Cell phone carriers are wretched relics of the old guard

Verizon Wireless has announced that it will open its network. But as Don Reisinger explains, the real story here is that the cell phone industry is one of the worst in tech.

Verizon Wireless
When will it ever end? Verizon Wireless

In a move that some have called "groundbreaking" and I have called "a disgusting attempt at trying to look cool", Verizon Wireless has announced that it will be opening its network to "any apps and any device...that meets a minimum technical standard."

What a waste of valuable editorial space. Why is this even news? Does anyone actually believe that Verizon Wireless has become the cell phone industry's latest (or is it first?) good guy? I certainly don't.

One of the more laughable parts of this story is Verizon's insistence on its new service becoming the haven "small device manufacturers and developers" have been waiting for. For some reason, I can't quite grasp why this is true.

In order to get your device or app on the Verizon service, you'll need to send it to the newly created $20 million test lab Verizon has set up and the company will need to approve it for use on its network. Also, it'll need to meet certain technical standards, which could mean it simply needs to light up and make noise, or it could mean it'll need to fly to Mars if it's not made by a well known firm.

To make matters worse, Verizon has yet to announce how it will accomplish this newly devised system and if you've been keeping score, this company that's trying so hard to be "open" has yet to join Google's Android Open Handset Alliance. That seems a bit odd, doesn't it?

But I digress. The real story here is not that Verizon Wireless has announced something without any real details, the real story is the fact that Verizon exemplifies everything that's wrong with the cell phone industry -- it's a place where common sense is thrown out the window and customer loyalty and respect have never existed.

If we take a holistic view of what's really going on in the cell phone industry, the truth may hurt you. And while I may have some issues with Verizon's plans on a new open service, Verizon Wireless is just one segment of an entire industry that's ruled by a bunch of fools.

In what other industry can you gladly walk down to your local wireless carrier store, explain to them why their service is pure garbage, and walk out without a replacement device and $175 in cancellation charges? Chances are your cable company doesn't pull that kind of deal with you and if Netflix did, would you even use the service anymore? Probably not.

Sad as it is, we're all locked into cell phones to a great extent. And while some people may believe Verizon Wireless is great or AT&T is the best carrier in the world, I've got news for all of them: each and every one of these carriers are no good.

Is it just a coincidence that Verizon Wireless sent letters to customers explaining to them that they would begin sharing their personal information with "affiliates, agents and parent companies" without any real reason to do so?

Is it a coincidence that AT&T will collect your Web usage and personal information for use in "marketing techniques" that will "improve consumer experiences"?

Is it a coincidence that T-Mobile users have paid $200 just to get out of a contract or all cell phone carriers promise better reception than we actually witness or customer service is just plain awful or corporate policies are such that customer happiness falls low on their list of preferences?

I think not.

For some odd reason, cell phone carriers have no idea what makes a customer happy or how to bring a compelling service to the market. And to make matters worse, these companies are currently run by a group of old individuals who ignore the current state of the tech industry in favor of profit-making and shameless self-promotion.

As a customer of both Verizon Wireless and AT&T, I've witnessed many of these complaints first hand. But unfortunately, I simply do not see an end to my using these services. And it's because of that -- namely, that cell phone carriers have a stranglehold on our lives -- that we will not see any change in these policies for quite some time.

Sad as it is, the cell phone industry is being held captive by a group of individuals who are loath to admit that their current policies do nothing but annoy, upset and undermine the loyalty of paying customers.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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