Ars Technica reports Skype has petitioned the FCC to allow their VoIP software to run on cellular phones. Skype wants the agency to apply the 1968 Carterfone decision that allowed consumers to hook any device up to the phone network, so long as it did not harm the network. The petition asks the FCC to start a rulemaking proceeding to determine the legality of the carriers’ restrictions on subscribers’ full access to Internet-based applications.
According to Ars Technica:
Skype thinks a smidgen of government regulation could actually help out quite a bit, and they cite Dr. Tim Wu’s recent paper on wireless network neutrality for support.
Skype (and Wu’s paper) point out the various ways that the wireless phone companies block consumer choice: crippling features on phones, locking handsets to operators, limiting consumers’ ability to install third-party applications, and limiting the terms of service with bandwidth caps and restrictions on what content can be accessed through the network (Skype calls are forbidden, for instance).
Skype essentially wants to turn the wireless phone companies into just another network of the kind currently operated on the ground. This would require carriers to allow any phone to be used on their networks, and for any application. Users would simply purchase a voice or data plan and then use the device of their choice to access the network of their choice.
Verizon, Cingular, et al. hate this and would love to keep crippling WiFi and Bluetooth access on their phones.
The wireless operators don’t have any intention of being reduced to mere commodity providers of network services if they can help it, and this recent filing certainly won’t raise Skype’s reputation within the industry. Of course, since that industry already restricts Skype from running on its network, this is no big loss.
Related DailyWireless articles include Net Neutrality Goes Wireless.