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Skype Strengthens Stance on ‘Free and Open Internet’

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
Much ado’s been made about Skype’s support of the FCC’s “Preserving the Open Internet” rule.
And now that the FCC has ended its first comment period, the provider of a video application that allows people to communicate for free or inexpensively over IP networks has issued nearly 30 pages of comments outlining the importance of the FCC rule, stating that it “welcomes the Commission’s focus on preserving an open Internet and strongly supports the six principles described” in the proposal.
“As a member of the Open Internet Coalition and Information Technology Industry Council, Skype joins the growing number of industry voices, consumer groups and technology trade associations endorsing the Commission’s NPRM,” Skype stated in its official comments.
Skype reportedly believes there is no good reason why wireless network operators, or any other network operators, need to block, throttle or degrade data applications – regardless of the capacity these applications are consuming.
“Evidence suggests that network operators have the incentive and ability to harm innovation in the communications market by either outright blocking or more subtle forms of discriminatory practices,” Skype stated.
However, Skype did say it “agrees with parties who argue that the technical characteristics of wireless networks could justify network management practices that differ from those used by wireline broadband services. Skype notes that the [FCC notice] appropriately takes into account such differences.”
Not all video applications, or peer-to-peer or VoIP applications, consume the same amount of bandwidth or place the same demands on network capacity. But the exception for reasonable network management is flexible enough to address different broadband platforms, Skype stated.
In September, just before the NPRM was published, the FCC hosted a debate that brought to the forefront the differing perspectives of wireless carriers and ISPs, TMCnet reported.
David E. Young, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for Verizon Communications, addressed this concern during a paneled debate, which followed FCC Chairman Genachowski’s speech on the importance of free and open Internet.  
“We are very pleased to hear that the outcome is not predetermined,” Young said, adding that Verizon supports the open Internet on its devices. “We need to look at the facts. What are the problems that need to be fixed? Wireless is a very, very different environment than wireline and broadband. There are spectrum constraints that exist. The mobility factor is huge. Demand can appear out of nowhere as users converge.”
While there is a case to be made for managing content to block spam, viruses and security threats, panelist Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype Technologies, said that carriers who manage phone content are not “cannibalizing” their own revenues. Instead, they are experiencing more growth. 
For example, Silverman said that in the U.K., the carrier 3 is earning higher revenues with Skype services because more people now use their mobile devices for Skype. But in the United States, Skype is still being blocked on a lot of cell carriers’ networks.
“It is with an open and free Internet that we develop wonderful new applications like Skype, like Facebook like Twitter,” Silverman said. “If you look at the next generation of smart phones, all they are is pocket-size computers that happen to be wirelessly connected.” 
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