The recent spat between Google and Apple over the rejection of the Google Voice iPhone app and the recent statement by John Silverman, the CEO of Skype about the oneness of Internet on the wired and wireless medium have come at a very opportune time as there is a heavy debate on whether or not net neutrality regulations need to be imposed on the wireless internet industry.
The current state of affairs are extremely favorable towards the carriers. As a result, in the presence of no regulations, the customers have been at the mercy of the carriers when it comes to what content they may access and what they may not. For example, Skype is one service which a majority of the carriers dislike – a service that not only consumes a lot of bandwidth but can also replace the voice services offered by the carriers.
Incidents such as these have prompted FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to propose a new set of regulations that will help make the wireless internet more open. In a speech that he delivered at the Brookings Institute, Washington DC, Genachowski suggested a six point plan to make wireless internet open. This will make it binding for wireless carriers to let customers access any legal content or applications over their network as also be able to attach any unharmful devices to the network. Additionally, network carriers shall not be allowed to discriminate any particular content while keeping their network management principles transparent.
While the proposal for such net neutrality regulations is welcome news, carriers like AT&T and Verizon have vehemently opposed the imposition of such a regulation among wireless Internet service providers; and there is merit in their argument too. According to David Young, Vice President of regulatory affairs at Verizon, "On a wireline broadband network, you know where your customer is. So you can build capacity to handle the peak demands. But on a wireless network, you have a crowd converge on a site that suddenly has 10 times or 100 times the users competing for the same resources."
While David Young professed his willingness to provide as much openness as was possible to his customers, he opined that such a regulation would result in 'unintended consequences'. Verizon has been the most open of all networks and the company has also recently been involved in building a 4G wireless network that would provide much higher mobile internet experience to its customers.
All said and done, openness and transparency have been largely ignored in the wireless internet industry in the US, the blame for which also partly goes to the fact that only two networks – AT&T and Verizon are the dominant players. It is possible that an increasing competition can give rise to a mad rush to satisfy customer requirements – an ideal scenario where net neutrality will take care of itself.
Is FCC right in pushing towards net neutrality in the wireless internet segment or are the network carriers justified in opposing such a move? Is there a middle path that the two sides can take? Please provide your opinion in the comments.