BlackBerry issues futile call for ‘app neutrality’

012215blog blackberry ceo john chen
Reuters/Brendan McDermid

App neutrality? Honestly?

This proposal by BlackBerry – actually sent to U.S. lawmakers yesterday – calls for the government to compel the likes of Netflix to make their applications work with the likes of BlackBerry whether business considerations justify it or not.

From a blog post based on that letter to Congress and carrying the byline of BlackBerry CEO John Chen.

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. 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.

Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. 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.

Let’s race past the question of whether this is a good idea or not – it’s a terrible idea for a variety of reasons – and get to a more practical point: What are the chances the government of the United States would actually embrace the concept of “app neutrality” and force it upon U.S. app developers.

Zero. It’s so not going to happen in the same way AT&T says it’s customers are not going to make any down payment when buying an iPhone from them:

"App neutrality" had better not be an important piece of BlackBerry’s survival strategy.

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