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Senator Questions Rise In US Texting Prices 592

Posted by kdawson
from the competition-what-competition dept.
vimm writes "Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) has started an inquiry on the rising prices of text messaging (up 100% since 2005) that has occurred almost in sync with the consolidation of 6 major carriers down to 4. In a letter sent to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile, Kohl said the increase 'does not appear to be justified by rising costs in delivering text messages.'"
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Senator Questions Rise In US Texting Prices

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:49PM (#24953171) Journal

    Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) has started an inquiry on the rising prices of text messaging (up 100% since 2005) that has occurred almost in sync with the consolidation of 6 major carriers down to 4.

    Well, it could be that the competition was driving prices down to a lower level and then after the two consolidated, this (money losing) price reduction natural re-adjusted back up.

    Another reason could just be that it's just as easy to sell plans at 10 cents a txt as it is to sell them at 5 cents a txt. We simply don't realize the cost adds up as consumers.

    It could also be that people use text messages about twice as much now as they did in 2005 and the hardware just can't take it, so they adjust the price to reduce usage.

    I think we've discussed this absurd price before [slashdot.org]. I am quite naive about the whole electrical engineering side to this but well versed in the software of it. If it costs nearly nothing for me to talk for a minute, why couldn't they wrap the txt into a digital signal identical to what our vocal signal is wrapped up in and just let the receiving unit decode it as a special text message across the same audio range (like the old phone modems)?

  • Cynical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:50PM (#24953177) Journal

    Sounds like the Cellular industry hasn't been contributing enough to a certain Senator's campaign.

  • off-peak? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dolohov (114209) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:50PM (#24953181)

    Another interesting question: my phone service (through Verizon) has free after-hours calling, but I pay the same rate for text messages and other data services regardless of time of day. Surely if the data from my phone call is cheaper to transmit at 10pm, then the data from my SMS message is too?

  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:52PM (#24953237) Journal

    Yeah, that sucks. Text messaging should be dirt cheap. Yeah, they're making an enormous profit off it.
    But text messaging is voluntary. You can stop any time you want. They're clearly charging what the market will bear.
    Sure, it makes them look like scum when they're getting paid huge amounts for not doing very much... but c'mon, Senator Kohl, that's the American Dream! If y'all don't like it, get rid of your cellphones and use email.

  • by BlackGriffen (521856) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:55PM (#24953283)

    Except you get charged whenever somebody sends you a txt. Not cool.

  • Re:off-peak? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retchdog (1319261) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:57PM (#24953327) Journal

    Why do intelligent people persist in applying rationality to these questions? Is it purely a strategy to re-frame the public debate in vain hopes of changing the situation?

    Text messages are either marked-up several thousand percent or infinitely, depending on your analysis. What is the point of expecting the consumer price of texts to respond at all to real costs, when the provider cost varies by at most thousands of a cent?

  • Q & A (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:57PM (#24953329)
    Q: Please justify the "sharply rising rates" you're charging people to send and receive text messages.
    A: Choose one or more:
    1. Because we can.
    2. Because we're greedy.
    3. See: Capitalism [wikipedia.org]
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#24953407) Journal

    And not a single one of those possibilities is actually justifiable.

    Yeah, I never really said they were. Don't be confused, I wasn't rushing to the defense of the cell phone companies. I've danced the dance of customer support with both AT&T/Singular and Verizon. As far as I'm concerned they can both collapse and I would happily switch to the next in line.

    Doesn't stop me from speculating on what might have actually caused this.

    I'm glad the senator is asking questions, hell senators should be asking companies questions left and right. It's not like they're suing them. I'm really curious about a lot of companies revolving around the war in Iraq, oil, computers, auto industry, health care, etc.

    Unfortunately, I'm sure we're all aware this is just a senator trying to make it look like he's rattling a few cages to look better for re-election in the future. "Champion of consumer rights!" his campaign will read (if it doesn't already). Oh no, an anti-trust suit?! We don't want them to end up like Microsoft when they ... wait, what actually happened to Microsoft?

    Wake me up when we actually have a beat down like Ma Bell being divided up into some real competition.

  • Re:off-peak? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#24953411)

    They didn't promise to charge you based on their costs.

    The problem with cellular competition in the US isn't collusion or some other nonsense, it is that people are happy to participate in a model where they are always paying (at a pre-negotiated rate) for more than they are using.

