If you thought you were annoyed when one of the big wireless carriers locked up a phone you were after, you have no idea how frustrated small and rural wireless carriers are -- they've just filed a petition with FCC seeking to ban the practice. The 80 companies in the Rural Cellular Association serve small markets not well-covered by the big guys, like parts of New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, and they say that carrier exclusivity deals not affect their bottom line, but also deprive consumers of desirable phones like the iPhone and upcoming Blackberry Bold. They've actually got a pretty good point: lots of rural customers can't purchase and use an iPhone
without technically breaking the AT&T service agreement. We'll see how this one goes -- although we'd love nothing more than to use any phone we wanted on any carrier, there are plenty of reasons it won't happen, and exclusivity is the easiest way for carriers to differentiate themselves to consumers.