The Cell Phone Empowerment Act of 2007

Consumerist has the news about a bill being co-sponsored by Jay Rockefeller and Amy Klobuchar that will require the FCC to "report to Congress on the harmful and anti-competitive practice of locking handsets".

Hell they should just make it illegal. The FCC doesn’t need to study anything to know that locking handsets is screwing over the customers.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rogel

    I wouldn’t want the government making a legal decision were the market should regulate itself. The fact is that Telcos has more ability, and they are really good, advocating and lobbing than any of us. Government regulation allow those companies to deal with limited, easy to buy, sources, instead of trying to satisfy us – the consumers.Since the scarcity of “air wave” is mostly artificial, and due to the FCC policies, it seems that having the government reducing regulations will serve the consumers interests much more than another law. I’m sure that some companies, if entry to the market isn’t blocked by the FCC, that will build their business model on better service.

  2. Steven Kane

    i agree with the idea (and the emotion)but you can mandate a single standard without also creating and regulating that standardi’m in favor of such government regulation. not just for this, but for a wide range of marketplace issuesare you?

  3. Craig Plunkett

    If you don’t want a locked handset, buy an unsubsidized, unlocked handset. We don’t need a law for that, the marketplace already has a mechanism for it. If you really want a cheap handset, invest in a portfolio company that will build the FPhone for you, with the unlocked GSM radio in it. Then you’ll have your choice of two carriers, ATT and T-Mobile. If you want to go even further, put a CDMA radio in, and you can add Sprint or possibly VZW to those choices. However, I don’t think a portfolio company in that market would provide the return necessary to justify a VC investment, would it? However, your existing portfolio companies require the expansion of broadband availability ( both fixed and mobile ) to be really successful, but the buildout of broadband access ( a utility business ) doesn’t provide the returns attractive to impatient money. I know, I build networks. For all the carrier bashing that goes on in the Blogosphere, I don’t think that most pundits have a clue as to what it takes to build and maintain a reliable wireless network, whether its licensed or unlicensed. I’m out of my depth in terms of analyzing telecom finance, but I can’t imagine that the profits are that obscene, given the level of capex and opex that needs to be sustained to keep the networks running and upgraded. I agree that telecom policy needs to be fixed, but a law to require handsets to be unlocked? I don’t think so.

  4. Patrick Woodward

    Yes. We need more of this thinking. Can we get there next year? Looks like the first steps towards positive change.

  5. Craig Plunkett

    Upon further reflection, we need to modify the laws that we have in order to make it easier and less expensive to create new utilities for telecom distribution, which is the real artificial shortage. You need to have more network capacity and coverage to attach all these expensive handsets to.

  6. Francisco Moreno

    + Handset locking subsidy $200 (typical)+ Taxes on a $80/mo phone bill over 2 years $360 (typical)Tell you what, Congress: I can decide whether I buy a subsidized and locked handset. I cannot, on the other hand, do anything about seven or eight taxes that get tacked on to my bill.If Rockefeller and Klobuchar really support mobile users, they should think about mobile taxation.

  7. vruz

    If it’s a regulation that places more power on the individuals, why not ?

  8. Don Jones

    Politicians “studying” something is a euphemism for “looking like we’re doing something while not doing anything”. (Sorry – it’s the cynic in me).Perhaps the venture capital industry, with all its billions, could “study” the problem and come up with some solutions, instead of passively waiting for an entrepreneur to come along with the right answer…

  9. Theron

    I totally agree.

  10. Craig Plunkett

    The post goes to the core of the issue of expanding access to and driving down the cost of broadband, both fixed and wireless. Volume drives down the cost of device production, on both the CPE/handset and network infrastructure side, but volume is driven partly by the availability of network access. Firms in the private sector are reluctant to risk the large capital outlays to build a network, unless you are a manufacturer of network equipment. Then, you do one or two projects for free to be able to demonstrate your equipment’s capability and get it out in the marketplace. There’s very little taste for creating a new utility footprint in the US, using unlicensed spectrum because the returns are not immediate and the challenges are so large. We have seen that general metro-scale wi-fi clouds are not really sustainable businesses without anchor tenancy because of their similarity to the satellite radio and TV business, with the disability of not being able to provide either true mobility or performance better than cable modems. They have niches where they work, and work well, but require too much care and feeding, without producing enough return in the areas where there is enough customer density to be attractive on the revenue side.Do we wait for the 700MHz auction and hope Google and Apple come to the rescue, or do we force the GSM/CDMA carriers into a Carterfone compliance, and legislate structural separation on the wired side like the Europeans?