Telecommunications Policy

Washington Post Columnist: Please, Won't Somebody Socialize America's Wireless Networks!

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No really. Joshua Topolsky has written a column titled, "Want better wireless service in America? Socialize it." 

We've got a serious problem with the way our wireless providers operate, and if we don't do something soon, we risk slipping behind the rest of the world in how we do business and how we innovate.

There are two major challenges. The first is that we don't have enough bandwidth in this country. Anyone who owns an iPhone on AT&T will happily tell you about it. Not only do we not have enough wireless bandwidth, but all of the companies who are trying to compete with one another want to compete with their own networks that they control — like making special roads that only certain cars can drive on.

The other issue is the lack of nationwide standards for the technology that cellphones use to transmit signals. AT&T and T-Mobile use a certain wireless standard, GSM, and Verizon and Sprint use another, CDMA. In theory, AT&T and T-Mobile's phones should work on each other's networks, and so should Verizon's and Sprint's. But the companies have purposely made them incompatible. Additionally, all of these services leave big portions of the country disconnected or poorly connected because they haven't sufficiently built out their networks.

His solution? "Washington should be aggressively regulating where and how private companies build wireless networks." Because when I think of what's wrong with the Internet, it's that it doesn't work enough like the federal government. 

Topolsky isn't the first clever tech pundit to call for mandatory wireless network interoperability. Back in 2007, for example, Columbia law prof and tech-policy it-boy ("the voice of a generation"!) Tim Wu took a wide-eyed look at Apple's then-new-fangled iPhone and wondered why you couldn't just buy one and hook it up to any old mobile network you wanted. Wu's argument at the time was that carrier exclusivity was preventing innovation in the software and device markets. 

In fact, as easily predicted, exclusivity and competition between carriers ended up spurring tremendous innovation in the wireless device sector. In the post-iPhone world, carriers quickly realized that there was a huge audience for fancy wireless gadgetry and customizable, consumer-friendly software and operating systems. With the iPhone locked into a single mobile network for the first few years of its life, carriers and device makers had to develop competing hardware—not just knock-offs, but products that people might actually want more than the iPhone. The result? More innovation, and more choice for consumers. Last year, the wireless industry counted more than 600 different devices available to attach to its networks. The shorter version: People wanted stuff. Companies made it for them. See how that works? 

Hey, but what about those Europeans? Aren't they going to totally eat our wireless lunches? We have to compete, compete, compete with our international neighbors, and obviously that's going to require a whole lot of busybodying aggressive regulating from federal muckety mucks. Except that the U.S. is already the least concentrated wireless market in the OECD, is currently one of only two countries that has more than five wireless providers, and has substantially lower average per-minute wireless voice costs than Europe. 

But guess what? Topolsky can probably go home smug and happy anyway. Because various local and federal bureaucrats already "aggressively regulate the where and how private companies build wireless networks." When mobile carriers want to build new cell towers to expand to new service areas, they have to navigate expensive, time-consuming local regulatory mazes. When wireless service providers want to expand their spectrum holdings—the virtual real estate required to expand speed, service, and capacity—they have incredibly limited options thanks to a slew of outdated federal rules regulating which entities are entitled to access wireless spectrum. And when one of those companies responds to those limits by turning to what is essentially the only remaining method of acquiring large amounts of new spectrum—buying a competing wireless carrier—the federal government attempts to block the acquisition by taking the company to court. But obviously the problem with the wireless industry is that the federal government just isn't. Doing. Enough. 

Read "Internet Cop," my March 2011 feature on the Obama administration's multiyear quest to regulate the Internet. 

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  1. And looky here, we have the head-cock that John so insightfully detected in the we know what’s good for you even if you don’t crowd.

  2. Hey, wireless spectrum scarcity. Does that look like a nail we can hit with our socialist hammer to anyone else? Of course it does!

  3. So, he wants to have a system that doesn’t work that well because it is highly regulated just taken over by the government so innovation will completely die, and bureaucrats will make it worse than 56k

  4. Hey, when you look as cool as Josh, you don’t have to be right.

    1. Fucking hipsters.

      1. I think I beat him up once.

        1. Not badly enough apparently.

        2. And now he’s getting his revenge.

          1. We should counter by coming up with an automated micropayment system for wireless. In other words, Starbucks will no longer provide him with free wireless.

          2. Being beat up virtually doesn’t count.

            1. It reminds me of the scene in Broadcast News where Alert Brooks is getting his ass kicked as a kid: “None of you will ever make more than $10,000 a year!”

              1. Or, you know, Albert.

                1. His real name is Albert Einstein.

                2. Not that he is not necessarily not alert.

              2. None of you will ever make more than $10,000 a year!

                And when they’re walking away, one of the kids says something like, “hey, $10K, not bad!”

                1. Brooks’ real name is really Albert Einstein. That’s not a joke. In case anyone was wondering.

                  1. I thought it was Yahoo Serious?

                    1. No. That’s the physicist’s real name.

      2. Fucking hipsters.

        You know for a fact that this schmuck bought an iPhone for $500 when they first came out then the next month the price dropped to $200 then the whole At&T generally sucks but is even worse when the iPhone has a bug which shows service bars when there is no service.

        So in general he has had a shitty smart phone experience because he is dipshit hipster first adopter and thinks this is how everyone experienced next generation wireless.

        Everyone else got an iPhone2 or a Droid a year or two later and wonders what this idiot’s beef is.

        1. As he was the editor of Engadget one suspects that he did not pay for his iPhones.

          1. No shit? As if I needed another reason to ignore that site.

            Who will win the smug douchebag war? Engadget or Gawker?

            1. He left when AOL took over and runs “this is my next” now.

        2. actually, he didn’t get the iphone for 6 months. Smd.

    2. You mean faggy lookin’.

  5. Well duh. Wireless telephone nservice is a fundamental human right, ya know.

    1. So when the govt bans it, you won’t complain. Duly noted.

  6. Let me be the first to say it: that is one punchable face.

    1. Or, in German, backpfeifengesicht!

    2. You’re not the first to say it.
      Not even close.

    3. We learned yesterday that that is too cliche’. I suggest adopting the phrase “He has a pissable mouth.

      1. Also acceptable: We disagree with his thesis.

    4. Nope. That’s not a punchable face. That is a curb-checkable face.

      1. We’re in!

        1. Who are you again?

      2. More than a third of the comments that I’ve read so far mention that they want to punch Josh Topolsky in the face. Are all the commenters here in high school or something? Why do people take one man’s opinion so personally?

