Telecom titan Verizon Wireless has sent two letters to lawmakers this week offering to limit the amount of time it keeps its handsets carrier-exclusive. Such proprietary deals surfaced on the radar of Department of Justice regulators largely because of Apple’s unusually long contract with AT&T, which is rumored to end in 2010. Following through on its offer would mean Verizon could lose lucrative deals on bellwether phones like the Blackberry Storm, which is currently a Verizon-only device.
Verizon’s offer–to keep handset exclusivity down to just six months–is a preemptive move to show that the industry can self-regulate under pressure from the DOJ, but without actual mandate. Though most of today’s digital phones are allowed to roam on compatible networks, the practice of “unlocking” a phone from its primary carrier often involves lengthy software or hardware modifications. The letter also voices support for revisions to roaming regulations that would make them more generous towards smaller carriers.