Cut and Run

Today, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) conference that he is circulating an order at the FCC that would dismiss the petition (pdf) filed by Skype that sought an FCC ruling requiring a wireless network provider to allow the use of any non-harmful device and application on its network.

The rationale behind this decision is one we have heard many times over the past few months: Verizon announced that they are going to be open to third party devices and applications; the FCC already has required the C block of the 700 MHz spectrum recently auctioned to be open (again, controlled by Verizon); the wireless industry is headed in the direction of openness, etc. It's done, so why do we need a ruling?

For the same reason we still need an FCC decision in the Comcast-BitTorrent matter despite the companies' agreement to come to an agreement. As we said in response to that announcement, proclamations without details are just words, and Verizon is just one carrier. Like the Comcast-BitTorrent petition, the Skype petition sought an openness ruling that would apply to all 256.7 million people who subscribe to wireless phone service. Using the open platform requirements of the C block as a rationale to dismiss the petition is just laughable. It will be years before that network is built and before even one customer benefits from the open platform requirement.

Here's what I find particularly odd: Chairman Martin reacted with great (and in our opinion entirely justified) skepticism to the Comcast-BitTorrent announcement and chided Comcast for saying that it would not employ a non-discriminatory method to manage its bandwidth until year's end, recognizing that even for that 8 month period, innovation and speech would be limited. Here, the Chairman seems to be putting no time limit on how long wireless carriers can block legal devices and applications - their word that they will eventually open their networks is good enough.

Here is our formal statement.

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