    If people weren't happy to shovel $1200 a year to the phone companies for unlimited use, the price would be a lot more reflective of what it costs to provide.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:02PM (#24953429) Homepage Journal

    Actually, they're not charging what the market will bear.

    you just described 'the market'.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:04PM (#24953483) Journal

    Usually it's conservatives who argue for the free market to sort things out, and liberals want increased regulation.

    Anyway, it would be good to let the free market sort this out. The fact that it hasn't implies that the cellular market is not free. Free markets work because of competition, the high prices of text messages indicate that there's no competition in that market. That's not a good thing, regardless of which side of the aisle you identify with.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:07PM (#24953519)

    In coming needs to be free as well having 1-800 text numbers that are 100% free and the 1-900 based ones should just have there fees not fees + the standard rate.

  • by Ares (5306) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:09PM (#24953559) Homepage

    If someone calls you and you choose to answer it, you pay. If someone texts you, you pay.

    fixed that for you.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:18PM (#24953725)

    Or maybe a showy issue that most americans can identify with, will help non-technical americans realize how badly monopolies are robbing them? You know, and I know, that the cost of sending a text message is so incredibly small charging any amount of money beyond voice service is essentially highway robbery. But many people think it's new, and thus must be a huge complicated thing.

    Yeah, text messages themselves are stupid secondary problems. But waking people up, and forcing them out of the idiocy of news tv talking heads, and forcing them into the cognitive dissonance caused when they realize businesses are hurting them because capitalism ISN'T working as designed... that helps a lot. Otherwise it sounds like a bunch of pompous academics in suits talkin fancy words and talkin smack about god and the president.

  • Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:23PM (#24953809) Homepage

    Companies only believe in the free market when it suits them, so they don't deserve it. The only way to keep prices low is to intelligently regulate and keep the corporations small and relatively powerless so they don't have the resources to buy their way into the government's good graces.

    Without stiff and proper rules keeping corporate interests separate from government interests, you always end up with corrupted governments relaxing regulations and robbing public resources for private profit, or as they like to call it, privatizing. Notice under the Bush administration that all of the deregulation and plundering of public property has resulted in a highly unstable economy. When you eliminate so many rules that the only thing stopping the resulting mega corporation from ripping people off are the inherent ethics guiding a company, you'll quickly be reminded that the only moral standard they answer to is the bottom line.

  • Cost != price (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:28PM (#24953865)
    Like all asynchronous data, texts can be squished into idle network time. In a predominantly isochronous system (voice dominated) there has to be some spare capacity to keep the isochronous flow going. This space capacity can be used to transport text etc. Thus, the network cost of supporting text is zero, or damn close.

    But the price they charge customers will depend on what customers are prepared to pay. Network operators charge more, per amount of data moved, for text than they do for voice (a single SMS uses less bandwidth than a second of voice, yet costs about 20x voice on most plans). Since it is waste, they can afford to discount heavily to bulk buyers (who don't mind their SPAM taking a bit longer to get there).

    Thus, network operators love text: it converts their waste into something more valuable than their main product. How cool is that!

  • by RickRussellTX (755670) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:30PM (#24953895)

    The amount of data in a txt... should be virtually free to transmit compared to voice traffic... they've been a price gouge from the start

    You're talking to a society of people that will spend $1.25 for a bottle of water out of a vending machine which is sitting right next to a water fountain.

    Prices will go down when people stop using the service.

  • Re:off-peak? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:38PM (#24953985)

    Do you really think people are happy with overpaying? Or is it that they have no choice?

    I've been avoiding owning a cell phone for years because of the costs and the pricing models. However, it's becoming more and more inconvenient not to have one.

    There are no good options. If I get a pay-as-you-go phone, the minutes cost much more than a monthly plan if I use the phone often. If I get a monthly plan, I am forced to guess how many minutes I will use. If I choose a plan with a lower number of minutes and go over, those extra minutes are charged at a vastly higher rate. It's all very unfriendly and designed to extract as much money as possible from the customer.

    If a provider would come along and offer a more fair plan, I think people would flock to it. If there was genuine competition in this market, providers would be forced to offer better plans in order to compete. There may not be collusion in the "smoky back room" sense, but the reality is that nothing changes because there is no market force driving these companies to change. They are happy to sit around and keep making money at everyone's expense.

    If the nature of the cellular marketplace is that the normal laws of competition do not apply, that is the point at which the government needs to step in. Redefine the market so that the companies must compete. Allow people to switch providers easily and take their phones with them. Regulate pricing for services like texting which cost next to nothing to provide. I don't know the best answer, but it is high time that something be done.

