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Candid Martin makes everyone know his stance on another cry for reform, even before the gavel falls

FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin promised to oppose a request from Skype that would force cell phone companies to open access on their wireless networks.

Skype’s request, placed last February, petitioned the FCC to apply the 1968 Carterfone decision to wireless networks, forcing carriers to allow third-party devices and software much in the same way that it forced landline monopolist AT&T in 1968. Currently, Skype is finding its software restricted – and sometimes even contractually forbidden – from installation on mobile devices, of which wireless carriers generally maintain tight control.

“As … wireless handsets have become an integral part of most Americans’ lives, carriers are using their considerable influence over handset design and usage to maintain control over and limit subscribers’ right to run software … of their choosing,” reads Skype’s original request (PDF). “In an effort to prefer their own affiliated services and exclude rivals, carriers have disabled or crippled consumer-friendly features of mobile devices. Carriers are doing so, moreover, in violation of the Commission’s Carterfone principle and the strictures of the Commission’s original order permitting the bundling of consumer equipment and wireless service. The Commission should act now to enforce Carterfone and unlock the full benefits of wireless price competition and innovation.”

The request is premature for an industry that is embracing open wireless access on its own, said Martin, noting that “Verizon Wireless has [already] committed to [opening] its entire network to devices and applications of consumers' own choosing."

Martin’s remarks came Tuesday, while speaking (PDF) at the CTIA Wireless convention in Las Vegas: “More and more wireless providers, including T-Mobile and Sprint through their participation in the Open Handset Alliance, and AT&T, are also embracing more openness in terms of devices and applications ... this interest now appears to be shared across the industry.”

“I will circulate to my fellow commissioners an order dismissing [Skype’s petition],” said Martin. His order will need the support of two other commissioners for it to take effect, and will likely come from the commission’s Republican appointees.

In a statement released today, Skype representatives blasted Martin’s decision, accusing the FCC of taking a “step backwards” in wireless progress and endorsing a policy of trust without oversight.

“While we are cautiously optimistic that the carriers will deliver greater openness,”said Skype’s Christopher Libertelli, who is the senior director of the company’s government and regulatory affairs. “Unfortunately, if the FCC acts on the Chairman's recommendation, it will have given up any tools to protect consumers if they do not.”

Democratic commissioner Michael Copps expressed disappointment in Martin’s decision, noting that “this is not the time for the FCC to declare victory and withdraw from the fight for open wireless networks.”

 “While we are all encouraged by preliminary commitments from some of the major carriers, we haven't seen the details yet on how they are going to proceed … and the devil is always in the details, isn't it?” said Copps.

PC World notes that Martin delivered his speech immediately after Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam, who spoke strongly against the “clear and present danger” of government regulation for wireless carriers. “To regulate this business is like taking a Polaroid snapshot of an industry moving at full-motion video speeds,” said McAdam, “By the time that film develops, it's no longer relevant to the environment that we're in.”

The FCC will, however, require open access on a large portion of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum, which recently sold at auction for a total of $19.6 billion. The “upper C” block, which requires open access thanks to efforts by Google, was purchased by Verizon Wireless for $4.7 billion – $100 million above the reserve price.

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Dear Telcos
By InternetGeek on 4/2/2008 10:40:42 PM , Rating: 5
I want a device that:

- Has GPS. But no I'm not willing to pay for access to the maps. I want to buy them like I could with any other GPS unit.

- Allows me to install any software. But no I'm not willing to pay you to provide them, I want to be able to make them and install them myself. You will get the money for access anyways... like from the contract you forced me to take.

Yes, it might be expensive but if the phone is worth it I will pay for it. Instead if trying to sell me a phone and a plan you could be the ISP of the future. It might actually simplify your business.

K Thx

RE: Dear Telcos
By rebturtle on 4/3/2008 12:38:15 AM , Rating: 3
Although I agree with you, I can fully understand why the telcos would prefer to ignore us. We (the technologically savvy) are a small minority in their user base. They make their major money selling phones and plans to Joe Sixpack, his wife, three kids, and his parents. Can you imagine the flood of tech support calls if you allowed all these people to do something non-standard to their phones/devices and they actually tried it? Utter chaos.

The average person wants all the fun stuff, but doesn't know how or where to get it themselves. They are willing to get reamed as long as it is all on the same bill and they have only 1 customer service department to deal with to make sure it all works. They don't care about enthusiasts. It's all about milking the masses for the largest amount they will tolerate.

Personally, I'm stuck with Verizon because everyone else in my family has it. I hate that I had to hack my phone (SLVR) just to be able to sync it with my computer, and use the other functions that Motorola had built into it originally. It probably saves Verizon a couple Million dollars a year in customer service, but it still tees me off.

RE: Dear Telcos
By Eri Hyva on 4/3/2008 1:00:06 AM , Rating: 2
How about Nokia E90 Communicator?

S60-platform, you can install thousands of different pieces of software, has GPS, wlan and so on

RE: Dear Telcos
By Alexstarfire on 4/3/2008 2:49:29 AM , Rating: 2
Only $1100? Jeez, you could buy a cheap laptop and put in an EDGE card or something for cheaper than that. Granted it would be bigger, but it'd do the job and then some. A lot more than that phone could possibly want to do.

RE: Dear Telcos
By Eri Hyva on 4/3/2008 4:15:24 AM , Rating: 3
Well, street price is closer to $650-780

The OP was more interested in mobile phones than laptops. Of course a laptop is able to do different things than a mobile.

