Opening Up Another Network? [3:26 pm]
Until federal regulators issued a landmark ruling in 1968, Americans could not own the telephones in their homes, nor attach answering machines or other devices to them. Now, a growing number of academics and consumer activists say it’s time to deliver a similar groundbreaking jolt to the cellphone industry, possibly triggering a new round of customer options and technical innovations to rival the one that produced faxes, modems and the Internet.
Wireless carriers, which limit what customers may do with their phones, say the move is unnecessary and potentially harmful. But in articles, blogs and speeches, a number of researchers are asking why the companies are allowed to force consumers to buy new handsets when they change carriers, pay a specified carrier to transfer photos from a camera phone, or download ring tones or music from one provider only.
This is about the 2007 Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy Workshop, being held Feb 13-14 in DC; the agenda; note that this is largely focused upon the notion of network neutrality. The WaPo article speaks specifically of one panelist:
Activists who share his view are seizing on an article circulated by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, an authority on telecommunications issues. Wu, who plans to present the paper Wednesday at a Federal Trade Commission hearing on Internet access, writes that wireless carriers are “aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. Their policies, in the wired world, would be considered outrageous [and] in some cases illegal.”
The paper is Wireless Network Neutrality; its abstract is:
Over the next decade, regulators will spend increasing time on the conflicts between the private interests of the wireless industry and the public’s interest in the best uses of its spectrum. This report examines the practices of the wireless industry with an eye toward understanding their influence on innovation and consumer welfare.
This report finds a mixed picture. The wireless industry, over the last decade, has succeeded in bringing wireless telephony at competitive prices to the American public. Yet at the same time we also find the wireless carriers aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. Their policies, in the wired world, would be considered outrageous, in some cases illegal, and in some cases simply misguided.