Word on the street has it that the US Department of Justice has started informally looking into whether top carriers have gotten all antitrust-y on us, specifically investigating hardware exclusives and restrictions on the services third parties can offer on the network (open access
, anyone?). The carriers potentially being called into question here -- most likely Verizon and AT&T, seeing how they're the largest by a long shot and have both made recent acquisitions to beef up their footprints and positions -- say that they've received no notices of investigation, so if this is really happening, it's still in the earliest stages. Beefs over handset locking and exclusivity are nothing new and have come from governments and competitors alike -- but considering the price flexibility they ultimately give carriers on the front end, they've still got a place in the hearts and minds of consumers who put a premium on (perceived) value and instant gratification. It remains to be seen what'll happen to pricing when you can't promise your carrier you won't run off with its subsidized gear the next day, but we can't imagine it'll be good
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.