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The Irksome Cellphone Industry

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the reach-out-and-regulate-some-one dept.

Cellphones 272

gollum123 writes "David Pogue of the NYTimes wonders why Congress is worrying about exclusive handset contracts when there are more significant things that are broken, unfair, and anti-competitive in the American cellphone industry. He lists text messaging fees, double billing, handset subsidies, international call rates, and 'airtime-eating instructions' among the major problems not being addressed by Congress. 'Right now, the cell carriers spend about $6 billion a year on advertising. Why doesn't it occur to them that they'd attract a heck of a lot more customers by making them happy instead of miserable? By being less greedy and obnoxious? By doing what every other industry does: try to please customers instead of entrap and bilk them? But no. Apparently, persuading cell carriers to treat their customers decently would take an act of Congress.'"

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272 comments

Impossible (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28818891)

You can't legislate somebody or something into being nice.

Re:Impossible (4, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818919)

You can't legislate somebody or something into being nice.

Sure you can, indirectly. Force them to compete for their business by making "exclusivity contracts" illegal.

Re:Impossible (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28818959)

The Windows Registry: because "single point of failure" looks good in our design specifications.

Re:Impossible (4, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819101)

You can't legislate somebody or something into being nice.

Sure you can, indirectly. Force them to compete for their business by making "exclusivity contracts" illegal.

Yes, but why stop there? Here's what I'd like to see:

  • Eliminate all forms of being locked into a contract. Make all cellphone service a monthly deal like any other utility so that the carrier has to earn your business each month. Y'know, by being competitive.
  • Require that customers can use any phone on any network of the same type, regardless of carrier. I.e. any GSM phone on any GSM network and any CDMA phone on any CDMA network.
  • Ban all locking down of phones so that transitioning to another network does not require the old carrier's assistance.
  • Regard the intentional locking down of cellphone applications as a prosecutable anticompetitive practice. The fines should be at least 120% of any profits made from doing so, as measured by sales of exclusive apps. Of course, the provider of the phone need not support any third-party applications, i.e. Apple would not be expected to support an application that didn't come from their own app store.
  • For GSM networks, require that any fees charged for text messaging state on the bill that cell phones continuously transmit the data structures used by SMS whether or not text messages are sent, so the cost for the carrier to provide text messaging is effectively zero. Require that this statement be immediately below or next to the dollar amount and in at least a 12 point font.

THAT would be customer-friendly.

phone costs (2, Informative)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819235)

That is all well and good, but, wireless customers have gotten "use" to the cell phones being "free" or 20-60 dollars, because of the contracts. I would prefer to pay a higher rate for a phone, and pick & choose the carrier to use it on. The USA is WAY behind the rest of the world in the choice of phones they can use. If carrier locks were removed, and just about anyone could sell a phone, the price on high end phones, as well as the throw away phones would, because of competition, come down. The carriers, for obvious reasons, like the subsidy locks, which "lock" you to a certain carrier until the contract runs out. Also, from a management standpoint, I'm sure the carriers would HATE to try to provide customer service to make sure the thousands of different phone types/styles would be compatible with their networks. Too bad, other countries do it. The USA wireless carriers are just lazy. Look at at&t's 3G network. Not enough bandwith to support the people signing up for the iPhone and other high end phones, to use the 3G network, are reduced to "dial up" speed because of overselling the network.

So? (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819539)

So? Separate out the phone financing. It should have been separate all along. It can share the bill with the service, but you should be able to drop the service part and either buy out the phone or continue the financing deal.

The way they have it now, they get to play "unregulated bank" (like paypal) at usury rates and even worse: when you finish paying off the phone, you still get to pay the subsidy rate as if you were still paying it off! (and no, I don't think $5--$10 off if I sign another 24 month contract is sufficient. I shouldn't have to sign a contract to get the rate I should be getting anyway)

There is definitely a market failure going on here, and while I oppose regulation on principle, something does need to be done to bring back competition or fix the issue. If competition is impossible in this market then regulation is in fact warranted. And the regulation should be onerous enough that the companies prefer the market solution over the regulatory one.

Re:Impossible (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819373)

I'd rather just make them state the phone subsidy repayment right in the contract.

I guess people that want to finance something like a cell phone are being a little foolish, and the financing could always be arranged separately from the monthly plan, but I don't think binding the financing to the monthly plan is particularly harmful, it is the pretending that it isn't happening that is the problem.

Re:Impossible (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819375)

I wouldn't have a problem with this, but I'd be stuck with the least expensive $100 handset. A contract assures the carrier that the cost of the handset will be at least recovered over the term of the contract. No contract, they'll charge you $400 for a clamshell phone that does texting and has 500 MB of music storage. The iPhone and Blackberries would bounce up to more normal $800+ pricing.

A contract ties you in for two years and the service generally isn't terrible...I don't think I've had a problem with AT&T customer service since 2003 or so when they didn't tell us the $50 metro plan we were currently on was replaced by a $50 nationwide plan -- all we had to do was sign up for it. Why not just sign us up automatically?!

Re:Impossible (4, Informative)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819437)

The iPhone and Blackberries would bounce up to more normal $800+ pricing.

I call BS. You can buy an 8 gig ipod touch today for under $200. According to the iSupply teardown, the GSM chipset in the iphone costs $2.80 [isuppli.com] .

$179.00 + $3.00 != $800

Re:Impossible (1)

kokojie (915449) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819449)

No you are wrong, the handset price will drop instead of rise, because of competition, they will sell for very little profit and thus benefiting consumers.

Re:Impossible (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819463)

I must live in an alternate reality United States.

My phone cost $40 upfront, but they gave me 40 dollars of free calls, so essentially the phone was free and I was just paying for my airtime. I have no contract and I'm free to quit whenever I feel like it. You don't "have" to sign a contract if you don't want to, or pay an arm-and-leg for a phone since there are plenty of cheap ones around.

I do think the exclusivity deals need to end. It reminds me of the dark ages of 1970s when the only phone you could get was an expensive AT&T phone. Even modems had to be bought direct from the phone company (or else use an acoustic modem with a phone cradle). But now thanks to government regulation, we can buy any $5-10 phone or $20-30 modem and just plug it directly into the wire. That's the kind of freedom we need with cellphones - no requirement that you "have" to use an AT&T phone with your AT&T service.

Re:Impossible (3, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819709)

My phone cost $40 upfront, but they gave me 40 dollars of free calls, so essentially the phone was free and I was just paying for my airtime.

