Thursday, October 9, 2008

Roaming in Rural Areas may be Enforced by Legislation

Here's an interesting update for mobile phone users residing in rural areas. A US Representative has introduced legislation that aims to require telecom recipients of rural universal-service funds to provide automatic roaming to wireless service carriers. But before we discuss this bill let us us first discuss mobile phone roaming.

Now I have discussed roaming in my previous blog posts but it wouldn't hurt to give another little introduction to this wireless contract term. Roaming as used in wireless telecommunications refers to the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered.

Roaming is significant because it allows users to communicate beyond their wireless networks. It is an important service to those who live in rural areas are because the reach of wireless networks is usually limited. Roaming is also significant to customers because it's an important part of their monthly mobile phone service bills. If you "roam" a lot when you use your mobile phone, then you might be looking at a huge bill. Now let's proceed to the legislation that might force roaming in rural areas.

The bill is officially named the Universal Roaming Act of 2008 and was introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation aims to attach the automatic roaming obligation to any affiliate of a telecom carrier that receives high-cost USF subsidies. Some experts feel that this bill will affect the current debates on on roaming rights by some auction winners that cannot yet access their spectrum. However, the current economic crisis will keep congress busy so further action on the bill is expected to be done next year.

This legislation has been met with some opposition from large carriers because they feel that they not be forced to provide access to licensees that own spectrum but have yet to established networks. If they provide roaming access to these licenses, then a delay in build out of wireless systems is a good possibility.

However, the Universal Roaming Act of 2008 also have its share of supporters. The Rural Cellular Association feels that the legislation introduced by Waxman is far-reaching and beneficial to smaller wireless carriers. The Rural Cellular Association would also want to abolish the cap on USF subsidies given to wireless carriers desiring to build systems in rural areas.

Well, I guess we have to wait until the economic crisis has subsided to gauge whether this bill will pass. This legislation has significant impacts on the current roaming scene so it will be interesting to see further action on it.

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