Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Unlocking the Wireless Safe: Opening Up the Wireless World for Consumers

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Unlocking the Wireless Safe: Opening Up the Wireless World for Consumers

Article excerpt

     A. The Time for Openness Is Now
        1. Mobile Internet Is Developing Rapidly
        2. What Is Net Neutrality?
     B. Is Opening the Networks Going To Help the Consumer?
        1. Is Carterfone Properly Applicable to the Wireless
        2. Wireless Carriers Should Be Forced to Allow Any
           Handset to Attach to Any Network
        3. Allow Consumers To Use Whatever Applications
           They Wish as Long as They Do Not Harm the
        4. Networks Should Share Their Limitations on
           Users as Well as Provide Technical Standards for
     C. Recent Developments in the Wireless Industry
        1. Verizon Wins Auction; Announces "Any Apps,
           Any Device" Plan
        2. Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance.



Frustrated with the way that wireless carriers choose which applications they offer and which phones customers can use on their networks, a growing number of companies and interest groups are pushing to place these decisions in the hands of consumers. These groups want the FCC to take away some of the restrictive power that the wireless network operators hold over their networks in order to create an open network where consumers are free to use the handset of their choice and run any application they choose. The opposing wireless carriers want to retain the control they have historically retained over their wireless networks. The carriers would prefer to let the market, rather than the FCC, decide if consumers are actually demanding open networks. Internet phone service provider Skype Technologies (Skype) brought the first major initiative with its petition to the FCC asking for the application of the Carterfone (1) decision to the wireless industry. The FCC has yet to issue a ruling on this petition, and there have been many recent developments since June 2007 that may have an effect on the FCC's ultimate decision. This Note will track these developments relating to the open networks initiative and evaluate whether the relief that Skype is requesting is appropriate. In light of the current state of the wireless industry, the FCC should (1) require the carriers to provide technical standards detailing what kind of equipment and applications will be allowed to connect to their networks, (2) encourage the carriers to allow any devices which conform to be used by consumers, and (3) allow the carriers to continue to control what kinds of applications may connect to their networks.


Skype is a Luxembourg-based company that offers telephone service sending voice conversations over the Internet using Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. (2) Skype offers free calls between users calling from their computers and low rates on calls between computer users and landline and mobile phone users. (3) Skype supplies the software that enables users to turn their computers into phones with the simple addition of a microphone. By filing its petition, Skype is essentially seeking to expand its market outside of computers by allowing consumers to use Skype from their wireless telephones. The low rates charged by Skype, and its position as a competitor, make it an ideal party to challenge the wireless operator's practices and appeal to the FCC for relief.

Skype alleges that the wireless industry is not acting in the best interests of the consumer. (4) It points to wireless network operator practices such as phone crippling (5) and handset locking (6) as evidence that the networks are acting inappropriately. Skype points to the European model of allowing users to change the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card of the phone when moving between networks in order to retain a local number while in different countries. …

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