US Justice Dept. to probe AT&T, Verizon wireless contracts


The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether two major wireless carriers colluded with an industry trade group to make it more hard for customers to switch service providers.

The DOJ is looking to see if the trio has prevented users from switching carriers by blocking a technology company known as eSIM, which lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into the device.

Very few other devices have adopted the technology, so much so that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating claims that AT&T and Verizon colluded to restrict eSIM.

News of the probe comes at a critical time for AT&T which is being sued by the Justice Department to stop its deal to buy the media company, Time Warner. The New York Times reported on the antitrust inquiry earlier Friday.

The Justice Department is investigating an alleged case of collusion, but this has nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump and Russian Federation.

The investigation highlights a push by the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, to crack down on the opaque world of intellectual property, or I.P., standards.

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CNN's video below covers why the AT&T Time Warner trial matters. This makes it easy for consumers to swap between wireless carriers without physically popping the SIM card chip out or contacting their wireless carrier.

The push by the major carriers to restrict the flexibility of eSIM run counter to a movement in which consumers were gaining more flexibility to move from carrier to carrier.

Apple has been including eSIM technology in its iPads for some time now, and began offering it with its Series 3 cellular Apple Watches as well. Bloomberg notes that Apple was the manufacturer in question, while "several" others later voiced concerns about the practice to the Justice Department.

Consumer advocates learned in February that Verizon was apparently planning to lock phones as an anti-theft measure, and later were told by industry participants that Verizon was working with AT&T in hopes of convincing the GSMA to create a standard for locking the phones, according to Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge.

He previously warned of the potential for "cartel-like behavior" by competitors that got together with standards-setting organizations.