The fundamental difference between carriers like AT&T and advertiser-supported online app and information service companies like Google is that AT&T's model loses money when I use more data, and Google's makes money when I use more data.
Here's an example. I signed up long ago for an "unlimited" data plan with AT&T, which has since been discontinued for new subscribers. However, as long as I maintain my AT&T account, I have been "grandfathered in" and can continue using it. I'm supposed to be grateful for their generosity.
When I reach 5 GB monthly data usage on AT&T, they throttle my data speed. When I called to complain about this, they told me that the government requires it.
Google, meanwhile, is building up massively fast, massively cheap home Internet connectivity in Kansas City, Kan., (and soon elsewhere, they say) because they want everybody to use the Internet a lot more.
Imagine how much better, more cost effective and efficient it would be if "carriers" provided only mobile broadband data connectivity, instead of that plus phone service.
Imagine how much smaller, lighter, cheaper and more battery-efficient our phones would be if they didn't have phone capability, only Internet connectivity.
And imagine if the people running those networks worked night and day to figure out ways to get you to transmit more data, not less.
The wireless carriers spend all their time and all our money trying to avoid becoming a dumb pipe of data. But now that we've got smartphones, a dumb pipe is exactly what we need -- just a much bigger one.
Phone service is obsolete. The ability to talk to someone using a phone is just another app.
So let's dismantle the AT&T model and replace it with the Google model, in which phone service is an app that's integrated into other communications services, and where there's competition between many companies to provide us with the best possible service at the lowest possible price.
Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at http://Google.me/+MikeElgan. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.
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