Wireless Carterfone

Landline broadband isn’t the only arena in which net neutrality is needed.
A paper published by Columbia University Law School Professor Tim Wu claims that wireless networks don’t play by the same rules that wired networks do and limit consumer choice. Skype, for one, agreed with him and petitioned the FCC to mandate that wireless network operators open their networks to more devices and applications. The CTIA fired back.

Wu stated that the FCC’s Carterfone rules “continue to affect innovation and the development of new devices and applications for wireless networks.” His comments elicited a large response from the industry and refocused the net neutrality discussion, this time on the wireless networks.

Wu went on to argue that the carriers exert too much control over the design of mobile equipment and said, “They have used that power to force equipment developers to omit or cripple many consumer-friendly features.”

Paper Sparks Wireless Net Neutrality Debate, By Eric M. Zeman, WirelessWeek, February 28, 2007, NEWS@2 DIRECT

Skype then filed with the FCC to open wireless networks to non-carrier equipment.

Skype’s filing was opposed by a wireless industry group:

CTIA President Steve Largent called the move self-interested. “Skype’s filing contains glaring legal flaws and a complete disregard for the vast consumer benefits provided by the competitive marketplace,” he said in a statement. “Skype’s ‘recommendations’ will freeze the innovation and choice hundreds of millions of consumers enjoy today. The call for imposing monopoly-era Carterfone rules to today’s vibrant market is unmistakably the wrong number.”
Hm, “freeze innovation and choice”. That’s what the landline broadband carriers are saying, and it’s not nearly so easy to claim a vibrant market there. Also, the FCC Carterfone decision of 1968 produced quite the opposite effect: more competition and much more innovation.

So I have to wonder just how vibrant today’s wireless market really is.