Yes, but that could be one hour of calls.

Actually, I meant that as an exaggerated joke to prove a point, but then I realised that a lot of "normal" phone-to-phone calls I could make on my pay-as-you-go phone work out at virtually that (in UK money) per hour.

Anyway, point I was going to make is that $40 "worth" of calls sounds nice, but isn't great if the calls are horribly expensive. In fact, they could charge twice as much for the calls, give you the same hour (or whatever's) worth and announce it as "OMG!!!!! $80 worth of free calls with this $40 phone".

Which sounds like an even better deal, when in reality it's way worse because you don't actually get any more free, and your calls are twice as expensive.

Same applies with dirt cheap printers that take horrendously priced ink carts. Buying a new printer because that $40 model comes with an ink cart worth $30 "free"? And the more they overprice the ink, the more that "free" cart is "worth", and the more the printer costs to run. It would make more sense to buy a printer where (e.g.) similar replacement carts were $10. But people don't think like that.

Re:Impossible (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819595)

How about also requiring that they make all specs and protocols available to any manufacturer? Like the iPhone has visual voicemail-- if I were to manufacture a GSM phone, could I easily plug into whatever kind of API AT&T is using to provide that visual voicemail so I can do something similar on my phone?

Otherwise, you're going to end up with defacto exclusivity through locking features, if not service itself, to particular phones.

Re:Impossible (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819767)

P.S.

I almost forgot. I don't do any texting (why pay when email is free and/or voicecalls cheaper), but I do want to thank all of you who do lots of texting. Your addiction has helped subsidize my cheap 10 cent/minute phonecalls. Thanks. :-)

Re:Impossible (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819861)

The very basis for the cell phone industry was so obnoxious to me that I have always refused to own one. In addition to not liking the bills cell phones can create I also loath the idea of being on electronic leash feeling that I must be available to others at all times.
                I have had employers that wished to give me a cell phone so that I would "be available for emergencies" and I refused. I have replied that I spend my free time fishing off shore where cell service is not available and if I were needed suddenly the cost of coming to shore might be very expensive and ruin the fishing trips for others. I am usually not blunt enough to blurt out that a company losing money is never a real emergency even though it may feel that way to owners. Anyone wanting me on call had better make sure I own a big chunk of the firm.

Re:Impossible (5, Informative)

TrollHammer (1604811) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818967)

You can punish a corportarion if it does not behave correctly - like the European Comission has done with Microsoft and Intel, recently. Quoting the original article:

TEXT-MESSAGING FEES Why has the price of a text message gone to 20 cents, from 10, in two years? There was no big technology shift. There was no spike in the cost of electrons. And speaking of anticompetitive: Is not it a little fishy that all four big United States carriers raised their text-message fees at essentially the same time?

That is not a question of being nice or not being nice - if that's true, their behaviour is illegal, plain and simple, and should be punished.

Question for /.'ers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819365)

What is it with obsessive programmer types and the Wookie look? Have you just completely given up on ever seeing a non-Anime vagina, so you decide to quit bathing and to grow all of your body hair out like some kind of freakish Chia Pet? I don't get it. Would you not freak out if you saw a woman with a 3-ft long beard on her pussy?

Spectrum Auctions are EVIL and the problem (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819873)

When you allow the gov which shouldn't even be allowed to control our airwaves in the first place to sell off the publics airwaves to the 'highest' bidder then you are just asking for corruption and price gouging.

Take back our airwaves people.

Private nonprofit citizen body should allow 'opening' the airwaves to everybody for nonprofit. It can be done but our gov is now so greedy.

Create a system like the internet which allows traffic and allow peoples the public access.

Having Gov frequencies is stupid too.

Double billing also happens in Europe (5, Informative)

TrollHammer (1604811) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818923)

DOUBLE BILLING In Europe, youâ(TM)re billed only when you place a cellphone call â" not when you answer one. And youâ(TM)re billed only when you send a text message â" not when you get one. In this country, thatâ(TM)s how itâ(TM)s always been for landlines, too.

That's not completely true. You are billed if you receive the call, provided you are not in your home country (if you are in France spending a few days of vacation, and your contract is with a Spanish operator, then you get billed if you got a call while in France). Fortunately, the European Comission is working on reducing the prices for that double billing. It is something that I guess lots of people in USA would like to see Congress doing.

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (3, Interesting)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819089)

I actually prefer the US version of double-billing for phone calls to the European one, as each person shoulders their expenses. The SMS thing is a complete joke though; may they die a quick and painful death!

I wonder how much clout it would really take to do a multi-technology MVNO that opportunistically selects the cheapest carrier or the one with the best signal, and stops trying to be a "phone company." EVDO, 3G GSM, WiMax, WiFi... all in one handset?

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819515)

At the end of the day it makes no difference. You're either going to pay 10 cents calling plus 10 cents on the receiving end, or else pay 20 cents calling. Either way the company gets its twenty pieces.

Aside-

Getting billed for receiving calls is why I often don't answer my phone. I just look at the caller ID and then call the person on a wired phone which is free-of-charge. Or send an email which is also free. Even if it's a long-distance call it's usually cheaper to use the wired phone (about 5 cents/minute) versus cellphone (about 20 c/min).

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

GlyphedArchitect (1605113) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819719)

I just look at the caller ID and then call the person on a wired phone which is free-of-charge.

Doesn't that basically make your cell phone into an expensive pager?

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819591)

I wonder how much clout it would really take to do a multi-technology MVNO that opportunistically selects the cheapest carrier or the one with the best signal, and stops trying to be a "phone company." EVDO, 3G GSM, WiMax, WiFi... all in one handset?

that's exactly what the cellphone companies want to make sure you can't do, so if you want to route calls over wifi or USB on your phone then you'll probably want something like OpenMoko which doesn't impose restrictions on the software you can run.

The Neo only has one SIM card though, so if you want to route over multiple cellphone networks then you might want a phone built in batches of 10 in a garage in hong kong.

p.s. don't forget you can run your own GSM base station and route that over the internet. http://www.gnuradio.org/trac/wiki/OpenBTS [gnuradio.org]

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819607)

On the plus side of the double-billing: I believe it's the reason why it's illegal for telemarketers to call your cell phone.

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819759)

It's not illegal unless you're on that 'do not call' list, or have previously indicated to them that you wish for them to stop calling you.

