Skype formally requested the FCC to force carriers to "open up" and allow hardware and software created by third parties to connect to their networks. The VoIP company wants the FCC to apply "Carterfone" rules to the mobile industry--the rules were enacted in the 1960s to force the POTS industry to allow devices other than those provided by the old AT&T to connect to the network. Proponents of "Carterfone" rules for the mobile industry point to inventions like the fax machine and the Internet modem, which came as a result of "Carterfone" on the wireline side of telephony. Could a new era of handset or mobile device innovation come about if the same rules were applied to the mobile industry?
The CTIA doesn't seem to think so: "Skype's self-interested filing contains glaring legal flaws and a complete disregard for the vast consumer benefits provided by the competitive marketplace," Steve Largent, CEO of the CTIA, said in a statement. "The call for imposing monopoly era Carterfone rules to today's vibrant market is unmistakably the wrong number."
Skype's interests aside, wireless carriers' control of their subscribers' experience is slipping: Smartphones with Internet browsers can already connect to Skype, Slingbox or any website with streaming video. While these activities are strictly prohibited in the customer's contract, they are still quite easy to do.
Iain Gillott, founder of iGR, has two words for Skype: "Good luck." Whether Skype's maneuvering is a naive attempt or a provocative PR stunt, Gillott is cynical: "The FCC has licensed spectrum to operators over many years and run auctions and collected billions and billions of dollars. Those licenses allow operators to run voice services as well as spell out what the operators can and cannot do. Now Skype is saying: 'Can you just throw that out, please, and let us have open access and run voice over IP for free?' They're asking the FCC to change the entire wireless business model, and in so doing, are saying that spectrum is worthless. But it isn't. Spectrum is the most valuable asset in wireless today."
For more on Skype petition to the FCC:
- take a look at this article from ZDNet