Two members of the Senate Commerce Committee urged the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday to implement data roaming rules that would ensure consumers don't lose wireless broadband coverage when they travel outside their providers' network area.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said data roaming rules are especially important in rural areas, where "many consumers suffer from a lack of adequate wireless coverage."
"By establishing clear rules on data roaming, the FCC can help provide certainty to both large and small wireless providers," the senators wrote.
They said smaller wireless carriers have been unwilling or unable to expand their networks because of difficulties they have faced in reaching data roaming agreements with larger carriers or because of fluctuations in the price of data roaming charged by large carriers. At the same time, Kerry and Klobuchar said larger carriers have had little incentive to improve service in rural areas given the uncertainty over future data-roaming rules.
"This standoff shortchanges consumers and denies businesses an important communications tool," the senators added.
Kerry and Klobuchar as well as other lawmakers have pointed to the success of the 2007 FCC rule that set up a system for negotiating voice-roaming rates and that they say has led to the near disappearance of sky-high roaming charges for consumers.
Last week, a group of smaller wireless carriers including Cricket Communications, Sprint and T-Mobile called on the FCC to take action at its April meeting on a rule mandating data roaming.