FCC rules mobile broadband doesn't require net neutrality

Net neutrality, the idea that the Internet should be free of restrictions placed by governments and ISP’s, has been in the news for quite some time now. The Guardian reports that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled in a vote of 3-2, that while fixed broadband lines require such neutrality, mobile broadband does not, as it is already ran on an open platform. The reasoning behind this decision was based on the thought that mobile operating systems such as Android are already built on an open concept, and mobile carriers such as Verizon are operating on specific wireless frequencies that will shortly meet imposed regulations on limiting restrictions.

The FCC went on to say:

"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.”

This ruling basically allows mobile carriers to decide on how they want content distributed on their networks, including pay-per-service charges, in which a company that wishes to distribute content on that carriers network would first have to pay fees. The reverse can also be applied, where a user may instead be charged for accessing a specific service, such as YouTube or Facebook. One of the concepts of net neutrality is that all services should be treated in a neutral way, and when a specific service or company is singled out, neutrality does not exist.

Critics of the ruling say that while Android may be open, carriers are free to lock down the OS as they wish. While the Android operating system does make up a large portion of the moible phone market, it is only one piece of the pie. Other mobile operating systems aren't nearly as open, and are not only regulated by a carrier, but the company developing that particular OS. Having a phone equipped with an open operating system does very little, as the services accessed by that device are still maintained by the carrier, not the OS on the phone. Legislators appear to have missed this crucial distinction.  

An overview of the FCC operations for yesterday can be found here, while documents pertaining to the specific discussion can be accessed here:

• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303745A1.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A5.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A3.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A1.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A4.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A2.pdf

What are your thoughts on Net Neutrality, do you agree with the FCC's ruling? Let us know in the comments below!

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