How to fix cellular networks, and put control back in the hands of the customer

Right now, in the US, the cellular marketplace consists of an oligopoly (one that’s shrinking, even, with AT&T’s attempted purchase of T-Mobile) that colludes against customers, and small carriers that can’t get a foothold due to their weak coverage.

I’d like to propose a solution to that problem.

I feel that utilities should be provided by customer-owned cooperatives. This way, customers are in control of their own utility service, rather than having to take what some corporation gives them.

However, with cellular telephony, you need a strong national network to be truly successful, and the oligopoly will fight tooth and nail to screw you over with roaming fees, if you don’t have your own national network. And, at a national level, a co-op loses effectiveness as far as effectively representing its customers – not to mention the costs of building out a national co-op cell network.

So, rather than try to build out one large national network, here’s the idea that I’ve had.

Have individual local co-ops that provide service only to the local area. This won’t be very effective on its own, except…

The next step is to have a national organization that all of the co-ops can join. When a co-op becomes a member, their subscribers get fairly priced roaming access on all of the member co-ops. This way, for a relatively low investment, a co-op can start up, join the network, and instantly have national access, and the entire co-op gains even more network coverage.

Obviously, the big challenge would be starting up, although that’s not impossible – small carriers have been known to start up before, after all. And, until the national network is in place, roaming agreements can be made with other carriers.

Other challenges would be selecting network standards, setting roaming rate policies that are fair to all parties, and promotion.

So, does anyone want to see this happen? Especially people who have the knowledge and connections to make it happen?

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