    5. I’ve certainly seem faces that begged to be smacked, but I really want to take a hatchet to that smug bastard’s face.

  7. This kind of talk is so insane. Wireless access is expanding, despite a heavy government hand in regulation and monopoly granting.

    1. I used to work in the wireless basestation design and manufacturing business. The level of competition and year on year price/performance reductions approaches and possibly exceeds that of PCs. Socializing the industry would IMMEDIATELY stagnate it.

      So your fucking iPhone won’t work in Bumfuck, KS, who really gives a shit. So you can’t carrier hop, get a less expensive phone and throw it away when you switch. Wahhhhhhh, Verizon has CDMA and all the cool kids in Europe use TDMA, who cares? We’ll be on 4G and then 5G before you turn around twice. Not enough bandwidth? Gee, the FUCKING BANDWIDTH ALLOCATIONS ARE ALREADY SOCIALIZED YOU FUCKING MORON.

      In the meantime, he should grow some hair on his balls instead of his face and realize that he can’t get everything he wants as soon as he wants it. I’m certain the self-unaware schmuck owns an iPhone, made by the most capitalistic company in America.

      1. Please, please, please post this in the comments at the WaPo.

        1. I second this plea for help.

      2. Yeah, I work in the wireless business now. I about choked when I saw the “clever” adj. This guy knows absolutely nothing about what he’s taking about.

      3. He actually does not use an iPhone

  8. In other words:

    “Waaaaaahh, my new $600 iPhone doesn’t work in the good places. I can’t look like a pretentious asshole in front of the people I need to impress. FIIIIX IIIIIIIIIT!!!!”

    1. Any why doesn’t it work there? Because of shit like this.

      But, you know, research is hard.

      1. Nice link:

        These “progressive” antennaphobes revealed themselves to be knuckle-dragging reactionaries, and no different than those who would dismiss Darwinian evolution as being a mere “theory,” climate change as some sort of scientific snow-job, and fluoridated water as a Communist conspiracy.

        The writer is a NIMBY asshole himself, just not about antennas.

        1. What’s NIMBYish about any of that?

    2. I stole your Waaaaahhhhhh, sorry.

  9. Also, you just had to post the picture of this insufferable twit, didn’t you?

    People like Topolsky are seriously making me rethink the non-aggression principle. The principle is suspended for bar arguments, right? RIGHT?

    1. Absolutely. Go for it! You know you want to. Release your inner ape.

    2. I’m pretty sure that the non-aggression principle is suspended in bars period so long as no weapons are used and someone known to have superior fighting skills is not the aggressor.

    3. The way I look at it, he attacked your freedom first.

  10. Wow. Just looking at the photo you can tell John is going to want to kill him.

    1. Come on, that’s pure backpfeifengesicht.

      1. Dammit, you just beat me.

      2. Is backpfeifengesicht the new clich? here? Nevertheless, I have made a note of it.

          1. Not clever or original.
            F-

            1. Proving teens know nothing of history.

  11. Every socialized industry is better, like uhmm, and uhhh, I forgot the other one.

  12. No really. Joshua Topolsky has written a column titled, “Want better wireless service in America? Socialize it.”

    Everything works better when managed by bureaucrats who only have to show up to get paid.

    1. I have an idea. If socialism is so good, how about he socialize himself? In other words, become America’s slave.

      Millions of hipster slaves. Not very effective at their slave duties, no, but no issues with masters suffering moral pangs, either.

      1. I like this idea entirely too much. When can we start?

        1. You already have, my son. You already have.

          1. No, not ME…HIM!

      2. That sounds nice. But other than using the chicks for sex, what would you do with them? Seriously, I wouldn’t trust that guy to mow my lawn. What possible good use could I put him to?

        1. Moving your shit from one place to another. I mean, literally, your defecation.

        2. If shit ever goes down like the The Road, we can use them as a source of lean protein.

          1. lean protein? i think not

            hipsters are almost always skinny-fat.

            the worst of both worlds.

            1. The dark, leafy greens call his kind muffin vegans. I’ll give 50-1 odds he’s anemic.

              1. His reasoning sure is.

        3. You could use them as ottomans, too.

          1. And he could get my coffee and newspaper. And hipsters are often foodies. So he might be able to cook.

            1. I dunno about their hygiene. I want clean cooks.

              1. True. It would be hard to find good uses for the non female types. That is why Genghis used to just kill everyone but the attractive women. I think he may have been onto something.

                1. I could throw a couple into the back of my SUV for more traction on snowy days.
                  I’m outta ideas after that.

                  1. Can they wash coffee mugs?

                    1. They can until they unionize.

                    2. the irony of being in a real live labor union(in the not what irony is sense of the word) would be too appealing to the hipsters

        4. John,

          You could trust him to mow your lawn, but only if you bought him an Apple mower.

          It is like any other mower, but it comes in white only (OK, you can get other colors but it costs more) and has a huge logo on it that is easily visible to any other hipsters who might be mowing your neighbors’ yards.

  13. Because it worked so well for the Post Office.

  14. I’ll bet this twit rides Acela, too.

  15. Topolsky can probably go home smug

    That’s a given.

  16. Hey, that’s a great idea! Let’s put wireless technology in the hands of government bureaucrats who can’t figure out how to open a spreadsheet. That will spur innovation in a fast moving market! Why, in five years they’ll have us back to WW2 walkie-talkies (that you won’t be able to find batteries for).

  17. Elvis Costello called, he wants his glasses back.

  18. Why would listen to somebody who doesn’t even wash his hair?

    1. I don’t know. Why would?

      1. This is the snarkiest, funniest comment I have read in weeks. I’m still giggling. Love it!

  19. I am wondering about all these “socialised” networks he imagines are in Europe …

    My phone stays on one network unless I’m in another country, and I get raped by roaming charges.

