Back in February 2007, when we were all much younger, before anyone could have imagined that Google and Verizon would be battling each other over just how “open” they wanted the internet to be…Skype filed a petition [pdf] with the FCC.
This petition became a proceeding with a number (RM-11361). (To look at everything filed under the proceeding, go to www.fcc.gov, go to “search” on the upper right, go to “Search for Filed Comments – EFCS,” and fill in the top “Proceeding” box with RM-11361.)
The Skype petition suggested that the Commission require that wireless carriers adhere to Carterfone – in other words, that consumers be allowed to attach any device to wireless networks networks, and use any application on these networks, as long as they don’t harm the network. (Take a look at p.9 of the Skype petition for the history of this approach, which almost forty years ago gave consumers the freedom to attach whatever devices they chose to the telephone network – thus maximizing consumer choices and getting us all online via modems and dial-up access.)
Skype also asked that wireless industry transparency be improved.
Since Skype filed its petition, quite a bit has happened. We’ve seen some incremental moves towards openness in the 700 MHz auction rules. But these are only incremental steps, and they’re full of exceptions for network management and other carveouts. We’ve seen Google announce an Open Handset Alliance and the Android project – but these developments won’t necessarily lead to more openness because the existing carriers can simply adopt Android for their own closed purposes.
Open platforms simply aren’t here yet.
So don’t forget the Skype petition. The market hasn’t solved the problems the petition describes, and may never. As the US moves towards wider and more interesting (and faster) mobile wireless uses, the Carterfone principles become even more relevant.