  • by AndrewNeo (979708) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:42PM (#24954027) Homepage
    While you are correct, they all do use HTTP for MMS messages. Unfortunately, they charge seperately for MMS than data (which costs less. Just make SMS and MMS cost data! Even rounding up the 161 bytes to a kilobyte at $0.05/kb would be cheaper than text messages are now. MMS would go up in price (max for MMS is ~400kb) but that's what data plans are for.)
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:47PM (#24954091)

    Imagine the hilarity of hearing "Don't tase me bro!" in Arabic.

    It's probably on par with reading a bigot in English.

  • by raehl (609729) <raehl311.yahoo@com> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:49PM (#24954133) Homepage

    The fact that it hasn't implies that the cellular market is not free.

    Says who? There are four providers of text messages, and several other means of communicating data. Would you believe that for many people, the VERY SAME DEVICE that sends text messages for $0.10 can be used to send a one-minute voice communication for ZERO INCREMENTAL COST to the customer, but the customer chooses to pay the $0.10 anyway?

    Not to mention the myriad of other ways people have to share information OTHER than text messages.

    The high prices of text messages indicate that there's no competition in that market.

    Except that YOU don't get to decide whether the price is high or not. The market does. And the *MARKET* has decided that the price of text messages is reasonable. People are willing to pay $0.10 to send a text message. What it COSTS to provide the message is irrelevant.

    Did you know that people sell oil and gold for more than the cost to mine it? Did you know that that soft drink you pay $3.50 for at the movie theater costs the movie theater pennies worth of syrup and cold water?

    Did you know that you can get a cell phone plan that lets you talk on your phone from nearly anywhere in the country and to anywhere in the country for *LESS* than it used to cost for a landline and long distance?

    Did you know that many drugs sold for $10 or more a pill cost mere pennies to manufacture? All you have to do is invest a few billion in finding one that works.

    And while the incremental cost of sending a text message may be $0, all you have to do to send them is invest a few hundred billion in a cell phone network....

    At the end of the day, if people are willing to pay $0.10 a minute and $0.10 a message, then that's what people are willing to pay. Which one provides the better margins to the cellular company is irrelevant, as long as people are willing to pay the price charged and the company has enough revenue to stay in business.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:49PM (#24954135)
    No, they do it so that families who have teenagers have to have an unlimited plan or face a $2000 cell phone bill.
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DM9290 (797337) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:53PM (#24954175) Journal

    capitalism ISN'T working as designed

    if Capitalism was working as "designed" you wouldn't have enough idle time in the day to post to slashdot to complain about it. Then again you probably wouldn't have the education necessary to contemplate such blasphemy as Capitalism not working, since all education would be tied directly to your trade and not 1 minute would be wasted training children to do anything not immediately job related as the market demanded.

    You'd either be passed out from sheer exhaustion, or working furiously away lest your employer get the idea he could get slightly more production at less cost from some desperate member of the surplus population.

    text messaging would be the last thing on your mind unless it was to impress your employer to value your contribution to *his* capital more.

  • Re:Q & A (Score:2, Insightful)

    by darjen (879890) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:54PM (#24954195)

    If you don't want to pay that much for a txt message than don't. It's that simple. Freedom to choose, isn't it great?

  • by lordofthechia (598872) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:00PM (#24954269)

    None of the carriers I've been with guarantee the delivery of text messages (3 out of the 4 main ones).

    Someone higher up asked about operational costs involved in sending text messages. Consider the amount of data that makes it to your phone to make it ring (Incoming call) when you add in Caller ID data. Now that costs you nothing if you don't answer. Now compare it to the slight difference in data to a SMS (text message) which now cost .20 every time you receive one.

  • by uassholes (1179143) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:01PM (#24954285)
    What does intelligence have to do with it. The texters are kids. They have no sense of value. They'll pay anything, and Verizon, et al. know it.
  • Re:off-peak? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:06PM (#24954349)

    I use Virgin Mobile. They offer decent per minute rates (they are obscene if you compare them to a monthly bucket, but I very much prefer to overpay 1 minute at a time, rather than 1 month at a time, and the overall amount that I pay is less than most monthly plans, because I don't use a lot of minutes):

    http://www.virginmobileusa.com/rates/minute.do [virginmobileusa.com]

    And it is a simple matter to go monthly (without a contract...):

    http://www.virginmobileusa.com/rates/month.do [virginmobileusa.com]

    They are probably somewhat more expensive than other carriers, but they come with less headaches (I have my account set up such that if I forget to pay, my phone stops working; I prefer this to being charged at their whim, and so on).

