Robert Slattery is a writer living in Western North Carolina. He enjoys music and all sorts of other things.
Can You Hear me Now?
Social Issues – In the big business of cellphones, there are essentially two big players: AT&T and Verizon. Together they have 60% of the market. Expand that to include the next two largest service providers and 90% of the market is accounted for. It’s a level of market control that threatens, some believe, the very democracy we consider so vital to being an American.
A panel discussion at the South by Southwest Interactive conference concluded that this market dominance is resulting in a gradual decrease in options for customers. One example cited was both AT&T and Verizon’s placement of data limits on smart phone users. This, coupled with the obscene markup on talk, text, and data plans that these companies charge compared to their operating costs and better European counterparts works much like a vice on the consumer.
Worse still, though, is that these companies have become for many people primary channels through which they interact with the world. It’s an idea that Josh Levy of advocacy group Free Press sees as a gross imbalance of power: “AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are the enablers of free speech, and they can turn off the spigot if they feel like it.” It has happened, too. Levy cited Verizon’s 2007 decision to block an abortion rights group’s text message program.
The picture described is one where too free a market can infringe upon the rights of the people, especially when those who make the money benefit from being the same as their competitors.