Wireless Phone Announcements Don’t Ensure Openness, Groups Tell FCC
Wireless Phone Announcements Don’t Ensure Openness, Groups Tell FCC
Wireless Phone Announcements Don’t Ensure Openness, Groups Tell FCC

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    Recent statements by wireless phone companies and software developers that the cell phone industry is becoming more open are no reason for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to dismiss a petition asking that consumers have the right to use whatever cell phone they wish, a coalition of consumer and public-interest groups has told the FCC.

    Sprint-Nextel on Nov. 29 told the FCC that a petition filed by Skype asking that consumers be able to use any software and phones they choose should be dismissed because of recent marketplace developments. Those reasons are “without merit,” according to a filing from the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC). Members of the coalition signing the Dec. 21 letter to the FCC are Public Knowledge, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, EDUCAUSE, Free Press, Media Access Project, New America Foundation and U.S. PIRG.

    The PISC letter noted that announcements by Verizon and AT&T promising openness “do not, in and of themselves, ensure that the wireless handset market is open and competitive.” The letter noted that Verizon has not released any technical standards for evaluating phones purchased elsewhere nor prices for using independent handsets. It is similarly not clear what features of GSM phones AT&T will allow consumers to use.

    The letter argued: “Further, there is no guarantee that other carriers will follow suit; in fact, the stunning silence of the remaining carriers concerning openness is testament to their reluctance to open their networks as requested by the Skype petition. There is insufficient evidence that the carriers in the wireless marketplace will unlock and unblock wireless handsets without government action.”

    In addition, the letter noted that the announcement of the Android standard by the Google-led Open Handset Alliance “provides no assurance that this platform will be adopted in the marketplace.” There are still many unanswered questions about the Android technology, PISC said.

    The letter is available here.