Today the Federal Communications Commission ruled that large carriers such as AT&T and Verizon will have to strike data roaming deals with smaller carriers that are “commercially reasonable.” Data roaming, like call roaming, allows users to connect their smart phones and tablets to the web even when outside of their home network. Naturally, AT&T and Verizon are upset. The latter issued a statement that claimed this move will be bad for consumers and stifle innovation — in other words, the usual. AT&T was a little more honest about the long term results:
“Proponents of a roaming mandate were seeking government intervention, not to obtain agreements — which are plentiful — but rather to regulate rates downward.”
Lower rates are actually better for consumers, despite Verizon’s bluster and worries that “real competition” will somehow not exist. A wider field of competition is another bonus for consumers. Given the rise of data-hungry smart phones and tablets, this could contribute to the growth of both prepaid carriers like Boost Mobile and Cricket and regional carriers like U. S. Cellular. It may also encourage larger carriers to stop limiting their “unlimited” plans and offer a wider range of choices.