FCC eases wireless Web rules
The Federal Communications Commission eased rules Thursday on wireless Internet services sold by companies including AT&T and...
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eased rules Thursday on wireless Internet services sold by companies including AT&T and Verizon. The wireless broadband order frees Internet access on handheld devices from "commercial mobile radio service" rules that apply to wireless telephone services.
Separately, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday said he opposed lifting a ban on sky-high phone conversations because of evidence they could interfere with calls on the ground.
The FCC had been considering allowing in-flight calls since 2004, but Martin's opposition effectively kills the idea.
A cellphone-industry trade group has argued that cell-phone towers could be crossed up trying to process signals sent from passengers racing by at high altitudes.
The wireless Internet ruling subjects all wireless Internet services to the same rules as landline broadband access offered by telephone companies and cable providers such as Comcast.
The measure will encourage broadband investment by letting wireless Internet carriers "compete on a level playing field" with other high-speed providers, Martin said during the meeting.
The commission also invited public comment on whether to write "net neutrality" rules that would bar all broadband providers from charging companies such as Google new fees for priority network access.
Both measures won unanimous approval from the five-member FCC. The two Democrats generally agreed with the goal of applying consistent rules to all broadband services.
The wireless industry's top lobbyist was quick to embrace the order, calling it a "forward-looking" policy.
"It is critical that the FCC ensure that regulations are technology-neutral and this decision is a welcome step in that direction," said Steve Largent, the former Seattle Seahawk and Oklahoma congressman who is now president of the wireless-industry group CTIA.
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps said Thursday's action didn't go far enough.
"Rather than strike out and unflinchingly proclaim this agency's commitment to an open and nondiscriminatory Internet, we satisfy ourselves with one tiny, timid step," Copps said.
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