FCC chair plans to squash Skype's 'open wireless' petition

In a keynote speech at the CTIA wireless show, FCC Chairman Ken Martin said he wants to shoot down a petition from P2P-based Web phone service Skype to force the opening of all wireless networks in the US.

Martin told wireless industry insiders attending the show in Las Vegas that he plans to circulate a proposal among other FCC commissioners to dismiss a petition filed by Skype just over a year ago.

Skype's petition calls for the establishment of open platform requirements for wireless networks somewhat along the lines of stipulations set by the FCC back in 1968, which forced the old AT&T/Bell wired telephone system to allow outside devices to run on its network, as long as they did no harm to the system.

The FCC's decision in 1968 opened up the wired network to the dial-up Internet, along with devices that included computer modems, answering machines, fax machines, computer modems, and cordless phones, for example.

"We obviously want to run Skype on as many mobile devices as possible, and it would help us if the networks and devices were more open," wrote Skype's "Jaanus" in a blog post soon after Skype filed its FCC petition early last year.

Meanwhile, the FCC recently imposed open platform requirements on a big block of the 700 MHz spectrum subsequently won at auction by Verizon Wireless.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T had both already agreed to abide by "open principles," anyway.

But to the applause of the CTIA audience this week, Martin said he is against the Skype petition because he wants to strike a balance between support for "innovation" and investments made by phone companies in existing network infrastructure.

In contrast, however, Skype sees innovation and consumer choice as going hand-in-hand.

"We continue to believe in innovation and consumer choice and we believe that many people would choose Skype for calling over the mobile phone's data plan or (Wi-Fi) if they had a choice. Choice and competition (are) always good for users," according to Skype's Jaanus.

The P2P technology used by Skype's Web phone service distributes network capacity among end users of the service.

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