    1. He probably never sees his wireless bill.

      1. Yeah, but Mom and Dad sure do.

  20. Gaahhhhh, I hate these editorial shitheads who have never worked in an industry telling everyone else how it should be run.

    Next, he’ll be calling for the regulation of the V-Neck sweater market. Not enough drab colors! We need government!

  21. we risk slipping behind the rest of the world in how we do business and how we innovate.

    Go Team National Greatness! We’re the best at everything.

  22. Then we ought to call his mom and dad and ask their opinion.

  23. Socialized communications networks! Brilliant!

    We had that. It was called the Bell System. It sucked.

    1. ah yes, the Golden Age. I guess that was prior to Year Zero for Topolsky. Think of how much innovation we’d have if they hadn’t been broken up.

  24. This buttonhole needs to go work and live in a European city for a couple of years and he might change his tune. I’d be willing to bet the average Eurotrash city dweller has half the living space per dollar the average American city dweller has. Their disposable income is dramatically lower. They have a lower standard of living. They own cars at half the rate of American urbanites. And the list goes on.

    Seriously, I cannot understand the left’s infatuation with a continent that basically has a caste system, barriers to entry that limit their technological advances to that of sub-Saharan Africa, is full of racial bigotry and has overall health care systems that are as likely to kill you as they are to get that appandix out on time.

    Mind-boggling. Fucking mind-boggling. Either Riggs or Lucy Steigerwald need to track this fucktard down and drop a Cleveland Steamer on him, assuming he is in DC.

    1. Buttonhole=butthole
      Appendix=appendix

      Fucking autocorrect on the iPad sucks ass.

      And I guess we’ll have to get Lucy to track this guy down if we want it done before noon. Seriously, Riggs. The new “lunchtime links” format ain’t going over too well.

      /end rant

      1. I liked buttonhole.

    2. that limit their technological advances to that of sub-Saharan Africa

      You’re an idiot. But that is hardly uncommon around here when the dreaded word “europe” is spoken.

      1. I think dbc just called you a buttonhole, sloopy.

        1. That buttonhole called me a buttonhole?

          Seriously, what technologies have the euros led the world in since WW2? Medicine? Nope. Electronics? Nope. Automotive? The Japs would like a word with them.

          Sorry, douchebagcooper*, you’re just wrong.

          *I’m assuming that’s what those initials are for.

          1. So you don’t know anything about Europe. That’s a surprise.

            1. Europeans invented the buttonhole. True story.

              1. Looks like those sneaky Krauts stole it from the Persians in typical Eurotrash fashion.

            2. Listen up, buttonhole. I know as much about Europe as I want to know…which is enough to win any argument a dingleberry like you can put forth.

              Name me three ways Europe is better than America, and how those ways create more individual liberty than here.

              I’ll grant you the pot thing. So you’ve got two to go.

              1. I’ll give them way hotter women, esp. the Czechs.

              2. They have more bidets over there, which is a good thing.

                I don’t get how we Americans spend billions of dollars every year on deodorant and fragrance, and then walk around with a thin film of dried shit between our buttocks all day.

    3. Living in England for 3 years certainly cured me of any delusion that “the European Way” is superior.

    4. Spoken like someone who has never been more than 500 miles from his trailer in rural Kentucky. I have news for you. The standard of living in most parts of western Europe make the average American’s standard of living look pretty pathetic. They tend to have smaller houses because they live in cities and towns with incredible public spaces. They have fewer cars because they have public transportation that actually works. The health systems in Europe are far from perfect but everyone gets decent treatment and they are less fat, less likely to have diabetes and heart disease and live longer than us. But otherwise Europe sucks…

      1. Boy do we love our trailers here.

        But maybe you gotta point there, hoss. Those there public spaces sho’ sound amazin’.

        And ridin’ that shiny subway sho’ would beat my old pickup my 3-legged dog sleeps in.

        Less sugar diabetus too, ya say? That there “health care system” gonna help me lose this old beergut too? Hot damn!

        Sign this old Kentucky trailer boy up.

    5. Europeans have a lower standard of living? You don’t have a clue.

      1. Only one european country outranks the United States in the human development index – Norway.

        “Europe” is a heterogenous place. Care to bet how well Romania does in standard of living?

  25. It seems like every day there is a new article out about how the lack of government control in some area means that America will fall behind in “how we do business and how we innovate.” Stuff like this has been written time and again for at least as long as I have had conscious thought, and America doesn’t seem to have fallen behind at all.

    Oh, and on the “rural service” question; don’t progressives want everyone to live in cities? Wouldn’t lack of basic communication resources kind of help “nudge” everyone out of the rural areas and into cities?

  26. Nobody else has commented on the fact that his nightmarish alternate reality involves [PRIV]ate roadzzz? That’s the worst thing he came imagine, I guess.

  27. This douche is a WaPo columnist?
    I’d weep for my country if it wasn’t all so fucking funny!

  28. Leftists hate us for our freedoms.

    1. No, they hate us because we’re over here.

      1. That punchline would have worked better if I’d have said it.

  29. I wonder where the deviation occurs between:
    1) Hey, wireless communication should work THIS way. I’m going to start a company and make dump trucks of money because my way of doing wireless is the best way.

    2) Hey, wireless communication should work THIS way. Government should step in make things work the way I want them work, regardless of cost, feasibility, or the effect it has on others.

    1. Do you have any idea how much it costs to build a wireless network with widespread coverage?

      High barriers to entry make it an industry conducive to market power. Notice that the four widespread networks left are

      1. Ma Bell
      2. One of the Baby Bells all grown up
      3. A decades-old long distance carrier
      4. The descendant of the legacy cellphone companies of the early-mid 90s

      It’s not like there’s startups popping up with independent networks all over the place. The newer companies either have very limited coverage or piggyback on one of the Big Four’s networks.

      1. Gee why do you think that is?

        1. Red light cameras?

        2. Right, there can never ever be an inherent tendency of a market to consolidate. I will say 50 Hail Murrays as penance.

          Everything must be the fault of regulation, even earthquakes and tornadoes.

          1. It doest require you, or me , or anyone else to know how it the competition works.

            it’s like evolution. Technocratic central command hubris is the leftist version of creationism.