We've got similar lists and practices in the E.U., so I doubt it's any fundamental reason for anything :)

On the other hand, if I dial a wrong number, the person I called is only inconvenienced by the call itself - not by any inherent cost in being called in the first place. Ditto prank calls and whatnot.

Sure, it might cost $0.20 here vs $0.10 (caller) + $0.20 (callee) there, but I don't see any problem with that. Just means you won't waste as much money placing calls in the first place. If you -have- to make that many calls, I'm sure the bill's worth paying.

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (2, Informative)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819917)

Assuming you're talking about the U.S. (as the comment you replied to clearly was), you comment is false -- there is no 'do not call' list for cell phones, because it is illegal in the U.S. for telemarkets to call cell phones using automated dialers. [ftc.gov]

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (3, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819107)

While it is true that cross-EU countries do suffer charges, that will only be the case for a little longer. The phone operators have already reduced the charges once and the EU is trying to get rid of them entirely, so phoning in France or the UK costs exactly the same and receiving calls is free.

The US system is completely screwy. It is frankly shocking that you guys pay as much as we pay to send a text and on top of that you get charged to receive texts too (including adverts and other unsolicited text-spam). US voice isn't quite as bad because a lot of US carriers allow free inter-network cell calling as opposed to the fixed rates you often find in the EU.

All in all, the US seriously needs some REAL competition as opposed to a small handful of large companies fighting for business while offering exactly the same terrible deal to consumers.

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819565)

>>>The phone operators have already reduced the charges once and the EU is trying to get rid of them entirely

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the effort. Eliminating the interstate charges helps save everyone a couple pennies, but then the citizens turn-around and have to pay the EU ministers and bureaucrats ~$100,000 a year salaries for their labor during that negotiation. Benjamin Franklin had a quote that applies here: "Penny wise; pound foolish." i.e. Thowing away millions of dollars to pay MEP salaries so they can negotiate to save a few pennies each month on your bill.

Re:Double billing also happens in Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819189)

You should also look at what you pay to place a call.
For example, Skype lists a call to a land line in France as 2 eurocents a minute. The same call to a cellphone will cost you 18.9 cents a minute.

I'm guessing that the receiving cellphone operator is recouping the profit they would make from the US/Canadian model through the party placing the call.

You know the truth (1, Funny)

Akir (878284) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818947)

The OP just did posted this so that he could say that he gave the 'correct answer' to the poll.

... RUN AWAY!
[NO CARRIER]

Data plans (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28818951)

I got 2M unlimited (really unlimited) data plan on my cell phone. Costs roughly 10 euros/month. Now, why can't Americans have the same?

Seriously, the voice calls are prioritized first in the networks, and it's practically indifferent to the network operators what the rest of all that already built bandwidth is doing. There shouldn't be lack either, unless if the operator really grossly undersized their networks. The impact around where I live at is zero but the customers get a pretty nice service.

That service is good enough to cover the costs. What is important is that it enables new sorts of (business) concepts for mobile phones and mobile applications. That's where the local operators have their stakes in: things like virtual wallets and such. By not making the data plans itself near free utilities the American operators are in fact stalling innovation. I kind of feel sorry about the lack of vision there. Instead of that the operators choose to pretty much just poop on their future revenues which is baffling to me.

Re:Data plans (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819021)

Seriously, the voice calls are prioritized first in the networks, and it's practically indifferent to the network operators what the rest of all that already built bandwidth is doing. There shouldn't be lack either, unless if the operator really grossly undersized their networks. The impact around where I live at is zero but the customers get a pretty nice service.

That tends to be a serious problem in the US, we don't require various communications companies to have the necessary bandwidth to handle things. I'm more familiar with ISPs and their tendency to oversell their capacity, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if cell networks were in a similar state.

But then again, it could just be greed and corruption, the same thing which leads the free to provide text messaging service to be so ungodly expensive. Yeah, I realize it costs them something, but it's basically just slipped into messages that are going out already and costs basically nothing to provide.

why Congress is worrying? (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818953)

Someone in congress must have wanted to move his iphone to a new carrier. They don't really give a damn about an issue out there in DC unless it effects them personally, or are paid off to care.

Re:why Congress is worrying? (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819647)

I think this is known to be literally the case. I recall something where some Congressman stood on the floor of whichever house he was in and complained that he wanted an iPhone and wanted to use Verizon.

But hey, at least they're recognizing some kind of problem, and looking into doing something about it. I don't think it's necessarily that they only care about things that affect them personally, but they only understand the problem once it affects them directly. People aren't always that good at sympathy/empathy, and until they've felt the impact of a problem in their own life, complaints about that problem just seem like whining.

They can't improve service, it would hurt profits (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818965)

I have no doubt that many in the wireless telecom business would love nothing more than to implement customer-friendly features and services. This is the main thrust of much of what is going on behind the scenes. Tradeshows and conferences feature discussions about how to maximize customer satisfaction through improved customer experiences. It is a mistake, I think, to assume that there is some cabal trying to keep cellphone customers in the dark ages.

However that's not the whole story. The wireless telecoms are descendants of the old wired telecoms. And with that heritage comes all the baggage you would expect. Terrible billing rates, bad customer service, and all the rest. To upend such a situation and return to a customer-centric service/pricing model would require a tremendous amount of investment. That investment cannot be made due to the way the stock market judges the performance of companies based on 3 month periods.

Getting sued for deliberately damaging profits is less profitable than simply sticking with the status-quo. So expect to continue to be screwed over by the phone companies. They don't care. They don't have to. They're the phone company.

Re:They can't improve service, it would hurt profi (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819687)

At one time, the stock market was a place where people could invest in companies that they believed were well run, stable, and had products and services that people wanted. Stock was a mid to long term investment.

Now it's treated as little more than casino gambling. It hardly matters if a company actually has a product or not anymore as long as it looks like the stock will go up. Long term stability isn't even a consideration. An "investor"'s wet dream is to buy a big chunk of stock in a company that then burns 100% of it's accumulated good will, cash reserves, and future to raise stock prices. As long as they can sell just before the dead carcass hits the ground.

That's why CEOs like Chainsaw Al Dunlap were Wall Street darlings right up to the point the street realized that Al and company would hide the signs to jump off so they could get THEIR stock sold off at the top.

