Techcrunch author MG Siegler picked the wrong fight accusing Android of ‘not being open’. His rant rant is all about how the fact that Android is open source allows the carriers like Verizon and T-mobile to fill it up with crapware and basically crippling the user experience. The nuts of his argument though are in this paragraph:

The thought of a truly open mobile operating system is very appealing. The problem is that in practice, that’s just simply not the reality of the situation. Maybe if Google had their way, the system would be truly open. But they don’t. Sadly, they have to deal with a very big roadblock: the carriers.

Carriers have been crippling phones everywhere and independently from the OS. I think of my Nokia E71, for example. It came branded (not locked) by TIM (Italian operator), installed with a custom firmware containing software that wouldn’t even start. So bad was the situation that I had to change its serial number and lead Nokia to believe that it was an unbranded phone so that I could install the normal firmware and get regular updates.

I learned my lesson then: never ever buy branded/locked phones. But aren’t they more expensive that way? Yes! Unlocked phones cost a ton of money, and you know what? They should! When you go buy a laptop do you expect to pay less than $300? So why do you expect a Droid  phone to cost only $199? Don’t you expect that such low means strings attached? And the strings are crippleware, like the idiotic Navigator-thing that AT&T tried to make me pay for on the Palm Pre.

Come on, American friends, you should know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Android is (almost) free software but that doesn’t have anything to do with the stupid manoeuvres of the carriers. These are lame attempts to squeeze some pennies out of you while they wait for their friends in Washington to destroy net neutrality (with Google’s help).

Screw them, buy unlocked phones and refuse data+voice plans that tie to them for two years. Freedom comes at a very small price, all things considered.

The more I think about the net neutrality debate the less I like what I learn. What is really puzzling for me is that carriers are complaining about having a privileged position and that is just unacceptable. It seems to me that network operators like AT&T, Comcast and Telecom Italia operate in an oligopolistic market, with extremely high barriers to new entrants, and with customers with strong disincentives to switch. The more I look at it the more I convince myself that network operators are telling politicians a fairy tale. Big telecoms want us to believe that they need to have some special power, because Google is taking away their margins. I am more inclined to believe that they should thank the governments that gave them a good and well defensible position, while focusing on delivering a good service.

There should be nothing wrong in being a dumb pipe: just focus on delivering a high quality service, voice and data, instead of venturing in idiotic ‘value added’ crap. Hell, even offer the option to the customer to shape internet traffic, couple it with real good customer service and enjoy the recurring revenue, maybe small but almost 100% sure. There is really nothing wrong in being a pipe.