The internet situation in North America is terrible. I am not going to get into Net Neutrality, rural internet, or our terrible home internet speeds but focus on mobile phone industry. The telecommunications industry (or Telco) is host to widespread practises designed to screw customers out of their money. Some are worse than others but these practises have become industry norms even from the “good” companies.
My current situation is a little different than others because my iPhone runs on the Sasktel Network. Sasktel is a crown corporation, meaning it is run by the government. The fact that I being screwed by a company meant to work for the constituents of Saskatchewan makes their practises even worse. (I am all for this as long as it benefits its customers. I think the internet should be classified as a utility.) I will try and keep my tone professional but this topic enrages me. (And should enrage you too.)
Most customers by a phone with a contract to get it for a subsidized rate. (Even though you pay for your phone twice over.) It’s a common excuse by WDPs’ that your mobile bill is expensive because you’re paying off your phone at the same time. Then why is it the same cost when my phone is paid off? In European countries it is common to buy a phone outright so your mobile bill is cheaper. In North America your bill remains the same even if you’re not paying off a phone. (I have heard that T-Mobile lowers your bill when your phone is paid off but could find no sources online.)
LTE is Cheaper
Did you know that is cheaper to provide 4G service than 3G? You probably didn’t and it’s not your fault human intuition will reason that faster is more expensive. However it is and you are paying the same or more for the service. While the costs can easily be attributed to the cost of infrastructure needed for all those new towers. I doubt you will see any savings when they are paid off. (Though I’d rather have better 4G coverage than a cheaper bill at this point.)
Do you make phone calls anymore? For those rare times you need to Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime can meet most of your needs. With the rise of iMessage, Whats App, FB Messenger, Snapchat, etc do you use SMS text messaging anymore? The answer is probably not often. Data is the only thing we really need but the prices are inflated because you can’t buy one without a whole bunch of useless add-ons. I am sure the company sees these add-ons as added value for the plan justifying the higher prices but for many people they are just paying for features they won’t use.
Texts Cost Nothing
Did you know SMS text messages cost your Telco nothing? They are so nice for including it in your plan for “free”
Mobile spectrum is a very two sided debate. On one side you have the Telco’s who say that spectrum is finite and we will soon run out and prices will sky rocket and service will degrade. On the other hand you have those that believe that this is a contrived crisis, and it is the Telco’s that are using it as an excuse for more spectrum. It is summed up well here. I will let you make up your own mind but to me it is just another way to screw you out of more money, if not now than in a few years.
Paying For Features Already Built Into Your Phone
Does you Telco make you pay for basic features that are included in your phone? When I got my first iPhone I was looking forward to Visual Voicemail, however accessing Voice Mail just called my voice mail account. I checked out support pages trying to find the setting to turn it on and found that I had to pay my carrier $5 a month for a feature built into my phone. This wasn’t a service offered by my WDP it was built by Apple and yet I had to pay them $5 to use it.
Caller ID is another feature they “include” in my 70$ a month plan. When I first got Caller ID on my old Samsung feature phone I wondered why half the calls I got were just numbers. I was paying for Caller ID so I went and asked. Guess what? It only worked for numbers in your contact book. WTF
People are starting to own more than one device that connects to mobile data. Why does this matter? It matters because Telco’s are most likely to continue charging you to connect each device to the network. Even though you pay for a bucket of data on your mobile phone, you aren’t allowed to connect your tablet to the same bucket. You have to buy more data for the new device. This makes no sense! Why can’t I have my multiple devices share the same data? Simple, the companies make less money. This issue is only going to increase in the coming years. As our laptops, cars and maybe even wearable devices get LTE chips it will be just get more and more expensive.)
Paying For Tethering
Thankfully my Telco doesn’t charge an extra fee for tethering but some used to. Making you pay for the convenience to access the data you pay for from another device, what a money grab.
Did you know that most of the companies that offer cheaper service are often owned by the bigger companies? Even if they are independent they still pay these larger companies to use their towers. If these companies can offer significantly cheaper plans while paying the bigger companies to use their towers, how much profit are the bigger companies making?
T-Mobile in the States seems to be trying to shake things up. They seem to be actually competing with their competition and not living with the oligarchy. They are offering inventive new plans and seem to be a bastion of hope in the Telecom industry.
The Governments Role
I don’t expect the current Harper government to do anything except build prisons, buy useless jets, destroy scientific libraries, cut funding to science, destroy the environment, etc but in countries as large as the US and Canada I believe they should step in and deal with our terrible Telecom industries. While the US would probably reject this as socialist in Canada we have less aversion to government industries. It may be unreasonable to ask Telecoms to build towers to cover the whole country. We have a lot of open space and putting up a tower to cover 10 people doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense. However if you believe, as I do, that the internet should be both a right and a utility available to everyone the government needs to get it to these people. Maybe instead of spending billions on fighter jets we could get our Telecoms on par with the rest of the world. (And stop throwing everyone in jail and destroying the environment while we’re at it.)
You have to fight for your right to cheap, fast, and reliable internet for all. Contact your government representative, voice your opinion on social networks, protest in the streets or anything else you can do to stop getting screwed simply for owning a smartphone. Telecoms have the persistent advantage of money and focus. We simply have vastly larger numbers and we have to start using that to our advantage.