Open-Internet Advocacy Group to FCC: Set Skype for iPhone Free, Allow Android Tethering
Article by George Norman
On 06 Apr 2009
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been urged by the open-internet advocacy group Free Press to allow iPhone users to connect to Skype (thanks the recently released Skype for iPhone app – details here) via 3G as well, not just WiFi (when making video calls). The group is also calling on the FCC to allow users to connect their non-mobile devices to the internet by means of tethering – this call comes after the news that Google pulled a tethering-enabling app from the Android market (details here). In all fairness to Google, the app was later reinstated and made available to users running their Android-powered G1 phones, as long as their carrier is not T-Mobile that is (details here).

“Wireless networks demonstrate numerous anti-consumer practices that may be violations of the Commission’s Internet Policy Statement. In some cases, these appear to be outright restrictions on applications, services or devices imposed by the carrier. In other cases, there appears to be a business relationship between carriers and equipment vendors designed to cripple applications or hinder consumer choice for anticompetitive purposes. Most notable among recent reports, the Skype Voice over IP (VoIP) application on the Apple iPhone can make and receive calls over a Wi-Fi connection, but cannot make or receive calls over AT&T’s 3G network. Although this limitation is formally imposed by Apple as part of the rules for its application store, a senior official at AT&T was quoted in USA Today asaying, “We absolutely expect our vendors” – in this case, Apple – “not to facilitate the services of our competitors.” This statement suggests that AT&T may be playing a role in restricting consumers’ access to an application that competes with the carrier’s own voice service."


"Similarly, applications to allow tethering of the Google Android phone are unavailable on Google’s Android Marketplace for all T-Mobile customers.The Android user community reports that Google’s distribution agreements require Google to remove applications that violate the device manufacturer or carrier’s terms of service,” says the open letter sent by Free Press to the acting Chairman of the FCC, Michael J. Copps (read the whole document here – PDF warning).

According to Free Press, the carriers are going against the Internet Policy Statement and the FCC should reaffirm the fact that the policy applies to wireless networks as well as landline internet connections. By restricting users from using functionality included in the software, the carriers are in fact breaking the consumer rights included in the Internet Policy Statement. If any ambiguity or uncertainty regarding consumer rights has been exploited by the carriers, the FCC is to clarify the situation.

Tags: FCC, Google, Android, Tethering, Apple, iPhone, Skype
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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Open-Internet Advocacy Group to FCC: Set Skype for iPhone Free, Allow Android Tethering
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