We’ll See

In Search of Wireless Wiggle Room

I RECENTLY watched a YouTube clip of a young man removing the memory chip from his iPhone with his teeth, in an attempt to “unlock” the device for use on a network other than the AT&T system for which the phone was exclusively sold. His gyrations were a particularly vivid reminder of the limits imposed on cellphones by the companies that run national wireless networks in the United States.

But there are signs that the existing order in the wireless world may finally be changing.

This month, despite the opposition of companies like Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission reiterated that its coming auction of wireless spectrum would include rules intended to give consumers more choices in the phones they can use. These “open access” auction rules have already received considerable attention, but the commission also faces other decisions that will significantly affect the availability and the price of wireless service.