Does The FCC Really Not Understand The Difference Between A Device Operating System And A Mobile Network?

from the these-are-the-people-who-regulate-us? dept

As we still wait for the details of the FCC’s net neutrality ruling, some have noticed that the FCC’s justification for not caring much about wireless networks is somewhat baffling. Specifically, the FCC used the openness of the Android operating system as evidence that things are open in the mobile networking world:

Further, we recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android.

Now, whether or not you agree with the FCC’s plans, or with the idea of “net neutrality” regulations in general, this statement is a bit of a head scratcher. It’s kind of like saying “because cars use gasoline, we see no reason to set speed limits.” I mean, the two are kinda sorta related in that they both involve cars (or mobile computing), but they’re not the same thing at all. Just because Android is a more open operating system has nothing to do with network discrimination or questions about the end-to-end principle of networks. Making such a statement suggests that the FCC doesn’t understand the difference between an operating system and a mobile network… and that’s just scary.

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Comments on “Does The FCC Really Not Understand The Difference Between A Device Operating System And A Mobile Network?”

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jsl4980 (profile) says:

Ahh that's the difference

Well that really clears it up for the FCC. Because the first ever open source OS is only available on wireless phones so they don’t have to make rules regarding wireless.

By their logic, if there was ever an open source operating system that could be installed on wired devices then they wouldn’t have to make rules on wired services either. Unfortunately Linux and other FOSS operating systems have never existed in wired devices.

Grimby says:

Re: A Potential (long term) Solution

Yep, that’s until carriers start telling manufacturers to exclude wireless connectivity from their devices so users will be forced to use their services for all their data. Then they’ll be charged rate on whatever app they’re using. I’m pretty glad I don’t live in the US where the government makes decisions everyday without understanding a single thing about the decisions they are making.

Coward says:

Re: Re: A Potential (long term) Solution

“I’m pretty glad I don’t live in the US where the government makes decisions everyday without understanding a single thing about the decisions they are making.”

They get all their wisdom from the Bible. Just look at the energy subcommittee chairman…God promised Noah and all that.
I feel ashamed to be an amerikan 6 months out of the year these days.

interval (profile) says:

Typical Government Ivory Tower Stuff

A head in an FCC office is trying to come to grips with the lay of the consumer land and doesn’t really grasp it. These people don’t compete in the real world, so this stuff isn’t second nature. He/she/they are briefly glancing though web pages and maybe a few magazines trying to understand what this technology is that they feel the need to lord over and only getting part of the picture, as anyone new to discipline would.

The FCC is desperate to justify their existence as illustrated by last 10 years of fines levied against broadcasters who let a nip slip or a “bad word” cross the radio waves. Not the most pressing issues of our time, in my opinion. They want their cut of the largess being shoveled out the back door of the white house too in the most dramatic expansion of government ever. The chickadees who don’t chirp loud don’t get a worm.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Typical Government Ivory Tower Stuff

  • The federal government having partial ownership of auto manufacturers and banks.
  • The federal government regulating intrastate (not interstate) commerce. See requiring the purchase of health insurance and regulating insurance companies and hospitals even if no interstate commerce is taking place.

I’d say that’s a pretty big expansion. I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest ever (the Washington administration wins that by default) but it’s pretty damned significant.

Steve says:

Re: Re: Re: Typical Government Ivory Tower Stuff

You’re right. We should have just given money to the banks and auto manufacturers and not demanded any say in how it was used. It should have been a gift. I’ll give you that one.

The largest 5 insurance companies in the US are national.
(Aetna Inc, BCBS association, Cigna corporation, UnitedHealth Groups incorporated, Wellpoint incorporated)That means interstate commerce takes place.

I’m fascinated by the people who get mad at corporate regulation, but are fine with regulating citizens (who you can marry, and what you can abort).

interval (profile) says:

Re: They understand

“I bet they understand just fine. I liken their statement more to misdirection than misunderstanding.”

Sure, but in this case, as is usually the case in the technical realm, if you write regulation with enough double talk and mumbo jumbo its easily struck down by appellate courts. THAT they understand. So in this case I really do feel like they simply don’t understand the technology.

crashoverride says:

The most baffling is that the main job of the FCC is to regulate the “AIRWAVES” so they have a mandate that allows them to enforce Net Neutrality as strict as they wish for airwaves.

The part they are trying to add this year is the ability to enforce it on the in ground internet which they have a limited ability to control as proven by there recent Comcast ruling loss in the court.

m3mnoch (profile) says:

About WiFi and Vendor Lock-in Maybe?

maybe the read-between-the-lines is just about wifi-enabled phones and vendor lock-in.

meaning, these days, with open handset operating systems and a crap-ton of available wifi, you can’t be locked in and forced to use a providers wireless network. thus, being crazy overcharged without real recourse.

i mean… it’s a stretch, right? but i can’t fathom they don’t understand the difference between a phone and the network it’s on.


Steve says:

Re: About WiFi and Vendor Lock-in Maybe?

I was thinking along the same lives as you were.

AT&T probably talked to the FCC and said:

“Look. When we first got the iPhone it was totally unique and there were no competing products so some far left wacko consumer rights groups probably told you we were taking advantage of a monopoly so you had to regulate us ‘for the consumers’ but all of the carries have Android phones so there’s competition among the 4 of us. In fact, we talk about it when we play golf together and discuss raising our rates. So, you don’t need to regulate us because there’s competition in the wireless market space. Thank Google”

Rosedale (profile) says:

Linux on wired ports

Wow this is crazy. Do they realize that there is an even more open OS that you can connect to wired connections called Linux? Android is faux open. I like it, and it is the best we got, but Linux takes the cake and there it has been for years connecting to wired networks. Apparently the FCC didn’t realize that.

But really the most open OS in the world can’t do shit if the network it is on isn’t open. Especially given the direction things are heading. More and more services rely on the cloud. I ride the T with my phone and when I loose connection I sort of sit there wondering what to do. It is because all of my apps, pretty much, rely on the internet to function. The FCC needs to figure that out, but my guess is they’ll just stay stupid.

Jebrew (profile) says:

Context much?

Did you read the two paragraphs preceding as well as the one following the snippet you’ve taken? The context of the statement is about the innovation on the device side and is completely appropriate. It’s meant to give context to their (admittedly lame) attempt to create an “Open Internet” for mobile devices. The gist of it being that the new openness of the OSes on devices has led to more useful handsets that should be able to access more than just the walled garden style internet that providers have given up to this point.

I agree that Android’s inherit openness doesn’t lend itself to this conclusion any more than Apple’s iOS’s capabilities; but conflating the statement and the intent is something I would not have expected from Tech Dirt. Is anyone reading the source and considering critical thinking skills above that of a middle schooler before writing these articles?

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Context much?

Indeed, I just read a nice write-up on Ars that provides the additional context that Engadget missed:

The FCC is actually making a very reasonable point – competition tends to be much more vigorous in the wireless market and wireless systems are on a trajectory *towards* increased openness. A “wait-and-see” attitude is much easier to justify in that environment than it is in the limited-competition, high infrastructure cost wired environment.

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