New Senate Bill Aimed at Wireless Carriers
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.
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