            Actually, Tulpa, you’re a christian conservative aren’t you? Now it makes sense.

            You are just like the rest of the centrist liberals, technocratic unimaginitive “must do something”-ites through and through.

      2. “It’s not like there’s startups popping up with independent networks all over the place. The newer companies either have very limited coverage or piggyback on one of the Big Four’s networks.”

        Lost my innuendo decoder ring; please translate.

  30. HAving worked for sprint the article is essentially correct as to why phones are locked to certain networks it has less to do with the technology and more to do with the phone subsidy that companies pay for the phones for example. If i were to buy a new phone from sprint the reimbursement works something like this 250$ will go to the dealer and 250$ will go to a customer so they arent paying the 4-6 hundred dollar price tage for their phone (and yes that is what they actually cost from the manufacturer retail prices amount to a measly 25$ most retailers make money on the 250$ commission. so sprint has shelled out 500$ for you a sprint customer if you cancel your contract outside of the 30 days they cant reclaim the phone so the early termination fee is 200$ now sprint is still out 300$ they can deny paying some retailers but even if they reclaim everything they are out 50$ for the phone. leaving networks open would require removal of the subsidy and customers dont want to pay 600$ up front for a new device so the easiest solution is to lock devices to the networks and run 2 year contracts because that is what americans want

    1. Right, and when cell phone prices come down to reasonable levels, nobody will bother with the contract and they’ll want portable phones instead.

      1. There are already dirt cheap cell phones out there, just not smartphones.

        BTW, that’s another goal of ATT’s takeover, to get customers off of dumbphones.

        1. Right, but for some idiotic reason everyone wants the latest model.

          Me, personally, I have an unlocked Motorola V3M on a prepaid plan. Cheaper than dirt.

          Problem with smartphones is that you have to pay $80/month for a data plan.

          It’s a real status symbol thing. Owning a smartphone proves you can afford not just an expensive phone, but an expensive monthly subscription. It’s an immediate indicator that you are (a) employed and (b) probably in a salaried position.

  31. We’ve got a serious problem with the way our wireless providers operate, and if we don’t do something soon, we risk slipping behind the rest of the world in how we do business and how we innovate.

    Minitel.

    1. Fortunately, there is only one model of the usPhone.

      1. I see what you did there.

  32. “[Wu] taught me how to order special delicatessen sandwiches by Internet, and he was indefatigable?a valuable man in chambers.”

    I don’t understand. How was that possible with the unregulated quagmire that is the unregulated internet we have today?

  33. Wow, I really don’t like making sweeping generalizations, preferring the individualist approach… but goddam if this guy doesn’t look and dress and pose EXACTLY like the asshole “radicals” of the 1960s and 1970s. None of these morons are as smart as they think they are, but they don’t need to deal with such niceties as facts and such. Screw this guy. There is no point even talking to these people anymore, just tell ’em, “Leave me alone or my 12-year-old daughter will kick your ass.”

  34. The cellular system is one where the gov’t did the right thing-set reasonable standards, auctioned off spectrum space to the highest bidder, etc. The big guys are everywhere, most markets have smaller carriers, monthly bills are reasonable (kids have cell phone, for FSM’s sakes).

    What could possibly go wrong with a little governemt improvements?

    1. That won’t remain the case if ATT and Verizon are the last big boys standing. Wireless will wind up like cable, except without the govt oversight.

      1. Without government “oversight” the cable market would be a million times better.

        1. Yeah, I’m sure there are venture capitalists just dying to pay the cost of running cable to every block in a city with no monopoly guarantee.

          And of course cable would actually be easier to do, since you could wire a small neighborhood and market services to the people in that neighborhood with no inherent disadvantage. With mobile phones you have to cover a wide area or your service is useless (notice the word “mobile”).

          1. For one, who cares? It’s the government’s job to enable the cable industry. WTF.

            And secondly, let them compete. Let them figure out how to deliver the service profitable.

            Free market 101 is all it takes to obliterate your silly position that the government must step in and grant monopolies to cable companies. good lord you call yourself a conservative.

            1. According to Physics 101, heavier than air flight is impossible.

              Most of the time, it’s correct to say that dense objects in a less dense fluid will fall. But in a few situations there are complications (thankfully).

              Likewise for market dynamics. Most of the time, Adam Smith’s baker example is a valid model for how markets work. But you ALWAYS have to double check the assumptions of the model rather than knee-jerkingly quoting the dogma. In Smith’s example, all it took to compete with a greedy baker was an oven and some flour. You didn’t need a nationwide bread distribution network before you could even start selling bread.

          2. Fucking satellite dishes. How do they work?

            1. Not at all, if you live in an apartment you’re not allowed to modify or have an obstructed or nonexistent view of the southern sky.

              1. Don’t live in a apartment if you want satellite? How hard is that?

              2. So if you live in an apartment without any southern sky facing windows you get fined or something? Why would you rent it in the first place then?

      2. What’s cable? Is that like Netflix?

        1. More Like Hulu Plus. Or wait, am I thinking of Vudu?

          1. i got netflix and i mostly watch tv, im thinking about hulu plus, is vudu better than hulu at tv shows?

            1. I think vudu is mostly for renting movies in HD.

      3. Did you read the post, Tulpa? The reason the big players get bigger is because the only they can expand coverage is to buy existing smaller companies because deploying a single antenna is a bureaucratic nightmare. This isn’t necessarily a federal problem per se, but it is very definitely a government problem.

        1. Yes, I read that. It’s a claim with no evidence to back it up, especially considering that ATT estimated it could get 97% coverage for a few billion dollars back in January but decided to stay put at 80% to save money.

          I’m no businessman, but I don’t get why you would spend $39B to buy a company just to accomplish something you could do for a few billion. Unless you have some other ulterior motive…such as, perhaps, STIFLING COMPETITION???????

          1. I’m no businessman either, but based on your analysis of what it is you don’t get I say SUE THEM!!!!!

      4. “That won’t remain the case if ATT and Verizon are the last big boys standing. Wireless will wind up like cable, except without the govt oversight.”

        Oh, the HORROR!

