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FCC Examining Exclusive Handset-Carrier Deals

Hearings will likely focus on AT&T's exclusive deal with Apple.

It didn't take long for the FCC to act on suggestions from members of the Senate Commerce Committee to do something about the exclusive contracts between wireless handset providers and carriers.

Acting FCC chairman Michael Copps told a conference shortly after the senators met Friday that the FCC would launch a review of the exclusive deals.

Also weighing in on the issue this week was Julius Genachowski, whose nomination as FCC chairman was approved by the Senate committee (along with the renomination of Commissioner Robert McDowell.) Genachowski has also stated he wants to review the exclusive manufacturer-carrier handset deals.

In a presentation at a broadband conference, Copps said: "I agree that we should open a proceeding to closely examine wireless handset exclusivity arrangements that have reportedly become more prevalent in recent years, and I have instructed the bureau to begin crafting such an item.

"The commission as the expert agency should determine whether some of these arrangements adversely restrict consumer choice or harm the development of innovative devices, and it should take appropriate action if it finds them."

The procedure will likely focus on AT&T's exclusive deal with Apple to market the popular handset in the United States. Other providers like Google with its Android phone for T-Mobile and Palm with its Pre phone for Sprint Nextel also represent exclusive arrangements. However, Android phones are expected to be produced by other manufacturers, including Motorola, for other carriers, and the Palm Pre is expected to be offered by Verizon Wireless in a few months. In addition, there have been unconfirmed reports that Verizon is planning to offer a version of the iPhone in the future.

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