Award Winning Blog

Monday, February 9, 2009

Regulatory Status of Wireless Information Appliances

News of a slimmed down Amazon Kindle electronic book has triggered this question: what regulatory status applies to devices that use wireless capacity purchased by the appliance vendor and bundled into the cost of both the appliance and downloads? In the United States the FCC has exempted bundlers of telecommunications capacity on grounds that they do not retail a telecommunications service.

But in light of the willingness of the FCC and other national regulatory agencies to oversee some times of information services, might network neutrality and other concepts of nondiscrimination apply? Bear in mind that Kindle buyers apparently do not receive a subsidy that reduces the cost of the information appliance in exchange for locking out competing content and applications. Still the FCC has shown no interest in forcing wireless carriers or manufacturers to comply with the so-called Carterfone nondiscrimination requirements applicable to wireline handsets and carriers. Carterfone requires carriers to interconnect with other carriers and to accept subscriber chosen and loaded applications.

Apple makes great self-congratulatory statements about the wide and open applications available for downloading, but note that the FCC does not require at&t to accept any non-Apple approved and marketed applications, nor does the Commission prohibit Apple from blocking and disabling applications that it unilaterally decides subscribers should not use. So if the FCC could not be bothered with wireless common carriers operating in a discriminatory manner then the Commission probably will have no concerns about a "locked down" Kindle. In light of the Supreme Court's deference to the FCC's "expertise" in the Brand X decision, it appears that the FCC could ignore information appliance discrimination entirely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.