That's why the internet bubble happened. It's not that astute investors actually believed that mail order pet food was the wave of the future, it's that they believed enough people would buy stock in it (people who believed the same thing they did) that the stock would skyrocket (as it did). Each resolved to sell it off near it's height (mostly to smaller more naive investors) before it dawned on everyone that people buy pet food at the grocery store. Meanwhile, smarter but less flashy small companies with real prospects for the long term couldn't get the time of day from investors. Arguably the few successes from the dot-bomb were companies that had what would traditionally be considered a good investment and were able to wrap it in flashy pie in the sky crapola long enough to get investors.

The more stodgy telecoms are popular investments mainly because they have plenty of momentum to burn in exchange for unsustainably inflated profits. On the corporate side, their big play is to be too ubiquitous for consumers to avoid. You can run to an upstart, but they in turn depend on the old telecoms who will either crush them or beat them down and then buy them up.

What if all our wireless routers were open to SIP (1)

bitemykarma (1515895) | more than 4 years ago | (#28818979)

(or skype). Nah, every man for himself.

Re:What if all our wireless routers were open to S (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819673)

These days you are encouraged to lock down your AP as much as possible so that Vodafone makes more money. I wish there was something like wifi with about a mile range and affordable AP's

Industry Response (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28818985)

The industry response [mobilemarketer.com] to these charges has been interesting so far. Apparently Pogue got at least one executive at a major carrier's attention long enough for a PR piece to follow that tries to poke holes in some of the complaints...

PLEASE MOD PARENT UP (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819167)

That link should really be in the summary.

From VERIZON??? It is to fucking laugh! (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819323)

Wow. You have rural coverage. Congratulations, guys. How about the fact that you've ADMITTED your business model orbit around fleecing customers by crippling handsets such that everything customers do has to go through your "nation's most reliable network," thereby incurring pay-to-play fees over and over for simple operations that could otherwise take place over WiFi or Bluetooth?

FUCK Verizon. Fuck them right in the ear. Sideways.

Re:Industry Response (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819733)

I notice he doesn't necessarily address the complaints, though:

Myth #1: Americans pay more for wireless service. Fact: Americans pay ten cents per minutes less than Europeans.

Among the 26 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Americans use the most wireless minutes per month, about four times more minutes than the average European consumer. Americans get the lowest cost per minuteâ¦an average of 10 cents lower per minute than Europeans pay.

So Pogue complains that customers are getting double-billed for calls (which doesn't happen in Europe), and Verizon responds by saying Americans use more minutes and pay less per-minute than Europeans. Those ideas aren't in conflict. I would guess that Verizon is saying Americans use more billable minutes, which makes even more sense if they're being double-billed. Whether this is a better deal depends on how the math works out. If Americans are only paying half of what Europeans are paying per-minute, but are essentially being charged twice for every minute, then it's a wash.

Now maybe it's true that Americans aren't getting such a bad deal. I'm just saying Verizon's vague responses don't really give enough information to evaluate them, and they don't address the complaints.

let me introduce you to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28818987)

Mr Pogue, I'd like to introduce you to capitalism. Everything you've described is the nature of the beast.

Re:let me introduce you to (2, Informative)

EvanTaylor (532101) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819349)

But this isn't capitalism. There is no free market in telecommunications, they are awarded a monopoly on spectrum, and have often been given rights to put up radio towers wherever they want. These companies then take that monopoly advantage and lack of competition to milk consumers for every penny they can.

All the cell carriers have roughly the same price plans for everything, and the costs go up at similar times. There needs to be an investigation into their trust, because I cannot believe that there is not price fixing going on.

Compared to Japan (4, Informative)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819009)

In Japan the situation is pretty similar, while probably cheaper overall. From a few years back, the trend is the sale of a device for zero yen, while subscribing a 2-years contract. The "zero yen" is actually "You pay xxx yen monthly and, monthly, the carrier reimburses xxx yen" giving a zero-yen illusion (xxx being the actual devicePrice / 24). You may cancel the contract at anytime, but you'll have to pay the xxx * remaining-months (24 - months you paid) yen to the carrier. It is a good way to keep customers for at least 2 years. The iPhone 3G for instance is "free" (2 years contract) since March 2009.

Even simple steps would improve their image (4, Interesting)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819013)

For example, a couple of weeks ago I began receiving robocalls to my mobile number from some "collection agency." They were obviously looking for someone else so I wasted a couple of minutes of airtime waiting for a human to pick up. After picking up, the twit basically said "we have the right person and you owe us $X" and that the calls would continue. I told them to never call me again and remove my number from their list. Now the robocalls continue at odd hours of the night and morning. When I complained to my carrier (ATT), they basically said "there's nothing we can do about it. BUT if you sign up for this new service for $4.99/month you can block specific numbers." So I complained that they were extorting money out of me to protect me from harassing phone calls. They suggested I complain to the FCC and didn't offer to help at all (other than suggesting yet another monthly fee).

I'd love to just punt ATT, but they offer the best coverage around here. I'm open to suggestions on how to deal with this. ATT wouldn't even agree to block all "unknown/blocked callerID" numbers for me.

Sigh....

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819095)

Save the number the robocalls are originating from, and set the custom ringer to 'Silent.'

Worked wonders for me when I had the same issue.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1, Informative)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819181)

Save the number the robocalls are originating from, and set the custom ringer to 'Silent.'

Worked wonders for me when I had the same issue.

Better yet, make a federal law stating that you cannot be charged with assault for beating the crap out of the owners or upper management of any company that telemarkets or otherwise cold calls. That'd be the cheapest solution.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819621)

I think a federal law already exists that telemarketers (or bill collectors) are not allowed to call fax or cell numbers, due to the expense being born by the customer. If you've already asked this company to put you on their "Do Not Call List", and they are still calling, then you can file a small claims lawsuit which will result in that company being fined ~$10,000.

In most cases simply saying "I'm taking you to court, which will result in a 10,000 fine" is enough to make them stop.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (4, Informative)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819139)

switch carriers, dump AT&T, get a TracFone at your local dept. store along with an airtime card sign up anonymously online with the info from the card and nobody can attach your real identity to your new cellphone, only give the number to those that you approve of

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819215)

That's hardly useful to the vast majority of people who already have a lot of friends, coworkers and family that have their existing phone number.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819769)

That's hardly useful to the vast majority of people who already have a lot of friends, coworkers and family that have their existing phone number.

