By USA TODAY The Wireless Association, the trade group for wireless carriers, is urging the Federal Communications Commission to extend the current wireless roaming policy that allows users to use their phones while traveling, even if they have not connected their devices to a data plan.
The Wireless Alliance released the letter Friday.
The current policy, which expires at midnight ET, covers only those with a data-only plan and requires users to make the phone available when traveling.
The new policy would extend that to roaming for devices with a Wi-Fi radio, allowing users to keep their devices connected while traveling.
The Wireless Association has long been concerned about roaming policies that allow wireless carriers to charge users for unused minutes or data, a practice known as “backdooring.”
It’s a practice that Verizon and AT&t have used in their home markets, and AT &t has also recently faced legal challenges for it.
“The Wireless Alliance has long supported a clear, robust roaming policy in all areas, including rural areas and cities, where roaming is essential,” said Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple Inc. in a statement.
“We’ve been working with the FCC on a policy that will address the issues of wireless roaming and backdoors.”
The Wireless Coalition, which includes the wireless industry’s largest wireless carriers and wireless providers, is an umbrella organization for wireless companies and members.
The letter from the wireless groups follows the FCC’s recent decision to open a review of roaming policies.
The wireless groups is asking the FCC to adopt the Wireless Alliance’s policy that extends the current policy and allow roaming for mobile devices with Wi-fi radio, which is a technology that lets users keep their phones connected while they’re traveling.
In some cases, the policy allows for users to charge for unused Wi-FI minutes, while others do not.
The wireless groups said it’s critical that the policy remain unchanged so that users can travel without worrying about roaming charges.
“This is a critical step toward providing a clear policy for consumers and for all wireless carriers,” said Michael Sivak, chief operating officer of the Wireless Association.
“Consumers should be able to make calls and send text messages while traveling without worrying they will be charged for unused hours of roaming.”
The wireless industry group estimates that the new policy will provide wireless customers with $1.3 billion in revenue and $5.4 billion in total revenue from the current roaming policy.