F.C.C. chairman rejects Skype petition

Apr 02, 2008 12:24 am
From The Associated Press via The New York Times:
The Federal Communications Commission should reject a petition by eBay Inc.'s Skype division to require wireless operators to allow any device on their networks, the agency's chairman said Tuesday.

To applause, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told an audience at the CTIA Wireless trade show that the industry's recent push toward openness makes such a rule unnecessary. Skype, which provides free voice calls and videoconferencing over Internet connections, asked the commission in February 2007 to apply the 1968 Carterfone decision to wireless networks. The decision opened AT&T's wireline network to phones not made by the monopoly phone company. Martin cited Verizon Wireless' decision to open its network to any device or application by the end of this year, and the participation by T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel Corp. in Google Inc.'s Open Handset Alliance, which is developing new software for phones.

''In light of the industry's embrace of this more open approach, I think it's premature for the commission to place any other requirements on these networks,'' Martin said. ''Today I'm going to circulate to my fellow commissioners an order dismissing the petition by Skype that would apply Carterfone requirements to existing wireless networks.'' EBay said it was disappointed in Martin's statement. Recent industry changes were positive, but incomplete, the company said Tuesday. The petition was meant to protect consumers' rights ''to use any application and any device on a wireless network,'' eBay said in a statement.

''While we are cautiously optimistic that the carriers will deliver greater openness, unfortunately, if the FCC acts on the chairman's recommendation, it will have given up the tools to protect consumers if they do not,'' said Christopher Libertelli, a director of government affairs for Skype. Martin's order would need the support of two other commissioners to take effect, support that's likely to come from the two Republican appointees.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps criticized the chairman's move. ''This is not the time for the FCC to declare victory and withdraw from the fight for open wireless networks,'' Copps said in a statement. ''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?'' The FCC did apply open-access requirements to a segment of the 700 megahertz spectrum it recently auctioned for a total of $19.6 billion. Verizon Wireless bought most of the airwaves set off for open access.
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