As the CTIA show sets to open tomorrow, President and CEO Steve Largent fired off a brisk, and may we say somewhat catty, response to Wall Street Journal technology analyst Walt Mossberg for a column Mossberg wrote that blasted U.S. cell phone carriers. In the column called "Free my Phone," which was published yesterday, Mossberg criticized carriers for exerting too much control over the U.S. cell phone market. As Mossberg said, "[carrier control] severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cell phone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer."
Not surprisingly, Largent doesn't quite see eye to eye with Mossberg. As head of the national lobbying organization that represents carriers (among others), Largent is hardly in a position to say that carriers are the problem. In a blog posted today that pointed out Mossberg's absence form the conference (that's the catty part), Largent disputed that carriers limit choice and innovation for consumers. "[Wireless service providers] are dynamic players in a competitive market, working with partners to ensure that devices deliver what consumers expect." Largent also pointed that U.S. cell phone users pay less per minute than customers in other countries.
Mossberg's ideas are hardly revolutionary, and any cell phone fan in this country would agree. I said the same in a column I wrote earlier this year, but I didn't have the pleasure of a CTIA response. And to be honest, I can't understand why CTIA felt the need to respond in the first place. Perhaps it's because Mossberg did get off a few snappy lines. He called the federal government "shortsighted and often just plain stupid" for being "bullied" by carriers, he referred to carriers as "Soviet ministries" ministries, and he criticized AT&T and Apple for locking the iPhone to other carriers and third-party developers. While it's surprising that Mossberg would say anything anti-Apple, I don't disagree with him in the least.