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.