Verizon's Exclusivity Compromise: Unimpressive Gesture

All hail , the champion of change -- right? After all, the cellular company has caved into government pressure and agreed to to sell popular mobile handsets. That's a major step. At least, it might seem that way until you read beyond the headline.

All Verizon's exclusivity compromise actually does is allow a limited number of very small carriers to sell the handsets after a six-month period. Specifically, only wireless operators with 500,000 customers or less will be affected. Now, take a moment and think: How many people do you know who use such companies? The top four U.S. carriers make up a whopping 86 percent of the market, according to research by the , a nonprofit wireless industry association. Even within that remaining 14 percent, the number of carriers with fewer than 500,000 customers on-board is miniscule at best; in fact, suggests only seven networks exist in America with subscriber bases below 7 million. Translation: This isn't exactly something with wide-reaching impact.

If we're going to pressure the carriers to make consumer-driven changes, there are far more important things on which we could focus. Things like:

Limiting exclusivity deals on a larger scale.

Want the on a non-AT&T network? Good luck. Despite ongoing rumors that the , so far, there are no firm indications of it happening anytime soon. While AT&T's exclusivity deal with Apple is believed to expire in 2010, rumors have suggested the network is already . It's not hard to see why, either: The iPhone has brought millions of customers into AT&T's arms and given it plenty of attention. Having the iPhone available on another network -- particularly one with an -- would without question hurt AT&T.

By how much, though? A lot, according to one firm's calculations. "We estimate that nearly a third of AT&T's post-paid customers are being retained by AT&T primarily because of the iPhone exclusivity," Pali Research .