‘Net in Your Pocket’ Yields to AT&T’s ‘Digital Impasse’

Admitting “the temptation to join the growing legions of iPhone admirers is strong,” independent reporter Megan Tady (In These Times, 7/2/09) is discussing “what’s stopping me from signing up.” Her own personal decision is based on the fact that “purchasing an iPhone means I have to become an AT&T subscriber. The company has an exclusive deal with Apple to provide wireless service to iPhoners”–which means, among other things, that Tady would be “backed into a corner. If I don’t like AT&T, or it’s not available in my area, I’m facing a digital impasse: no service, no phone”:

This is unfortunate, not because I’m missing out on the iPhone’s “bar finder” application, but because smart phones are setting the stage for the future of the mobile Internet. They are revolutionary because they free us from our home or office computers. We can catch breaking news, create and upload content, and navigate online social networks and movements from anywhere.

It’s the Internet–some might say “the world”–in our pockets. Or at least, it could be. But companies like AT&T and Verizon are getting in the way by shackling innovative devices like the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm to closed networks.

These exclusive deals limit consumer choice and stifle innovation. Rural residents who canâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t get cellular service from the wireless carriers holding exclusive rights to popular smart phones like the iPhone are left watching the commercials for them. If smaller, more local wireless carriers were allowed to service them, these phones could be available to rural America.

Tady strongly asserts that “consumers should have the freedom to choose any phone on any network, to choose among many carriers in a competitive, low-cost marketplace and to access any Web content, applications or services they want”–and she asks your help in “protesting handset exclusivity” by “urging our lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission to step in.”