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Verizon Gets Legally Slapped For Crippling Phone Services (Finally)

January 24th, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

According to this Gizmodo post Verizon just lost a class action suit in California for removing Bluetooth services from the Motorola v710. This is the first lawsuit of the type against a U.S. cell provider that I’m aware of (somebody please comment and/or e-mail if you know otherwise).

Might not sound like a big deal at first, but here’s the larger picture: Early adopters (like myself) know that as handheld technology and more importantly battery technology progresses we’re trending towards a media-rich mobile lifestyle. Most of the baby boomers are now comfortable camera phones (I had a talk with my dad once about how a 1 megapixel camera phone is a poor substitute for an actual digital camera), my generation doesn’t feel safe without an ipods ear bud wires dangling down their cheek, and the younger generations now have the ultimate leverage over their parents: They know how to use the computer. A generation that doesn’t know a life without computers everywhere is more inclined to let new technology in.

One other trend that has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few years is wireless. From phones to LANs, pocket pets to optical mice and keyboards we’re snipping those wires like our future depends on it.

So where are we heading? Towards something like this, maybe this, or perhaps this (my personal favorite). Devices which combine every piece of the information age.

Here’s where the problems start with what providers are doing right now. Say you go to Best Buy and you want a DVD player. You read a great review online from a web site that talks about all these awesome features. So you get your new DVD player home and much to your surprise only half, maybe less, of the features you wanted work. You take another look at that review just to make sure you go the right model and you notice the review came from somebody in the United Kingdom.

You’re screwed. And yes, you have the right model.

This isn’t happening so much with DVD players (though you could get into a debate about region encoding) as it is with cell phones. Many of these devices originated in places like the U.K. where service providers don’t care as much about locking down phones as their U.S. counterparts do. A friend of mine has this really kick ass LG phone with mp3 functionality, but it’s locked down by Verizon so he can’t play his own music even though it has a SD card slot.

Are we all thieves now? Has it reached the point where policy is to treat your customers as potential pick pockets before they’ve even signed up?

The real story is that it isn’t totally about copyright law and related interests. In this case, Verizon left out the fact that it couldn’t transfer files to a PC but what they’re not talking about is what people really want, a phone that can be used as a modem. If the phone can do it, why do I have to pay more for it?

Because their networks are running but not running well. It’s hard to keep up with the kind of explosive growth cell phone use has seen in the last few years, all the while trying to offer new this and new that. Bigger better faster.

Unfortunately the first “utility” to fail during every major disaster we’ve seen in the last few years is cell phone service. I wonder how many service credits (if any) got issued to the citizens of New York during 9/11? Any in New Orleans? They even fell apart during the July bombing in London.

Ultimately, if we’re going to assign blame, I place it squarely on the customer base for not taking the time to really know how they’re being taken advantage of. These folks did and all it really got them was an easy out or a service credit. As is always the case in history all it really takes is enough people standing up together at the same time.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, I am one of those “free information” type geeks. How could you tell?

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