E90 includes gsm, edge, 3g, wlan, GPS, s60 open platform, thats for starters.... a lot of usb dongles pointing out of a laptop :) It would be nice to see you pick up a laptop from your jeans pocket with those dongles to answer your "laptop phone" ringing.

RE: Dear Telcos
By Ananke on 4/3/2008 12:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
I have Nokia N800, no phone but WiFi access for 250 bucks. And I make calls through Gizmo and Skype. It has video cam too. BAsically, this is the future, and more people will find it preferable, especially when you don't pay huge amount on a phone plan.
OS is upgradable, a lot of software for that model is under development by the comunity.
That's why Intel came out with the Atom processor, they don't want to become pray for Samsung one day. Samsung is getting very well positioned on the mobile processor market already.

RE: Dear Telcos
By xNIBx on 4/3/2008 10:00:25 AM , Rating: 2
I can get a nokia n82 for 470euros(with no contract/limitation attached). It has :

1. Gps
2. 3.5g(HSDPA) so that you can connect at the internet at 3mbit(email/web/ftp/whatever)
3. 5mp camera with xenon flash(and autofocus), can record 640x480@30fps mpeg4 video
4. Wifi(802.11 b/g)
5. Symbian os with a billion applications/games available(you can even ssh/telnet your server through your phone). It also has a proper and well supported SDK.
6. Bluetooth with A2DP support(stereo headset through bt)
7. Microsdhc slot(you can easily get 8gB storage for 30euros and in the near future we will have up to 32gB chips). You can even have multiple sdhc chips and swap to get even more storage.
8. FM radio
9. MMS
10 3g videocalls(has a second camera in front)
11. Accelarometer
12. Screen with 16.7million colours
13. It weights 114g(in comparison the iphone weighs 135g)
14. Supports voip
15. Thousands of streaming radio stations
16. Video out(so that you can connect it with your tv)

I dont think it is expensive when you consider everything it offers. It can replace your camera, your gps, your mp3 player, your pda and even your laptop(in some cases). The only thing it really lacks is a touchscreen. If you want something similar with a touchscreen and windows, take a look at HTC.

PS Dont convert euros into dollars because prices are a lot cheaper in the US and because my prices also include a 19% VAT tax.

Eyes wide shut...
By lexluthermiester on 4/2/2008 9:27:47 PM , Rating: 1
Mr. Martin needs to do just a bit more research... Competition is always good for consumers, not matter which industry one could look at.

RE: Eyes wide shut...
By omnicronx on 4/2/2008 9:51:52 PM , Rating: 2
Im pretty sure what hes saying is phone companies are already in the process taking steps to get closer to open access.

Also if you can use skype on your phone to call anyone and only paying the internet charges, phones companies will crumble.

Even worse they may restrict bandwidth so that its not possible to use skype in the first place. Now that would be a step backwards...

RE: Eyes wide shut...
By Alexstarfire on 4/3/2008 2:55:06 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh, and which phone companies would this be? Only one that's doing it a little bit in my book is AT&T. Not really open access, but they at least allow you to unlock your cell phone FOR FREE if you've had it for 3 months. Don't know of any other company that does that.

As for Skype... well I guess that depends on how they charge you for internet. I know on my phone they charge per KB. If I used Skype on my phone it'd be a horrendous bill. Words are bad enough, but voice. I'd go over 1MB in a matter of minutes. If you have one of those unlimited data plans then...... yea it wouldn't be so bad. Though, if it was on something like the iPhone, where it has WiFi, then I don't see what's so bad. It'd at least be useful to use Skype in WiFi areas.

Why don't they want open access again? Ohh yea, so they can charge an arm and a leg for everything.

RE: Eyes wide shut...
By omnicronx on 4/3/2008 11:15:52 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh Verizon just won the 700Mhz C block...
AT&T + Verizon = A lot of the US market..

As for skype, you only explained what i was talking about. They will charge by the KB forever if anything like this ever gets implemented. Prices have been going down, but I fear they will not if something like this gets implemented. As for wifi thats a different story, if you have access to the net, its no different than using it from your PC. I just don't think Skype should get the rights to use the phone companies infrastructure for free.. unless they want to start paying some of the bills...

No Surprise
By SteelyKen on 4/2/2008 9:45:04 PM , Rating: 2
No surprise here.

Martin and the telcos are so chummy, they really need to get a room.

By HrilL on 4/2/2008 11:28:42 PM , Rating: 2
While Verizon did buy the C block with open access. AT&T did not and I don't see them opening up their network anytime soon or if ever. This would go against their deal with apple and how the iPhone software is going to work.

I'm all of open access there is no reason these wireless companies can't survive with offering $50 data plans. And it is not like you would be able to use skype everywhere as there just isn't the bandwidth is lots of the US and also the latencies in some areas is just too high for it to be enjoyable.

Open access = paying more
By RobberBaron on 4/3/2008 8:54:31 AM , Rating: 2
Forcing telco's to open access will drive up there infrastructure costs, as well as your bill. Closed networks and locked phones have most likely limited how many 'bad things' have gotten on there networks.

BUT, If they are migrating to open networks (all it takes is one vendors success with open networks/phones), we as the customer shouldnt eat the cost as much as a law suit forcing them to open the doors. (or one would hope)

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