Are Cell Phone Carriers Stuck With Google Maps?

by on November 29, 2006

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.

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