"Wireless broadband networks cannot become a safe haven for discrimination," said Chris Riley, policy counsel of Free Press. "The Internet in your pocket should be just as free and open as the Internet in your home. The FCC must make it crystal clear that a closed Internet will not be tolerated on any platform."
In a USA Today article this week, a senior AT&T official suggested that the carrier expects device vendors to block consumers' access to Skype -- a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application that competes with AT&T's own voice service -- on its 3G network. The company has also changed its wireless terms of service to prohibit "customer initiated redirection of television or other video or audio signals via any technology from a fixed location to a mobile device" -- a pre-emptive strike against innovative mobile video technologies.
AT&T is not the only carrier limiting consumers' wireless Internet access. T-Mobile is reportedly restricting the availability of tethering applications -- services that allow consumers to use their cell phones to connect their computers to the Internet -- within Google's Android Marketplace. And most major wireless companies have terms of service that prohibit the use of certain applications and services.
"This issue is not new -- it is simply unresolved. Wise voices at the FCC have long said that the Internet Policy Statement applies to wireless," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "As more and more consumers begin to access the Internet wirelessly, it is critical that the FCC clarifies that online consumer protections that prohibit blocking are the same regardless of how we access the Web."