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FCC Chair Expected To Give AT&T Props, But Push Forward On Net Neutrality

When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski speaks at 12:30 p.m. today to the wireless industry, he'll likely make a nod to moves Tuesday by AT&T to run Internet voice services for the iPhone on its cell network. But he's probably not going to scale back on his push to codify and strengthen rules that ensure consumers get access to any legal application or content of their choice on the Web, analysts say.

He's not the kind the regulator, they believe, to introduce rules in order to push companies to change their approach to business and then scrap those plans when firms show they are responding.

"It will be important for a consumer watchdog group to be able to pull up Genachowski's statements, wave them in front of Internet service providers and say, what are you doing?" said Mike McGuire, a vice president at research firm Gartner. Genachowski is scheduled to give a keynote at trade group CTIA's conference today.

In response to AT&T's announcement, Genachowski issued the following statement: "I commend AT&T's decision to open its network to VoIP. Opening wireless services to greater consumer choice will drive investment and innovation in the mobile marketplace."

Also Tuesday, Verizon announced a broad partnership with Google to develop phones on Google's Android software platform. Android is open to all developers and Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdams said in a conference call that the phones -- two expected to come out this year -- will carry Google Voice. Apple has rejected Google Voice on its iPhone, according to Google. Apple says it hasn't made a final decision on the application, which aggregates phone numbers, forwards and connects calls, and allows consumers to manage phone services through a Web site. Analysts say the announcement by Verizon yesterday and its decision last year to purchase wireless spectrum in a federal auction that was saddled with net neutrality conditions put Verizon somewhat ahead of its main competitor, AT&T, on open development policies.

Rebecca Arbogast, head of tech policy research at Stifel Nicholaus, said Genachowski will push forward with the rules he proposed for all broadband networks, including wireless. Those rules will act as general principles on openness and non discrimination that would "avoid being too prescriptive in setting rules that will govern a lot of aspects of commercial decision making."

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 7, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: AT&T Allows iPhone To Make Internet Calls On Cell Network | Next: AT&T Lost Skype Fight When Admitted Blocking To Protect Voice Revenues: Analysts

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"Network neutrality" lobbyists are making for more of this announcement than it deserves. AT&T allowed other devices to use VoIP over its data networks; the hurdles to the iPhone doing it were likely more technical (involving coordination with Apple on software) than a business issue. And this is certainly no excuse for Draconian government regulation of the Internet.

--Brett Glass

Posted by: squirma | October 7, 2009 1:37 PM

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