There is a huge opportunity that the cellco’s are ignoring. All kinds of devices should be connected to the Net, but aren’t.

Why doesn’t my digital camera have an “email this picture” option? Why can’t my iPod be updated with news or email or RSS feeds? Why does Tivo require a physical connection to a telephone landline? Why is data access so much more expensive than voice access?

The cellco’s are tightly controlling what devices can connect to their networks and are stifling innovation in the process. Right now, they make money on the hardware and selling hardware is a big part of their distribution model.

If they opened up their networks to well-behaved devices that could be traced to a known account holder, they would greatly increase the amount of innovation on applications and devices that used mobile networks. Furthermore, if any one of the big cellco’s did this, they would have a significant competitive advantage. And, finally, if they don’t do it soon, WiFi could preempt most data-based applications of cellular networks.

No single company can innovate a fast as a market, especially a networked market. Cellco’s could achieve Internet-style growth rates in users and traffic if they opened up their networks to all kinds of devices, protocols, and applications. Is it too late for Congress or the FCC to make this a licensing requirement?