Of Phones and Phone Companies

One of my readers, Dr Nazli, suggested to me that mobile phone phone reception was worth getting angry about. I certainly agree but I wasn't sure how to approach it as the subject of mobiles feels like it has been done to death. I ruminated for a while, and the more rum I drank, the angrier I got. I tried to explain to the police officer that the rum drinking was absolutely necessary but he seemed to have his own opinion on the matter. The consensus is – we'll let a judge sort it out.

Which has very little to do with mobile phones.

The development of mobile phone services in Australia, and telecommunications generally, has been a bit weird. Not unique, but from what I read it's certainly been different here to many other developed nations. We had a big incumbent government-owned telco (now knows as Telstra) who up until recently (the 90's) ran the entire phone service as a monopoly. At the time I thought this had some pluses and some minuses but in retrospect it seems to have been a shitload of minuses that totally outweighs the pluses.

One of the pluses is coverage being mandated by law where there may not be any commercial incentive to provide coverage. In short, Australia is a big place with lots of empty or almost empty spaces. Phone companies can't make money providing service to people in really remote areas unless they charge them about a million bucks so, unless you're Ayn Rand, it's kind of fair to subsidise rural communities. Another plus is that as new companies entered the market they were forced to make their services totally compatible with other providers. I've heard in the US there can be quite severe connectivity problems between providers and text/sms is basically a no-go.

We don't have that problem so sms has been a big thing here for years. They rates we get charged are absolute bullshit but there is a bit of an issue with the fact that economies of scale that are available in Europe, Asia, and the Americas don't really exist here. As a former prime minister put it, in many ways this is "the arse end of the world." All of which doesn't tell you what I'm angry about.

I've had problems with mobile reception, in fact there's some weird anomaly with my apartment building being this huge old structure with thick walls that cuts off my mobile reception almost completely when I'm at home. But that's never made me particularly angry. What makes me angry is the constant self-interested lying by phone companies. From what I've seen, this problem is world-wide. A few local examples:

It used to be illegal to buy or sell phone handsets that weren't provided by Telstra. This ban was couched in terms of safety and while there are some legitimate safety issues, it was largely bullshit. It was little more than artificial market control and it helped nobody – not even Telstra when you look at the explosion of services available now.

When faxes were new, Telstra convinced everybody you needed a "special" phone line for them. You couldn't use an existing phone line – you had to pay for another line to be installed and it was more expensive to run. More bullshit.

In the early days of the net we came perilously close to having timed local calls "to stop internet users from overloading the phone system". The idea put about by Telstra and the government minister was that people were connecting to the net and (shock, horror!) staying connected for a really long time which would ultimately result in you not getting a dial tone when you picked up the phone because all the lines were busy. BTW, sucks to be you if you do have timed local calls where you live. If this had gone through, it would have strangled internet growth and cost billions in lost business opportunities and productivity. It never went in and surprise, surprise, the phone system never ground to a halt.

Sometimes you have to protect morons from themselves.

We still have really low broadband penetration because it's too fucking expensive. And you'd think by now phone companies would realise how valuable the net was to them and they'd stop fucking around with it. If you want evidence of how depressingly greedy telcos are world-wide, spend a bit of time on the Electronic Frontier Federation's web site, specifically look at the issue of net neutrality.

These scumbags are trying to screw up the internet for everyone while lining their pockets, all the while saying it's their right. Crooks and liars.


1 Comment

Filed under General Angriness, Internet

One response to “Of Phones and Phone Companies

  1. There are lots of good things about living in the good old US of A. We have choices in cell phone companys, internet service providers, etc. My current phone service is provided through our local phone company, but comes in by cable.

    Cell phone’s are the service everyone loves to hate. We don’t think we can live without them, but there are “dead zones” no matter what company we have service with. I have to have a cell because of my work. I am a supervisor and am on call 24/7, 365 days a year.

    BTW, I have had the conversation with the cops about the necessity of drinking also. Problem is they could not see what that had to do with my need to steal cars. 😀

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