MICC: FCC’s “Open Internet” Inquiry Shifts Focus to Wireless Networks

We’ve been following groups like the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC) and others who are fighting to persuade the FCC to take a closer look at the wireless telecom industry.  Progress is finally being made, as the concept of preserving the “Open Internet” in relation to mobile is now at the top of the FCC regulatory agenda.

While most of the debate has centered on “wired” networks, the FCC is now taking a hard look at applying open Internet principles to the wireless mobile Internet.  Wireless network operators like Verizon Wireless and AT&T argue that their networks are unique and should have no or limited Open Internet or “Net Neutrality” obligations either to consumers or to content providers that use the mobile Internet or SMS to deliver information.

Consumer groups like the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC) and others have advocated treating wireless networks the same as wired networks.  To consumers, content obtained over a wireless network is no different from content obtained over a wired network, yet wireless providers have a history of blocking and hassling content providers who attempt to provide consumers with content over the mobile Internet and SMS.  Groups like NARAL and Catholic Charities have had their SMS messages blocked, and content providers live in fear of having their businesses harmed by similar anticompetitive blocking.  Consumers have a right to access content using their smartphone, just as they do on their laptop or desktop.

The FCC recently issued a public notice for inquiry into the subject, and public comments on making sure the “Open Internet” includes wireless networks are due at the FCC on October 12, 2010.  Reply Comments are due November 4, 2010.  Content providers and anyone else interested in the subject are asked to weigh in to make sure their voices are heard.  If you’re a startup, service-provider or anyone who conducts business on the mobile Web or via SMS, you should take notice to the cause and do your part to help maintain an open environment for everyone.

If you have any questions or need more information, contact Mike Hazzard (hazzard.michael@arentfox.com) or Jason Koslofsky (koslofsky.jason@arentfox.com) — both of which are telecommunications lawyers with the Arent Fox law firm in Washington, DC who represent the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC).  More information and contacts can be found here as well.