Facebook mum on whether anticipated smartphone violates net neutrality

Days after the FCC’s so-called “net neutrality” regulations took effect, Black Friday shoppers pepper-sprayed human obstacles in order to fill out their Christmas lists, which for at least some probably included this year’s tablets and smartphones. A Facebook smartphone, since at this point it is only a rumor, was not on among those items.

Facebook, which has released a variety of smartphones in other countries, developed these devices to deeply integrate the company’s cloud — or, Internet-based — services into the device’s core. Such an arrangement, while offering other applications on the device, makes Facebook the primary mode of communication, therefore favoring Facebook content over other content on the phone.

This type of integration is not new: Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and now Amazon’s Kindle Fire all favor their companies’ respective products over others.

When asked for comment by TheDC on whether the social networking company, which supported a net neutrality policy in 2010 that favored “preserving an open Internet” for wireline and wireless networks, has shifted its stance, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes did not respond.

In 2010 the company said in a statement, “Facebook continues to support principles of net neutrality for both landline and wireless networks. Preserving an open Internet that is accessible to innovators — regardless of their size or wealth — will promote a vibrant and competitive marketplace where consumers have ultimate control over the content and services delivered through their Internet connections.”

The FCC’s net neutrality rules dictate that in the interest of preserving a “free and open Internet,” Internet service providers may not exercise preferential treatment of certain data over others. Supporters of the rule said that the FCC had both the legal jurisdiction to create and enforce such a rule, and that the rule protected free speech. Opponents of the rule argued that the FCC did not in fact possess the congressional mandate to regulate the Internet, and that free speech is in now way in danger thanks to the protections of the First Amendement.

When asked for comment by email on whether a device that deeply integrates a company’s cloud services into its core functionality  to transmit data violates this same principle on which the FCC’s rule is based upon, Noyes did not respond.

Since the Facebook phone in the U.S. is only a rumor at this point, Noyes instead told TheDC, “We don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

Noyes, however, did give TheDC some insight into the company’s overall wireless mobile strategy:

“Our mobile strategy is simple: we think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social,” said Noyes. “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”

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