  35. Local TV stations are squealing like stuck pigs at the prospect of the feds taking away their extra spectrum (so that each network affiliate can have 5 different channels), running ads every night during the news urging viewers to call their reps about it. So it’s not necessarily a problem that originates with FCC bureaucrats.

    1. WTF are you talking about?

      Because the FCC sliced off a lot of UHF channels, we now have the problem where people in Chicago using an antenna sometimes get interference on a local channel because the FCC put another station on the same frequency less than 200 miles away.

      Because the FCC bungled HDTV, there are 5 tv stations within a 200 mile radius of Chicago assigned to channel 19 and now people sometimes get a station from Madison or Peoria or Grand Rapids instead of WGN Chicago. Prior to HDTV, the nearest station on the same frequency was about 300 miles. Engineers warned them about this but the allure of the quick buck from auctioning off spectrum was too strong.

      1. Now, now. Replacing a bunch of Cubs games and Saved By The Bell with local access from Kenosha could be considered a net gain for Chicagoland viewers, Kelly Kapowski notwithstanding.

    2. Tulpa, please tell us again how all this regulation is proper because you “need’ coverage in Snake’s Navel, SD.
      And while you’re at it, define “need”.

    3. Tulpa, I think Vanneman wrote a story about Sherlock Holmes and you.

  36. I think the cell phone market s evolving towards a single standard on it’s own.

    Plenty of people are shopping for phones that are “Unlocked”… meaning you can use them on other companies networks.
    Not being locked into a network allows you to shop for cheaper service. Obviously the phone companies want to lock you in, but that’s only a problem when phones are so expensive that most people are willing to buy a company phone complete with a two-year contract.

    As cell phones get cheaper, you’ll see increasing numbers of people who don’t want to buy into a long-term to reduce the price of the phone. They’ll be looking to buy the phone independently, and then sign up with the cheapest service. Portability then becomes important.

    Eventually this will turn into the Betamax vs. VHS or Blu-ray vs. HDVD battles.

    1. But it’s the battle that Wapo Columnists thing is the problem. They see the battle as the problem, and a grand, unifying standard (enforced by federal bureaucrats with spiffy matching binders*).

      *hat tip to Wind Rider for that line.

      1. Let me try again:

        They see the battle as the problem, and a grand, unifying standard (enforced by federal bureaucrats with spiffy matching binders*) is the solution.

  37. “The first is that we don’t have enough bandwidth in this country”

    WHA?!

    1. nvm, we really don’t have enough. topolsky was right. my bad.

  38. As interesting as policy debates are, why does no one ever bring up the role of population density in these international comparisons?

    The U.S. has pretty low population density compared to much of the rest of the world; I’m guessing the quality of communications infrastructure you can afford is based at least as much on the size of the area you’re trying to cover, as the number of people trying to use it. Handicap us for that, and we might be doing just fine.

  39. Why? So the Government can start regulating who I can call next?

    Give the Government this type of power, and you will regret it.

    That is a fact. You can not argue with history.

  40. It’s incredible that on a site called “reason” you find people saying “Fucking hipster” “Faggy lookin'” “dipship hipster “That is one punchable face”.

    1. Fortunately, I’ve already got a glass of Four Roses Single Barrel in a snifter at hand.

      1. Sorry about the redundancy, but I’m typing this on a goddamn iPhone. Can’t Obama do something about this?

  41. lololololololol, um, okay, can i just point out a glaring flaw in your logic real quick?

    ” With the iPhone locked into a single mobile network for the first few years of its life, carriers and device makers had to develop competing hardware?not just knock-offs, but products that people might actually want more than the iPhone. The result? More innovation, and more choice for consumers. ”

    hardware devs had to make competing hardware regardless of who had the iphone, because it was a great piece of hardware, and everyone wanted it. if they wanted to keep selling things they had to try to make better hardware….this has absolutely nothing to do with carrier exclusivity, so i am very unsure why that seems to be a major point of yours? if anything, contracts that forced people to stay with their current provider prevented innovation. why bother making a better product when everyone on the network that you sell phones to has to buy the phone you make?

    lololol i mean your argument is just so absurdly wrong i dont even know how to feel. maybe sad.

    1. “hardware devs had to make competing hardware regardless of who had the iphone, because it was a great piece of hardware, and everyone wanted it. if they wanted to keep selling things they had to try to make better hardware”

      Which, since they were successful, made the carrier exclusivity not terribly harmful from a consumer perspective (unless you just had to get an iPhone, not just any good phone — but Apple-fanatics deserve to get fucked by AT&T good and hard, so that’s fine by me).

      It doesn’t justify it, but it does make it less of a big deal, undermining the practical case for something as extreme as nationalization.

    2. Wow, your argument is so right, especially when supported by all of the technological leaps that have been made in government controlled economies like the Soviet Union and China before they opened up to outside companies.

      Dope.

  42. Please do not ever write about technology again, because you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Especially when you chose to write an article completely slanted and based off your political ideologies that are defective by design. Mr. Topolsky happens to know what he’s talking about and the blatant anti-competitive practices of U.S. cell carriers are fairly obvious for anyone with half of a brain and two eyes to see. The cost of cell phone service has consistently gone up while the cost to maintain and build infrastructure has consistently gone down. I definitely agree that U.S. cell service should be more expensive given our gigantic size compared to European countries, however, when companies RAISE fees and others follow, it doesn’t instill much faith in the power of competition.

    And seriously, please quit with the personal attacks. It just makes you look like an extremist asshole.

    1. No. You are a useful idiot, a dupe of the technocrats.

      Neither Topolsky NOR ANYONE ELSE is qualified to direct the wireless service industry.

      Until leftist technocrat fools like yourself understand that we are all doomed.

      1. So we’ll let them monopolize each other and halt competition indefinitely so that America is in the stone ages compared to other countries. That’s a great plan!

        1. Feel free to break them up when that happens, if you must — just don’t place them under the control of the duopoly running the politics industry, unless you want to make things worse.

        2. At least wait until that supposedly happens. You might want to deregulate them first since the only way this will happen is how every other monopoly or oligopoly occurs: Our government gives it to them.

