It's no secret that rural and regional carriers don't enjoy the most amiable relationship with the Big Four here in the States; there's a plethora of reasons why the two groups don't always get along, but whether they like it or not, they're sorta stuck in the same boat. In terms of infrastructure, the national carriers obviously own (or hold exclusive leases to) far more property, leaving them holding nearly all the cards in the roaming game. That leaves the regionals in a bit of a pickle, and once again, they're turning to the FCC for help. This time around, the main complaint circles around the regionals' desire for the national carriers to be required to offer automatic roaming; that is, any carrier of the same technology (GSM or CDMA, that is) should be allowed to roam on their network at a "reasonable" price. Furthermore, they're asking the FCC to to require that any service offered by the nationals be offered to regional carriers' customers as well -- we're not really sure we're following that part of the argument, since it's the big guys that end up footing the bill for the technology build-outs (albeit by charging their own customers in kind) -- but then again, we're all about choice. Predictably, the nationals aren't happy; both T-Mobile and Cingular have come out against the proposal, and we're guessing Sprint and Verizon share the sentiment. It's not known when (or if) the FCC will make a ruling, but the outcome could ultimately determine the fate of some rural carriers relying heavily on third-party infrastructure to provide their user base with service.

[Via The Wireless Report]