In a decision that the FCC hopes will “provide additional flexibility for consumers,” the agency approved a Report and Order (R&O) clarifying that automatic roaming is a common carrier obligation that extends to all commercial mobile radio (CMRS) voice and data services. Adopted on Tuesday, the R&O is expected to provide the greatest benefit to subscribers of rural wireless carriers that have had difficulty obtaining roaming services from larger network operators on just and reasonable terms. In contrast to manual roaming (in which CMRS providers permit customers of other carriers to place calls on their networks by supplying a credit card number), automatic roaming enables travelers to place wireless calls as they do in their home markets by simply entering a phone number. According to the FCC, the obligation to provide automatic roaming pertains to “real time, two-way switched voice and data services that are interconnected to the public switched network and utilize an in-network switching facility that enables the provider to reuse frequencies and achieve seamless handoffs of subscriber calls.” Although the mandate also applies to wireless “push-to-talk” and text messaging services, the FCC declined to extend automatic roaming obligations to wireless voice-over-Internet protocol and broadband data offerings, deferring consideration of that issue for further rulemaking proceedings that were launched this week in connection with the R&O. While applauding the decision of his colleagues to seek further comment on the potential extension of automatic roaming to wireless broadband, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps noted that there was “more than sufficient” information to justify the addition of wireless broadband to Tuesday’s order, as he lamented: “consumers should not have to be amateur engineers or telecom lawyers to figure out which mobile services they can expect to work when they travel.” Commissioner Robert McDowell, however, defended the FCC’s approach as appropriate, observing that “the market for non-interconnected services provided over advanced broadband networks is still developing.”