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Net Neutrality: The Mobile Takeaway

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My colleague Joe Mullin has done a thorough read of the key issues in today’s FCC vote on net neutrality. The bulk of decision-making seemed to be around wireline services, but mobile got an airing too. Here are some of the key wireless points made today:

— “The principle of internet openness applies to mobile broadband,” said Chairman Julius Genachowski in his opening speech. But he also pointed out that wireless networks have “unique technical issues involving spectrum and mobile networks, the stage and rate of innovation in mobile broadband; and market structure.” Which, as was widely expected, has left the door open to potentially pricing services in ways that will differ from wireline services, if operators can show why they differ.

He drew particular attention to Verizon Wireless’ LTE service, saying that it wouldn’t be adopting any practices that contradict the conditions of the spectrum licenses that Verizon acquired for that 4G service.

Net neutrality will apply on wireless networks too: To a degree. Mobile operators are not allowed to ban or block specific sites, including those for video services like YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) or voice services like Skype, per se. But they will potentially be allowed to charge users different rates in order to access them, if the operators can show that the presence of these data-intensive services can otherwise affect overall quality on the network (this falls under the idea of reasonable network management).

A big emphasis on transparency: Operators have to come clean on how they are treating different kinds of traffic on their networks, and consumers and businesses will have a right to complain directly to the FCC under a fast-track system if they believe that a mobile operator is acting against these principles.

— This is by no means the end of the story. Given that mobile didn’t get a specific focus today, we may well hear more about this in the months to come.

For more on today’s vote, read Joe’s post here.

One Response to “Net Neutrality: The Mobile Takeaway”

  1. This probably is just the first step of many in addressing the issues of the internet and with the mergers of NBC and Comcast the real issues with internet prioritization will not appear until they are fully integrated. Will this drive other cable companies to acquire content companies?