        3. Also, the very call to action for a “plan” is misguided. The absolute worst thing that can happen is to implement some kind of “plan”

    2. Yeah! He has no clue what he’s talking about. Those morons at the WSJ, OCR and myriad papers across the country don’t know what they’re doing printing his stuff. And while wearing a fedora might make someone punchable, Suderman’s writing chops aren’t questioned by anyone in the business.

      IOW, fuck off moron.

  43. haters gonna hate.

  44. The article is well written and coherent, unlike your Libertarian, fratty, macho-man, and bro comments. On the internet, the first sign that you are a cowardly troll is when you attack the appearance of the creator of a piece of media because you don’t like something they’ve written or said.

    In fact, I bet if you’d have left logical arguments, you may very well have received a respectful response from Josh himself.

    “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others’ work and belittle their motivations?”

    1. You have to be entirely ignorant of everything our federal government has ever done, as well as the entire sum of all human history, in order to propose socializing the wireless carriers.

      1. I’m claiming no authority on the matter.

        1. Even so your folly lies in believing that anyone has authority on the matter.

          “We should all listen to Topolsky he knows what he’s talking about”.

          no, he doesn’t.

          1. Please identify the folly. I stated the article is well written– even if it serves only as a meditation.

            Never once did I write that anyone has authority on the matter.

            1. Topolsky says we should nationalize the industry.
              You say we should listen to him because he knows what he’s talking about.
              How would we not view that as conceding his “authority” on the matter?

              1. Where exactly did I explicitly state that you should listen to him…? I don’t see it.

                Perhaps I could put it in terms you all might understand; I’m suggesting you take the article for what it is– hear him out. He’s not trying to fuck with you or join your douchey frat.

                What I’m saying is that the hazing is unnecessary.

                1. Maybe I misunderstood your poorly written initial post. Whose writing are you referring to in your first paragraph? Why the quotation marks in the third? Who were you quoting there so we can have some context? And if you’re such a pussy that you have to come on here and defend somebody against anonymous mocking of their appearance, then you’re gonna be hard-pressed to get through a thread on any site, let alone here.

                  And if you think making fun of the hipster-douche look is bad, you ought to see how we talk about each other here. Then again, we’re not a bunch of thin-skinned pussies who can’t take a joke.

                  1. My first paragraph regarding the “writing” is obviously about the one by Mr. Topolsky.

                    The last one in the quotes was written by Steve Jobs. I purposely left out his name in an attempt to provoke thought before action, as well as to avoid the platoon of your curb-stompin’, face-bashin’ internet friends’ preconceptions about me.

                    It’s easy to be thick-skinned on the internet, tough guy.

        2. You sound like you got a punchable face, boy. Or, as we say down at the monocle factory, backpfeifengesicht.
          No, wait. That’s what the goddamn Germans say. NTTAWWT. But don’t mention the war.

  45. Telecom engineers and other contractors are making $40 to $75 an hour following the telecom money. They enjoy the perdiem and travel. All this fancy coverage we have came from a hard core tele com race. Yes people got laid off and had to travel to follow the cheese but we are better off as a nation because of it.

  46. “In fact, I bet if you’d have left logical arguments, you may very well have received a respectful response from Josh himself.”

    And now we’ve missed our chance?
    No. No. I refuse to believe it. Because, how, if I accept the fact that Josh will not deign grace us with a respectful response, could I go on living?
    And if I did live, what, as the great philosopher Neil Diamond asked, good would livin’ do me?
    No. No. Let me hope. Let me have that, at least.

    1. I think it’s pretty cool to be able to get a logical answer back from the author of an article that you don’t necessarily agree with.

      That’s the beauty of the internet. Since online media is not static, you have the option to interact with the author and other commenters.

      Also, you get an F in knowing how to reply directly to a comment in a forum.

      1. You may want to lurk before giving grades out on our web-fu. Many resonates refute to use threaded comments based on principle. But you’d rather make a snarky, judgmental comment than see how things work for a while before telling us how we should write, think and/or reply.

        Maybe you’d feel more at home on your regulated, moderated or censored (they’re all the same in my book) comment pages at WaPo.

        1. I’ve never once commented on the Washington Post.

  47. Riddle me this Reasonites:

    How come with the advent of LTE (4G), when the CDMA/GSM divide will be irrelevant, carriers still wont make phones with universal compatibility? No technical reason not to.

    It’s because in this country we don’t have a competitive wireless market: there are only four customers, the networks.

    1. You’re right, Nick. Those four major carriers (and countless minor paygo carriers) create a much less competitive market than the European model, which has higher rates and more restrictive rate packaging because there are fewer players allowed in the game due to market regulation.

      No thanks. I’d rather have the more numerous choices and lower rates that exist because of a freer market than your ideal of central control of standardized phones coupled with higher rates and fewer choices.

      1. There are four major carriers in the US. All other carriers in the US rent from these guys.

        Your idea of choice and lower prices is an illusion. You can’t get a decent phone with a data plan for less than $50 plus fees and a $200 up front cost for the handset. Most phones are free with service in the EU–I know because I’ve worked there and bought phones on contract. Data is more often capped in the EU, but this is quickly becoming the situation here in the us as well.

        The point isn’t to standardize phones, but to standardize standards and allow manufacturers to compete within those standards without having to go through the middlemen of the network operators.

        1. I suggest we get a committee of standards standardization to look into this as soon as we standardize the process of how they will do this. We need to look into why, when there is no technological reason no to allow free wireless service for people everywhere, there isn’t free wireless service for people everywhere.

    2. Nick, do you know Josh? ‘Cause you sound like the kind of guy who would hang in his circles, and I was hoping, well, more like yearning, to be honest, that he would offer a respectful response here. I know he’s a busy man, what with the column to write and the neck-strengthening regimen, but if he could come and lay his wisdom on us, it’d be, like, wow. Not that your wisdom isn’t, like, really wise and stuff, but you know, like he is Josh. So be cool, man.

      1. I don’t know him, but I have studied the US and European wireless markets for work, and have no qualms expressing my opinions despite the ad hominem attacks directed at Josh.

        1. “…but I have studied the US and European wireless markets for work…”
          Well, fuck, man. What are you doing wasting your precious time here for? The people need you! Hurry!

