When "Permissionless" Innovation Potentially is Stifed by the Need to "Ask Permission"

“Permissionless innovation” is a salient talking point often mentioned in any discussion of why the “open Internet” is a good idea--until it isn’t. Whatever else one might say, banning “sponsored apps,” “zero rating” or “toll free” access definitely interferes with the notion of “permissionless” innovation.

You might say the same fundamental philosophical problem arises with any potential effort to limit, ban or prevent any compliant device or service from using unlicensed spectrum.

And that is what at least one Federal Communications Commission member warns is a problem as the FCC looks at Long Term Evolution-Unlicensed (Licensed Assisted Access) methods.

Two bureaus within the U.S. Federal Communications Commission are at the very least now seeking comment on whether Long Term Evolution-Unlicensed is actually technologically neutral where it comes to Wi-Fi access.

The whole point of having large amounts of unlicensed spectrum is promote innovation of services, applications, devices and business models.

The potential issue here is whether some Wi-Fi users (those using LTE-U) with compliant devices could be prevented from using Wi-Fi or other unlicensed spectrum using some access techniques.

That is precisely an example of “permission-based” regulation and business model policies.

As always, there are private interests corresponding to every public policy goal and practice. So long as contending Wi-Fi devices have “fair” access, there is not a problem.

What would be a problem is if some Wi-Fi devices or services--so long as they do not interfere with other Wi-Fi users in any unusual way--are prohibited from deploying an innovation that increases the value of Wi-Fi access.

Permissionless innovation is a great idea, except when the opportunity to do so is artificially restricted.
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