updated 06:35 pm EST, Tue December 21, 2010
FCC says Android makes lightened rules OK
The FCC in voting for its net neutrality rules cited Android as a reason for softening the conditions for wireless neutrality. The official statement from chairman Julius Genachowski (PDF) argued that relatively open mobile operating systems meant there was less need to prevent "unreasonable discrimination" as there was on the desktop. The requirement for supporting open devices on Verizon's 4G service played a role.
"We recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android," he said. "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."
The connection is tenuous as Verizon has already exploited the openness of Android to ban certain features and block apps, often in direct contravention of the no-blocking rule instituted today. It prevents Skype from using legitimate VoIP calls on 3G and, on some phones, blocks Google search widgets from running or even being installed in favor of Bing. AT&T in turn has been banning non-Market apps from its Android phones, possibly violating FCC terms that would allow any legal, safe app to run on a given network.
Concerns have been raised that the policies and phrasing were the direct result of a Google and Verizon joint proposal that would have kept wireless free of neutrality rules. Although the vote ultimately applied regulations and has led Verizon to vocally oppose the rules, the mention of Google and Verizon as specific examples implies at least a slight effect.
Google has argued that it made a deal with Verizon to guarantee that at least some net neutrality would get a legal basis in the US. Its exemption of wireless in its proposal has nonetheless been sometimes cited as an example of an overdependence on Verizon. Unofficial estimates have suggested that as much as 80 percent of Verizon smartphones use Android and thus that Google now can't afford to anger its partner lest it lose significant market share. [via Engadget]