Free enterprise in America does not necessarily entitle the customers with same level of freedom to choose. It is certainly becoming evident with wireless companies. I have been looking for a while to buy a new cell phone for my wife. I looked at all major operators and there are very few or no plans without a contract. I have to sign atleast a 1year contract to get a postpaid plan. And prepaid plans are very expensive. I thought prices will go down as markets and technology improve. But comparing with prices/features to a year back, it is required to pay atleast $10 for the same features, even after signing a contract. This is not the case in the other part of the world. The prices are going down and feature set is on the rise in other markets, while in US prices are on a steep rise.
Wireless Number Portability has been mandated (which allows to change the wireless carrier while keeping your old number), to provide more choice and freedom to customers to chose from. While all carriers agreed and provided the facility, they found a new way to prevent it from happenning in reality. They introduced contracts system, so that a subscriber is stuck with the same carrier atleast for 1 year. Most carriers have 2 years contracts for most of the plans. In effect, Wireless number portability becomes useless. So far, this feature has only provided more money to equipment vendors to support the feature and cost the subscriber a little more in terms of a regulatory fee to provide the feature. This is ridiculous.
While most of these 2 year contracts offers a free phone, I am not sure if it is still worth of the freedom one looses. You can not change the carrier. Period. Technically, you can. But will be paying around $200 as early termination fee, which does not make sense to most subscribers. So, they will end up using the same service, however deeply they hate it.
High Speed Internet via DSL - 1 Year Contract
Apartment Lease - 1 Year Contract
Satelite Dish - 1 Year Contract
Job - oops, you can be fired before you finish reading this posting.
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