The FCC has passed a landmark mandate that will now force carriers to allow smaller regional carriers access to their networks for new roaming agreements in order to provide data service to typically underserved rural areas and regional carriers. The vote went 3-2 in favor of the new rules down party lines, with Chairman Julius Genachowski casting the deciding vote.
The effort to pass the mandate was not without its detractors as representatives from AT&T and Verizon Wireless lobbied against the measure, believing that the mandate is an attempt to force roaming rates artificially lower than is preferred by larger carriers.
Smaller carriers and even Sprint applauded the decision, stating that it levels the playing field and ensures that every carrier is able to negotiate a data roaming agreement with larger carriers, regardless of size and on more justifiable financial terms for both sides. This decision comes after the announcement that SouthernLINC has reached a roaming agreement with Sprint earlier this week, whereby the Atlanta, Georgia-based iDEN operator is now offering nationwide service for its customers, who also use iDEN handsets using Sprintâ€™s iDEN network for expanded coverage on both voice and data service.