "exclusivity deals" to specific network providers.

Some of the better know deals include the Apple iPhone exclusively serviced by AT&T, the Blackberry Storm exclusively serviced by Verizon, and the Palm Pre exclusively serviced by Sprint. This lock-down means if I buy an iPhone because I like its features, I am forced to use AT&T, even if I'm unhappy with the pricing or quality of their service. I am effectively held captive to AT&T, or else I'm effectively out $300 for the cost of the phone.

By allowing these exclusivity schemes, America's innovative edge is also dulling. For example, Nokia introduced two versions of the same phone -- one sold in foreign countries that had WiFi capability and one that sold in the United States without it -- because of U.S. service providers' resistance to WiFi.

In Asia, 80 percent of wireless phones are sold independent of service providers, and consumers have more than 1,000 models of cell phones to choose from. That shows how far America is being left behind by these exclusivity deals.

It's time to throw off these market shackles, and "free our phones" from exclusivity deals. The Federal Communications Commission is now investigating this issue at the behest of some in Congress. I urge you to contact the FCC and ask the agency to open a rulemaking and do away with these exclusive deals, and do all it can to give consumers like me freedom of choice in the wireless marketplace.
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