Net neutrality roaring in under new FCC chairman

We knew it was coming. And now it is coming in like a lion. I'm talking about the move toward net neutrality. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was finally sworn in, and he is jumping to action.

Last week the FCC launched an inquiry into Apple's practices when it comes to how it accepts or rejects an app on the iPhone. Developers have long complained about the mysterious process, but what made the FCC start looking hard at the process as it relates to net neutrality is Apple's decision to remove a pair of previously approved third-party Google Voice applications from its App Store and rejected Google's own client. Apple's reasoning: Google's GV Mobile application duplicates features that the iPhone already comes with, such as a dialer and SMS.

The FCC was not coy about why it was looking into the matter, saying it relates to open access and the commission's investigation into exclusive handsets. "The Federal Communications Commission has a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment," Genachowski said in a statement after sending letters of inquiry to the parties involved with the Google Voice app removal. "Recent news reports raise questions about practices in the mobile marketplace. The Wireless Bureau's inquiry letters to these companies about their practices reflect the Commission's proactive approach to getting the facts and data necessary to make the best policy decisions on behalf of the American people."

Obviously, the chairman's advocacy for net neutrality isn't a surprise, but the swiftness and aggressiveness he has already shown is a big surprise. We could see some sweeping changes in the wireless industry in a rather short period of time: mandated wireless openness, outlawed handset exclusivity deals and rules and regulations around app stores, to name a few. Historically, these types of issues languished in the abyss of the FCC, and I'm sure Skype has its hopes high given its Carterphone petition is still sitting in front of the FCC from last year. Oh, and did I mention that representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are resurrecting their net neutrality bill? I'm sure the lobbying forces of big companies like AT&T are working overtime. --Lynnette