The Hidden Cost of Phone Carriers

It’s a busy day, and you see a call coming in from ‘Blocked caller.’  You let it go – it’s the week before a local election, and those alternative utility companies have been active on the phones lately.  Then you get the voicemail.

You just missed the pediatrician, who was blocking her number because she didn’t want callbacks outside of normal business hours.  Another missed connection, courtesy of AT&T.

Your pediatrician should have been able to purchase a modified Caller ID service that sent her name through while maintaining the privacy of her number.  How many docs, cute girls, etc., would love to have such a feature?  But the carrier has no real competitors, so it only offers lowest-common-denominator features.

Your carrier could have set up a caller verification and categorization program, to let customers block unwanted calls.  Unlike email, where anyone can open anonymous accounts, phone networks are designed to control who can call – after all, money changes hands when calls are connected, and the phone companies need to to know where to send the bills.  But even if you care who’s calling you, your carrier doesn’t – they’ll take the termination charges from anyone.

Your carrier could have offered selective call blocking that would let the pediatrician open her phone to callbacks only during specified times.  But they didn’t – again, there is too much money in termination charges to care what the users need.

Phone carriers have everything they need to cut unwanted calls and help the good ones get through, but they won’t offer it.  In fact, they’ll keep paying lobbyists (out of the fees you pay each month) to keep regulators from even suggesting common-sense improvements.  So try an Internet-based calling service like Google Voice, and don’t weep when it buries your old land-line company.

P.S. – In case you think this is too cynical, try an experiment.  Call your land line carrier and ask for a record of all the LOCAL (non-toll) calls you made in the past month.  Their response is sure to amuse.