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ëThe Dreadful Regulatory Model of the Pastí

Steven Titch
February 21, 2007, 12:50pm

So says Adam Thierer on the PFF blog in one of a flurry of responses to an FCC petition by Skype, the principle of which is supported in a recent paper by Columbia University Professor Timothy Wu, that calls for network neutrality rules to be applied to wireless networks. The best thing that could be said is that this development further sharpens the network neutrality debate–getting away from the "Save-the-First-Amendment" rhetoric and placing discussion on the real question: Should the government impose price controls, limitations third-party agreements, and other regulations on the transmission of Internet content in the name of protecting consumers? Until now, net neutrality was aimed only at the wireline companies, which indeed were once neutral carriers, but by technical necessity, not law. By calling for regulation of wireless carrier business, Wu and Skype have opened a new front–against a network service where neutrality never existed. Their call for wireless net neutrality exceeds what's contained in the Snowe-Dorgan Internet neutrality bill or the neutrality agreement the FCC extracted from AT&T in return for approval of its BellSouth acquisition. Wu's paper and the Skype petition take issue with the way wireless carriers work closely with both handset manufacturers and content providers to deliver voice and data services. They are correct in that carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and Sprint Nextel work closely with hardware and software vendors to design browsers and bundle services. But its highly questionable when. without any real evidence, they declare, as Skype does, that these agreements are "to the detrmint of customers."


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