It a good thing you can keep your number [tracfone.com] when you sign up.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819955)

Ummmm...if you keep the number the harasser already has, how is that helpful?

you still get spammed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819569)

I've just started to get spammed relentlessly with one of the tracphones here. It costs money/airtime to retrieve voicemail messages as well, and the spammers always leave messages. I've only given the number out to a few relatives and like my boss, etc, and still get the spam. sucks. It's still a better alternative to some doofus two year "plan", I just will NOT do this anymore, but it ain't perfect. Cellphones are supposed to be spam free by law, you aren't supposed to have to go register and 'opt out" like with a landline phone, but the stuff continues and joe government appears to be helpless to stop it, despite billyuns in taxes they get.

With that said, I think I am going to a Boost prepaid (same sort of cheap blisterpack phones hanging on the wall at the store) after my tracphone minutes wear out soon. Unlimited more or less everything (voice, messages, data) for 50 bucks a month, OR, more interesting to me, you can just go the dataplan for 35 cents a day (slow connections but at five gigs cap-what they call unlimited, I guess like ATT or Verizon calls "unlimited" so that's a wash, you just won't hit it either most likely unless you go nuts with it) and phone calls are ten cents a minute. With email etc being cheap and easy, I just don't need that much voice anymore, basically I use the phone just to have some limited emergency communication, once in awhile local calls-not too many- and for a few things like authorizing payments with insurance, etc. I try to avoid automatic payments for anything, go month to month only to try and protect my account better.

But ya, in general, prepaid rocks for the ability to just pay small cash upfront and have a phone. I dumped my Verizon account, there just wasn't any point to it anymore. Technology changes too fast to get locked into some TWO YEAR "plan". Today's expensive smartphones will be the cheap blisterpack prepaids in just a year or two, so I can wait. The blisterpack phones now have cameras and crude browsers, you can see them change *monthly* and get better and better.

  Electronic gadgets are *cheap* to make now, those smartphones they want hundreds of dollars for? Out to lunch, price gouging people bad, and keeping people locked into their stupid "plans". As long as you can do without the very latest bleeding edge features, prepaid rocks. The more people we can get to switch to prepaid, the quicker these big telcos will get real on their dumb policies and fees.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (2, Interesting)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819689)

switch carriers, dump AT&T, get a TracFone at your local dept. store along with an airtime card sign up anonymously online with the info from the card and nobody can attach your real identity to your new cellphone, only give the number to those that you approve of

In my experience with reloadable phones, that would likely increase the number of collections calls. Those operators tend to have a customer base that often falls behind on bills, can't get credit, and ends up using reloadable phones because they can't get a contract.

They also have a pool of numbers they reuse whenever an old customer drops and a new customer signs up. So it's likely you'll inherit a number previously used by a host of deadbeats.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (5, Informative)

iburrell (537197) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819217)

Break out the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and get them to stop. Answer the phone and get their name and address and all the info about the debt. Mail them a written request for verification of the debt. After that, all contact needs to be by mail. They are already doing things they shouldn't like calling late at night. They are supposed to have mailed you a description of the debt. Keep a log of all of the calls and violations. Send them to the FTC if they don't stop. You can even sue them and get $1000 in damages for violations.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1)

minvaren (854254) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819457)

FDCPA only applies to third-party agencies, IIRC. If they're a third-party agency, take the parent's advice (but send the "do not contact me by phone" request by certified mail with return receipt). If they're first-party, set your ringtone to "silent" for that number because they are going to blast you with calls.

Disclaimer : I work for a third-party collection agency.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (2, Funny)

imamac (1083405) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819731)

What's your phone number again?

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819255)

Do the FCC complaint. During the Sprint-Cogent depeering that happened last year, we were directly affected by the blackhole routes that these guys put in place to hurt each other. I eventually got a phone call from a VP at Sprint to ensure that I was "satisfied with the outcome". I told him that I wasn't. Now, Sprint says that they will notify us 90 days in advance of any depeering with Cogent. Carriers take FCC complaints very seriously, becase the FCC takes them very seriously.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (2, Informative)

frizop (831236) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819395)

No, complain to the FCC. http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm [fcc.gov] Follow the little wizard and put everything you told us into it. It's not AT&T's job to stop phone calls to your device. You either call the police or the FCC.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819525)

if you had a treo running palm OS, you could get something like TreoButler or CallFilter (or, I'm sure, any number of other apps) to control incoming calls. I have CallFilter, which allows me to sort calls by caller ID. You can select straight-to-voicemail, ring-to-voicemail, pickup/hangup with or without alerting, etc. I have all incoming 1-800 numbers and unknown callers set to go straigt to voicemail, and when I encounter a pest like the autodialer you've described they get the pickup/hangup treatment.

Works great. I'm sure something similar will come out for the Pre soon, because people expect that functionality. I don't know if the iPhone has something like this, but if it doesn't, it should. This is a feature that should come standard on every smartfone.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1)

keytoe (91531) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819643)

You need to get the collection agency's physical address and send them a debt validation letter (you can find standard boilerplate for a DV all over). Send it certified and keep notes. If they call you again after receiving that letter, you just won $1000 with an FDCPA lawsuit. Trust me, they won't call. They know exactly how far they can legally push, and lawsuits are not profitable to them.

In short, this is not a problem your phone carrier should have to deal with. They're just a carrier. They don't care WHO is calling you, they just deliver calls to your number. They're still monopolistic assholes for a myriad other reasons, but in this case I agree with them.

Re:Even simple steps would improve their image (1)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819841)

at&t and most other carriers are pretty much required to allow you to switch phone numbers. You have to complain about it though.

One thing you can do is if your phone allows it, you can assign unknown/blocked a ring tone, but make it ring silent (this varies from phone to phone, google is your friend, I did it on my Razr). Include something in your voicemail message that if they are calling from an unknown/blocked number, leave a message and you'll get back to them.

By doing what other industries do??? (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819019)

By doing what every other industry does: try to please customers instead of entrap and bilk them?

"Industries" don't function that way, though individual companies can and do.

GM and Chrysler sold crap, they knew they were selling crap, and their "exit strategy" was to have you and me and everyone else REWARD them for producing crap. Toyota, on the other hand, focused on what their customers wanted - a reliable means of transportaiton.

More to the point, for the slashdot audience - Windows. It's crap. And yet, any efforts to end the lock-in are met with all sorts of fud, both from Microsoft, and teir partners, in an effort to continue to entrap and bilk and ass-rape their customers. Vista was supposed to be "the best Windows ever." That has changed to "We feel your pain - Windows 7 will be the best Windows ever." But no refunds for the millions who ended up stuck with crap. Costomer-focused? Nope - you're just peons to be lied to and raped and your wallets and purses pillaged.

