Cellular companies used to be the small, scrappy, second-tier telecomm carriers.
They're now morphing into ILECs, like the Bells. The two largest cellcos -- Cingular and Verizon Wireless -- are in fact owned by Bells. The other big guys -- T-Mobile, Sprint -- also have local coverage areas. (T-Mobile's is in Germany.)
But I'm talking about more than a superficial resemblance. At CTIA, CEO (and former Congressman) Steve Largent (right) announced MyWireless, the beginnings of an effort to use all forms of manipulation -- including Astroturf , to protect the industry's position and stall change through the courts and legislatures.
This is not how Largent (who was also a record-setting wide receiver for Seattle in a past life) put it.
MyWireless.org is a non-profit advocacy organization giving wireless consumers a clear and powerful voice to protect the freedom, value, security and mobility they enjoy with wireless services. MyWireless.org is dedicated to wireless freedom in a world where powerful forces are trying to shackle that freedom with harmful regulations and heavy taxes.
Translation: we're an industry pressure group masquerading as a public interest. (And this picture of Astroturf is also a great excuse for linking to The Woman Rebel.)
Now there are many issues on which carriers should have concern. Content regulation is here. Taxes are growing. Towers are controversial. Calling plans are complicated, and they're not getting simpler.
But growth has also brought power. Many people now have cellular phones and no land lines. They are dependent on the industry, if not always on a single carrier. New technologies like WiMax threaten the industry. Keeping the amount of unlicensed spectrum down is good for their business.
And the industry now has the money to fight this fight as ruthlessly as the Bellheads and Cable head-ends.
The unseen story at this year's CTIA show is that they will.