    Basically, I don't think it has a whole lot to do with the plans being fair or not. Sprint spent months and months advertising their fair and flexible plan, where as long as you let them overcharge you each month, they agree not to *really* overcharge you for any given month. Presumably, it worked, as they are still doing it.

    There is a lot of back and forth; I tend to think that anybody paying for a fancy phone and big monthly bucket is zooming right past 'need' into 'want' territory (which, for me, undercuts the necessity of regulation, people are willingly paying for plans that they merely want), but I do see where defining exactly what needs and wants are is not straightforward.

  • by joNDoty (774185) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:07PM (#24954373)

    Prices will go down when people stop using the service.

    That's exactly what I just did last month with my new iPhone. I asked AT&T to completely cancel my texting service.

    I can still be reached via email, and I can even text other people at no extra cost using various internet services, but I can no longer be reached via text.

    I encourage you to do the same if you have unlimited internet on your phone. I understand that not everyone's phone can send and receive email very easily (or at all), but why not start making that push now?

    When people ask me if I got their text I explain my stance on absurd texting charges (for both sending and receiving) and tell them I canceled my texting service. People have been surprisingly understanding and I haven't had any problems so far.

    Of course, I'm substituting an expensive internet plan for a cheaper texting plan. But I feel that unlimited internet on a good cell phone is worth the price, whereas texting is not.

  • by nilbog (732352) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:08PM (#24954377) Homepage Journal

    What is really amazing is that people seem to come out in droves to defend the carriers. I wrote an article on the ridiculously high cost of text messages some time ago (which was also featured here on /. as well as several major media outlets - yes, I'm tooting my own horn) and couldn't count the people who came out and said "DUH! They're charging what they are because people are willing to pay it!"

    These are the kind of assholes who troll around the web looking for any discussion in which to insert their derogatory "I'm smarter than you - it's so obvious!" attitude while ignoring the issue at hand. No, prices are not justified by the markets willingness to pay them. Do you think it is justified that a friend of mine had to go $400,000 in debt because he got brain cancer while he didn't have insurance? His family was willing to pay it, so it must be a great deal, right? Do you think that higher and higher gas prices are justified even while the price of oil drops and oil companies post record profits quarter after quarter?

    No, of course those things aren't justified. Just like it wouldn't be justified if all the food manufacturers suddenly decided to charge 10x more for food. It's anti competitive and it's illegal for a very good reason. Price fixing ruins the free market and ensures that consumers get the crappiest possible product for the greatest price. It ruins innovation and takes a huge dump on everyone in the market. Several historical examples show this, but I won't get into that here. Two seconds of critical thinking will get you to the same conclusion.

    Text messaging is a 100 billion dollar industry in the U.S. That's bigger than all the movies, all the music, and all the video games in the entire world put together. The current cost of a single 140 byte text message is 40 cents (which is obfuscated by the fact that the sender AND the receiver are both paying 20 cents each). I can get a letter hand delivered to any doorstep in the U.S. for about the same price. The cost of a text message to the carrier is virtually ZERO. Yet somehow, they are saying that 40 cents is a fair price. I want to know why, and I'm glad someone in congress is doing something about it.

    My article on the subject is here, btw, for anyone interested or who hasn't already seen it: http://gthing.net/the-true-price-of-sms-messages [gthing.net]

  • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:12PM (#24954415)

    Yeah, I find it hard to believe that the 11GB I burn through for $70 on my HSDPA card equates to the 112KB the same $70 would purchase for SMS. That same 11GB would thus cost me $7.3 million per month if billed as SMS.

    Perhaps someone with more protocol and hardware knowledge than me can explain how that's remotely reasonable.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:1, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:20PM (#24954509) Journal
    Let me get this straight. You see a guy passing a gun through security, getting on your flight, and you'd feel safer? How do you know he's not a criminal or a potential hijacker? I can't believe the responses this sig is getting, I can't believe anyone in their right mind would actually advocate removing the ban on carry weapons onto planes. No wonder the country's in a mess.
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:20PM (#24954511)
    AC sucketh at logic. Every day thousands die in Africa from malnutrition, so should solving the problem of poverty in the US be abandoned?

