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iPhone cited in House telecommunications committee

updated 01:40 am EDT, Thu July 12, 2007

House debates cell laws

On Wednesday, key members of the US House of Representatives publicly lamented high cancellation fees for cellphone service, and the inability to use mobiles on different networks than the one with which they were originally paired. Central to the discussion was the iPhone, though its termination fee ($175) is not unusual for cellphone contracts. MarketWatch reports that Rep. Edward Markey, chairman of a key House committee on telecommunications, noted that customers who don't like AT&T's network can't move to another provider. "You're stuck with your iPhone and you can't take it anywhere," the Massachusetts Democrat said. At issue is whether or not the wireless industry can be more tightly regulated at state level -- a structure carriers say is unreasonably costly. Currently, states can oversee the terms and conditions of wireless plans but are blocked from regulating prices.

Supporters of Markey's views would like to see cancellation fees reduced, and the ability to use any phone on any network. This is commonplace in Asia and Europe, where laws require such openness. Whereas the European carrier Vodafone supports some 800 different devices, by contrast, the major American carrier Verizon is limited to 30.

Executives from US companies challenged the House committee, arguing that the industry is very competitive and that prices would be forced upwards if the government required network freedom. Sympathy was expressed for this view by a number of Democrats and Republicans, who were insecure about interfering with an increasingly profitable industry. "The wireless-service market is vigorously competitive," commented Michigan's Rep. Fred Upton.




by MacNN Staff

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  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    come on

    iphone comes out and now there is congress wasting our tax dollars with this concern?

    if you dont like any cell phone network, then dont use the cell phones they offer. it has been this way for years.

    lets focus on a solution in iraq idiots.

  1. Bill in Providence

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Beltway on to something

    I concur completely that these jerks should try to rectify the Iraq mess they created. That said, I think they are on to something here. The cancelation fees are a bit much, and why shouldn't we be able to use our phones on any network? The 26 hours it took me to port my cell number over to AT&T the weekend of the iPhone release doesn't exactly raise my estimation of the carriers. IMO the bright bulbs at AT&T who decided to give most of their crew the that weekend off don't exactly deserve a break. I'm all for allowing business to do its thing, but we've gotten ourselves into this sort of Atlas Shrugged situation where the businesses with the most power use their muscle to bilk the public, rather than innovate & improve. Apple is the obvious exception that proves this rule. There. Now I'll step down from my soapbox.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    re: beltway

    I agree that all cell phones should be unlocked, but that doesn't necessarily mean one cell phone can be used on another network. Most people have no idea about the differences between GSM, CDMA, PCS, etc.

  1. dogzilla

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Wow

    This reminds me of when Bush first came across a laser scanner at a grocery store. These guys should go out into the real world themselves once in a while instead of just sending someone else to do their errands for them. How can these people effectively represent us if they don't even live in the same world?

    The idea that a congressman - who presumably must use a cellphone *constantly* - is only now twigging to the reality of locked phones and anti-competitive practices form wireless carriers is just mind-boggling. If you're taking money form these a*******, aren't you at least expected to do a tiny bit of research into their business practices? What is it that these congressclowns *do* all day? And this isn't a partisan issue - they're both equally useless.

    To speak to the previous posts - if these morons can't even step into the real world enough to realize how cellphones work, how in the h*** can we expect them to solve Iraq? I mean, their lack of sack is what got us in there in the first place, and any kind of non-disastrous resolution to Iraq will require actual intelligence, cooperation and political deftness. I don't believe any single congressman/senator is evolved enough to display any of those traits, much less the group as a whole.

  1. tvalleau

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    termination fee?

    What galls me is this: the termination fee was designed to help the company get back any monies it lost >>because it supported part of the cost of the phone itself

  1. HombrePhaty

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Politicians...

    What a wonderful feeling washed over me as I read the previous posts and discovered that many people share my scorn for all politicians.

    Here's the rest of the story:

    "Later in that same session, another Representative said he is 'very concerned' about a war 'over there somewhere' that he has been hearing about.

    Also, one member passed silent gas which prompted a lengthy, heated discussion that was split across party lines."

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Motorola...

    did it with the RAZR for 2 years before you saw a RAZR being offered by another carrier other than Cingular - WHY are their panties in a bunch now 'cause Apple jumped in the market - granted it's a 5 year contract this time - but WTF ?

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    and...

    it's all political manuvering anyway - in case the iPhone situation succeeds or fails - those folks in the "House" are wobbling on the fence until it goes in one direction or the other_

    'Cause they don;t want to piss off the US Cellphone industry because of the high revenue it generates and all of that money from taxes the "House" gets to splash around because of it_

    But then again if enough tax-payers wake up and get bitchy down the road - the members of congress don;t want to look like they were backing big industry over the folks they were supposed to be representing in the first place_ Which probably won;t ever happen since we live in a country full of spoon-fed sheep_

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    locking started when...

    Of course, the locking on cell phones started shortly after the FCC forced the cell carriers to allow number portability, the purpose of which was to not let the carriers lock you in by forcing you to get a new phone number if you wanted to switch. The carriers circumvented the intent of that rule by locking phones. If they can't lock you in by threatening to take away your phone number, they lock you in by threatening to take away your phone (some of which can be quite expensive). Having a contract w/termination fee because they subsidized your phone is one thing (and the exact amount subsidized should be spelled out in the contract so you know what you are getting). But if there is truly no subsidizing the iPhone, the contract/termination fees should be much, much less; and there should be NO locking on the iPhone. Yes, this is very idealistic, and normally I'm for letting the market decide things like this. But if I paid for my iPhone, and I decided to may the termiantion fee to get out of my contract (or my contract has expired), ATT should be REQUIRED to unlock my phone for me as I've now fully paid of it.

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    reconcile statments

    Oh, and how do you reconcile these statements:

    "The wireless-service market is vigorously competitive"

    and

    "insecure about interfering with an increasingly profitable industry"

    Increasingly profitable suggests there might just be a little wiggle room to make the market a better/safer place for consumers without really impacting the ability of the carrier to be competitive.

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