How long did your last relationship last? Two years, maybe three? I’m not asking about your college sweetheart, but your cell phone contract. Mobile phone companies expect major commitments from their customers … but maybe it’s time to play the field.
In February 2009, TV stations are ordered to switch off their old analog broadcasting. That leaves us with a free chunk of primo 700Mhz spectrum, a particularly strong signal that covers great distances and is unencumbered by interior spaces. The FCC has plans to auction this newly vacated spectrum, and naturally a lot of companies are salivating in anticipation.
But when was the last time T-mobile, Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T did the dishes? They leave the toilet seat up and dirty socks collect by the bed. Maybe there is some hot young buck just waiting to smother you with flowers and chocolates. Well, you’ll never know unless you put yourself out there!
Tim Wu, the Columbia Law School professor, and author of the book, “Who Controls The Internet?” recently wrote a piece in Forbes magazine explaining the terms of a potential trial separation. He thinks we need neutral airwaves, and advocates the spectrum auction include only companies willing to open their networks to any devices deemed safe.
Don’t confuse this with “Net Neutrality.” Right now spectrum is kind of like a hot tub full of obese persons. There is little space left for the young and agile, and if they do get in, it is unlikely they will get one of the sweet spots by the heater. But it is even worse for a telephony entrepreneur. He would have to get permission from one of the obese to enter the tub, and then hold his hand the whole time in it.
If you have a great idea, you need to take it to the four big guys, and hope and pray they wouldn’t drag the trial period, cripple certain features, or abandon your project altogether. Plus, as Wu writes, the “Big Four tend to approve only established partners whose devices fit their business plans, which is why we have yet to see all those wireless devices that were supposed to be in our future.”
Wu’s suggestion is requesting the FCC use the Cellular Carterfone rule, after a 1968 decision by the FCC to allow a company called Carter Electronics to use their device on AT&T airwaves. That freedom is what sparked innovations in modems and fax machines. Innovators could plug in without waiting for AT&T’s ok.
As 95% of cell phones are tied to a carrier, the Big Four call all the shots on mobile device design and features. But the mobile phone companies aren’t the only ones looking at the 700Mhz spectrum. The vacancy could create competition with the Cable and DSL broadbands, two other big guys that could use a new rival. In any case, the upcoming spectrum auction could result in some major progress and innovation… or more broken hearts.
Joanne McNeil is Brainwash‘s Science and Tech Editor. Her website is joannemcneil.com.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire