Skype vs. Wireless Carriers - Round I
Skype yesterday petitioned the FCC to force wireless phone carriers who "limit subscribers' right to run software communications applications of their choosing" to change (from Ars Technica).
Back when I was testing TVersity with wireless phones I came to the sad realization that most carriers cripple the web browsers on their devices such that audio and video files inside a web page cannot be played - even if they are in a format that the phone supports.
After digging into this a little bit it became apparent that the carriers exercise full control over our phones. They decide what applications we can run, what audio and video content we can play and what companies are allowed to offer these add-on services.
Unlike their claim that this is the only way to prevent harm to their networks, the real reasons are expensive certification processes and revenue shares. Sounds familiar?
Compare this to the world of personal computers and the Internet. Companies that provide Internet connectivity in the US have been quite vocal about their demand to share revenues with companies like Google or else... This is the well known Net neutrality debate and these companies, which are in most cases in both the ISP and the wireless phone business, wish to apply the wireless model to the non mobile world.
Thankfully Skype (who has been banned by wireless carriers as an application that can run on Cell phones) is trying to do the opposite. They want to bring the stationary model for Internet connectivity to the wireless world, and I say we should all want that. It is, in my opinion, a basic freedom that the free world should grant its citizens. Freedom of speech in the digital era should also mean the freedom to run whatever application I like on my cell phone, as long as I am not harming anyone else.
This is one example where the forces of the market might not solve this problem for us. There are essentially two options, let the market fix this or use legislation.
Can the market fix this without government intervention? The only thing in the foreseeable future that can possibly do it is WiMax. If WiMax brings the typical Internet freedoms with it, we will all be saved. But who are the major players in WiMax? They are the same companies that run wireless networks, and so if they can have it their way, WiMax will be like wireless networks and not like the stationary Internet.
What is the solution then? Legislation!!! It is time for Washington to go back to the most basic freedoms and force wireless carriers to open their networks.