The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government comprised of five commissioners appointed by the President. Yesterday they made a decision that has baffled some and angered many.
As we reported earlier this week, mobile phone operators are actively looking into the possibility of charging customers depending on what services they use. This plan also involved tracking exactly what data users were accessing at any given point. The FCC decision yesterday, which defended net neutrality for fixed line broadband but not for mobile broadband, has paved the way for this type of charging system to come to fruition.
What is most striking about the FCC decision however is its justification for not regulating wireless broadband as strongly as fixed line broadband - the availability and openness of Android. Yes, we mean Android the mobile operating system. What has this to do with net neutrality is something we (and many others) cannot figure out. There’s no doubt that Android has spiced up the mobile market as regards choice for the consumer but whether you use Android, iOS, WP7, Symbian, Bada, webOS, BlackBerry or any other platform, if you are constrained by network speeds and access then it matters very little.
Just in case you don’t believe us, here’s a excerpt from the FCC decision regarding Android: "Further, we recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android. In addition, we anticipate soon seeing the effects on the market of the openness conditions we imposed on mobile providers that operate on upper 700 MHz C-Block spectrum, which includes Verizon Wireless, one of the largest mobile wireless carriers in the U.S. In light of these considerations, we conclude it is appropriate to take measured steps at this time to protect the openness of the Internet when accessed through mobile broadband."
Google were held up for years as the champion of net neutrality and as the despised enemy of neutrality-killers Verizon in the US. That is, as we reported in August, it reversed its stance and joined Verizon in lobbying the US Government for just the type of decision made yesterday. We will leave conspiracy theories to others but the singling out of Android in the FCC’s statement is a little suspicious.
While this is all related to neutrality in the US, here in the UK Ofcom has recently finished taking submissions on net neutrality and the results could mean we will be facing similar issues as our cousins across the water.