Show me this dream world where whole industries are trying to please their customers. It's still the exception, rather than the rule.

Re:By doing what other industries do??? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819417)

Yes, GM, Chrysler, Microsoft, et al sell crap. So what? The other end of the magnet shows that we buy crap. Where's the weapon that forces us to do so? Fraud is a two way street. And the customer will fully support it if they think they're getting a "good deal". The fact is that we DO reward them for producing crap, and we beg for more. The AC [slashdot.org] has it right. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. And the cell phone, airline, banking, health care industries, and the government itself are prime examples of our own failures. We still have insufficient cause to overcome our conditioning and change our own behavior. We refuse to acknowledge our own psychoses. The politics and the economy are mere reflections in the pond.

Re:By doing what other industries do??? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819423)

Since the early 90s or so, GM and Chrysler weren't selling crap (no seriously, they might not have been as low maintenance as Toyota, but they weren't crap).

The problem is that they made impossible promises 20-30-40 years ago, and the unions agreed to them (when the media talks about 'labor' costs of Detroit cars being higher, they aren't just talking about hourly, they are talking about funding retiree pensions and medical).

The unions then agreed to work in new American factories for Toyota et al., with greater automation and lower wages. Go figure that GM and Chrysler couldn't compete.

Re:By doing what other industries do??? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819717)

>>>in an effort to continue to entrap and bilk and ass-rape their customers. Vista was supposed to be "the best Windows ever." That has changed to "We feel your pain - Windows 7 will be the best Windows ever." But no refunds for the millions who ended up stuck with crap.
>>>

Ya know I've never once purchased Windows off the shelf.
I don't understand people who do; it comes free with the PC.
If you felt ripped-off buying Vista, it was by your own choice.

The only OSes I've ever bought off-the-shelf were GEOS for the C=64 and Workbench 3.0 for the Commodore Amiga. But then, those were good OSes and worth every penny. I wouldn't walk across the street to get Winshit. (pause) Now that I think about it, the only Mickeysoft product I ever purchased was Office... about 12 years ago. I have made the conscious decision never to buy another MS product, especially now that we have OpenOffice and other free alternatives.

Your First Premise Is Wrong: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819043)

There is NO United States. Unless you've been in Richard B. Cheney's spider-hole, the U.S. collapsed several years ago.

Cell phone companies demise will mimic that of U.S. "Little Three" auto manufacturers with the assistance of the continued rise in PRIVATE health care insurance premiums which guarantee the comparative DISADVANTAGE of U.S. firms around the world.

Yours In Globalism,
K. Trout

Re:Your First Premise Is Wrong: (-1, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819439)

Fuck you dill weed, Vonnegut you ain't.

Here's a thought: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819049)

Because we put up with it! If all cellphone service providers are assholes, but we keep signing up with them anyway, whose fault is it? People always tell the beat up girl to leave the abusive boyfriend, but when push comes to shove it's not quite that easy, is it? Either vote with your wallet or shut the fuck up.

Re:Here's a thought: (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819453)

Yes, well, even though all that is true, chances are that telling people that they are standing naked and they have little dicks rarely, if ever brings about the desired result. We are a twisted lot.

mod 3own (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819057)

Minutes. At home,

Congressional action is what we need! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819069)

'"Apparently, persuading cell carriers to treat their customers decently would take an act of Congress.'"

They've done such an effective job with the airlines.

"Please" the customers? Heresy... (0, Offtopic)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819077)

Take this little vignette of 'customer service.' It's a bit long-winded but I can't think of a better exemplar of what NOT to do to please the *gasp* paying customer:

There was this woman I knew. She was a child of the Sixties and a bit of a paradox. She had been a hippy and an Outlaw Biker bitch and she danced topless in gentlemen clubs in and around the Caribbean and Mexico. She was also my stepfather's daughter from a previous marriage. Nice, huh?

After my mother married her father, she was all set and ready to hate my guts because I dared to love her father (Her father was probably the most noble soul I've ever met). But after a weekend in the mountains, we were holding hands and nibbling each others ear. Well, for 25 years, we had a secret relationship because my mother hated her because of some twisted philosophy that my mother had picked up somewhere about there can only be one queen bee to every hive. My mother had already tried to savagely ruin the marriage of one of my brothers and had turned the other brother damn near into Norman Bates.

So my stepsister and I decided to wait. My mother was not well. She was a lifelong alcoholic. She had been in and out of the hospital numerous times. All we thought we had to do was wait. 25 years later, my stepsister woke up one morning and said, "fuck it." She swallowed an entire bottle of Tylenol and drank most of a bottle of red wine. She was in a hideous painful coma for eight weeks before she died.

*That* was the good news. Now for the worst part: my mother died in her sleep six months later.

I don't think there's anything after this life. Even if there is a God, I don't think God could possibly be that cruel. But if I could interview my stepsister, I would ask her just the one obvious question: what the holy fucking hell were you thinking trying to screw your stepbrother at every possible moment? What does all of this have to do with customer service (or lack thereof)? Well, nothing, frankly, but if you read this far - and I charged a subscription fee to browse Slashdot - wouldn't you be pretty red-faced pissed right about now? I know *I* would.

=Smidge=

"I Am Not a Crook ... Really!" (3, Interesting)

resistant (221968) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819091)

One wonders to what extent the dominant business model of frantic and very often highly deceptive advertising effectively locks out the theoretical competitor willing to deal fairly with customers. If over here a service offers a very nice handset for a hundred dollars or for nothing after a sneaky rebate that may or may not be paid, "unlimited access" (to the Internet) with many lawyerly caveats that make it way less than unlimited, plus some seemingly large number of talk minutes per month that somehow ends up being rather less and which quietly saddles the heavy user with many extra fees, etc., then how exactly does the theoretical ethical service over there attract (the better class of) customers in all the noise and hand-waving?

Telling potential customers that they will get less and pay more than with advertised plans from competitors, even if they actually get more and pay less, is a hard sell. When everyone else is lying, how do you prove you are not just another sleazy liar? Are there even enough potential customers of the ethical service provider in any given coverage area willing to take their eyes off the shiny new handset long enough to squint suspiciously and intelligently at the fine print?

There must be a few smaller service providers that aren't crooked, scattered throughout the country. I wonder how well they are doing financially.

