Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The truth about texting

Did you know that about 2.5 million text messages have been sent worldwide this year? And did you know that your cellular provider is hiding the true cost of text messaging from you? The companies would like you to believe that sending and receiving text messages is more expensive than it would seem. And Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) is working to get to the bottom of it.

He was curious about the doubling of prices for text messages charged by the major American carriers from 2005 to 2008, during a time when the industry consolidated from six major companies to four.

So, in September, Mr. Kohl sent a letter to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, inviting them to answer some basic questions about their text messaging costs and pricing.

All four of the major carriers decided during the last three years to increase the pay-per-use price for messages to 20 cents from 10 cents. The decision could not have come from a dearth of business: the 2.5 trillion sent messages this year, the estimate of the Gartner Group, is up 32 percent from 2007. Gartner expects 3.3 trillion messages to be sent in 2009.

The written responses to Senator Kohl from AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile speak at length about pricing plans without getting around to the costs of conveying text messages. My attempts to speak with representatives of all three about their costs and pricing were unsuccessful. (Verizon Wireless would not speak with me, either, nor would it allow Mr. Kohl’s office to release publicly its written response.)
In the age of the Wall Street meltdown and corporate malfeasance and greed, do we really expect cellular providers to play ball with Congress? They haven't asked for a financial rescue package yet, so they're not feeling compelled to give answers. Apparently, the true cost of text messaging is a corporate trade secret which would bring about financial ruin if it ever came out publicly.

If we're going to pay for texting as consumers, or if we someday have to pay in the form of corporate welfare, I think we're entitled to know what we're paying for and why. I know that's a radical idea to some in Washington, D.C. It's a little thing called accountability, and Senator Kohl should be commended for his efforts to protect consumers from gouging and bringing light to these odious business practices.


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