In a USA Today article last week, a senior AT&T official, Jim Cicconi, suggested that the carrier, in cooperation with Apple, expects device vendors to block consumers’ access to Skype’s VoIP application that competes with AT&T’s own voice service. "Skype is a competitor, just like Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile,” said Cicconi.
According to Free Press, AT&T is not the only carrier limiting consumers’ wireless Internet access – T-Mobile is reportedly restricting the availability of tethering within Google’s Android Marketplace. And most major wireless companies have terms of service that prohibit the use of certain applications and services.
That was the reason that, in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Free Press called on the agency to confirm that wireless networks must adhere to the Internet Policy Statement, which protects consumers’ right to access any online content and services on any device of their choosing.
"The Internet in your pocket should be just as free and open as the Internet in your home,” said Chris Riley, policy counsel of Free Press.
Free Press is asking acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps to inform AT&T and other US wireless operators that they cannot adopt discriminating terms of service prohibiting the use of certain applications.
At the same time agencies informed that German carrier T-Mobile, an exclusive carrier of the iPhone in Germany, will not allow customers to use the application, and is blocking it both physically and contractually.
“It is clearly stated in our customer contracts that such services may not be used,” T-Mobile spokesperson Alexander von Schmettow told The Local, a German online site. “There are two reasons for this – because the high level of traffic would hinder our network performance, and because if the Skype programme didn’t work properly, customers would make us responsible for it.”
Skype quickly responded on that: “They pretend that their action has to do with technical concerns: this is baseless. Skype works perfectly well on iPhone, as hundreds of thousands of people globally can already readily attest. There is no technical justification for this arbitrary blocking of Skype, and it represents a barrier to online business put in place by a private company just because they can, because they control access to the Internet,” said Robert Miller, Skype’s General Counsel
“Yet, no one can do anything about it: German or EU regulation does not forbid such blatantly unfair practices. But we are trying to change things, together with other Internet companies."