Saturday, September 29, 2007

The cellular network is broken -- two examples

As we discuss, the Internet was designed to be an end-to-end, dumb network. The large ISPs would like to break that principle in order to give higher priority to certain users and applications, and, as we have seen, the cell phone network is even more restricted.

Developers cannot create and use cell phone applications without permission from cell phone carriers. We had a graphic example of this recently when Verizon would not permit an abortion rights organization to use their text messaging service. They later reversed the decision, but this illustrates how badly broken the cell phone network is.

Along the same lines, a software upgrade to Apple's iPhone renders phones with third party applications installed inoperable. This was not inadvertent. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it was done to protect carrier networks and to make sure the phone was not damaged.

His first reason -- protecting the network -- was what AT&T claimed before the 1968 Carterphone decision that allowed people to connect equipment to their network as long as it did no harm. His second reason -- protecting the phone from damage -- is exactly what he has done -- turned them into worthless "bricks."

People are working on an open cell phone, and perhaps Wimax will lead to open network access one day.