[governance] the Apple iPhone rort

carlos a. afonso ca at rits.org.br
Wed Jul 11 08:20:15 EDT 2007

Hi David,

Quite interesting, and your points (and The Guardian's article) uncover
a real big issue for consumer rights' groups in the US to deal with

It is a fact that, contrary to several other comm industries (perhaps
cable tv excluded, as they sell the set-top box and one cannot readily
find alternatives in the market), cel phone companies sell the comm
device with the services package. What is not common is that a
particular device model is exclusively tied to that company's services.
Like, I can buy any several models of Sony Ericsson phones in stores and
just install a chip I contract with my GSM operator, even though
operators also sell the same models as part of their services package.
One of the main GSM operators in Brazil is actually doing a huge
marketing campaign with the motto "the phone is yours, not the
company's", stressing the fact they do not code the phone to function
only with their chips (a code which, in any case, is easily hacked out
by phone repairers anywhere in the city...).

The iPhone case takes this tied purchase practice to an extreme, and
again brings AT&T to the fore of the consumer rights' violations debate
-- witness the long EFF case against AT&T for unilateral violation of
privacy rights of millions of Internet users, using huge packet sniffer
installations at key points in their network. What to say of the
schizophrenic attitude of Apple, in which they start preaching for an
end to DRM and at the same time sign an incredibly restrictive (and
dumb, as your message makes clear) contract like this?

fraternal regards


Carlos A. Afonso

-----Original Message-----
From: David Goldstein <goldstein_david at yahoo.com.au>
To: Governance Mailing List <governance at lists.cpsr.org>
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 20:56:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [governance] the Apple iPhone rort

> Hi all,
> I'd put this posting below on my website -
> http://technewsreview.com.au/ - and thought I'd post it here and see
> what the response was. It's based on an article in The Guardian today
> that makes a few more points on the new must-have iPhone. Well, must
> have only for those who are slaves to marketing hype. It makes points
> that have been made before.
> To have an iPhone one must agree to a contract with AT&T, previously
> described as one of the worst mobile phone service providers in the
> US. So if you want an iPhone, and you are already contracted to
> another company, you have to terminate that contract with the related
> fees that involves. Ben Scott’s article also notes “if you are on
> a family plan, you may have to pay a separate fee to terminate all of
> your family's phones.” And there’s the point that that AT&T
> doesn’t offer full coverage in more than a dozen states.
> Now, the real point the article makes I’d not thought of, and
> relevant to this list, is that the “practice of tying users to one
> provider is unique to the wireless world. Cable TV providers can't
> tell you what kind of TV to buy. And regular phone service will work
> on any phone you can find at your favorite electronics store. In the
> latter case, that's because there is a longstanding set of laws that
> guarantee consumer choice.”
> In the USA, at least, this is “called the ‘Carterfone’ rules,
> these laws make it so you can use any device you want - phone,
> headset, fax machine or dial-up modem - on your telephone network, so
> long as it doesn't harm the network.”
> The article then says, “But it gets worse: phone companies don't
> just hold the iPhone captive; they also routinely cripple features on
> handsets (like Wi-Fi, games, audio and video) so that you can only
> access their ‘preferred’ content. They also limit access to the
> network, despite marketing ‘unlimited access’. And they reserve
> the right to boot you off the network if you do almost anything they
> don't like.”
> “This kind of ‘blocking and locking’ behavior doesn't stop you
> from accessing the internet, but it does shape your experience and
> undermine the open, level playing field that consumers have come to
> expect online. The iPhone is simply the highest-profile example of a
> wireless internet market that is drifting further and further away
> from the free and open internet we've all come to expect.
> “The only solution to this problem is a political one. Decisions
> that legislators and regulators in Washington make now will determine
> what the internet looks like in the future. The US Congress is
> holding a hearing this week - call it the iPhone hearing - to discuss
> the new technology and its impact on consumer choice.”
> So all this, and combined with the rort of having to send your phone
> to Apple just so you can exchange the battery, and other lock-ins,
> I’d hope smart people would boycott the iPhone. Even if it’s just
> to somehow enable consumer choice and stop the drift away from a
> “free and open internet”.
> For the article that got me thinking about this post, see
> http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ben_scott/2007/07/free_the_iphone
> .html
> Cheers
> David
> --------- 
> David Goldstein
>  address: 4/3 Abbott Street
>            COOGEE NSW 2034
>            AUSTRALIA
>  email: Goldstein_David @yahoo.com.au
>  phone: +61 418 228 605 (mobile); +61 2 9665 5773 (home)
> "Every time you use fossil fuels, you're adding to the problem. Every
> time you forgo fossil fuels, you're being part of the solution" - Dr
> Tim Flannery

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