Exploring the Intersection of Cell Service and Personal Responsibility

Photo courtesy of EFF Photos via Flicker, CC 

We are graced with more information at our fingertips than at any point in history. It is now possible to research the origins of almost any good or service we consume, to trace whether its story fits our ethics for consumption.

From fair-trade chocolate and coffee to working conditions where our clothing is made to how a company spends what it makes, transparency abounds.

I continually challenge myself to peer more deeply into expanding my ethical choices. Sometimes in seeking to apply my values to as many aspects of life as are within my circle of influence, I find my circle of influence larger than I thought.

Lately I’ve turned my attention to that ubiquitous assistant that would’ve astounded our ancestors but which we give little thought to relying upon daily: our trusty cell phones.

Can Ethics and Phones Co-Exist?

This is one of those choices that on the surface seems limited to a few known top-performing models and providers. On closer inspection, there emerge some disruptive approaches worth considering in our efforts to bring ethics to all we do.

The decision is slightly more complex in that it involves both a phone and a carrier – not all of which are interchangeable. A crucial caveat that almost goes without saying is the reliability of the network for the connectivity we all value.

I’ve done the homework on a few interesting contenders who could well change how this connectivity plays out over time.

Credo Mobile

Credo has been on the scene for some time and stands out as a conscious choice. It boasts a sustainable model and ease in supporting causes one believes in. Bills are printed on recycled paper and present a selection of causes to donate to each month by rounding up one’s payment.

>> Pause to consider: Only certain phones are supported. Credo utilizes Sprint’s network, which would need to provide coverage in the areas you frequent for this to be a viable option.


Best of Humanity: Fairphone Conflict-Free

Photo courtesy of Fairphone via Flickr, CC

Fairphone is unique in defying the throw-away culture that has come to accompany electronics. Built sturdier than many smartphones from the onset with conflict-free materials, the phones are also made to be repaired by anyone regardless of experience level. Batteries aren’t glued in, screens can be swapped out easily if broken, and software is regularly updated.

The idea is the phone can be upgraded over time in a DIY way as needed. The convenience of a phone that keeps working coupled with the eco-friendliness of preventing phones in landfills is an enticing idea that could change the benchmark.

>> Pause to consider: If you reside in the U.S., the networks available at this time aren’t common there. If you’re an Apple devotee, a compromise will be needed.

Republic Wireless

Best of Humanity: WiFi illustrated by EFF

Photo courtesy of EFF Photos via Flicker, CC

Republic Wireless turns the game on its ear by substantially lowering the price point we’ve come to expect and offering unlimited data. This is accomplished by utilizing WiFi for the connection whenever available. Recognizing that WiFi is cheap and connections plentiful, the service brings an open source approach.

A refreshing and unexpected element is how supportive their forums are. Q&A is a surprisingly respectful discourse. In addition to standard support by the company, a community of actual users help each other navigate the unexpected in this more hands-on approach to voice, text and data. Best practices for security is a common question and there are many answers, all of which would seem to contribute to a more mindful use of technology where privacy is concerned.

>> Pause to consider: Only certain phones support the ability to seamlessly switch between cell connection and WiFi. The hands-on approach would require some initial setup, such as adding trusted WiFi networks to your device. If you’re an Apple devotee, a compromise will be needed.

Weighing All the Options


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja, CC

I wrote Republic Wireless and requested they support Fairphone. I also wrote Credo and asked if they would support my existing device. I haven’t heard back yet, nor have I determined as of now which meets my values most fully – which include consistently being able to connect with my personal network.

I am glad to see options pushing the conversation where traditional cell plans and devices hadn’t gone. And I am content to hold onto my old phone – which does reliably connect me with those I love and collaborate – until I figure it out.

Reducing our consumption to include just what we really need is still a mindful choice.