    The cost of text messaging is vastly disproportionate to the actual data transfer that takes place. VASTLY. If you paid the same amount for data transfer on your internet connection you would be shitting blood and blowing steam out of your ears instead of saying "Who cares.[sic]".

    Solving the problem of over-priced text-messaging is as simple as changing a variable or a few in the billing systems of the main carriers, no doubt.
    Even during an economic downturn, there are people who text-message. Lowering the cost of that text-messaging means they have more money to put into buying clothes or butter or cars or computer games or any actual goods that drive the economy rather than spending arbitrarily inflated amounts to the major mobile carriers.
    Repeat after me: "THIS IS NOT A ZERO-SUM GAME!". Just because one Senator writes a letter on the subject of cell-phone company gouging, doesn't mean he can't also fight on any of those issues that you deem more important. It also doesn't mean that other Senators can't fight for those other issues. Or are you implying that all Senators are in collusion and fighting only for lower text-messaging costs?

    No wonder America is eating itself if they allow people like the parent to vote...
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blkdeath (530393) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:27PM (#24954565) Homepage

    Capitalism works just fine ... text messaging is too expensive, so I don't use it.

    There ... capitalism at it's finest. If someone using text messaging is complaining it's too expensive, then maybe they should look at alternatives or STFU. THAT is what capitalism is all about.

    Oh. So when I get a message telling me that Zoltan has prepared my fortune for me, or that my Perfect Crush is waiting for me, or I can find out my top five Perfect Lovers and I get dinged $0.10 apiece for receiving them, just exactly how is that "capitalism at its finest" and how, pray-tell, am I supposed to stop 'using' it?

    Per-text messaging rates exist to punish those who send or receive the occasional message. It has nothing to do with the big "problem" the telecom companies are talking about - the power text users who're "clogging" the network with their flurry of messages. Those, you see, are on low-priced fixed-rate unlimited message plans so they remain unaffected.

    It's simple math. At $0.10 apiece, unless and until I start sending/receiving more than 50 messages consistently each and every month it's not worthwhile for me to sign up for a plan - even though it's a mere $5.00 per month. However any time I talk to a rep from my phone company they tell me my option is to do just that.

    This isn't capitalism; it's extortion.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:35PM (#24954643) Journal

    Let me get this straight. You see a guy passing a gun through security, getting on your flight, and you'd feel safer?

    Yep. Because I'd have one too. So if he is a bad guy, I will see his, he will see mine, and probably figure I'm not the only one. So more likely, he's another one just like me.

  • fsck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:36PM (#24954661)
    What I don't fscking like is that they don't charge for SENDING text messages, they charge for RECEIVING them. If you don't want to pay for individual text messages received, you have to pay $5 each month for unlimited texts. So you either pay them 50 or 60 cents a month for some spam texts that you never wanted, or you pay them $5. It's theft. Imagine if the postal service charged you to receive mail. Think of all the junk mail out there that people would send you for free. Fsck that. They should charge for sending texts. Receiving should be free.
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:43PM (#24954725)

    It's not a free market because I can't purchase AT&Ts text messages if I'm a TMobile customer and vice versa. If your car could only buy gas from one company then you would see extravagantly priced gasoline.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:54PM (#24954849) Homepage
    "Or are you implying that all Senators are in collusion and fighting only for lower text-messaging costs?"

    No. They are all going after populist minor problems that everyone can agree on, but aren't major issues. Most of the time, the problems they examine aren't solvable by congress directly anyway and its a huge waste of time. Congress has examined Exxon multiple times, but usually only in an election year. They are letting the real problems slide in order to get re-elected more easily. The entire process has become circular. "If I vote for this my critics will tear me apart and I won't be re-elected to solve problems in the future". Sound familiar?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @08:03PM (#24954973)

    Obviously you're missing a few economics classes. The perfect competition isn't about the price people is willing to pay, that's a monopoly or in this case, an oligarchy. Perfect competition should theoretically reduce the cost of the service to the cost of providing the service.

  • by MorePower (581188) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @08:06PM (#24955003)
    You're talking to a society of people that will spend $1.25 for a bottle of water out of a vending machine which is sitting right next to a water fountain.

    I hate when people use this as some kind of statement of stupidity. Water from water fountains tastes gross, mainly because it is heavily chlorinated and chlorine has such a sharp, nasty taste to it. So if I'm not on the verge of dehydration and just want something cool and refreshing to enjoy I sure as hell am not going drink nasty tap water.

