Verizon Wireless is lobbying the FCC to create a run-around for the upcoming auction of 700 MHz wireless spectrum. Under the rules the commission set earlier this year, wireless carriers would have to offer more open network access, including rules that will requires carriers to offer devices that can be used on other carrier networks.
Verizon is positioning its two-door policy as a compromise that gives consumers choice. Consumers can choose more expensive open devices or cheaper locked devices. Simple, right?
Not so. The two-door policy is designed to let the carriers continue to offer the same locked-down, subsidized devices under their existing business models. Verizon (and the rest of the carriers) hope that consumers will continue to lock themselves down to long, two-year contracts (two-year contracts, two-doors -- coincidence?) in exchange for cheaper devices that are as locked down as today's cell phones. Verizon is betting that consumers will opt away from unlocked devices (which are generally more expensive) to stick with cheaper phones. In short, Verizon hopes to play a shell game with consumers, deceiving them with devices that look cheaper on the surface, but underneath are saddled with the same locked features and walled content gardens.
The fight for open access has pitted the giants of the Web and some aspiring wireless upstarts, led by Google, against the old-line wireless carriers, led by Verizon Wireless. While Google and its allies didn't get everything they wanted from the FCC's new auction rules, the upcoming auction still carries the promise of more open wireless networks. Unless Verizon gets its way.
As I have pointed out on this blog before, both consumers and businesses stand to benefit from more open wireless networks. Open networks will lead to more mobile applications and more innovative use of the mobile Web. Open devices will give consumers more choice and it will enable businesses to launch more mobile services and smartphones in their organizations in a cost-effective manner. Right now the locked down networks and devices are designed to help the carriers meet the demands of Wall Street, not the needs of their customers.
What do you think? Is Verizon's proposed two-door policy fair? Or is it just the carriers up to business as usual?