Commentary

Blame it all on the cell phone

  • by , December 20, 2007

As our previous posts on this blog have anecdotally suggested, the wireless telephone market is statistically beating out the land line realm, The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Americans cutting the cord to their land lines, 2007 is likely to be the first calendar year in which U.S. households spend more on cell phone services, industry and government officials say.

The most recent government data show that households spent $524, on average, on cell phone bills in 2006, compared with $542 for residential and pay-phone services. By now, though, consumers almost certainly spend more on their cell phone bills, several telecom industry analysts and officials said.

Pay phones? What the hell are those?

Can you even name the price for standard pay phone service these days? What about a Postal Service stamp?

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I digress. This is old news for the telcom industry - the wireless take over is not new news. Beyond wireless voice service is the larger treasure chest: data services. I pay more for the data services on my Verizon-powered Palm Treo than I do the minutes. I have a minimal amount of minutes relative to the unlimited data and texting plans on my account. That's clearly where the money is at.

Thanks to those unlimited plans, I don't worry about much about random messages, weather alerts or annoying friends. It's not costing me any more or less to receive or send, so I just roll with the punches. Last week, however, I started to receive text messages from a @gmail.com address. The obvious spam messages were stock tips barely written in English.

For some reason, those irritated me. In talking to a friend with the same phone and service provider, he too confirmed receipt of a handful of these annoying messages. As accessible as I am, I'm still pissed to know that my phone is directly getting spammed. Truth is, my mobile phone is still a very personal device. I'm an on-the-go nerd, so I can't imagine what an average user is thinking.

The nagging messages have since stopped, but it makes me wonder: What if I ever need to change my cell phone number? Eventually my number will be recycled, after I've gotten my new number disseminated to the people who need to have it. The latter process makes my head spin just thinking about it.

As for the recycled number, it might lead to some unwanted messages for the new user. Moreover, that could mean some incidental income for some third parties, according to Salon.com.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Pressured by a lawsuit, Internet social network Facebook Inc. will adopt new measures to prevent its 58 million members from sending text messages to recycled cell phone numbers.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by attorneys for an Indiana woman who claimed Palo Alto-based Facebook had been profiting from text messages sent by its members after the intended recipients had given up the phone numbers.

The lawsuit filed by Lindsey Abrams of Patriot, Ind., said she received text messages with explicit comments and other upsetting content — and had to pay 10 cents each time. Facebook received a share of the fee, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, which Abrams's lawyers had hoped would be certified as a class action, Abrams started getting the unsolicited messages shortly after she got a new mobile number from Verizon Communications Inc. in November 2006.

Hm. I'm awaiting the FCC to jump in on an "Indecent Text Messaging" case in the coming years.

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