Separating Church and State

Speaking of new cell phones, the time has come to open the handset market in the United States, to wit: wireless network operators should not have a monopoly on the sale of subscriber units on their networks and must allow the use of any compatible device - once authenticated, of course, and once the user of said device has agreed to the payment terms. The counterargument here is usually that handset prices will rise because their price is today largely subsidized by the service contract. Gosh, isn't that just taking the money out of another pocket? And heaven help you if your phone is lost or stolen and you don't buy the optional "insurance" plan from your carrier. Can you say full price? Such insurance plans are, as you know, almost always a rip-off for the customer and pure profit for the supplier, but fear is a powerful motivator for many. Hey - want a new phone before your contract is up? Well, you get my point.

An open market here would lower the price of equipment through competition, just like it has for cars, stereo equipment, and almost everything else we buy. This is what open access, after all, is all about. The incumbent carriers just hate open access, fearing competition and lower prices, and are even fighting it in court. This is shameful - a properly-functioning free-market economy optimizes, as it should, for the consumer, the folks who pay the bills (including providing the funds for spectrum auctions), not the supplier. It should not be the job of regulatory policy to protect the profits of monopolists - or those who just think that way.

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