Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Opening Up Cellular Networks

Some time back we had a discussion here on the insistence of US cellular providers that wifi features on new phones be disabled before the phones were marketed in the US. In a column for Forbes, Tim Wu argues that the FCC should use the upcoming auction of wireless spectrum gained from the digital TV transition to enforce a right to attach rule. He notes that the exact same question was broached with respect to landline phone service in 1968, where the FCC ruled that AT&T must allow the Carterphone to interoperate with its system (a ruling the paved the way for the creation of MCI and the ultimate demise of AT&T's monopoly). The rule would force carriers who purchased spectrum in the auction to allow any device that conforms to basic specs to operate on their network, knocking down an immense barrier to entry for wireless device manufacturers. This is a good example of a pro-market regulation, carving out space for innovation and competition in an anticompetitive marketplace.

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