Uncommon Wisdom

Apr 7 2009   6:18PM GMT

Wireless Internet: Should “net neutrality” apply?

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

The FCC is being asked for a ruling on whether its net neutrality principles apply to wireless Internet. This step comes after AT&T limited the use of Skype on smartphones.

There will be a lot of interest in the FCC’s response. On the surface, the issue seems clear to us. The FCC has said before that the service matters, not the technology. On that basis, it would appear that the four net neutrality principles articulated by the FCC would apply to the Internet, period.

On the other hand, is wireless broadband the same “service,” and the question is, do the rules (promulgated in the context of a wireline access order) really apply here? The risk for operators is that OTT players can use Internet access to bypass core services like voice, yet the market is moving to a one-price-for-all mode anyway. We think AT&T will lose this one and probably should not have fought in the first place.

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