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Mobile Declaration of Independence
<soapbox>Fellow Mobile Users:
With the announcement of the HSPA+ Nexus 4, unlocked for $299, I will be leaving Verizon for good, and never again will I buy a carrier branded phone or sign a contract with a carrier.*
I am an Android user, but this is an opportunity for users of all platforms to take a step back and take action to reduce the clout of the carriers and bring back true free market principals to the US wireless market.* This post is aimed not just at fans of Android, but of iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Symbian, and other mobile OS platforms past, present, and future.* I ask that you set aside platform arguments and hear me out.* If you disagree, you are welcome to deride and flame me to your trolling heart's content, but as tech enthusiasts who love mobile technology, this should be one thing we all agree on.
I feel that we, as consumers, have ceded too much control to the carriers, and have allowed the 4 major carriers, through our inaction, to stifle innovation in the fast growing mobile market, to limit device choice by forcing OEMs to differentiate for specific networks and sign exclusivity agreements, and to dictate what phones we can and can't use, how we can use them, and when we can use them.* This is akin to allowing an oil company like Exxon or BP to tell us what cars we should drive, how fast we can go, and what streets we can drive on.* If we want different fuel or to drive on a different road, we have to buy a new car to do so.* Instead of just providing the infrastructure on which to run them, they wield unprecedented control over our entire experience and wield this control against us to enhance their profit.
This is unacceptable - and it's time to change the status quo.* Wireless spectrum is a public resource granted at the public's discretion, and we have the ability to force change, if we have the will to do so.
The carriers have breached their duty to provide services using public spectrum:
- They collude to limit choice and inflate prices with restrictive plans that are artificially inflated to penalize those who use the service.
- They control updates in the name of testing, releasing software when it is financially most profitable for them to do so, and by extension withhold innovation in features and design from consumers.
- They force device manufacturers to create devices to their specifications, and then lock down the hardware and software to prevent interoperability on competitors networks. In doing so, manufacturers must create numerous products to carrier specifications which drives up the cost of production.
- They restrict software and features made by the manufacturers (FaceTime, Google Wallet, Tethering) from consumers in order to protect profits, even though the hardware is capable of supporting those features and spectrum it operates on is a public resource.
- They force their own software onto platforms that serve little purpose but to squeeze additional money from their customers and in some instances prevent the customer from removing that software.
- They take great steps to lock devices to prevent users from modifying them to their own liking, and penalize users who attempt to modify a product they rightfully paid for, should they wish to get around these unlawful restrictions.
- In the case of Verizon, they blatantly ignore the governments open access requirement for the Block of LTE spectrum they were granted when they agreed to purchase it.
We have options:
- Flood the FCC with calls supporting their review of spectrum ownership.
- Press elected officials to enact laws requiring networks using public spectrum to allow unrestricted roaming at wholesale/cost.
- Press government agencies to enforce net neutrality and open access rules and renegotiate existing spectrum agreements to allow consumer choice of network providers.
- Require that carriers disclose and itemize the real cost of wireless services (voice, text, data) and set limits on the allowed net profit margin of those services, with allowances for network development and maintenance costs, and reasonable administrative costs.
- Require that access be allowed to MVNOs at wholesale costs, with unrestricted access to all elements of a network infrastructure, with the MVNO to share in the costs of network development and maintenance based on consumer usage of the network under that MVNO.
- Removal of all carrier subsidy locks on new and existing devices at the customer's request.
Require that any Early Termination Fee of a contract on which the handset was subsidized be set to the difference between the actual cost of the handset to the carrier and the actual amount paid by the consumer.
Its time we stood up and did something. Otherwise there will never be any interoperability, the carriers will continue to build in opposite directions and OEMs will be forced to play by their rules and consumers will continue to get gouged.
This isn't an easy undertaking - standing up against multi-billion dollar companies, but as long as we keep shelling out money to them, they will continue to do what they want.<soapbox>
What do you think? I am open to constructive criticism. But I know I'm not alone.
(TL;DR: The carriers are screwing us over and taking actions that directly harm consumers. We should try to do something about it. So let's do something.)