Verizon Wireless proposes roaming deal for smaller carriers

In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Verizon Wireless says it is willing to compromise on roaming service agreements.

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Bonnie Cha
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After having just modified its stance on cell phone exclusivity deals last week, Verizon Wireless said it is also willing to compromise on roaming service agreements with smaller mobile providers.

Currently, carriers are not required to offer roaming services to competing providers in areas where the rivals own spectrum but have not built out network coverage. However, some of the smaller carriers, such as Leap Wireless, say this only hurts customers and they need roaming service while they build out their network. As a result, they have lobbied for lawmakers to address this home roaming issue.

Hoping to appease government officials and other involved parties, Verizon offered up a compromise in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). In it, Verizon President and CEO Lowell McAdam said the carrier, which has vehemently protested the practice in the past, would support a statute or FCC rule that would require it to provide roaming services with the condition that it's limited to two years and in some exceptions, three years.

At the end of the letter, McAdam writes,"We believe our proposal strikes a fair balance between addressing the concerns raised about home roaming while encouraging carriers to invest in their spectrum and build their networks."

However, some say that's not good enough. The Rural Cellular Association said it does not support Verizon's offer and in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday, Leap Wireless' director of government affairs, Laurie Itkin, said:

"Verizon itself has relied on roaming agreements for over two decades as it's built out its network and acquired competitors, but now has unilaterally decided that its remaining competitors are only entitled to roaming for two or three years."

While response to Verizon's offers, both on roaming service agreements and cell phone exclusivity deals, hasn't been positive, Verizon has been the first of the major carriers to be proactive and publicly address these issues, so you have to give them some credit, though we're not completely buying the whole "we've been misrepresented" plea.

(Additional sources: Wireless Week, Phone Scoop, and eWeek)