BlackBerry wants FCC to force app developers onto BB10

In a unique addition to the ongoing discussion around net neutrality, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has called on the US government to prohibit discrimination against the less than 1 percent of users on its platform.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

With its market share continuing to flounder at levels that see it lumped with others in at least one market survey, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has written a letter to US Congress members calling for the prohibition of app developers choosing to ignore BlackBerry.

"Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open, and non-discriminatory internet," Chen said in his letter. "All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system."

Citing BlackBerry's turnaround strategy to embrace all of the major mobile platforms, Chen bemoaned the lack of apps and content available on BlackBerry 10 compared to the dominant Apple and Android platforms.

"Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service," he said.

"Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users.

"This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems.

"These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level."

Chen said that passing any net neutrality laws or regulations like those currently proposed by US President Obama will solve nothing without enforcing neutrality on content and applications.

Rather than declare broadband a Title II common carrier service, Chen instead recommended that existing FCC regulations, which mandate no blocking or locking of devices on the C-Block spectrum, be extended to all mobile broadband spectrum and all carriers.

"Doing so would achieve the president's non-discrimination and equal access objectives without creating the risk of future price regulation," Chen said. "Customers would benefit from the ability to access any mobile broadband service, any application, or any other lawful content -- on any network, using any device."

BlackBerry's stock spiked last week following rumours that Samsung was looking to purchase the company. BlackBerry later quashed the rumours and said it was not engaged in discussion with the Korean conglomerate.

Chen has been at the helm of the fallen Canadian giant since November 2013, when he was tapped to replace Thorsten Heins, who failed to find a buyer for the company throughout 2013.

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