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I hear a lot these days from the other side of ‘the pond’ about how much better Europe’s cell phone providers are than the ones here in the US of A. As much as I hate to admit that anything European is superior to anything American, they make some really good points. The SIM cards that work in most European phones will work almost anywhere in the world. European providers don’t add various fees and taxes to every bill so that you never really know how much you are going to be charged. Roaming charges are far more reasonable and are nonexistent in some cases. Prepaid minutes that aren’t used don’t expire and when adjusted for income disparities and currency differences American cell carriers are charging far more, especially for data, than their european counterparts. It is worth mentioning that we do have LTE coverage here in the US that is far superior to Europe’s almost nonexistent LTE infrastructure.
Why do America’s cell carriers suck so fiercely? Why do so many people put up with the abusive customer service that Sprint and AT&T are known for? Why do Verizon customers spend a ridiculous amount of money every month when we really don’t have to? These are all important questions but let us first remind ourselves that at the end of the day this is an economic issue. In strictly economic terms Americans put up with this terrible, overpriced service because we are OK with it. We can complain and whine about these things as much as we want, but at the end of the day we keep signing up for 2 year contracts and that is where we make the only decision that counts.
The American economy is based on the idea that the market will decide what is best for the consumer. If there is a service or product that is in demand, someone will find a way to provide it (Hence, T-Mobile’s recent changes). If we want better prices, no contracts, better customer service and more flexibility from our cell carriers consumers have a responsibility to stop signing 2 year contracts and to force these companies to give us what we want.
We haven’t always had the alternatives that we do today. Google has only been selling a high-quality phone at a reasonable price for a few months, and for most of that time actually getting a Nexus 4 was like winning the lottery. But Google has ironed out it’s supply chain issues and we can now buy an unlocked top-of-the-line Android device for only slightly more than we would pay for a carrier-subsidized device. There are a plethora of pre-paid networks that offer data speeds just as good as any major carrier and prices that are drastically lower.
Consumers here in the United States can seize control of the wireless industry and force it to bend to our will. Don’t sign another 2 year contract. Take responsibility for an industry that has gotten out of control because if you have ever signed a mobile contract (I have) you are part of the problem.