The Justice Department is starting a review of whether the largest U.S. telecommunications carriers engage in anticompetitive behavior, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The inquiry, as yet informal, may look at whether consumers are hurt by the long-term exclusivity agreements carriers like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless sign with cell phone makers, according a report on the newspaper's Web site on Monday.
The Federal Communications Commission has already said it will look into exclusive handset deals.
Most exclusivity agreements last for six months or less, but AT&T is still the only U.S. carrier to sell Apple Inc.'s iPhone two years after the first model's launch, which has drawn attention.
The Justice Department could also look into whether carriers are unduly limiting the applications that they allow to run on their wireless networks, according to the Journal. The carriers generally don't allow applications like TV streaming, saying they would take up too much air time and slow down access for other users.
Gina Talamona, spokeswoman for the Justice Department's antitrust division, declined to comment on the Journal's report. Verizon spokesman David Fish said the company had no indication that a review had started. A call to AT&T was not immediately returned.
Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.