Carriers Will Collaborate on
Specific Standards"> In terms of creating specific content restriction standards, the CTIA said that the involved wireless carriers will work together to set parameters, and that the companies will likely create an independent third-party organization that oversees guideline definitions and carrier adoption. The group said the filtering system will be built around "existing rating systems familiar to consumers" from other areas of the media and entertainment business."The Wireless Content Guidelines were developed to help consumers better understand the incredible opportunities wireless technology provides, while most importantly equipping parents to protect the people they care about most their children," said Steve Largent, chief executive of CTIA, in a statement. "Parents must ultimately decide what materials are most suitable for their children, and wireless carriers participating in this important measure are committed to providing parents with the necessary tools to do so." Click here to read about Cisco bringing wireless mesh to Gulf Coast schools. Regulators applauded the effort by the CTIA to create content filters, and at least one FCC (Federal Communications Commission) leader said that the initiative should stand as a model for other industries to follow in creating voluntary standards. "Although advanced technology provides new and improved opportunities to manage our lives and educate our children, in some instances it can also make the already-challenging job of parenting even more difficult," FCC Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy said in a statement. "The voluntary initiative announced today by CTIA demonstrates that the wireless industry appreciates these challenges and is willing to better empower parents." Whether the content-labeling standard will find favor with consumers remains to be seen. In the video game market, the Electronic Software Association has been fighting to have its own ratings enforced more actively, while also pushing to discourage proposed state and local legislation measures that it contends impose harsher game restrictions than its own standards. In the Internet arena, where adult content has existed in a highly unregulated market for almost a decade, a move by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names), which oversees Web site domain names, to create a special .xxx designation for adult Web sites has been opposed by the Bush administration under the pretense that it would aid pornographers in distributing their products. Wireless industry watchers said that the CTIA ratings guidelines indicate that mobile carriers will not follow the same hands-off approach used by most ISPs that do not typically moderate what types of content subscribers may be viewing on their networks. Yet, by launching the ratings, the wireless industry may actually be setting the table for an influx of adult-oriented content, experts said. Joe Laszlo, analyst for New York-based Jupiter Research, said that based on the fact that wireless companies are playing an aggressive role in packaging and marketing the content available to their customers on mobile devices, the firms must make a public effort to ensure that any controversial services are maintained in an appropriate fashion. However, by establishing a system to label adult materials, he said, the firms may also be creating a pathway to begin providing more restricted content services to customers. "The need to introduce content ratings is part of the downside to the mobile carriers efforts to be more than just a pipeline to content for their customers," said Laszlo. "But, by placing a label on the adult content, it actually gives these players more of an opportunity to control how these restricted services are marketed and delivered, and look at them as potential business opportunities." Court ruling imperils prepaid wireless company. Click here to read more. Laszlo pointed out that many European wireless carriers already offer adult-themed content such device screen savers and mobile video downloads. He said that U.S. companies that have previously steered away from the taboo services may be looking to follow suit. Laszlo added that consumers demands, and their response to enforcement of the CTIA ratings, will ultimately determine how restricted services are delivered and sold, but warned that the wireless industry has to be careful not to get too involved. "If the companies retain a simpler process for determining what is restricted content, and what is not, it should work out fine for the carriers, but as such a ratings system becomes more nuanced, it inevitably becomes trickier to manage," Laszlo said. "These companies are promising to deliver every type of content in the world to their devices in the coming years, so, this could easily become an issue thats greater in its scope than the industry expected." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
CTIA representatives said that by adopting the guidelines, the onus will be put on carriers to ensure that younger customers are not gaining access to restricted content, which it believes will help parents police their childrens mobile usage.