          1. My bad. Thought this might be a place to have a REASONED discussion.

            1. Ok. Now I’m moving on to the Woodford Reserve.

              1. More a fan of Johnny Walker Blue, but that’s the beauty of individual choice and free markets. One thing we can agree on I’m sure!

            2. Ah, the Reason drinking game. The cause of and the solution to all the worst posts here.

              1. No, it’s all these buttonholes that come on here ignorant of our ways and means.

                I swear, I’m getting close to posting dicktits again. Veeeeeeeery close.

    3. It’s because cell phones are expensive and everyone buys one from the carrier on a long-term contract. So the carriers can control your phone choices. If you want to plop down $500 up front, you can get an unlocked phone and choose your carrier.

    4. 1. LTE does not end the technical divisions between carriers. There is no universal standard for voice over LTE yet. Advanced services will almost certainly be incompatible across carriers.
      2. CDMA and GSM will not be irrelevant for years to come. AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G footprint still does not match their installed GSM footprint. Gains in 4G service will likely come at the expense of 3G coverage for those carriers.
      3. Just because the air messaging interface is the same doesn’t mean that the hardware is universal. The RF transceiver needs to support the different bands used by the different carriers. AT&T and T-Mobile have used the same UMTS/HSDPA technologies since 2008, but phones supporting both networks only started becoming available last year. Adding support for both networks increases the cost of the phone.
      4. The widespread subsidy model has made phone portability almost completely irrelevant. When switching to a new carrier, customers can get a new device for very little cost. Both the iPhone and Android devices make device switching without loss of data very easy.
      5. There are more than four wireless carriers in the US. Locally there are six carriers with independent networks offering 3G wireless service, not counting MVNOs.
      6. The demand for a Verizon version of the iPhone demonstrates that customers do make choices about their phone carrier based on factors important to them in ways that drive industry response. Verizon’s widespread perception as a more reliable network is pushing AT&T to improve the reliability of its network.
      7. Subsidies to provide phone service that would otherwise be unprofitable in areas of low population density have no real effect other than to subsidize poor decision making. If wireless service can’t be provided at break-even or a profit where you live and you want wireless service, move. Cities exist for a reason.

      There are still a great many things wrong with the wireless operators in the US, but there is no reason to suppose that any regulation would actually improve them.

  48. As opposed to France for instance, which has many more carriers relative to the size of their population.

    Buying a cellphone should be like buying a TV. Manufacturers compete for millions of customers on price or features, and because of standards you can hook your TV up to cable, FIOS, or an antenna and purchase service separate from the hardware purchase.

    1. And you can do that, Nick. Ever heard of buying an unlocked phone?

      1. Because manufacturers sell to middlemen, the carriers, the price of buying an unlocked phone is prohibitive. If this was a more direct market between sellers and producers, prices would come down.

        You can get a decent TV or computer for $400. Unlocked smartphones are over $600, yet the same price declines in components apply across all devices.

        1. And how much was a cutting edge color TV in today’s dollars five years into the development of color TV tech? How about a cutting edge computer at the outset of computer development?

          Why do people like you want to stifle innovation by basically telling companies they shouldn’t be able to recoup R&D costs for development of new products?

          1. Those are fair points about the pace of technical innovation, but I’m talking more about the characteristics of the respective markets. Computers/Internet TV/TV Service and Smartphones/Wireless Service.

            The interesting thing to me about your argument is that you trust a corporation to make the right decisions regarding your phone purchasing options, rather than the individual decisions of millions of consumers.

            1. I do want those millions of people to make their own minds up. And when we eliminate the regulatory framework that stifles innovative new network systems from even getting into the market, we will all be better off.

              And why wouldn’t I trust the corporations? In an unregulated marketplace, when that corporation ceases to deliver maximum value, they will lose market share. They will also lose out when their contacts become restrictive vs those of their competitors.

              Case in point: my previous point about color TV’s and computers. As more options came about, people were able to demand better value per dollar from manufacturers as well as service providers (cable/sat for tv and ISP’s for computer connectivity). As those markets became more regulated, they either became more expensive or narrower in choices.

              1. You realize regulation in this context means a standards setting body, not state owned production.

                If you favor a cell phone market that more closely resembles the TV and computer markets then we are in violent agreement.

                1. Tv tech had dramatically changed in the last 10 years or so. The only thing standard about them is that they run on the same current. Same with computers. Or cars. Or motorcycles. Or golf clubs. Or virtually any product that exists with a non-linear technology.

                  There is no standards setting body that works better than the industry itself. IIRC, there were no standards setting bodies for any products until about 80-90 years ago anywhere in the world. Mankind got along just fine in the development of everything from the wheel to the airplane without it. Why do we need it so badly now? My guess is because people want what they want, and don’t think it’s fair for the developers of those products to get rich.

                  1. Re TV: ATSC, NTSC, and QAM work on any modern TV. You can hook it up to cable, FIOS or antenna and decide what level of service you want or not.

                    1. And do you know how TV became standardized? The FCC adopted an agreement that already existed among members of the Radio Manufacturers Association years before…a voluntary organization of manufacturers. That’s right, the competing forces reached an agreement absent the hand of government.

                    2. That’s an oversimplification, both government and industry had a role in standardization. For instance, common carriage laws and more described here:

                      http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/facts/csgen.html

                    3. I pointed out how an industry standardized itself years before the government stepped in and adopted those guidelines, and you move the goalposts(or simply miss my point). The manufacturers standardized themselves WITHOUT the government. It happens all the time. What makes you think it wouldn’t have continued to happen with TV? Or phones? Or Internet? Or anything else?

                      Funny, I’ve yet to see a monopoly come into being absent a complicit government. You, however, see them as a solution.

                      The mind…it boggles.

                    4. If we didn’t have a government to enforce property rights, corporations would not exist, and there would be no markets to invest in. So let’s not be so naive as to say that government is the only responsible party here, one of many perhaps, but not the sole repository of blame.

                2. If you favor a cell phone market that more closely resembles the TV and computer markets then we are in violent agreement.

                  That resemblance is impossible, since a cellphone without a mobile network is a paperweight, while a TV without cable or a computer without net access is still useful.