    How much I'm willing to pay depends on how much I want a cool refreshing drink, and how long it will be till I can get back to my filtered water at home...

  • by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @08:10PM (#24955057) Homepage
    The price of text messages is unreasonable. Proof can be found in the fact that during a disaster such as a hurricane the mobile companies urge people to use text messaging instead of voice communications. Either mobile companies are scalping people by suggesting the more expensive text messaging during times of emergency, or it is less expensive to maintain the text messaging network.
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by orlanz (882574) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @08:29PM (#24955243)

    The odds are in your favor. He isn't the only one carrying a gun. A lot of people are. How many? Who knows, but neither does that bad guy. The chances are, not all the guys who are carrying guns are bad. Even one good guy carrying a gun greatly increases your chances against a bad guy.

    On the other hand, banning guns from both will only stop the good guy from being dangerous.

  • by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @09:08PM (#24955643)

    End the FCC and the sharks will be bleeding each other to provide you with the cheapest and best service.

    Somalia has no government and one of the cheapest per minute wireless rates in the world.

  • Re:Q & A (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darjen (879890) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @10:40PM (#24956467)

    Public ownership of the spectrum should have never existed in the first place. The sooner people realize this the better things will be for everyone.

    Btw, my couch is my property too.

  • Re:Cynical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danse (1026) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @11:08PM (#24956691)

    I thought this was a free market system.

    If it was, then the telecom and cable companies wouldn't be able to legislate themselves all sorts of tax breaks and subsidies. It's quite obviously not a free market.

  • by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @12:06AM (#24957331)

    These are the kind of assholes who troll around the web looking for any discussion in which to insert their derogatory "I'm smarter than you - it's so obvious!" attitude while ignoring the issue at hand.

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Those people you are deriding are correct. The companies are charging the price because they can, and people will pay. That is how a market works. Texting is not a necessity, and no-one is holding a gun to anyone's head to buy text service plans. If the price was higher than people's perceived value for the plan, people wouldn't buy it. And yet, they do. They are buying an optional good, and paying willingly.

    Whether it is ethically justified is a separate question. The facts seem to be that it's currently legal, so, why wouldn't the telcos charge what the market would bear? Do you work for less than your employer is willing to pay you? Ever asked for a raise, or taken another job because it paid more?

    While the marginal cost of sending a text is minimal, the fixed cost of the network is non-trivial. You could look at this as similar to power from a hydroelectric dam. The marginal cost of a kilowatt is nil, but it cost a lot of money to get the capacity into place. So it is with the phone companies.

    If you look at the financial statements of the phone companies, or of the oil companies you seem to want to pick on, you'll see that their net profit, as a percent of sales, aren't really that impressive. Verizon makes 6% profit on sales, and a 5% return on their assets. They'd make more money by selling the company and buying a mutual fund. It's not immediately clear from the numbers that they are being 'unfair' in their pricing, as the rate of return isn't that impressive. Google, by comparison, has a 24% profit margin on sales, and a 14.5% return on assets. If profit is evil, then Google is more evil than the telcos.

    Probably the most telling picture of the rapacious success can be seen here [yahoo.com]. If the telcos are such money machines, why is the stock price essentially flat over 5 years?

    Now, I'm not going to defend the business practices of the telcos, and I'd like to see them pay rent on the public spectrum. They have done a fine job of manipulating the US congress, and I resent it. But you are overstating/misrepresenting how well they do, and you don't seem to understand the essence of market economics. Wireless service is not forced on anyone, and if you feel that the price is exhorbitant, well, don't pay it. But please refrain from preaching and condescending to the rest of us about what idiots we are for using it.

    And yeah, I read your article. I don't think you understand much about economics, finance, or telcos. I wouldn't be bragging about it too much, if I were you.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ramul (1103299) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @12:11AM (#24957377)
    assuming the bad guy thinks at all and isnt just a crazy bad guy who will shoot the crap out of the plane regardless....
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... rg minus painter> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @01:11AM (#24957857) Homepage

    It's easier than that [thebeerbelly.com] to sneak a lot (80oz per person) of liquid onto a plane, especially if you're skinny.

  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... rg minus painter> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @01:14AM (#24957893) Homepage

    It hasn't been taken to heart since shortly after it was written.

    You think the 18th amendment [wikipedia.org] occurred as a fluke?

