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New Senate Bill Aimed at Wireless Carriers

Kim Hart

Two senators today announced their plans to introduce a bill aimed at improving wireless service for cellphone users. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the authors of what they call the Cellphone Consumer Empowerment Act, are both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the wireless industry.

The bill has some ambitious goals. It would require wireless carriers to pro-rate early termination fees (a practice already put in place by Verizon Wireless), as well as provide consumers with a detailed map of service quality dropped-call areas. The bill would also prohibit carriers from charging any extra fees unless they are explicitly required by state or federal regulation.

The senators are also asking the Federal Communications Commission to take a hard look at handset locking, or the ability of carriers to prevent cellphones to be used with other service providers. That's been a hot issue lately as some people have found ways to modify Apple's iPhone so that it can be used on networks other than AT&T's.

"You shouldn't have to perform surgical maneuvers to pair the technology you want with the service that fits your needs and your budget," Klobuchar said today during a press conference. Rockefeller said he hopes the bill will pressure the FCC to put its "muscle" behind improving service for consumers.

She said she has asked for a hearing on the issues before the Commerce Committee, and expects a similar bill to be introduced in the House.

Members of Congress have pushed for action on some of these issues in the past, but consumer advocates hope the ideas will finally gain traction this fall. Others, however, doubt anything will happen before the 2008 election.

By Kim Hart  |  September 6, 2007; 12:11 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Comments

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This bill will get a great deal of attention and may likely pass. The teleco lobby is huge but the tech lobby needs these reforms to break in to telecommunications. Apple likes a locked iPhone in the U.S. but they know it must be unlocked in the EU anyway. Google and Microsoft want this law passed. More importantly, if consumers get educated, they will all press their elected officials to vote in favor. WiFi Internet is rapidly making cell phones obsolete. Verizon knows this and is banking on FiOS for future profits. Verizon Wireless is also co-owned by an EU firm, Vodaphone I believe.

Posted by: THW2001 | September 6, 2007 2:09 PM

let's hope it gets some traction!

Posted by: Matt | September 6, 2007 5:18 PM

It is frustrating that you cannot choose your phone from any manfacturer and use it with any provider. All phones should be unlocked by law. My full support is for this bill.

Posted by: shashib | September 9, 2007 3:23 PM

I hope they pass this bill. I love Verizon wireless's service but i hate the cheap lame phones they have plus the "pay us now" "get it now" user interface on all their phones designed to keep people from using their stuff.

Posted by: Verizon's Slave | September 14, 2007 8:11 PM

A plan to unlock all cell phones for general use is way overdue. We have a box of past-used cell phones that are effectively junk, not because there is anything wrong with them, but because we have moved from provider to provider over the years. This is bad for the environment and is a major annoyance to the users.

Posted by: Gordon | October 6, 2007 5:04 AM

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