They'd rather struggle (2, Insightful)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819157)

They'd rather struggle, apparently. Why offer good/honest service at a good/honest price and keep customers while continuing to attract more, when you can just gouge the ones you have as much as possible? The movie theater industry has the same problem. Good movies or no, more people would go to the movies and buy from the snack stand if they didn't charge $17 for a Snickers and $43 for a popcorn and drink. Lots of people don't like going to the movies simply because the snacks are overpriced. So even if they do go, they don't go to the snack bar. If all these theater owners would wise up and charge reasonable prices for the goods in the snack bar, more people would utilize the service, and more people would go to the movies, and they'd make more money overall, despite making less on one sale. The cell industry is no different. Despite the fact that SMS text messages cost nothing to send, they're quite content to gouge customers for a service that costs them nothing to provide. They gouge for internet data usage. They gouge for MMS. They gouge for airtime. They're electing to remain oblivious to what customers actually say about them, because they claim they're struggling to make it as is. They claim they offer a fair service at a fair price, despite all the facts that prove otherwise. $5 from 1000 people will always be better than $10 from 100 people, but they'll never clue in that growing that 100 people into 1000 people is indeed just as simple as lowering their prices to something sane.

Android (3, Interesting)

lgbr (700550) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819187)

This is entirely why Android was developed and is so fundamentally important to the future of our communications. Today, without Android, what we're seeing is the case for network neutrality in the form of ringtone racketeering. Carriers are locking down your cell phone and forcing you to buy music from them. With every passing day we're using our computers less and our cell phones more. The difference between the two is that your carrier has total control over your cell phone while your ISP has no control over your computer. Suppose five years down the road you're still buying phones subsidized by a contract with software loaded onto them by Verizon. These phones end up replacing your desktop because they are now just as powerful. Now every time you want to listen to music, you are forced to suffer through a store worse than iTunes.. and let's even say Verizon forces you to use Bing instead of Google. This is bad for you as a consumer, and this is bad for Google as a content provider.

Enter Android, where the operating system is open and available at no cost for any number of phones and presumably on any number of carriers. Now we see a future where everyone can run the same software on their phone regardless of carrier. Any time one carrier decides to lock down their phone people will quit buying it. It's not viable. Since we're talking about wireless data, it's easy enough to simply switch to another carrier. Now we've forced the telco's into companies that treat you fairly and compete for your business because they will become insolvent if they don't. We end up with network neutrality and control over our own hardware, and we did it organically without the use of government.

Android is not the be-all, end-all phone operating system. However, if successful it will force all other cell phone platforms to provide the same level of freedom through market controls.

Re:Android (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819285)

With every passing day we're using our computers less and our cell phones more.

Only if you're an idiot. People should try chucking those cell phones out the window sometime. Being free of such a useless piece of technology would probably make them feel good. No one needs to be "connected" 24/7 in such a superficial manner.

Re:Android (3, Interesting)

lgbr (700550) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819491)

Only if you're an idiot. People should try chucking those cell phones out the window sometime. Being free of such a useless piece of technology would probably make them feel good. No one needs to be "connected" 24/7 in such a superficial manner.

There's nothing idiotic about it. Cell phones make our lives better. My cell phone has replaced the following tasks that I used to use my computer for:

  • Displaying the weather forecast
  • Alarm clock
  • Looking up restaurants, stores, and directions on a map
  • Tracking my car's mileage
  • Displaying stock quotes
  • Occasional emergency SSH sessions (when I'm out and I need to restart a system service immediately)
  • Some communication with friends
  • MP3 player in the car (yes, I used to use a computer for this)

The cell phone consolidates your digital camera, camcorder, GPS, MP3 player, handheld gaming device, compass, bubble level, notepad, rolodex, photo album, and hell there's even an app to use your Android phone as a metal detector now. Better yet your phone will replace your dvd player [youtube.com] before the end of this year.

My point is that there is no idiocy behind using your cell phone more and your computer less because your cell phone does many things much more efficiently than your desktop can. So there's nothing stupid about using your phone instead of your computer when it saves you time.

Re:Android (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819537)

There is when you're paying $100 a month for this "convenience". IMO that's pretty idiotic.

Re:Android (2, Interesting)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819291)

Today, without Android, what we're seeing is the case for network neutrality in the form of ringtone racketeering.

The worst thing is that the carriers are going along with the ringtone scammers. (the ones who bait unwary people with "free" ringtones and then auto-subscribe them to an expensive ringtone service or worse, spam them several times a day with expensive text messages) Most people don't realize that they could be trapped if they put in their phone number on one of the scam sites; for some reason, a phone number is treated just like a credit card but without any of the consumer protections. The carriers could help to shut these criminals down if they wanted to, but they don't because they get a pierce of the action.

Re:Android (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819877)

Carriers are locking down your cell phone and forcing you to buy music from them.

I've never been forced to buy music from any carrier. Why the fuck would I buy "music" that is only played on a one inch speaker anyway? To show the kids that I'm cool? Having money is cool. Annoying people with distorted crap every time someone calls is lame.

Re:Android (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819885)

I'll stick with my iphone, thanks.

Why? (0, Troll)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819193)

How about shareholder lawsuits? Remember, the corporation must do everything in it's power to maintain or improve shareholder value. Of course, ethics is a lower priority.

I know, how about reversing this decision [ratical.org] that allows corporations to be persons? Maybe after that, corporations will play nice.

We brought this on ourselves (3, Insightful)

cr64 (801987) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819295)

If the carriers thought that their customers really wanted no contract plans, they would compete for that business. As it stands, it is really not hard to get mobile service without contracts. Even pre-pay plans can be quite economical. Unlocked phones are readily available if you are willing to pay for them up front. Unfortunately most people are willing to sell their freedom for $50 off the cost of a phone, so the carriers keep doing it.

Gov's the answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819331)

It would take an act of congress, but the other thing is it's a slippery slope, once you get the gov involved, things go downhill faster than they should. The reason it's so uncompetitive is probably the gov involvement in the first place.

Wait, you actually believe (2, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819387)

That acts of Congress actually work?

Cell South (1)

glasserc (1510291) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819411)

I've heard that Cellular South [cellularsouth.com] is a really good telecom with wonderful customer service, etc. I've never tried it myself -- their primary coverage doesn't extend north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Our own fault (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819419)

We only have ourselves to blame. These companies are making billions of dollars because *we continue to give them money*. How did humans ever survive without cell phones?

