U.S. regulators on Thursday adopted data roaming rules that would allow smartphones to access the Internet in areas across the country not covered by their wireless carrier.
The rules, set by the Federal Communications Commission in a 3-2 vote, would force wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless to offer “reasonable” roaming rates.
“Mobile providers must be able to offer nationwide voice and data plans to have any chance of competing in today’s market,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at the agency’s meeting.
But evidence collected from wireless carriers “shows that roaming deals are simply not being widely offered on commercially reasonable terms,” Genachowski added.
Sprint Nextel, MetroPCS and other smaller carriers have lobbied for such rules to ensure they can reach roaming agreements vital to staying competitive as consumers want the ability to use their phones everywhere they go.
The FCC found that Verizon Wireless and AT&T had engaged in few data roaming agreements on their 3G networks, and declined to commit to reaching agreements on the new 4G LTE networks both are deploying.