BlackBerry CEO John Chen is aiming to ride the net neutrality bandwagon to a more open mobile app ecosystem that, theoretically, would serve to aid his company's products and services. In the process, he's making a bid to expand the definition of what is protected under any potential net neutrality legislation.
Chen asked US lawmakers to expand the definition of net neutrality to include a prohibition against application providers discriminating against operating systems. The request was made in a letter sent Wednesday to John Thune, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Fred Upton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Ranking Committee Members U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone Jr.
The operating system Chen has in mind is BlackBerry OS, which reached peak popularity in the third quarter of 2009 and has since fallen from favor. BlackBerry, known as RIM at the time, sold more than 8.5 million phones that quarter, according to research firm Gartner. In the third quarter of BlackBerry's 2015 fiscal year, corresponding to the three months that ended on Nov. 29, 2014, BlackBerry said it sold approximately 1.9 million smartphones. Gartner said BlackBerry's share of global smartphone sales for the third quarter of 2014 was 0.8%.
Net neutrality refers to the non-discriminatory treatment of network traffic by network service providers, with some exceptions for quality of service and security concerns.
Although the scope of those exceptions remains open to debate, Chen insists that there's “widespread disagreement” about the definition of net neutrality and argues that the term's hazy definition should be expanded to prohibit practices such as Apple's refusal to make its iMessage app available on BlackBerry or Android devices and Netflix's refusal to makes its streaming service available on BlackBerry devices. It's hard to miss the irony in Chen's request, given that in the not-too-distant past, BlackBerry's operating systems, apps, and even its data network were once completely proprietary.