Outrageous text message rates? THEN DON'T SEND TEXT MESSAGES. It's that simple. If people stopped paying for their crap, their prices would lower and their customer service would get better.

They have no incentive to be competitive or nice, cause they rape us blind with fees and treat us like shit, YET WE KEEP PAYING THEM EVERY MONTH.

Hello. Wake up call. I gave up the monthly cell phone years ago. I keep a pre paid phone for emergencies and that's it. And y'know what, I don't miss it for a second. I actually enjoy the peace and quiet. You don't realize how much of your life is sucked up by this crap until you free yourself.

Fix Lobbying First (1, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819427)

Apparently, persuading cell carriers to treat their customers decently would take an act of Congress.

Risks, it's all about the risks. How is Congress doing with the health care bill? At the moment, the biggest supporters remaining are the AMA, health insurance companies, and drug companies. Carbon credits? The big supporters at the end included the coal industry.

The cellular corporations are abusive monopolies and a giant, fetid, trust. And if legislation gets anywhere near passage, they'll be the ones writing it.

The reason Larry Lessig got out of the copyright fight is because he realized Congress had to be fixed first, before any progress could be made. Same thing here. Until we disconnect Congress from the grip of lobbyists, it is not possible for good legislation to pass.

I want a solution, badly. I completely understand that the current path is a path toward more unearned wealth concentration. The first, mandatory, step is to break the grip that lobbyists have on D.C. It is the only first step that can lead down a path that is not worse.

capitalism kills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819451)

How many deaths have been the result of capitalism; of nothing more noble than a rich man wanting to be even richer, and sacrificing the health and lives of millions of workers to achieve this. Don't even try to count how many people capitalism has killed, because not only will you not know where to begin, but also it will never end.

What about pre-paid mobile numbers in USA? (1)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819497)

I have a cousin in USA, and last time we talked, she told me that she and her husband pay 120USD per month (total) and they get nice mobile phones and awesome Internet. She compared that to Serbia where she considered mobile rates to be extremely high, since we pay everything by usage. In the worst case, we pay about 0.05 per SMS (only sent one, receiving is free); we pay about 0.20USD per minute of call (receiving call is free); Internet can go up to 0.60USD per MB. But with some extra "packet add-ons" you can lower your SMS price to 0.01USD, calls to 0.01USD for certain numbers and you can get Internet for 0.02USD per MB. And everything is still without any contract, just via buying some coupons on the kiosk (or on ATM, or in bank, post office, via Intenet...).

In my point of view, this is actually a better deal than 60USDx24 months to get a telephone which I can buy for 300USD (and you can always buy it on credit card if you don't have enough cash). Even with worst case scenario here, it would take me quite a calls and SMSs to make bill worth of 24x60-300 = 1140 USD.

Is there a way to get pre-paid number in USA and how much they charge per minute and SMS? Can you buy decent DCMA telephone without contract?

Pull their lease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28819699)

The solution is link customer complaints to frequency allocation/revocation. The frequency spectrum belongs to the people and our government leases it out to the carriers. Companies would bend over backwards (and forwards) if their lease was dependent on customer satisfaction. More frequency auctions could also offset some taxes.

The title of this article is redundant (0, Offtopic)

FormerComposer (318416) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819701)

The title of this article is redundant.

Verizon Ad? (1)

im_mac (927998) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819715)

Anyone else get a Verizon Wireless ad when trying to read the article?

That's delicious irony.

Cricket (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819845)

Yeah, this may sound like an astroturf, but it isn't. I have no connection with them, don't even use them (yet).

Cricket [mycricket.com] started out as a small company offering phone service in a few areas, including mine. They were offering all-you-can-eat no-contract service, cheap, but you had to buy your own phone (or reflash another compatible one). They've done very well since, with their service expanding to most major markets.

At the time I signed up for my last contract, their service was a little iffy, with "network busy" issues; it's improved since then. I'm strongly considering switching to them when my contract is up.

I do believe that if the other companies out there don't switch to a similar business model, Cricket is going to eat their lunch.

Government to blame? (1)

denoir (960304) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819849)

I'm not quite sure what it is, but it looks like that there is some government regulation in the US that makes the situation so bad. Compared to what we have in Sweden, the US mobile phone network is abysmal. In the US networks have poor coverage, high prices and long contracts that lock you in to one provider for a long time. If you thing it is geography, think again - Sweden has about the same population density as the US. We have some regions that are relatively densely populated but large parts of the country are not. Yet you can basically go to the point furtherest from civilization and you'll still have full 3G coverage.

Now to my point: Sweden has almost no regulations of the mobile phone market. Although we have a government that is rather regulation-happy, mobile networks and internet providers have been excepted. We have a large number of mobile providers (I would guess something like ten times more mobile providers per capita than the US) so you can pick and choose. Prices are low and coverage and speeds are good. All that is accomplished without any interference from the government (there has been some interference from the EU regarding roaming charges, but that's a different story).

Another example are mobile networks in Africa. Guess which country in Africa has the best and cheapest mobile networks? You probably guessed wrong: It's Somalia [wikipedia.org] . Apparently mobile network companies thrive under anarchy.
So, as it seems to me, less government regulations of mobile networks seems to produce better results for the consumers. The question is what kind of government involvement is making problems in the US? Or is it something else?

Re:Government to blame? (1)

krkhan (1071096) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819933)

Apparently mobile network companies thrive under anarchy.

I live in Pakistan and get unlimited quota for sending texts for only $0.0375 per day. Charges for receiving texts/calls were abandoned about 8 years ago when most of the operators switched from AMPS to GSM.

I fail to see the problem (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 4 years ago | (#28819957)

I bought a phone recently for my son. $50 cash at T-Mobile. No contracts or anything. I then went for the slightly more expensive option of flex-pay. This basically allows me to go month to month and I just let them automatically take out the funds every month(which refunds me the $5 difference).

$50 for a phone(Samsung t239), same price for the plan, and no contract at all. And he gets free incoming and outgoing calls to 5 numbers, which in 95%+ of his calling.

I get two phones for $70 a month with no strings or gimmicks or contracts. My own phone was prepaid and I simply swapped the SIM for a new one that went with the new contract. T-mobile and many carriers allow that. Of course you have to get the prepaid model that CAN work as a real phone or buy a phone outright.

The real problem is people not shopping around for the best deal and not understanding the technology.
(edit - there is a problem with AT&T and the IPhone, I'll admit, but that's going to be fixed in a few months by the look of it)

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