Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Air Time: Neutrality On the Wireless Internet: Page 2 of 2

Although it's important to call attention to the adverse effects of knobbling, the carriers are behaving rationally. By subsidizing device costs and making it difficult for consumers to move their mobile devices between networks, they are facilitating the adoption of more advanced mobile devices that can increase the average revenue per user, while reducing the dreaded churn rate. In the process they are eliminating the complexity associated with dual-mode devices, which often leads to a more positive user experience, like enhanced battery life.

Some may feel the market, as imperfect as it may be, can solve this problem on its own. All it will take is for one upstart wireless carrier--T-Mobile comes to mind--to encourage rather than discourage new dual-mode device designs. Once that door is open, others will have to follow. But that's no sure bet. It may be time for regulators to intercede, by forcing carriers to itemize the device subsidy on every bill and giving their customers the option to avoid that cost by purchasing the devices themselves. Short term, such a practice may not reduce costs for consumers, but it will re-cast them as the real customers for device manufacturers. The long-term effect of such a shift will almost certainly be positive.

Dave Molta is a Network Computing senior technology editor. He is also assistant dean for technology at the School of Information Studies and director of the Center for Emerging Network Technologies at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected]