Skype Unlikely To Get FCC OK On Opening Wireless Networks

Communications wireless

A little more than a year ago, the Internet phone service provider made the request. The request was based on the 1968 Carterfone decision that mandated that AT&T allow the use of phones manufactured by companies other than AT&T on landlines -- which were owned at that time by AT&T.

Skype's position was that any manufacturer's phone and incidental equipment (Bluetooth devices, for example) should work on any provider's network. However, Martin said at CTIA that the industry's recent push toward openness made such regulation unwarranted.

"Today, wireless is the poster child for competition," said Martin. "At the end of 2006, there were 242 million wireless subscribers in the United States -- up from 213 million at the end of 2005 and millions more than the number of people who subscribe to traditional wireline telephone service."

The commissioner noted that increased competition in the industry has, and will continue to lead to lower prices, higher usage and adoption rates, and technological innovation. There is some evidence to that point: Last November, Verizon announced it would support applications and devices from any developer or manufacturer as long as it is certified for proper network connectivity.

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However, Skype proponents argue that wireless networks should be treated the same as landline networks. According to the blog Skype Journal, Christopher Libertelli, Senior Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Skype, said, "Without Commission oversight in this area, the FCC will have taken a step backward away from openness, and toward a policy of 'trust the carriers'...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."