Skype Electronic Filing to Federal Communications Commission

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September 12, 2008
ELECTRONIC FILING


Chairman Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Re: Ex Parte, RM-11361

Dear Chairman Martin:


Skype Communications S.A.R.L. (“Skype”) writes to respond to various
statements made at CTIA’s Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in San
Francisco. Attached to this letter is a Reuters report on what seems to be a
wireless industry theme at the CTIA meeting. Instead of broadly carrying
forward the Commission’s tremendous strides toward open networks, the word
coming from the CTIA gathering is that open networks present a multitude of
problems for the carriers, and that to protect consumers from too many choices,
network operators must be the gatekeepers of the consumer experience. This is
inconsistent with the Commission’s Broadband Policy Statement and a market
structure that maximizes choice and innovation.

Skype disputes the need for wireless carriers to maintain their closed
networks not only in the face of consumer preferences but contrary to their
assurances to the Commission1 that the industry had adopted a policy of
openness such as to obviate the need for the relief that Skype sought in its
Petition in the above-captioned proceeding (“Skype Petition”).2 Apparently,
these assurances of openness led some at the Commission to believe that there
was no present need for Commission action. In this regard, the carriers’
apparent change of heart should be a cause for concern.


Despite the carriers’ assurances, when lip service to the goals of open
networks is translated into their terms of service, they continue to require their
subscribers to limit the applications and devices that can be used on their
networks. The attitude of the wireless carriers was perhaps best summed up in
Sprint Nextel Corp. CEO Dan Hesse’s recent comment: “The big Internet can be
daunting …. There can be too much choice.”3 This stands in stark contrast to the
Commission’s wise policies designed to promote as much consumer choice as
possible.


Skype respectfully submits that the wireless carriers continued opposition
to open networks — including their restrictive terms of service — raises
questions about whether the industry will faithfully implement the
Commission’s rules and policies, including the standards set out in the
Commission’s Broadband Policy Statement.4 Skype is mindful of the challenges
that wireless operators face moving from a close model to an open, Internetfriendly
business. As noted, despite some recent steps to modify terms of service
toward openness, carriers continue to prohibit voice applications that compete
with their core business.5 Consumer choice, competition and free markets, not
carriers acting to block competition, should win the day in wireless — now, not
later. If the Commission believed that the transition to more open networks was
going to proceed quickly, statements out of CTIA’s convention suggest just the
opposite.

Skype repeats that the best way for the Commission to maintain the
vigilance that is necessary to protect consumers' interest in open wireless
networks is to for the Commission to affirm that the Commission's Broadband
Policy Statement applies to wireless broadband networks. This would be a
measured response to the dynamics of the wireless market and would send the
correct message to an evasive wireless industry. It would also encourage those
in the application development community, like Skype, who have reasonable
expectations that applications will run as they were designed on wireless
broadband platforms.6


Affirming that the Commission will enforce the Broadband Policy Statement
and address any violations of the Policy Statement on a case-by-case basis is fully
consistent with the Commission approach to constraining Comcast’s abusive
practices.7 In this way, the Commission will maintain a policy environment that
serves the interests of consumers, carriers and innovative providers of wireless
devices and software applications.


Thank you for your continued vigilance in this matter. Please do not
hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Respectfully submitted,
________________________
Christopher Libertelli
Senior Director, Government and
Regulatory Affairs – North America
SKYPE COMMUNICATIONS S.A.R.L.
6e etage, 22/24 boulevard Royal,
Luxembourg, L-2449 LUXEMBOURG

 

1 Ex Parte filing by CTIA - The Wireless Association, RM-11361, April 14, 2008, at 1
("Wireless carriers, reacting to the demands of consumers in the competitive market,
already have begun implementing a variety of openness initiatives designed to expand
consumer access to new and innovative wireless devices and applications. . . . Because
both Commission action and the wireless marketplace have addressed the concerns
raised by Skype, the Petition should be dismissed.").
2 Skype Communications S.A.R.L., Petition to Confirm A Consumer's Right To Use Internet
Software and Attach Devices to Wireless Networks, RM-11361 (filed Feb. 20, 2007).
3 Allie Winter, Embracing an Open Network, RCR Wireless News, Sep. 10, 2008.
4 Appropriate Framework for Broadband Access to the Internet over Wireline Facilities, CC
Docket No. 02-33, Appropriate Regulatory Treatment for Broadband Access to the Internet
Over Cable Facilities, CS Docket No. 02-52, Policy Statement, FCC 05-151 (rel. Sep. 23,
2005) ("Broadband Policy Statement").
5 See Letter from Robert W. Quinn, Jr., Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory, AT&T,
to Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, WC Docket No. 07-52, July 25, 2008, at 1, n.1
(noting that all major wireless carriers do not permit the use of peer-to-peer VoIP
applications like Skype).
6 A wide array of industry and consumer groups agree that the Broadband Policy
Statement should apply to wireless broadband networks. See, e.g., Comments of the
Information Technology Industry Council, RM-11361, at 1 (Apr. 30, 2007); Comments of
the Consumer Electronics Association, RM-11361, at 2 (Apr. 30, 2007); Comments of the
VON Coalition, RM-11361, at 2 (Apr. 30, 2007); Comments of Mobile Industry
Executives, RM-11361, at 6 (May 1, 2007); Comments of Consumers Union, Consumer
Federation of America and Free Press, RM-11361 (Apr. 30, 2007); Comments of the Ad
Hoc Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, RM-11361 (Apr. 30, 2007).
7 Formal Complaint of Free Press and Public Knowledge Against Comcast Corporation for
Secretly Degrading Peer-to-Peer Applications, Memorandum Opinion and Order, File No.
EB-08-IH-1518, WC Docket No. 07-52, FCC 08-183 (rel. Aug. 20, 2008

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