Google has reached new heights in its effort to fool the world into believing that Android is so "open" it can singlehandedly deliver us from any and all forms of mobile tyranny.
In its first official "net neutrality" rules, the US Federal Communications Commission says it doesn't prohibit wireless providers from blocking or discriminating against network traffic in part because of the "openness" of Android.
As Mozilla man Asa Dotzler puts it: "WTF does android have to do with net neutrality?"
When the FCC uploaded its net neutrality rules on Tuesday, it pissed off even the net neutrality zealots, and much of this was down to its wireless leniency. The rules prohibit wireline providers from blocking "lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices" or discriminating against network traffic, but wireless providers are merely prohibited from preventing "consumers from accessing lawful websites."
There is no anti-discrimination clause for wireless networks.
The rules take great pains to explain this discrepancy. The FCC says it took "measured steps for mobile broadband" because today's wireless networks are more difficult to manage than their wireline counterparts. "Existing mobile networks present operational constraints that fixed broadband networks do not typically encounter," the rules say. "This puts greater pressure on the concept of “reasonable network management” for mobile providers, and creates additional challenges in applying a broader set of rules to mobile at this time."
But the Commission also says that it decided against stricter wireless rules because "we recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android."
The ironies are manifold. For one, Android isn't that open. Google develops the OS behind closed doors, open sourcing the code only after its available on handsets. And there are certain parts of essential parts of the stack that aren't open, including the Android app market, and manufacturers can't get access to the closed bits unless they play by Google's rules. A lawsuit from geolocation outfit Skyhook Wireless accuses Google of forcing manufacturers to using its location technology rather than Skyhook's.
What's more, the FCC's approach mirrors the net neutrality proposal laid down by Google and Verizon earlier this year. It, too, separated wireline from wireless. Prior to rolling out his official net neutrality rules, FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski indicated he wasn't pleased with Google's unexpected compromise with strange bedfellow Verizon. But it appears that Mountain View had his ear after all.
Mozilla man Asa Dotzler wonders whether this should spark a change in Google's official motto: "'Don't be evil unless we think we can get away with it?'" ®
A tip of the hat to Engadget.