This is not a cell phone.

I feel like I’m revisiting Rene Magritte’s classic work La Trahison des Images in making this point. You know the one: Ceci n’est pas une pipe, it reads, under a graphic which resembles a pipe.

This is not a cell phone.

We need to make absolutely certain that every user who has one of these devices — which include a display, an input system of either keys, buttons and/or touch screen, has memory and an operating system — realizes that what they are using is a computer.

And the computer they use accesses a network.

And the network to which the computer connects wants them to continue to pay a lot more money for the information they move over that network, whether it’s voice, text, photos, video, application or internet data than if they were to sit down at a traditional computer to do their work.

How much are you paying for your high-speed internet service at home, assuming you have a land line or hardwired connection to either a DSL or a cable broadband provider? Let me guess that unless you are a super-user needing more than 6 Mbps service that you’re paying under $60 a month, and that your service is fast enough to allow you to use VoIP phone service and pull video on request. (I’m paying $35 a month for 5 Mbps service here in flyover country; I could probably do better if I bundled a voice land line plan.)

How much are you paying for your cell phone service which allows you to do the same thing? More than $70 a month, I’ll bet, especially if you need a data plan or an additional texting plan. The New York Times estimated that a cell phone plan would add an additional $1,000 a year to the average American family’s household expenses in 2010.

I sense your impatience. This is nothing new, you say to yourself, I know all this.

But which of these devices and networks do you have if you are poor, minority, female, rural, or in an urban area which network providers avoid? Are you more likely to have a hardwired internet connection with a computer, or are you more likely to have a cell phone? If you’re more likely to be transient or jobless or foreclosed upon, what are you most likely to use for communications?

It’s pretty obvious which of these devices and networks costs more every month. It’s also not uncommon for users to pay hundreds for a device every other year — and we’re not talking about a netbook, laptop or desktop PC.

Do you think there might be a correlation, then, between the pressure being placed on the Congressional Black Caucus members by telecom lobbyists to vote against any Net Neutrality bills, and the fact that minority constituents are far less likely to see the device they carry in their purse or pocket as an internet-mediated computer than a communications tool?

Heck, I’m sure most constituents still don’t see their smartphone as a computer — yet the operating systems on many of these devices are substantially the same as those which operate netbooks.

This is how the telecom business will undermine any attempt to pursue Net Neutrality. They’ll peel off users through the lack of knowledge they reinforce with their nonstop messaging about cell phones. They’ll try to lock in the users who are disadvantaged economically, unable to reach competing options.

Remember, this is not a cell phone.

And you shouldn’t be discriminated against the choice of a small, handheld device or a device which sits on your desk; the data you’re making is moving across the same networks, from you to me and back again.

[Photo: HTC device using Google Maps, ca. June 2010. (source: Daniel Flathagen via Flickr)]