Pando

Google's plan to enter the wireless market is the precursor to a dystopian future

By Nathaniel Mott , written on January 22, 2015

From The News Desk

Google is getting into the wireless business.

Reports from the Information and the Wall Street Journal indicate that later this year the company plans to sell access to Sprint's and T-Mobile's networks, much like companies such as Boost Mobile or FreedomPop do.

Some within the telecom industry fear Google's entrance might exacerbate the price war currently taking place between carriers, which generally only differentiate their services by fiddling with price tags. (Most carriers offer "good enough" services in many markets.)

Consumers, however, should fear something else: the effect Google's plans might have on privacy, and the implications of allowing one company to control how information is discovered, shared, and transferred. These reports are basically the foreword to a dystopian novel.

Imagine a world in which Google does enter the wireless business. Does anyone really expect it only to license bandwidth from other companies, especially when it's working on special balloons to deliver Internet connectivity to far-flung corners of the world?

That doesn't seem likely. The company would probably develop its own network as soon as it can. And if it manages to offer a service that doesn't screw over consumers as often as existing wireless carriers -- which shouldn't be hard -- it could become quite popular.

This would offer Google control over every aspect of its customers' online lives. They would be using the company's wireless service to collect information they discovered through its websites, through smartphones built on the back of its mobile operating system.

Videos would be watched via YouTube. Emails would be exchanged on Gmail. Files would be stored with Google Drive. People could go their entire lives without ever accessing the Internet through something other than Google's products and services.

Hell, with its investment in SpaceX, Google might even be able to influence humanity's spread to other planets. How does that not sound like a world in which one corporation, after it manages to amass enough power, decides that it's going to try to run civilization?

There are much more immediate concerns about Google entering the wireless business, of course. But if the company is allowed to assert so much control over consumers' lives, it's not hard to imagine a dystopia in which Google continues to expand its influence.

So a Google-offered wireless service wouldn't be the end of the world -- it would just be the beginning of the end of a world in which everything we do, say, or think is controlled by one company. But, hey, at least no one would ever have to deal with Verizon again!

[illustration by Brad Jonas]