The Rural Cellular Association, which has been a longtime champion of unlocking mobile phones, has received some support for its campaign from a surprising source -- Japan's NTT DoCoMo carrier. DoCoMo is the first wireless carrier in Japan to voluntarily unlock its handsets.
In a letter to the FCC this week, RCA's president & CEO Steven K. Berry said, "DoCoMo's pro-consumer action ensures Japanese consumers can port their handsets to other carriers, effectively reducing market advantage of large carriers and enhancing completion. It is very compelling that DoCoMo is comfortable relying on their quality of service rather than exclusive deals to maintain their customer base. The FCC should call on all wireless carriers to voluntarily put an end to handset exclusivity, giving American consumers the freedom of choice that they desire."
For more than a year, the FCC has been examining exclusive contracts after members of the Senate Commerce Committee urged the commission to review the issue. Handset providers and carriers offer their phones on different levels of exclusivity with Apple's iPhone offered only by AT&T in the U.S. and other carriers having different degrees of exclusivity for mobile phones from a variety of providers.
The RCA has hammered away on the issue for years, arguing that rural consumers in particular often can't get the phones they want and have to pay high rates for what is available for them.
Long complaining about the "digital divide" that exists between rural and urban America, RCA has argued that the end result for consumers of exclusive handset provider-carrier deals has been that consumers must "pay a premium price for the handset because the market is void of any competition for the particular handset."