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Verizon pledges to curb handset exclusivity deals

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There's been a lot of hand-wringing in Washington lately over the exclusivity deals wireless carriers sign with device manufacturers. Lawmakers have been holding hearings on the subject, and a number of smaller carriers and advocacy groups have been asking the Federal Communications Commission to enact regulation to curb the arrangements.

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest carrier, today moved to take some of the heat off with a letter to lawmakers announcing that it will lift its exclusivity restrictions after six months, but only for small carriers with fewer than 500,000 subscribers.

That means that the devices Verizon rolls out as exclusives would still be off limits to the larger carriers until the agreement with the device maker expires, which can be years.

Still, the move is likely to placate lawmakers and regulators somewhat, particularly if AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile follow suit, according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast.

Much like the carriers' moves to rein in early termination fees, another sore spot for consumer advocates, Arbogast expects Verizon's move to pressure the other big providers to enact similar policies as they seek to stave off regulation.

But that doesn't mean that the issue is going away.

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