Small mobile phone carriers will be able to market handsets that were once reserved exclusively for Verizon Wireless customers. The change in Verizon’s contract policy was detailed last Friday in a letter delivered to House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA). The plan outlined by Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam comes in the wake of recent House and Senate hearings on exclusive contracts between handset makers and the nation’s major wireless operators. Critics contend that such contracts are anticompetitive and prevent smaller carriers from offering their customers popular devices such as the iPhone (sold exclusively by AT&T). Last month, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (in his previous capacity as acting FCC chairman) asked the FCC’s Wireless Bureau to launch an investigation into exclusive handset arrangements. Newly-installed FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has also promised that the agency will review the issue and “act accordingly to promote competition and consumer choice.” Noting that 24 small providers asked Verizon last February to eliminate exclusivity from long-term agreements with LG Electronics and Samsung, McAdam told Boucher that Verizon has agreed to the carriers’ request and would also “immediately” institute a new policy in which “any new exclusivity arrangement we enter with handset makers will last no longer than six months—for all manufacturers and all devices.” The policy change applies only to carriers with no more than 500,000 subscribers. Those carriers would also gain “full access to any manufacturer’s portfolio of prototypes and products in development, without being informed which may have been selected by Verizon Wireless.” As a Verizon spokesman described the plan as “the natural evolution of the discussions that we have been having with small carriers,” McAdam proclaimed: “this new approach is fair to all sides.” While declining comment on whether it will follow suit, AT&T maintained: “exclusive handset deals have given America’s wireless customers big benefits, including more choices, lower prices, and a level of innovation that is the best in the world.”