Wireless Net Neutrality: It Won't Happen Yet

Posted by: Olga Kharif on April 01, 2008

In his speech at the annual CTIA wireless industry conference, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin disclosed today that he will not give a green light to a petition from alternative phone service Skype.

Martin said that, with recent moves by Google and Verizon Wireless to open wireless networks to all applications and devices, he doesn’t see a need for government regulation, requested by Skype, that would prohibit wireless carriers from differentiating between and blocking various types of applications and traffic. “In light of the industry’s embrace of a more open wireless platform, it would be premature to adopt any other requirements across the industry,” he said. “Thus, today I will circulate to my fellow commissioners an order dismissing a petition for declaratory ruling filed by Skype that would apply Carterfone requirements to existing wireless networks.”

Well, that’s too bad. While Verizon Wireless and Google have outlined ambitious plans to open up wireless network, just what the results of their efforts will be is unclear. AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and smaller carriers can still decide which applications to make available on their networks and which to block. Wireless networks aren’t yet open, and we don’t know when they will get there.

Advocate Free Press denounced the news as "a missed opportunity to usher in a new era of innovation." I think this statement is too strong: Martin and the FCC have, in fact, done a lot to help Google open up U.S.'s wireless networks in the past year. Could they have done more? Yes.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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