Skype, FCC and Carterphone

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Skype, FCC and Carterphone

The Carterphone ruling is what is responsible for opening up AT&T’s original phone networks to competition. Prior to this ruling AT&T had a monopoly on the devices attached to what it considered its network. AT&T even charged an electricity fee as I recall to light the lights on phones that hard plastic buttons representing phone lines.
 
In the US some think wireless providers are acting like monopolies as well by restricting access to their mobile networks to devices sanctioned only by the wireless provider. Verizon is famous for crippling devices – bluetooth for example -- and thereby driving revenue from services which require subscribers to rely on Verizon’s network.
 
Skype for its part is not happy with this situation and is subsequently asking the FCC to apply Carterphone principles to wireless networks allowing any device to be used on these networks. To some degree the argument is tough to make as GSM networks such as the ones operated by T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless allow a SIM card to be inserted into a device which can be purchased virtually anywhere. But there are issues with device locking if you happen to buy a subsidized phone from one of these carriers.
 
In addition, AT&T Wireless allowed Apple to have full control over the development of it’s iPhone and this fact alone contradicts part of Skype’s arguments.
 
So is Skype doing the right thing? Probably. I can’t imagine service providers are too fond of the company so going to great lengths to open wireless networks can’t make any new enemies.
 
If the eBay’s phone company is successful, it could make the American wireless market like that in Europe where there is much more openness to mix and match devices and networks. Since Europe is all GSM-based there will always be more flexibility to mix and match than in the states but you get the idea.


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