This has got to be one of the best headlines on the Net today: Android Is As Open As The Clenched Fist I’d Like To Punch The Carriers With. I expected it to be link bait, but it’s not.

… the so-called open system is quickly revealing itself to be anything but… the carriers may actually be able to exploit this “openness” to create a closed system that may leave you crying for Apple’s closed system — at least their’s looks good and behaves as expected.

[…]

… isn’t the point of “open” supposed to be that the consumer can choose what they want on their own devices? Instead, open is proving to mean that the carriers can choose what they want to do with Android.

[…]

Apple gets crap for not supporting phones that are three years old with OS updates — the open Android system can’t even upgrade phones that are only a few months old in some cases — again, all thanks to the carriers.

The article is an indictment of the structure of the U.S. mobile industry, a structure with very little true competition because

  1. The phones are tied to the carriers, rather than existing in a separate market like they do in Japan, for example
  2. The carriers exert long contracts (2 years) for the privilege of buying a phone, increasing switching costs for consumers
  3. Because the carriers “compete” by building towers in market-dense areas, consumers living in more sparsely populated areas have little choice
  4. Economic theory makes it clear that in instances of high fixed costs (cell towers, spectrum acquisition), duplicate or “competing” networks exert a cost to society. In other words, infrastructure should be separated from services that run on (lease from) the network. See long distance telephony after “de-regulation” (oh how I hate that word).

Go read it!

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KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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