xact-logo.gifWith the Department of Justices issuing a no strings attached approval of the merger, U.S. Electronics, a former hardware supplier for Sirius (XACT) and XM is asking that the satellite radio providers be required to open up access to their technology. Such a move would make the manufacture of satellite radios available to any manufacturer that chooses to participate.

At this point one can reasonably expect a flurry of activity in filings with the FCC. Consumers should fully participate in this activity by voicing their own opinions. They can do so with ease by visiting SiriusMerger or XMMerger

In a press release issued today, the disgruntled former hardware partner is now seeking open access via the FCC.

U.S. ELECTRONICS URGES ‘OPEN ACCESS’ CONDITION

In light of the Department of Justice’s approval of the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio, U.S. Electronics is asking the Federal Communications Commission not to approve the merger without a condition that ensures that any satellite radio hardware can access the satellite network. This ‘open access’ condition would allow consumers to continue choosing whichever device they prefer to use to connect to satellite radio networks.

U.S. Electronics’ proposed condition is similar to one recently imposed by the Commission upon companies planning to bid on portions of the Upper 700 MHz spectrum now being auctioned. And U.S. Electronics has not been alone in calling for ‘open access’ -- a number of consumer groups and business interests have included the ‘open access’ condition in recent filings with the FCC, including:

  • Public Knowledge
  • Media Access Project
  • New America Foundation
  • National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
  • iBiquity
  • HD Radio Alliance

The ‘open access’ policy dates back to the watershed Hush-A-Phone and Carterfone decisions. The precedent set by these decisions rebuked the monopolistic practices of AT&T, which at the time was trying to prevent consumers from using devices not owned by the company. This ‘open access’ policy has greatly benefited consumers, in fact, according to FCC Commissioner
Michael Copps, “fax machines and computer modems are direct descendants of [the ‘open access’] principle.”

“If this merger is approved, consumers will have no choice about which satellite network they subscribe to if they want to listen to satellite radio,” said Kathy Wallman, spokesperson for U.S. Electronics. “It is only reasonable to allow consumers, at the very least, to have a choice as to which devices they will put in their homes and their cars to listen to satellite radio.”

“The public wouldn’t stand for choice as to DVD players limited by movie studios, or choice of CD and MP3 players limited by record companies. That’s the same reason this condition is needed in the satellite arena,” added Wallman. “The risks here are real.”

As FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said, “Competition in the manufacturing and distribution of consumer devices has always led to innovation, lower price and higher quality.”

Wallman concluded, “U.S. Electronics has been pursuing this issue diligently before the FCC, and will continue to do so. We have a keen interest in making sure that there is an open and competitive marketplace for satellite radio receivers, and that U.S. Electronics and others have an opportunity to compete.”

Position - Long Sirius, XM