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Setembro 2009               Índice Geral


• To regulate or not regulate - that is the question

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assunto [Celld-group] To regulate or not regulate - that is the question


Segue abaixo artigo do Keith Willets, chairman do TM Forum, cujo original está aqui, para leitura e meditação.

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J. R. Smolka

To regulate or not to regulate – that is the question
Debate for or against an open mobile web

by Keith Willetts, TM Forum
Tues. September 1, 2009

We’re very literally at a crossroads in the communications and technology worlds today with the coming together of three major pieces of enabling technology: 4G broadband wireless networks; cloud-based applications, processing and storage and ever smarter devices.

While it’s easy to view any of these pieces in a vacuum, they are all intertwined and dependent on one another, which naturally brings up interesting topics for discussion and debate. For example, in July Apple started pulling applications enabled by Google Voice from its App Store saying that they duplicate features that come with the iPhone. Well, not long after that, Apple blocked Google Voice itself. Google Voice is an IP-based service that gives users (so far in the U.S. only) a single number for all of their phones, voice mail and SMS needs.

We don’t know who decided what, but the issue was hardly likely to have gone unnoticed, not the least by Google, whose CEO, Eric Schmidt, was until a few weeks ago on the Apple Board of Directors. But the ripples continue to grow with Uncle Sam getting in on the act and writing to Apple, Google and AT&T (Apple’s iPhone carrier and distributor in the U.S.) asking them all for an explanation.

Because Google Voice would compete directly with the AT&T network, speculation is running high that self-preservation kicked in to block it. But not only is Apple shooting itself in the foot with end users, but developers are also up in arms about this egregious violation.

In another incident that took place in July, interestingly also involving Apple, the company blocked Sprint’s iPhone competitor – the Palm Pre – from syncing with iTunes. The following week, Palm released a WebOS update that worked around this roadblock.

Apple has played the part of underdog to Microsoft for so long, and so perfected the art of garnering loyal, even fanatical supporters to its side, seeing it act (allegedly) in a manner that seems to smack of corporate bully-boy seems odd.

Looking at this from a slightly different angle, another example we’ve seen recently of commercial interests and wrangling at the expense of users is the possibility of Skype being shut down. eBay, which bought Skype for a pretty penny just a few years ago, was trying to sell the company back to its original founders, who didn’t want to pay what eBay was asking. But their whip hand is that apparently the founders still own the intellectual property for the core technology for Skype - licensed to eBay but never sold – and now they claim eBay has infringed their license.

The bigger issue here in my view is that if we are going to have a debate about an open mobile web, it’s not just the mobile service providers who need to have a level playing field. All three of the key components I described above need to be open, with core standards and codes of behavior. But should these be enshrined in law beyond the anti-trust and competition laws we have today? Maybe, but as I’ve said before, the market moves much more quickly than regulators who often regulate for yesterday’s problems at the expense of tomorrow’s opportunities.

Regulatory disparity

If you look at all of these recent examples, you’ve got to say to yourself there is a huge double standard happening in the industry. You’ve got people who will yell at whoever will listen that the telecom industry is distorting the market through discriminatory pricing. Meanwhile, you’ve got Apple and eBay – and doubtless many others – who can just up and block services on a whim.

Skype has some 400 million users worldwide and is now the largest international telephony provider. Yet it all hangs on a software license from two guys? This is an outrageous situation, and what’s equally outrageous is that Apple – traditionally a hardware manufacturer – is blocking what can and can’t be used on its hardware to protect its iTunes software!

I’ve always said we need to just step back and let the market do what the market’s going to do. Either we’re going to say it’s all fair in love and war and anyone can do anything to anybody and may the best person win, or we’re going to have some order, some structure and rules and regulations.

The catch here is these rules and regulations can’t just apply to the phone companies because they have historically been regulated while the hardware and software companies have not. It’s also not just a U.S. or a UK discussion; rather this needs a vehicle for discussion globally because iTunes and Skype are both used everywhere. It’s affecting everyone, and surely these services must be subjected to some sort of scrutiny.

We all know how heavily regulated communications companies are worldwide, and there are proponents of net neutrality who’d like to see the level of regulation actually increase. Meanwhile, the other two legs of the stool – the devices and the cloud – have standards in place but no regulations.

It’s a complete Wild West scenario that brings up some unpleasant questions that need to be addressed. For instance, if I put my data into a cloud-based service, will I ever be able to get it back out again? Will I ever be able to switch to another provider? And how can I compare cloud pricing if there’s no standard list of features that all cloud services should have. If a particular cloud interface is proprietary, how can I possibly shift my data from one provider to the other, and is the concept of data portability even possible?

Bringing communications, devices and services together

Trade associations like TM Forum have an important role to play in these discussions, and we’ve taken the first steps toward addressing critical issues regarding regulating and managing devices and services that haven’t traditionally been under the long shadow of mandated government rules.

I think now is a great time to start the debate and talk about what to do. The communications services, data and devices of the not-so-distant future are relying on us today to make wise choices that won’t have to be undone and unlegislated just a few years down the road.

Keith Willetts is Chairman and CEO of the TM Forum.

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