Are Cell Phone Carriers Stuck With Google Maps?

by on November 29, 2006 · 10 comments

CNET reports that Google has been contacted by cell phone carriers who don’t want their customers accessing Google Maps from their cell phones. One Google executive claims: “we’ve been getting notes from some of the telco carriers who are saying ‘look, you need to stop our customers from downloading this thing’.” If the report is true, it says a lot about whether or not we need heavy-handed government regulation to protect basic Internet freedoms.

Google Maps one of the best cell phone features I have ever used and I would be angry if my cell phone carrier tried to take it away. They could, of course. They’re under no network neutrality-type obligations. Any cell phone carrier could block access to Google Maps tomorrow. But if the media report is true, some have decided to appeal to Google instead. Maybe they fear a customer backlash if they take action on their own. Dissatisfied customers could jump ship. There are four major cell phone carriers to choose from. But existing customers are locked into service agreements, so one would assume the carriers are in a strong position. What they fear, I suspect, is bad press and resulting damage to the brand. They also may be afraid of provoking Washington. Either way, they already seem to feel there are limitations on what they can do even in the absence of net neutrality regulation.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    The problem is not whether Google can protect itself once it is established (obviously it has many means to do that, including buying off Verizon), but whether the next Google/YouTube/etc. can get a foothold without paying off the incumbents. If this rumor is a sign of anything (I’m not sure that it is), I’d say it is not a healthy one- if the mobile providers are stupid enough (arrogant enough?) to take on a juggernaut Google, then obviously they’ll feel perfectly comfortable trying to strangle a less established competitor in the crib.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    The problem is not whether Google can protect itself once it is established (obviously it has many means to do that, including buying off Verizon), but whether the next Google/YouTube/etc. can get a foothold without paying off the incumbents. If this rumor is a sign of anything (I’m not sure that it is), I’d say it is not a healthy one- if the mobile providers are stupid enough (arrogant enough?) to take on a juggernaut Google, then obviously they’ll feel perfectly comfortable trying to strangle a less established competitor in the crib.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    It seems that we jump to quickly to the conclusion that corporate actions: “says a lot about whether or not we need heavy-handed government regulation to protect basic Internet freedoms.”. However, there is an even more fundamental question (before we even get to the question of government regulation), that is are the corporations acting ethically? If they don’t, then government regulation would be an appropriate remedy to assure that the public is not being screwed. So before, raising the specter of doom and gloom onerous government regulations, are the corporate acting ethically?

    For example, the Cnet article also states “Sacca also criticised mobile operators who claim to provide unlimited Internet access, but ban their users from using applications such as VoIP or streaming video.” and that the telcoms “cannot expect to keep its users tightly controlled indefinitely.”.

    Also back in July, Cnet reported: “A class action lawsuit charges that Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest carrier, deceived AT&T; Wireless subscribers into paying extra fees and degraded their service after acquiring that company in 2004.” http://news.com.com/Cingular+accused+of+duping+

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    It seems that we jump to quickly to the conclusion that corporate actions: “says a lot about whether or not we need heavy-handed government regulation to protect basic Internet freedoms.”. However, there is an even more fundamental question (before we even get to the question of government regulation), that is are the corporations acting ethically? If they don’t, then government regulation would be an appropriate remedy to assure that the public is not being screwed. So before, raising the specter of doom and gloom onerous government regulations, are the corporate acting ethically?

    For example, the Cnet article also states “Sacca also criticised mobile operators who claim to provide unlimited Internet access, but ban their users from using applications such as VoIP or streaming video.” and that the telcoms “cannot expect to keep its users tightly controlled indefinitely.”.

    Also back in July, Cnet reported: “A class action lawsuit charges that Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest carrier, deceived AT&T Wireless subscribers into paying extra fees and degraded their service after acquiring that company in 2004.” http://news.com.com/Cingular+accused+of+duping+ex-AT38T+subscribers/2100-1039_3-6091853.html

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