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March 16, 2005

Cell Phone "Bill of Rights"

This entry was posted in the following categories: Political

The other night on the Sullivan Show on WBZ 1030 radio, they were talking to Cambridge State Senator Jarrett Barrios and Lynn State Representative Steven Walsh who were talking about a bill they're proposing called the "Cell phone users' bill of rights". Essentially it's an attempt to regulate cell phone companies the same way that other utilities are regulated.

I haven't looked through the whole bill. So it's possible there are some parts of it that I might like. But in general, I think they totally missed the mark.

The reason is simple. Cell phone companies can not be compared to utilities. Why? There's competition. If you don't like the service you get at one company, then go to another. The recent FCC ruling that you can keep your phone number when you change companies means they can't even hold that over you.

One thing that they mentioned is going in the bill really struck me; the requirement for no contracts longer than one year. I guess they don't realize that if they did that, the price for cell phones would go up. Cell phones are usually purchased with a service plan; shorten the service plan, and they'll have to raise the price of the phones. Think of the service plan (contract) as paying for the cell phone on the installment plan. If you only have 12 months to pay for it, then you have to make a much bigger down payment.

What bugs me about this is that for the most part, the free market competition among cell phone companies is working. When consumers have complaints (like wasted minutes in their calling plans), the companies usually find ways to work around it. And people can choose what suits them best. My dad, for example, only really uses his cell phone a lot when he's on vacation, so Cingular's "rollover" plan is wonderful for him. He can save up heapum minutes during the months he's at home, then use them all when he's on vacation. Sprint's plan (where your calling plan is adjusted monthly based on usage) doesn't help him as much.



Posted by mlv at March 16, 2005 11:21 PM


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