In a major downer of a story, TechRepublic’s Jason Hiner describes how the once-promising openness of Android is being smashed on the rails of Big Wireless.

It’s unclear how much we should be blaming Google for this — but the notion of the carrier-independent phone, as promised by Google’s Nexus One and as somewhat carried out by the iPhone, is for most purposes dead.

Thank the wireless carriers. Rather than contribute to the original project of an open mobile OS, they’ve gone ahead and taken a free platform, mangled it, sometimes improved upon it, and used it to shore up their existing consumer-screwing practices (see: bloatware, price-gouging, etc.)

Hiner writes, “the consequence of not putting any walls around your product is that both the good guys and the bad guys can do anything they want with it.”

But Hiner is careful to point out that despite the carriers’ absolute resistance to network-independent devices, Android is the opposite of the iPhone: Once it’s on your locked-down, carrier-loving phone, it’s a far more open platform — still rife with possibilities — than any other mobile OS.