    If power exists, people desire it and attempt to consolidate it. There are very, very, VERY few truly selfless people in the world, and they are the only ones I would really feel good about being leaders. Too bad it's damn hard to tell who they are, and there's no way they'd get very far in politics as it is.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @01:18AM (#24957907) Homepage

    that's the cost of having an unregulated corporate monopoly. and that wasn't a national telecom network. the Bell Telephone Company was an entirely privately-owned commercial enterprise which the government had no hand in running, and hence the public had no control over.

    communications networks are natural monopolies. that's the most efficient way to run communications infrastructure. that's why it should have been nationalized instead of simply broken up into separate companies and remaining in the private sector--which are now re-consolidating whilst the industry continues to be de-regulated.

    we can keep letting the pendulum swing back and forth between a regulated & fragmented and unregulated & consolidated corporate monopoly (depending on whether the republicans are in office), or we can nationalize our communications infrastructure once and for all and treat it as a true public resource/utility. then, instead of running our communications networks based on maximizing shareholder profits, we could run them based on maximizing efficiency and public good.

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Macman408 (1308925) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:28AM (#24958351)

    Actually, *both* parties pay in the US, at least for any plan I'm familiar with. In my case, I pay 20 cents to send or receive a text. If I send a text to somebody else with a pay-per-use text plan, then *they* pay 20 cents, too. So, AT&T has just gouged its two customers 40 cents for 140 bytes of data. That's $2,995.93/MB, and it's very nearly pure profit.

    Sure, there's some overhead too that this doesn't account for, but it's entirely a profit center for the cell phone providers, much like land lines are for the more old-school telecom companies. Basically, they want everybody to pay $5 more per month, because that recurring revenue stream is a lot more valuable to them.

    I applaud Kohl - as a Wisconsin resident, I'm proud of both him and our other Senator, Russ Feingold. They almost convince me that politicians don't have to be sleazy...

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @05:23AM (#24959267) Journal

    We need to cut off their supply of money so that we are not paying countries that hate us. We need to drill for oil domestically,while at the same time having a Kennedy style "get off of gas in 10 years" development program. Surely if we could develop the tech to go to the moon in a decade we can develop efficient affordable electric cars in the same amount of time.

    As for the one who marked me flamebait,I take it you haven't seen the videos of the 5 year olds singing "We will get to Allah with the heads of Jews and Americans on a pike!"? They teach it like a damned nursery rhyme. Or how Iran gave plastic keys [israpundit.com] to children as young as 12 and sent them to clear minefields by walking through them? Or maybe the teach kids to hate [teachkidspeace.org] videos that start with freakin' puppets carrying AK47s? I repeat: There will NEVER be peace until they learn to love their kids more than they hate us. Because as long as they are willing to strap bombs to little kids [breitbart.com] just to kill us then there will never be peace. But as always this is my 02c,YMMV

  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:32AM (#24959573)

    I can just see the scenario:

    - The plane is full, 250+ people, middle aged business men, kids, fathers, mothers, grannies, granpas, ...
    - Middle eastern looking guy gets up from his seat to go to the bathroom passes nervous passenger.
    - Nervous passenger spots that middle eastern looking guy has a gun, pulls his own gun and in his nervousness misfires.
    - Multiple people pull out their guns, shots all over, no place to run, everybody is shouting.
    - Several people get hit, pilot is dead, co-pilot is wounded, one engine is down due to a stray bullet. A kid is crying, grabbing his mother which is bleeding to death.

    Yupes, that really makes me feel safe ...

  • by God'sDuck (837829) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:14AM (#24959757)

    ... the post office is charging $0.42 per text message, and it takes days to get there!

    Yes, but a post office text message can contain about 840 Verizon text messages and a memory card with 16 GB of data. Trying to send that over a cell phone would take half a week of data transfer and cost you three arms and a leg!

  • by cfulmer (3166) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:10AM (#24960691) Homepage Journal

    Can you cite an example? I've been involved in a few transactions that have involved FTC approval, and they are definitely active.

  • by Bat Country (829565) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @12:23PM (#24963991) Homepage
    The cost of acquiring that extra arm goes up non-linearly, too.
  • Re:Wag the dog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by indros13 (531405) * on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:46PM (#24967545) Homepage Journal
    Helloooooo? Mods?

    I'm lost in a thread about airplane security. Please text me to let me know how to escape...

    Thanks,

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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