Tired of their kids’ $1200 cell phone bills, Congressmen stick it to mobile providers

I used to be anti-texting. Why send someone a poorly worded, 160-character-or-less message when you can call them (if it requires an immediate reply) or email them? Texting encourages bad grammar, is impersonal and can sometimes be downright annoying.

That quicky changed, however, once I began graduate school. For all intents and purposes, I was forced to get a texting plan on my phone after my new-found friends started texting me. A lot. It wasn’t a lot of texts compared to other people I know, but $0.10 per received or sent message adds up very quickly. My first month at Georgetown, I noticed my cell phone bill was $15 or so higher than normal, so I caved and got a 500 texts per month plan for $5. Even then, I was surprised at the priciness of texts, as I was pretty confident the transferral of such a tiny amount of data between phones was not costing the phone companies that much.

Since I’ve been on a texting plan ever since (and now on a data plan too with my Verizon Voyager — I’m so hip), I had no idea that rather than prices for texting decreasing, they have instead been increasing over the last year. The price of sending or texting now costs $0.20 per message on each of the four major carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile). I can only imagine the first billing cycle after the price increase in many an American home: parent opens phone bill, sees their 12-year-old has decided to become hyperactive with her texts at exactly the wrong moment, and now has to pay nearly $100 extra on the phone bill so her kid can engage in conversation via text with the person sitting next to them. What’s up with these kids anyway? Haven’t they heard of whispering? And what kinds of pressing secrets do 12-year-olds have anyway that need to be communicated via text?

Anyway, it seems that the ridiculosity of these increases has reached Congressional notice, and one Senator (hopefully) plans to do something about it. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has sent a letter to the presidents of the four majors, demanding an explanation for their outrageous texting prices.

Who knows if this discussion will actually lead to any pricing changes for the millions of texters in the U.S., but I must say I am looking forward to reading their lame attempts at justifying their pricing plans. It seems pretty obvious to me that these companies thought they could get away with jacking up prices because of the exponential increase in demand over a few short years, but they must have forgotten Moore’s Law along the way, which when applied to data technology, says it should be half as costly now than it was just two years ago.

Read the Ars Technica article here.

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Giving in and getting even more social

I have already admitted my “problem” (aka obsession) with social media, especially via the Internet, and how I how decided to embrace the social aspect of the current trend in interaction. In the last 24 hours, I have taken two (one small, one big) steps to make myself even *more* social than I already am.

Yesterday, I finally caved to the combined strength of the many tech blogs I read and signed up for Plurk, the supposed “Twitter killer”/slightly different take on Twitter. It’s quite obvious that the site is still in the “we need more users!” phase, as you accumulate “karma” by posting more and especially by inviting your friends to join the site, and open up more page design options as your karma increases. So far, the jury is still out, but my immediate impression is, why do I need this when I have Twitter? Then again, I saw no use for Twitter eight months ago and now keep it open at all times in the coveted fourth tab of my browser (following two mail accounts and Facebook, in case you were wondering). As per usual, I am the first of my good friends to join the site, which dramatically decreases its use to me as a beneficial service. And, most likely, as with Twitter, it will become more useful as more friends join (if that happens — which, as Twitter has shown me, will most likely not happen, since I have less than 10 actual “friends” who use Twitter).

The much bigger step for me was finally purchasing a phone with all the fun internet goodies. As of this morning, I was officially able to upgrade to a new phone without paying retail prices. Being a very happy Verizon customer, I chose to stay with the company rather than switch to AT&T so I can get my hands on the new 3G iPhone. Instead, I chose to go with the current cream of the crop, the not-so-much “iPhone killer,” the LG Voyager. Now, I am well aware that this phone can still not compete with the iPhone and I will not try to convince myself otherwise, but the phone is a huge improvement over my two-year-old, toilet-soaked (gross, I know) Razr. The Voyager has a touch screen on front with a large clam shell screen (not touch) when you open it up. It also has a full QWERTY keyboard and navigates pretty easily. I tested it out last week in a Verizon store and found it rather intuitive, although many complain about Verizon’s wacky UI. After the discounts/rebates, I managed to snag the phone for just $100 — which is, surprisingly, the same price as the inferior Glyde — so I was very happy. My phone plan obviously had to be upgraded to support the mobile email/VZ Navigator/VCast, etc., but it’s not too big of an increase ($20).

Of course, the implications of me owning this type of phone are a little scary. If I’m the type of girl who loves being connected at all times, and is suddenly given the opportunity to do so, will my communication patterns change even further? Will I be a texting whore like some of my friends? Will I be checking my email at 3am, since I will now be able to do so without getting out of bed (yes, I sleep with my phone, and no, I see nothing wrong with that)? It will be interesting to see how much I get sucked into the phone, but I really think it will be more of a benefit than a detriment, especially with school beginning in the fall, and me being chained to desks and subject to the whims of my professors.

Has anyone else noticed that the mobile Internet is blowing up?

I guess I like to blog in clusters. Tuesday, I posted a blog on Pew Internet’s site. Today, I put up a related blog on gnovis’ website. And as I have come to realize in my thesis research on Facebook, the evolution of cell phones is the next big hot topic. We’re going to see so much happening in 2008 in the world of cellular technology that you should probably buckle yourself in. In you didn’t get enough to sate your appetite reading my Pew post, check out my latest gnovis blog here.

Here’s a tasty snippet:

The U.S., which has never been a leader in mobile technology, may finally be catching up (ever so slightly, at least) with foreign markets, thanks in large part to Google and Apple’s recent efforts to make the Internet mobile.

At the very least, American demand for many of these newer technologies, especially phones with internet capabilities, has been experiencing a significant upswing in the last year. Earlier this week, I posted a blog on the Pew Internet Project’s website that looked at the organization’s most recent data in light of some recent tech business news. For example, Pew’s most recent data suggest that many Americans cannot live without their cell phones — 51% say that it would be “very hard to give up” using them. This number has increased by 15% over the last five years. Even more significant is the percentage of Americans who report they would have a hard time giving up their Blackberries, which has jumped from just 6% of respondents in 2002 to 36% of respondents in 2007. I expect if this same question was asked at year-end 2008, we would see that number approaching, if not surpassing, the 50% mark. [More…]

New blog post on Pew Internet Project website

My latest “masterpiece” resides on the Pew Internet site here.

Want a little taste? Well here’s a scoop of yummy mobile Internet goodness:

John Horrigan’s recent data memo on mobile internet access spotlights a growing trend: consumers are increasingly relying on mobile technologies (cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, etc.) to stay connected on the go. In the memo, Horrigan cites recent Pew Internet data showing that Americans now list their cell phones as the most difficult technology to give up. At the same time, the percentage of consumers saying they would have a hard time giving up their Blackberry or other wireless email device has increased six-fold in the last five years, from 6% of American adults in 2002 to 36% in 2007.

These data support current trends within the business sector, and recent reports from some of the country’s biggest technology companies back up Pew’s findings. Americans want the freedom to access the internet anywhere and at any time, and technology is currently evolving to meet this demand. [More…]

New blog post on Pew Internet Project website

I seem to be blogging everywhere but on this site as of late. Well, that’s what happens when you agree to do too much “real” work and don’t have any time left over for “fun” work, like blogging on this site.

Here’s my latest Pew Internet project blog, which came out of a data memo I wrote on the major predictions related to technology in 2008.