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Free the app stores

Before freeing the wireless web completely, the FCC might want to start by freeing the app stores.

I reported here yesterday how the FCC is looking to make the wireless Web as "neutral" as possible, insisting it work something like the wired Internet.

Few outside the Wall Street Journal editorial board want to break the wired Internet. The real fight is over the wireless web.

The regulators' best asset here may be the tone deafness of the Bell companies.

While screaming that the FCC is trying to kill "the most competitive consumer market in America," they are also preparing a power play on the most competitive part of the market, app stores.

Verizon vice president of regulatory affairs David Young told C|Net yesterday "we allow third-party developers and are providing developers complete access to our network."

The key word there is allow.

Because a few months ago Verizon has centralized all app stores available on its network, to assure itself a cut of all app revenue, and it will not bundle third party app stores from suppliers like Blackberry or even Microsoft Windows Mobile with those phones.

Operators are "getting into the game," as David Ginsburg of Innopath writes, all around the world. But in the U.S., right now, that means they control the game, completely. What claims to be wireless Internet service is really anything but -- it's a wireless data service totally controlled by your carrier.

If we want a true wireless Internet, in other words, the government is going to have to force carriers to give it to us.

Given a level playing field for all app stores it's like Apple's would still be dominant. But at least there would be competition, and efforts like Widgetpad, an open source mobile application development platform, would have a fair shot.

But that can't happen on today's wireless web, which is why America's wireless web is worth a tiny fraction of what other nations' markets are worth, on a per-user basis. And why those users get more for their money than ours.

Before freeing the wireless web completely, the FCC might want to start by freeing the app stores.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com