US senators ask FCC to review mobile handset deals

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - Several U.S. senators urged regulators on Monday to review exclusive arrangements regarding mobile handset technology between wireless carriers and cell phone makers and how they affect competition and choice in the marketplace.

In a letter to Michael Copps, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the senators said they were concerned about exclusivity.

“We ask that you examine this issue carefully and act expeditiously should you find that exclusivity agreements unfairly restrict consumer choice or adversely impact competition in the commercial wireless marketplace,” they wrote.

Democrats John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet; Byron Dorgan of North Dakota; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, signed the June 15 letter.

The Rural Cellular Association, which represents more than 80 rural wireless providers, recently filed a petition urging the FCC to look into how the arrangements affect consumers.

Some exclusive agreements include the iPhone by Apple IncAAPL.O and AT&T Inc T.N and the deal between Verizon Wireless VZ.N and LG Voyager.

The FCC was asked in the letter if such agreements were becoming prevalent, limiting consumers’ ability to take full advantage of handset technologies, manipulating the competitive marketplace between commercial wireless carriers, and playing a role in discouraging innovation.

The senators said they would hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine competition issues and determine if legislative action is necessary. (Reporting by John Poirier)