FCC to Turn Down Skype's Mobile Open Access Plea

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Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service
PC World
Wednesday, April 2, 2008; 12:19 AM

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has set enough rules requiring that mobile networks are open so it won't approve a petition from Skype that would have required mobile operators to allow any application to run on their networks, said the commission's head.

The move is a blow to application developers, including Skype, that hoped to create a more open mobile environment for new services. The FCC made the announcement today at theCTIA conference in Las Vegas.

Early last year, Skype filed a petition requesting that the FCC affirm that the so-called Carterphone ruling, which dates to 1968, applies to the mobile industry. The original ruling required that wired telecommunications operators allow consumers to attach any device to their networks as long as the device didn't do any damage.

Speaking during the opening session of the CTIA conference, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that in light of the industry's embrace of recent open-network policies, it would be premature for the commission to adopt any other open-network requirements. As such, he planned to release an order on Tuesday dismissing Skype's petition.

Skype did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Martin was referring to a recent trend in the mobile industry for operators to announce plans for ways to allow more types of devices and applications to run on their networks. The operators have been notorious gatekeepers, controlling the types of devices and applications that can run on their networks. But plans announced by Verizon and many others aim to make it easier for developers to offer applications and devices on the networks.

He suggested the trend was kicked off by the FCC's decision to require the winner of one block of the recently auctioned 700MHz spectrum to allow any device and any application to run on its network. "In less than a year, many of you have evolved from open opponents to open proponents," Martin said. Google and a few other organizations heavily pushed for the open-access rules, which were initially opposed by Verizon and the wireless industry.

While the CTIA doesn't appear to have publicly responded to Martin's announcement yet, at least one mobile operator made clear how it feels about more government regulations. "There is a clear and present danger if our policy leaders interfere with our customer-driven marketplace and if our industry gives them reason to," said Lowell McAdam, president and CEO of Verizon and chairman of CTIA, speaking prior to Martin's announcement.

  "To regulate this business is like taking a Polaroid snapshot of an industry moving at full motion speed. By the time the film develops, it's no longer relevant to the environment we're in."


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