AT&T is Totally Open and Free

06Dec07

So now AT&T has joined Verizon in opening its network to all manner of mobile devices. That’s very nice, and I suspect that Google’s Open Handset initiative deserves most of the credit.

But so far as I can see, this development moves us about one third of the way back to what we enjoyed during the reign of common carrier regulations. I don’t mean to minimize the benefit to consumers from being able to enjoy the full power of competition between cell phone manufacturers, and I don’t want to minimize the boost to invention and innovation that could, and hopefully will, result from giving entrepreneurs and techies more confidence in creating new uses for the cellular networks.

But I fear that all of those benefits are trifling if the telecoms hang onto the power to control the content that comes to us over the devices that we are now free to connect to their networks. If the telecom oligopoly can still exercise arbitrary and discriminatory control over what content can reach all of these new devices on their networks, then I think this new openess to hardware is simply a temporary, strategic withdrawal on their way to winning the war.

I miss common carrier regulation. I wish it would come back. But in the meantime, we still need network neutrality.

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