In the wake of media reports concerning the launch of a preliminary Justice Department (DOJ) probe into exclusive handset deals and other potentially anticompetitive practices involving Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Senate Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and to DOJ Antitrust Chief Christine Varney to urge “action to ensure that the wireless telephone market is open to competition and to remove undue barriers to entry and expansion by new competitors.” Delivered on Monday, the letters cite recent hearings conducted by Kohl’s committee on alleged collusion among the top U.S. wireless carriers on text message pricing, which, according to Kohl, constitutes “a warning sign for the state of competition in the cell phone market.” Voicing fears that “the concentrated nature of the cell phone marketplace could lead to future price increases for this and other cell phone services relied upon by millions of Americans,” Kohl called on Genachowski to initiate an investigation into wireless industry competitive practices. Among other things, Kohl also recommended that the FCC (1) require large wireless carriers to enter data roaming partnerships with small providers, (2) take action “to prevent the dominant cell phone providers from gaining exclusive access to the most in-demand cell phones, and (3) regulate special access rates to ensure they “do not constitute an additional barrier to competition.” Meanwhile, as DOJ officials declined comment, press sources reported this week that members of the DOJ Antitrust Division are interviewing representatives of competitive wireless carriers as part of an “initial review” of Verizon and AT&T to determine if they “have abused the market power they’ve amassed in recent years.” Although critics of both carriers welcomed the news, a spokesman for AT&T stressed, “we are not aware of any formal investigation by the [DOJ], nor have they asked us to provide any information.”