FCC Chair Vows to Quash Skype Open-Access Petition

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told CTIA Wireless this week that he will urge his fellow commissioners to dismiss a petition filed by Skype last year that asked the commission to force carriers to completely open up their networks.

During his keynote address at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas Tuesday, Martin said he was pleased that so many carriers had taken voluntary steps toward more openness over the past year, and he didn't think it was the government's job to force them to open up further.

"Verizon Wireless has committed to open its entire network to devices and applications of consumers' own choosing," Martin said. "More and more wireless providers, including T-Mobile and Sprint through their participation in the Open Handset Alliance, and AT&T, are also embracing more openness in terms of devices and applications... this interest now appears to be shared across the industry."

Because of this newfound support for openness, Martin said that approving Skype's petition to force carriers to open up would be "premature." The Skype petition, which the VoIP software development company filed in February 2007, asked the FCC to apply the landmark 1968 Carterfone ruling to wireless networks. Under that particular ruling, the FCC stated that carriers could not prevent any devices from connecting to their networks as long as the devices didn't do any damage.

In a statement released today, Skype blasted Martin's remarks as a "step backward" for wireless communications, and said the government would essentially be endorsing a "trust the carriers" policy without proper FCC oversight.

"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 any tools to protect consumers if they do not," said Christopher Libertelli, Skype's senior director of government and regulatory affairs.

Martin's vow to quash the Skype petition came just minutes after Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam railed against the "clear and present danger" that government regulations could pose for the wireless industry. McAdam echoed Martin's remarks about the increased openness of today's American wireless industry, and said the wireless industry was evolving far too quickly for the government to regulate it.

"To regulate this business is like taking a Polaroid snapshot of an industry moving at full-motion video speeds," he said. "By the time that film develops, it's no longer relevant to the environment that we're in."

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