FCC Proposes Applying Net Neutrality to Carriers' Wireless Networks

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FCC Proposes Applying Net Neutrality to Carriers' Wireless Networks

openinternet-logo.jpg Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsk said that wireless carriers shouldn't be allowed to block certain types of Internet traffic flowing over their networks. This has huge implications for the VoIP industry, since as I wrote last week, AT&T blocks port 5060 (SIP) on their 3G data network, thus blocking VoIP applications. If the FCC mandates that the wireless carriers can no longer block applications on their data network, this opens up the entire 3G/4G wireless network to game-changing VoIP applications!

This will no doubt cause a firestorm of protests from the wireless industry which has invested billions in their wireless infrastructure and they see VoIP as something that will cannibalize their revenue stream. According to Yahoo, "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said wireless carriers should be subject to the same "open Internet" rules that the agency has begun to apply to home broadband providers."

Genachowski wants to take the same principles the FCC has already been applying to wired Internet trafficand extend them to wireless. Comcast ran afoul of the FCC last year when they started blocking Bittorrent traffic and even slowing down packets to VoIP service provider Vonage.

The Commission previously embraced four open Internet principles affirming that consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network. These four principles guide the FCC's existing case-by-case enforcement of communications law.

"The Internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America," said Chairman Genachowski.  "It is vital that we safeguard the free and open Internet."

In today's speech, Chairman Genachowski proposed the addition of two new principles. The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement. The Chairman also proposed clarifying that all six principles apply to all platforms that access the Internet. This is HUGE! This basically means "net neutrality" rules would apply not just to landline Internet access, but wireless Internet (3G, EDGE, 4G) access as well.

Chairman Genachowski will seek to begin the process of codifying the Commission's existing four open Internet principles, along with the two additional principles, through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the October meeting. The NPRM will ask for input and feedback on the proposed rules and their application, such as how to determine whether network management practices are reasonable, what information broadband providers should disclose about their network management practices and how the rules apply to differing platforms, including mobile Internet access services.

"I look forward to working with my Commission colleagues on this important initiative," Chairman Genachowski said.  "Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn, and Baker each bring a unique and important perspective to the complex issues at stake and I look forward to getting their input and insight when we kick-off the rulemaking process next month."

As part of Chairman Genachowski's commitment to openness and transparency, the FCC launched a new website, www.openInternet.gov to encourage public participation. I vote 'yes' on net neutrality applying to wireless carriers' networks. Then I can run VoIP over 3G on my iPhone and life will be good!


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