FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal: The Mobile Takeaway

Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who was the original wimp when it comes to broadband reclassification.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski today laid out the FCC’s position on net neutrality ahead of a vote later this month, and while the bottom line on fixed networks was “no blocking”, we again had confirmation that they are, for now, taking a different approach on wireless.

While carriers like Verizon Wireless, Sprint (NYSE: S), AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile will need to allow services like Skype on their networks (services that offer consumers choice in basic services like voice), these carriers will not be prohibited from blocking other kinds of legal traffic that might be deemed disruptive to the network’s operation.

Genachowski: “The record in our proceeding reflects both the importance of openness principles to mobile broadband, and the appropriateness of recognizing differences between fixed and mobile broadband…Mobile broadband is at an earlier stage of development than fixed broadband, and is evolving rapidly.”

This position, he said, would be reassessed over time, taking into account anti-competitiveness and how the services evolve.

The CTIA’s president, Steve Largent, issued a response, predictably in support of the speech: “Chairman Genachowski emphasized the appropriateness of recognizing differences between fixed and mobile broadband. While we maintain our belief that any action in this area is unnecessary in the dynamic and rapidly evolving wireless environment, we understand and are pleased that the proposed rules have moved away from broad Title II regulation and toward a more tailored approach that recognizes the unique nature of wireless services.”

It will be interesting to see the pace of content development on these new mobile data networks, and whether the FCC commissioners will have to revisit their thinking sooner than they had anticipated. The traffic on mobile networks is booming today. And with networks like Verizon’s LTE effort – which coincidentally unveiled its pricing and other details today – “made for video” we might see pileups on these new wireless networks soon enough, with the operators demanding payment to clear the roadways.

— Read more of our coverage of the FCC report on paidContent here and here.

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