07/02/2007 04:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Buying the iPhone is a Reactionary Act

How about that for fighting words? Just trying to get your attention.

Last week, we posted an action urging consumers not to purchase the iPhone, which is a shared product between Apple and AT&T. Our action urged Steve Jobs to unlock the iPhone from its monopolistic reliance on AT&T. Lots of people liked the action and it traveled around the blogosphere rapidly, particularly among activists who are concerned about AT&T's lead role in trying to eliminate net neutrality and its active cooperation with the Bush Administration in allowing the National Security Agency and others to listen in on our phone calls and review our emails without court oversight.

Others liked it simply because it put on the table where we and they would like the wireless industry to go -- a market where consumers can choose their own handsets and move freely among competing network providers, all the while being able to download third party applications without obstacle onto their handsets. This is the ethos of the open internet. In our mind, the wireless companies today are where AOL was before Netscape came along.

At the same time, quite a few members of our own activism network reacted angrily. Some thought that the issue was a trivial one at a time when soldiers are being killed daily in Iraq. Others thought it was self-serving to criticize anyone else in the wireless industry if we did not already offer service that met our own standards.

We welcome open debate about our positions. Working Assets has long taken controversial positions. Such positions at times attract customers and at times push them away. We take the positions because we believe in them -- not because they attract customers. In the case of the iPhone, we have a long standing commitment to advocating for an open internet, net neutrality, and an opensource wireless market. As far as I can tell, these positions have not brought us a single customer.

And as to being less important than stopping the occupation of Iraq, well, of course! We work every day on that. But we do so using the tools of an open internet. We invaded Iraq because we have a failed, captured, lazy mainstream media which served as stenographer to the pronouncements of the Bush Administration. Only with an open internet did some of the truth eventually emerge. And it is precisely that open internet that AT&T seeks to suppress. So devoting one action to a vital infrastructure issue hardly seems unreasonable to us.

Perhaps unfairly, we tend to think of the consumers of Apple products as being a bit more progressive than those who stick to the Microsoft world. We think that they should know that their use of the iPhone will enrich and entrench precisely those forces that are seeking to eliminate the very soul of the internet. And if they have any doubt about whether AT&T is on the side of angels, just do a search on AT&T and National Security Agency. AT&T makes choices every day that are political -- and they consistenly make the wrong choice.

Apple made a choice in selecting AT&T. Steve Jobs could have used the immense leverage Apple had in launching the iPhone to demand concessions that changed the wireless market. He did not. I had hoped for more.

I would love to hear from some iPhone buyers. What are you doing to offset your inevitable support of AT&T's actions?

This post first appeared on the Working Assets blog, Working For Change.