FCC opposes Skype's calls for open access

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to refuse a petition from Skype which would have required mobile operators to allow more open wireless networks, allowing any applications to run on their networks.

Skype’s original petition from February last year cited the open-platform Carterfone requirements, which date back to a breakthrough FCC decision in 1968 that forced the Bell telephone monopoly to open up its closed networks to outside devices, providing they caused no damage to the system.

"In light of the (wireless) industry's embrace of a more open wireless platform, it would be premature to adopt any other requirements across the industry," said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a statement at the CTIA show in Las Vegas.

Mobile industry cheers

Martin added that a "careful balancing of spurring innovation and consumer choice while encouraging infrastructure investment is critical to the wireless industry's continued impressive growth," to cheers from the assembled mobile industry execs.

The FCC’s position will no doubt be challenged by Skype and other mobile application developers.

Update: Skype has responded to our calls, saying: "After so much positive - but incomplete - industry movement toward greater openness, we are disappointed that the Chairman is leaning toward dismissing Skype's Petition which would protect a consumer's right to use any application and any device on a wireless network. Skype's Petition is consistent with the FCC's recently-concluded 700MHz auction and sought to extend those openness principles to the entire wireless market.

The official statement continues: "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 any tools to protect consumers if they do not."

Adam Hartley