(Apologies for violating my policy of not repeating stuff on slashdot. Also for basing a US-centric rant on a UK story.)
It seems that T-Mobile has released a new 3G data service in the UK. Sounds pretty neat, except their terms of service explicitly ban the use of VoIP or IM applications. The referenced article speculates that they plan to offer their own VoIP service.
If they are banning such applications because they think their network can’t deal with it, that is bad enough. But if they are banning them because they don’t want competition with their own service, then that is a real problem.
Believe it or not, I tend towards a laissez faire business philosophy, and really do believe the market will solve this sort of thing, if it is allowed to do so. I’m perfectly happy to let T-Mobile, or anyone else, have whatever network policies they like, under the condition that I am allowed to select a network provider that has policies that I like. The problem is, there are real barriers to entry for access network services, most of which are created by some regulatory regime in the first place. Whether it is regulation of spectrum, regulation of who can run a wire to my house, or regulation of who can provide service in my community, it’s still regulation.
Let’s not protect network providers from competition with one hand while freeing them to restrict access with the other.