For those of us who believe people should be able to design their own tools, co-create their own products and services and control their own lives, the decision by Verizon to open up its closed system is huge. Thanks to the huge popularity of the iPhone and the upcoming Google phone, Verizon is going to ??permit” people to configure their own array of services for their phones. To say this is a long time coming from the oligopoly known as the telecom industry, is an enormous understatement.
It was great to read these words from the head of Verizon Wireless, Lowell McAdam—“The trend we see here is an explosion of innovation.” You bet. The other trend is a shift of control away from the producer or market dominator to the individual consumer.
There are many lessons to be learned from this episode. One is that
it takes longer than you think to change paradigms. The closed, controlled phone/telecom paradigm resisted regulatory, political and market pressures to change for decades. One simple reason is that monopolies/oligopolies generate so much money that they can buy political influence and the best legal advice. That's why America used to have a tradition of breaking up monopolies--a tradition that ended some years ago. Remember anti-trust?
If the political and regulatory institutions don't do their job, then it is up to innovation and competition to do it. Surprisingly, that too can take time. Often, the innovation and competition has to come from outside the industry and market because it is outside the control of the oligopolies. Apple and Google are way outside the control of big telecoms. And they are hugely popular, giving them political clout as well.
This is all good news for the Brand America. The US has fallen further and further behind in telecom innovation. Anyone who has traveled to Asia and Europe knows this to be true. Now there is a chance for the country to catch up.