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FCC rule may force carriers to allow 'all' mobile apps

updated 04:10 pm EDT, Fri September 18, 2009

FCC mobile net neutrality rule on Monday

The FCC is on the verge of introducing a new rule that would ban US cellular carriers from blocking Internet-aware mobile apps, a source from within the government agency claims. The tip claims that Chairman Julius Genachowski will use a keynote at the Brooklings Institute on Monday to provide early details of the rule. The only known detail at the Washington Post is that it would prevent carriers from filtering what users could see and do with online mobile apps.

Such a rule would be the first major net neutrality regulation put into place since Genachowski took office this year but would also have major ramifications for the cellular industry. Most carriers in the US often ban certain types of apps from running on their 2G and 3G networks for competitive or technical concerns, such as Intenet phone calling or live video streaming. A rule of the sort would force all legal mobile traffic to go through, even if it let users switch to cheaper voice plans or put added stress on the network.

AT&T in particular is likely to feel the brunt of any such rule should it take effect. The company has been directly responsible for forcing some iPhone apps to use Wi-Fi for some or all of their features, including Skype's voice service and SlingPlayer's TV-to-phone streaming. While allowing apps like Google Voice that don't affect voice minute or data use, the provider has mentioned in its FCC statements over Apple's rejection of Google Voice that it has pushed developers to make changes to protect its voice business and to avoid heavy traffic use on its already strained 3G service.

Previously, carriers have insisted that they have the right to manage their own networks to provide a reasonably fast experience to all users. However, previous FCC chair Kevin Martin was well-known for arguing for net neutrality on at least landline networks and warned that companies like Comcast couldn't block legal traffic or throttle service in a way that discriminates against certain protocols or formats.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I hope

    they've included the possibility for denying malicious or service detrimental apps.

    "All" apps would seem to include those.

    Added stress on the network would be a tough one to call, but if the service providers are minimally provisioning to maximize profit, the "free market" could see them fall swiftly to obscurity. Maybe congress is just putting the squeeze on the industry to assure themselves more election funding. :P

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Then P2P would be the next big thing on phones, there needs to be some limitations i would think. And what about phones that don't allow 3P apps in the first place?

    My bet is that the networks would not want to subsidize 'open' phones, can the FCC force all carriers to subsidize the iphone an Android phones at the same level as non-open phones?

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Every app being allowed would be

    pretty foolish when you have a network with millions of people on it. There will always be the abusers and they'll put far too much stress on the network. Some would probably do it just for the h*** of it, to inconvenience other users.

    Well this is what the tech users want. A totally open and unrestricted network. In theory, it sounds great, but we'll see how it pans out in practice. Ideally, 4G will remove some that that stress, but with so many more people moving to smartphones, I just hope the carriers can keep up. Large cities need more or larger WiFi hotspots.

  1. AlenShapiro

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Very interesting move

    Cell and Cable companies have been blocking city-wide Wi-Fi plans, complaining that it will take business away from them. Now Cell and Cable companies complain their networks are becoming overloaded by smartphone and video demands. It appears, that city-wide Wi-Fi would solve some of those bandwidth problems.

    I wonder whether such city-provided network facilities would get a new lease of life with the Cell and Cable companies making such a big noise about too much of their bandwidth being used?

  1. CmdrGampu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    "P2P would be the next big thing"?

    I don't think P2P will ever be very big on phones. Where's the necessary storage? And can you imagine how quickly you'd drain your battery with constant data transfers?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Won't help the iPhone

    Since Apple is the center of the universe when it comes to iPhone apps, they can deem which apps get approved. Being that they aren't a carrier, nothing stops them still from blocking any app they want.

    Also, since this is all part of the FCC net-neutrality position, they specifically allow for blocking/throttling users who use too much bandwidth. They just said it needs to be open, and not some mythic concept that happens to affect you without knowing why.

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