Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cell Phone Jail

Most of us know it instinctively: Our cell phone companies have us, the consumers, by the short hairs. We must use their selection of cell phones on their system on their terms, leaving us at their mercy. I didn't know 'til today, but the cell phone companies place "locking software" on their phones so you can't use it with any other provider! So, you may not like the customer service, you may not like your reception & you may not like the amount you have to pay each month, but if you go somewhere else, you can keep your same phone number, but you have to pay an early termination fee & then you have to swear another minimal two-year blood oath & enter into ANOTHER contract & you have to buy shell out for ANOTHER phone you can't use anywhere else & hope you're gonna be happy with the new giant & whatever scraps they throw you. For most of us, that's just too much trouble, too much of a gamble & just too much money!

I read this article on MSNBC about the dirty business of cell phones! At the end, they include info on something called "unlocking software" that you can get for next-to-nothing on the internets!

It seems the poor, defenseless cell phone companies in the US were boo-hooing & poor-mouthing how badly this evil pirating software was to their very existence & went to Uncle Sam (or should I say, Uncle Dubya) & was asking for relief!

Just as an FYI, I went to the Wonderful World of Wikipedia, just to check out how much revenue these fragile cell phone companies earned recently & found that, they really aren't hurting after all (I know, you're so surprised, right?!?!). All these figures were for 2006, except for T-Mobile where a year was not mentioned (that I could find). Just out of curiosity, I also perused the Wikipedia & found info on the Gross Domestic Product (which is defined as "the total market value of all the goods and services produced within the borders of a nation during a specified period") for all the countries in the world for 2006, so I could compare. If you can see the tiny chart below (you can click-y on it to make it easier to see) you'll discover that the Big 5 (Alltell, AT&T, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile & Verizon) reported $221 billion in revenue in 2006. That's more money than the value of the GDP in countries like Hong Kong, Israel or New Zealand for 2006!

As a matter of fact, of the 183 countries listed by the World Bank, these 5 US cell phone companies combined had more annual revenue than the Gross Domestic Product of 153 of them! In other words, these "defenseless" US companies reported more revenue in 2006 than 4 out of every 5 counties on the planet! Let that sink in for a few seconds! Amazing, isn't it???

Well, despite their OBVIOUS desperate straits, these paragons of American entrepreneurship couldn't even get their loving Uncle Dubya to help them out!! How beyond-screwed must multi-national corporate giants be if they can't get one of their own to rescue them from themselves?!?! It wasn't widely announced (that I know of), but, apparently the cell phone giants were dealt a stunning blow back in 2006 when the federal government ruled that the unlocking software was not illegal. Soon, the smart consumers who knew about this little rule started asking for the unlocking codes, making their phones usable on other networks. Even if you didn't want to spend a couple of hundred bucks to break your contract, after your contract expired, you could go & find a better deal!

The last paragraph of the article (the link is below) states that, even though we can apparently ask to have the phones unlocked,
The phones, as sold, are still hamstrung with locking software by default. Only those who know enough to ask ever consider using their phones on a competitor’s network. Despite the fanfare surrounding Granick’s [a lawyer who decided to fight the cell phone giants] case in techie circles, the vast majority of Americans still think cell hardware is limited to use with a single carrier. But now you know better. From Gotcha to Got Them!
As for me, I am very happy with my T-Mobile phone & I am not looking to go elsewhere, but it's good to know that cell phone jell is now potentially merely a misdemeanor sentence instead of life with no chance of parole!!

Article on MSNBC ---> http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22342054/

1 comment:

skyedance said...

I have t-moble too and they have been pretty good to me when I have a problem.

anytime we wont a new phone we buy a new unlocked one on ebay.