Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog

Paul's activities and perspectives around Free Software

Mobile Tethering, Privacy and Predatory Practices

Daniel Pocock provides some fairly solid analogies regarding arbitrary restrictions on mobile network usage, but his blog system seems to reject my comment, so here it is, mostly responding to Adam Skutt’s remark on “gas-guzzlers” (cars that needlessly consume more petrol/gasoline than they really need to).

The second example or analogy mentions “exotic” cars, not necessarily gas-guzzling ones. The point being highlighted is that when producers can ascertain or merely speculate that customers can afford higher prices, they may decide to exploit those customers; things like “tourist prices” are another example of such predatory practices.

I think the first example is a fairly solid rebuttal of the claim that this is all about likely bandwidth consumption (and that tethered devices would demand more than mobile devices). Just as the details of the occupants of a vehicle should be of no concern to a petrol station owner, so should the details of network-using programs be of no concern to a mobile network operator.

Operators are relying on the assumption that phones are so restricted that their network usage will be constrained accordingly, but this won’t be the case forever and may not even be the case now. They should stop pining for the days when phones were totally under their own control, with every little feature being a paid upgrade to unlock capabilities that the device had from the moment it left the factory.

I know someone whose carrier-locked phone wouldn’t share pictures over Bluetooth whereas unlocked phones of the same type would happily do so. Smartphones are said to be a computer in one’s pocket: this means that we should also fight to uphold the same general purpose computing rights that, throughout the years, various organisations have sought to deny us all from our desktop and laptop computers.

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