                  1. We are talking about smartphones here. Any smartphone that can use wifi is not a paperweight without a mobile network. Wifi, like the upcoming white spaces test, is in an unlicensed part of the spectrum and works regardless of whom you bought your phone from.

                    1. So it’s a tablet with a tiny screen, or a laptop with a weaker processor and a tiny screen.

                      In short it is not able to fulfill the purpose for which it was designed, and can only be used for purposes for which it is ill-suited.

                    2. And people are dumb enough to buy hundreds of millions of them. Idiots!!!!!

                3. Oh, and BTW there are plenty of cheap phones out there, just not the cutting-edge smartphones. It’s kind of strange to be comparing the iPhone’s price behavior to that of a low-end 32″ HDTV.

      2. Your Google-fu is not strong. You should get out your monocle and put that punchable face of yours to work. Read up on the caveats of activating an unlocked Verizon iPhone 4 on the Sprint network, Libertarian style. Before your face ends up checking the curb.

        1. You have to mean it for it to be funny. In Esperanto it’s called ridseriozeco, and one who practices it is a ridseriozecisto. You, sir, are malridseriozega.

        2. Right. You have just proven my point.

        3. Why would I read up on that? I can just tell Sprint they will lose my business to Verizon or AT&T until they get the iPhone or a better product. If enough people tell them that (or leave), they will change their practices or perish. And the costs of phones is what the market allows it to be. If phones were truly overpriced, people would not buy them. If they were underpriced, they would sell too many of them relative to their higher-end competitors. They reach their equilibrium based on the actual performance in the marketplace, not by some collusion among the manufacturers.

          1. You don’t understand the market dynamics at work here. Your purchasing options are dictated by middlemen who use artificial means to prohibit customer defection, and therefore your ability to influence the market is limited as well.

            1. But you do understand them? Whatever, dude. My purchasing options are dictated by the service providers…the ones who have staked their financial success on catering to their customers’ needs better than their competition.

              I’m sorry, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea how markets work. I’m in an ultra competitive marketplace where there’s virtually no brand loyalty and value is paramount. My consumers (on both ends) dictate how I take care of them. Any savvy consumer can do the same with any cell carrier out there. I would know because I actually negotiated my cell contract unlike the morons who just look at the rate plans and pick one.

              1. So if you buy one of the new iPhones from Sprint, and then decide they aren’t your carrier of choice, what are your options with that piece of hardware after you pay a $350 early termination fee? You certainly can’t get it to work on Verizon or any other carrier in the US. All you can do is use it as a glorified iPod Touch, which by the way utilizes WiFi, operating in unlicensed radio spectrum set aside by the FCC.

                1. I guess what I do is honor the contract I signed with them. Buyers Remorse is no excuse for getting your money back.

                  So, I guess my answer is: I’d never sign a contract with those terms if I weren’t willing to live up to them. I would negotiate a better one with either them or another carrier.

                  1. Paying an early termination fee is honoring the contract. Only problem is that you now have a phone that doesn’t work on any other network because carriers have not standardized on technology or spectrum.

                  2. I guess what I do is honor the contract I signed with them.

                    Paying the termination fee == honoring the contract

                2. Nick, it’s true that purchasing phones through the carrier results in this dynamic where they can lock you into the phone, but that’s a function of the cost of the phone. Most people aren’t willing to pay the up-front cost of purchasing an unlocked phone, and *chose* to buy through the carrier because of the discounts. You may think it sucks (and lots of people do), but it’s their free choice.

                  I do believe that as smartphone prices come down (cell phone prices already have, but not the newer smart phones), people will start opting NOT to buy through the carrier. Once that happens unlocked phones will dominate, and then you’ll see a battle between standards (like Blue-ray vs. HDVD), and one of them will emerge as the winner.

                  I do not believe cell phone prices are being kept artificially high. Regular cell phones are become extremely cheap, but everyone wants a smart phone now, and they’ve only bee around a few years. Unlocked phones already command a premium on the used market (go peruse Ebay). The market WILL converge towards a single standard.

              2. I’m sorry, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea how markets work. I’m in an ultra competitive marketplace where there’s virtually no brand loyalty and value is paramount.

                That’s how the market you’re in works.

                It’s not how the mobile phone market works.

                I’m guessing the barriers to entry in your industry are much lower.

            2. Prohibit? It’s just more expensive. If you really care, it’s easy to defect, it just isn’t that important to most people.

      3. Sure I can buy an unlocked phone. But can I buy an iPhone and connect it to Sprint in the US. No we can’t! Or Verizon. No we can’t.

        The Europe system is way better and cheaper then the US system. Especially cheaper..

        1. Cheaper? I think Mr Suderman’s pre-emptively debunked that bullshit with this link in his story. And can you get an iPhone from every carrier in Europe?

          I know it doesn’t fit your narrative, but it’s still true nonetheless.

  49. While I understand that many (myself included) do not agree with Topolsky’s views, are personal attacks really necessary?

  50. What a sad set of comments. Hatchet and Curb stomp his face? Do you think you’re funny? You just make us look like tea party people.

    In the current system I can see how people think this could work. Unless it’s completely deregulated this is a pointless argument.

  51. My god up lot are a pack of uneducated hicks. If you don’t like J-Tops views on a system that is so obviously broken, do it in a manner that is relevant and doesn’t involve a stereotypical American hick mentality. From the outside your system is broke andneed fraent

    1. Why do you wear a wool hat in the summer?

      1. when im trespassing on your property.

  52. Instead of stifling innovation what if when the inventor of a technology dies the technology must die along w/ the creator. Next stop innovation station.

  53. Typical reaction to the work “social…”. I think you guys should read Marx and Adam Smith (and not what people tell you about them) before going into a killing punching campaign. I leave in the most centralized regulated country in the world, China, and the network is ten times better and faster than in the US. Officials learn from South Korea and Singapore best practices, both countries where networks are under complete government control but, officials there use their brain to build a new century society, with gigabit network for every citizen and 3G coverage everywhere. In the States, the freedom given to the free competition is a good environment for innovation but a bad one for universal service.
    What Josh might meant is that you’ll have a class of rich and poors in terms of access to the media and to the data which in turn might limit the innovation process. To ensure equal access to the network is essential.

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