updated 01:15 pm EDT, Fri March 18, 2011
FCC to vote on data roaming and boosters
The FCC late Thursday published an agenda for its April 7 meeting that confirmed plans to vote on data roaming. The agency will decide whether it should require cellular carriers and other mobile data providers to allow roaming on "commercially reasonable" terms within certain limits. A second core decision would determine whether or not to allow cell signal boosters.
Other topics would include an order to streamline cellular and landline upgrades on utility poles and determining whether current standards are enough to guarantee reliable data and voice.
An order requiring affordable data roaming could improve the competitiveness of smaller carriers but has also raised slippery slope arguments over FCC control. Sprint, T-Mobile and many regional carriers have argued that AT&T and Verizon often don't want to make deals or want to do so at high prices. AT&T and Verizon, meanwhile, have argued they already have deals and have raised the specter of roaming being used as a pretext for forcing "common carrier" rules on data and going beyond net neutrality rules.
Anonymously, either AT&T or Verizon has also argued that their smaller rivals were only pushing for a better deal on roaming through the government rather than fair competition.
Some carriers have also resisted cell boosters. The signal amplifiers allegedly trigger dropped calls or can interfere with geolocation from cell towers or GPS. Supporters, usually cellphone users in fringe areas or from the booster designers themselves, have pointed to successful tests in other countries as proof that they should be safe.