Verizon and AT&T Reportedly Under DOJ Investigation for Potential Collusion

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Nomen Nescio

Apr 21, 2018, 2:36:21 AM4/21/18
People have long accused Verizon and AT&T of abusing their
market share to the detriment of the overall wireless market.
But the two may have crossed a legal line: The Justice
Department has reportedly launched an investigation into alleged
collusion by Verizon and AT&T to make switching carriers more
difficult than necessary.

According to The New York Times, the issue at hand is over eSIM
technology, which replaces the traditional SIM card in your
phone with an embedded chip that can be reconfigured without
needing to physically remove it from the device. The technology
was first announced in 2016 and has since found its way into
many mainstream devices including Google’s Pixel 2, Apple’s
iPhone X, Microsoft’s Surface Pro, and others.

However, the DOJ is now reportedly investigating claims that
Verizon, AT&T, and potentially even the GSMA, a group that
represents wireless carriers worldwide, illegally collaborated
to establish standards that would allow carriers to lock a
device to a certain network, even if the phone was using an eSIM.

This would make the hassle of switching carriers even more
annoying, while also stifling competition and potentially
discouraging innovation. Combined, AT&T and Verizon control 70
percent of the US wireless market.

Sources who spoke with the Times said the investigation was
prompted after formal complaints were filed to the Justice
Department by at least one device maker and one wireless
carrier. By allegedly pushing the GSMA to allow eSIMs to be
locked to a single carrier, AT&T and Verizon would have
essentially disabled one of the most important functions of eSIM

Locking down phones is a consumer-unfriendly policy that
carriers often try to justify by saying the practice helps cuts
down on theft and fraud. It was only after pressure from the
Federal Communications Commission in 2013 that carriers agreed
to unlock phones so they could be used on a competitor’s
network—but only after the device had been fully paid off.

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