Here’s a great run-down by Ben Scott of the non-profit group Free Press of what’s wrong with the iPhone from a public policy perspective. (Recorded by Matt Stoller.) For those who can’t spare the time to watch Ben’s cogent 5 minute explanation, here’s the rundown:
- Consumer Choice: The iPhone locks consumers into one telephone company, AT&T. Consumers shouldn’t be forced into a single wireless provider if they want to use a particular device, anymore than the cable company can’t force you to use a certain brand of TV to watch their programming.
- An Open Internet: Wireless devices like the iPhone will be where the next battle over an open internet will be fought. Some providers purposely cripple wifi capability on their devices because they want you to use their more expensive data plan. Wireless providers will have a lot of lee way in determining what kind of content and applications you can use on your device, whether it’s video, VOIP or IM.
- The Public Airwaves: Congress and the FCC will be debating soon how to allocate a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum called the 700Mhz band that could make available a whole new level of wireless access for Americans. But without public involvement, this bandwidth will likely just be sold off to the cabal of telecoms who control internet access now. Next gen devices like the iPhone should be able to connect to the fastest, cheapest wireless networks possible in an open and competitive framework.
Head to savetheinternet.com/airwaves to add your voice to the thousands calling for an open internet, a fair system for using the public’s airwaves, and a competitive environment for next gen digital devices like the iPhone. And read up on the Congressional hearings on the iPhone that happened yesterday, where members of Congress called for a more open, fair wireless market.
3 thoughts on “Ben Scott on why the iPhone sucks (hint, it rhymes with “AT&T”)”
1. Consumer choice – good point, though in Apple’s defense, every carrier uses different software and hardware for their switches and cellsites, so a phone needs a whole new set of firmware to handle each carrier.
3. 700 mhz is minimal when you consider existing phone bandwidths are already higher. To meet the enormous demand that cellular providers could potentially carve out, we need a lot more bandwidth. Still, with EVDO Rev B coming out in 2008, that promises north of 5mbps speeds.
Too bad the iPhone is using 2 year old wifi tech instead of EVDO Rev A. *evil grin*
I believe in Europe and other countries, the govt mandates that cell phone providers have to operate based on a sim-card system that enables you to choose what device you want to use with your cell service. True, this would be hard to organize now given the different kinds of systems that exist in the US. But with spectrum and technology constantly changing, Congress could mandate a more open structure to facilitate new entrants and innovation into the market.
The advantage of 700 MHZ, as I understand it, is that it can cover a wider area, penetrate walls better than current wifi, and offer much higher speeds.
I agree that the existence of different networks using different systems (GSM and CDMA) makes things a bit more complicated in the US than in Europe. But the government could still prohibit the locking of cell phones onto a single network. As you point out, this is fairly easy with GSM with the use of SIM cards. But I believe that with CDMA there is really no reason why a Verizon phone shouldn’t be able work reasonably well on the Sprint or Alltel networks, since they use the same underlying technologies. The carriers puposefully cripple the phones to reduce switching and to maximize fees. In fact, when certain Palm Treo models first appeared exclusively on Sprint, some individuals were able to hack the phones to work on Verizon’s networks. It’s probably true that consumers do benefit some from the mobile phone companies customizing the phone so they work optimally on their networks, but I suspect this point is exaggerated by the network operators. The use of lock-in contracts plus the inability to reuse most phones really restricts competition and consumer choice. If regulators prohibited phone locking, consumers would have 2-3 companies to choose from under each technology system.