Friday, June 26, 2009

Phone Scam

Today I want to talk about two phone scams. The first one is where someone calls you, lets the phone ring a couple of time, and hangs up. You see the number on the call-display. Even though you don't recognize the number, you decided to call it back. The number turns out to be an adult entertainment line in a foreign land.

If you call a number back, without knowing who it is, just because it shows up on your call-display, you deserve the $1000 phone bill that goes with it.

The second phone scam is a much more serious and widespread one; one which you may have already fallen victim to. I know I have. It's called "Paying for Text Messaging."

I remember once upon a time, texting was free. The technology was already built into the phone system. It seems the phone companies noticed that people were texting and they decided to make a quick buck out of it.

I'm with Bell Mobility. They charge me $3.00/month for unlimited incoming text messages, and 30 outgoing messages. Any outgoing messages beyond the 30 is 15 cents per message.

How much does it cost the phone company?

According to this article, "Srinivasan Keshav, Canada Research Chair in tetherless computing at the University of Waterloo, told lawmakers probing text messaging rates and the state of competition in the wireless telecommunications industry that the maximum cost of a single text message "very unlikely" exceeds 0.3 cents."

The author of this article, calculates how much texting costs compared to talking on his cell phone, assuming data transfer costs the same for each method. The talk-plan he assumes ($40 per month for 400 minutes) costs about $1.75 per Megabyte. Texting, at 15 cents per text works out to $786.43 per Megabyte. If texting were charged at the same rate as talking, it would be 0.33 cents per message, which is about what Srinivasan Keshav calculates.

What can you do about it? All I can think of is to get a Skype account, or some other Voice Over IP system and start making phone calls that way. If enough people do this, then the phone system as we know it will die.

My answer requires Net Neutrality to be in place. Otherwise, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will just charge for emails and instant messages. They might do that anyway, so it's important that we get Net Neutrality laws in place to prevent that sort of behaviour.

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