FCC rules for T-Mobile in fight over roaming charges by AT&T and Verizon

The Associated Press

T-Mobile US, the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier, won its bid to change rules for judging whether market leaders AT&T and Verizon Communications charge smaller competitors too much to use their networks for roaming.

The Federal Communications Commission in an order released Thursday said it would grant a petition from T-Mobile and would compare proposed roaming rates with other prices during disputes.

“We commend the FCC for taking this important step to promote competition,” said Andy Levin, a senior vice president at T-Mobile.

No. 3 Sprint also was pleased with the ruling.

Sprint spokesman Jeffrey S. Silva said in a statement: “The FCC’s guidance should facilitate the negotiation of more reasonable data roaming agreements, giving consumers greater freedom to use their smartphones and seamlessly access the Internet wherever they travel.

“This is an important step to help create a level playing field, one that promotes greater competition in the wireless industry and gives consumers more choices.”

Verizon called the FCC’s decision “deeply troubling” in an e-mailed statement from Kathleen Grillo, senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs. The FCC “has changed a fundamental wireless rule in ways that discourage investment and unfairly advantage one company over others.”

AT&T said it will appeal the decision, issued by the FCC’s wireless bureau, to the agency’s five commissioners.

AT&T vice president Joan Marsh, in a late October blog post, said the rate T-Mobile paid AT&T had dropped 70 percent over three years and T-Mobile was asking for “radical changes” to a roaming market that’s functioning well.