Monday, October 23, 2006

Re: The Dude Abides.....

Hey Dude,

That sucks. I mean, really, really sucks. I've never had a land line either, and so here in New Haven my cell phone is my Olive Branch. One of the things I am most thankful for here is that I get 5 bars of service pretty much everywhere here.

But no, not in Irvine. The wonderful people of Irvine have decided that cell phone towers are ugly, and apparently have been kept to a bare minimum as some sort of a city beautification policy.

Evidently they've never seen those picturesque cell phone towers disguised as a palm tree!

I'm being serious here.

I think you're DEAD ON on your analysis. In my mind, the price I pay for my service (letter 'a') should cover ALL the expenses necessary to providie the service to which I'm subscribing. The additional $4.65 that allegedly cover "any additional costs associated with providing service" blah blah blah is ABSOLUTELY a rip-off, and its legality is the result of some carefully-placed loophole in California legislation.

I'm truly, truly sorry you had to buy a landline. Cell phone bills are a pretty big rip off to begin with, but their convenience (of being able to use one single line/number from anywhere) allows one to forego a landline. At least, everywhere except Irvine.

AT&T Monthy Statement

I recently moved from one city to another in California and, until recently, I have found it utterly unnecessary to sign up for a "landline" if one owns a cell phone and can obtain an internet connection through cable or a school network -- that is if one gets clear cellular service in his home. And you guessed it! The cell service in my new apartment is terrible! I have subsequently been forced to sell my soul to the devil and end my streak of avoiding any dealings with landline telephone providers and the absolutely ridiculous "taxes, fees, and surcharges" they so delicately apply to the monthly bill. And while I realize that we do suffer from great injustices every month when we receive our cell phone bills, they are far outweighed by the debauchery that I have discovered on my new landline bill.

There are three key numbers that need to be considered in this discussion:

a) $10.69
b) $9.13
c) 85.4 %.

The number that is represented by the letter ‘a’ is the monthly phone charge that I agreed to pay AT&T in exchange for an almost useless and soon-to-be obsolete service. The number that is represented by the letter ‘b’ is the sum of the “taxes, fees, and surcharges” that warmed my heart upon opening my first bill. While I’m sure that the reader already realizes the significance of the third number, ‘c’, I would like to explicitly express my disgust with being charged over 85% in dubious “taxes, fees, and surcharges”. Below is a list of the questionable charges as they appeared on the bill.

Surcharges and Other Fees
Federal Subscriber Line Charge $4.65
Rate Surcharge $1.39
State Regulatory Fee $0.06
Federal Universal Service Fee $0.42
Total Surcharges and Other Fees $6.52

Government Fees and Taxes
CA High Cost Fund Surcharge – A: $0.10
CA High Cost Fund Surcharge – B: $0.99
California Teleconnect Fund Surcharge $0.06
Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Surcharge $0.64
CA Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund $0.03
9-1-1 Emergency System $0.10
Federal** $0.69
Total Government Fees and Taxes $2.61

**Could it get any more vague!?!

The above absurdity speaks for itself. While all of these charges (with the exception of the 9-1-1 Emergency System charge, which I’ll gladly pay) should warrant further investigation, most are too petty and ridiculous to justify consuming any amount of my time. But this is a problem in and of itself because the morons who invent these charges count on this kind of a response from the complacent masses. They know full well that most people will bend over and take it every month without giving a $0.03 charge a second thought. And even if we do give it a second thought, what the hell are we going to do about it? And therein lies the injustice. Is stealing any less stealing if the amount is three cents instead of three million dollars? No, three cents is simply less noticeable! But three cents a couple million times is quite a nice sum of money for a bunch of bureaucrats to spend on whatever wasteful expense they can conjure up.

The one charge that especially caught my attention was the $4.65 Federal Subscriber Line Charge, which apparently is technically not a tax. The Federal Subscriber Line Charge simply “allows local telephone companies to cover some of the costs of providing telecommunications services to individual locations . . . the maximum charge is $5 per line per month”[1]. But since when do for-profit companies need government permission to charge the consumer enough to cover the cost of doing business? Sounds like Business 101 to me! So really this “surcharge” translates into the phone companies being allowed to sell the consumer an initial price, when they’re trying to obtain their business, and then tack on another $5.00 later when the customer has little to no recourse . . . and all of this is done with government approval.

What a bunch of bullshit.