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April 23, 2009

SKYPE News - Report: FCC Asked to Investigate AT&T, Apple's Use of Skype for iPhone

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Though reports are emerging that U.S. cell phone users soon may have access to unlimited free calls using eBay-owned Internet calling service Skype, federal officials reportedly are being asked to investigate a new use of the popular service.

According to Jeff Bounds of the Dallas Business Journal, a “net neutrality” advocacy group called Free Press – a nonprofit with offices in Florence, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. – is asking the Federal Communications Commission to look into AT&T and Apple Inc.’s use of Skype.
Specifically, Bounds says, Free Press wants the FCC (News - Alert) to find out whether the two companies are breaking federal rules by effectively disallowing widespread use of the service on the Apple iPhone. The new “Skype for iPhone (News - Alert)service uses WiFi (News - Alert) connections – not a regular cell phone network or 3G high-speed network – to place calls. AT&T is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone.
The problem is: It isn’t clear whether the nation’s “open” Internet policy – the notion that the Web is open to all users equally – is being employed in this case. Free Press is asking the FCC to clarify that its open Internet policy applies to wireless service providers.
The nonprofit’s policy counsel lead, Chris Riley, reportedly told Bounds: “It seems very likely that the reason the full Skype (service) isn’t available on the iPhone is because of AT&T.”
Apple (News - Alert), Skype and AT&T could not immediately be reached for comment. Luxembourg-based Bay announced recently that it plans to sell Skype within about one year.
While that debate bubbles up, U.S. consumers also should know that news out of the United Kingdom this week could bode well for all handset users, iPhone and otherwise.
As TMC (News - Alert) Vice President Tom Keating reports, 3 UK is opening up its network to allow anyone with a 3 SIM and a compatible handset to have unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages without ever having to pay.
“3UK announced that on May 1st users with a 3UK SIM and a 3-provided Skype-enabled handset will be able to use Skype for free,” Keating reports. “Additionally, previous deals for free Skype required a monthly topup of £10 on pay-as-you-go and there will be no data charges. Thus, Skype will be 100 percent free, subject to their fair use policy of course. There is just a one time fee of £1.99 for a SIM card.”
Users may be able to simply get an unlocked iPhone, use a 3 SIM and then get free Skype calls. The deal only applies in the United Kingdom for now, but may soon cross the Atlantic, to the land of the vanquished red coats.
“Why do the Brits get all the fun? No worries, I’m sure this is just the first step before the U.S. gets in on the free Skype calling action,” Keating reports. “I wonder if there might be some synergies with the new Skype for SIP program (of which I’m a beta tester)?”
Stay tuned to TMCnet for developments.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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