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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Rallying Cry Against the Wireless Carriers

Posted by direwolff on February 9, 2007

So when I got my Blackberry 8700 I thought it would be easy to sell my Blackberry 7280 since it had plenty of life in it yet and so many carriers were making it available. Besides, since they all have their own smartchip, it just made sense that all the buyer of my phone would have to do is switch the smartchip in my Blackberry with the one from whatever phone they were transferring from, or obtain a new smartchip from their carrier. “Well, not so fast cowboy.”

Because I bought my phone under AT&T Wireless before Cingular acquired them, it turns out those phones and smartchips were somehow grandfathered in. In other words, Cingular would encourage people off those phones and switching to Cingular directly. When I got my new phone, the switch was made part of the process. Well, as it turned out, switching the smartchip wasn’t the only hindrance to making my old 7280 work with other carrier networks. Somehow, they’ve disabled or simply prevent the handset switch at all. In other words, I had a year old 7280 that was now obsolete. This, even though every other carrier was making that phone available on their network. Suffice it to say, the feeling that the wireless carriers keep sticking it to us with their 2 year contracts, forced phone purchases, and ridiculous rules, none of which exist in any other country where wireless services have bloomed, really does start to create ill will towards them.

It’s with this that I welcome the activities beginning to happen around this issue. There’s an article in today’s Washington Post titled, “A Call To Let Your Phone Loose” which discusses this…

Wireless carriers, which limit what customers may do with their phones, say the move is unnecessary and potentially harmful. But in articles, blogs and speeches, a number of researchers are asking why the companies are allowed to force consumers to buy new handsets when they change carriers, pay a specified carrier to transfer photos from a camera phone, or download ring tones or music from one provider only.

“At some point, I think Americans are going to put their foot down and say, ‘We won’t tolerate this anymore,’ ” said Dave Passmore, who has written extensively on the issue as an analyst for the Burton Group, a research firm.

Activists who share his view are seizing on an article circulated by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, an authority on telecommunications issues. Wu, who plans to present the paper Wednesday at a Federal Trade Commission hearing on Internet access, writes that wireless carriers are “aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. Their policies, in the wired world, would be considered outrageous [and] in some cases illegal.”

There’s no reason why smartchips can’t be interchangeable in devices, and if you read the article you’ll notice this ridiculous line by the wireless carriers, for which they should be made to swallow their words:

“Wireless is a competitive industry, and consumers enjoy the greatest number of choices among services, devices, calling plans and coverage areas in the entire telecom industry,” the main trade group, CTIA — The Wireless Association, says in a policy statement. “CTIA opposes the recent attempts to supplant competition and market discipline with heavy-handed, anti-consumer regulation.”

The gall of this association to suggest that opening up device access to networks is anti-consumer. And they wonder why we don’t trust them. One thing is obvious, the CTIA is doing its job, protecting the interests of the wireless carriers.

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