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Unlimited Flat Rate International Calling Arrives for Just $5 A Month – Why Do We Need to Drop Flat Rate Internet Again?

Phillip Dampier June 25, 2009 Data Caps, MetroPCS 4 Comments

One of the arguments used by those who want to engage in Internet Overcharging is that people already “pay for what they use” for gas and electric service, so why shouldn’t they adopt the same attitude towards Internet service.

metropcsHistorically, people did used to pay for their usage of online services, before there was a World Wide Web.  CompuServe, QuantumLink, PeopleLink, Delphi, GEnie, AOL, among many others used to provide access to dial-up users for a fee which varied depending on the amount of time spent accessing the service.  Rates during business hours were outrageous (CompuServe charged upwards of $12-16 per hour in the 1980s), but more reasonable during the evenings.

But as costs to provide the service declined, providers rapidly abandoned that type of pricing for flat rate, unlimited access for one monthly price.  Internet Service Providers worked the same way, with customers first using dial-up modems to connect for one monthly price.  Nobody worried about watching the clock or meters.  It has worked that way ever since, with highly profitable results for broadband providers.

MetroPCS Coverage Map (click to enlarge)

MetroPCS Coverage Map (click to enlarge)

Now, some of these companies hunger for more of your dollars, and they are attempting to convince you their pricing should be similar to utilities like gas, electricity, and water (while conveniently not allowing themselves to be regulated like those providers).  They scrupulously avoid comparing their service with telephone companies, which are really the closest cousins to broadband service.

Now we know why.  While some broadband providers want to move away from flat rate pricing, telephone companies are moving toward flat rate pricing.

In addition to unlimited local, statewide, and nationwide flat rate long distance plans, MetroPCS, a regional prepaid mobile telephone provider, has announced a new unlimited international flat rate calling plan for just $5 per month.

To be eligible for $5 Unlimited International Calling,  customers must choose an unlimited calling plan starting at $40 per month.  For an additional $5, customers get unlimited calling to 100 countries.

MetroPCS sees this new international flat rate plan as a “game changer” in the industry, drawing large numbers of new subscribers who love to call overseas.  The company may even attract tourists who sign up with a “throwaway” basic mobile phone just for the duration of their visit.  The costs for the service are dramatically lower than roaming rates, especially for international calls, even with the price of the phone.

The only downside?  MetroPCS operates in only a limited number of cities, although they maintain roaming agreements with Leap Wireless (Cricket) to extend their coverage.  Once one company offers flat rate international calling, others will certainly follow, potentially establishing a new paradigm for truly unlimited mobile phone calling, regardless of where you call.

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Brett Glass
Brett Glass
11 years ago

To say that “some of these companies hunger for more of your dollars” is to state only one side of the issue. Users are also hungering for more bandwidth — to stream video, download, etc. ISPs are not charities, and so it’s only fair that the users pay for the additional bandwidth they consume. Massa’s bill would prevent this, and as such it probably crosses the line and becomes an unconstitutional regulatory taking.

11 years ago
Reply to  Brett Glass

They are getting paid already to provide Internet Service/Access, that is what they are selling after all. If they’re unable to provide the service or access due to limitations in their network, maybe they should invest in improving their network instead of standing pat and setting random caps to limit their customers while overcharging them. Or, if the isp’s networks can handle it and they just want to keep their customers from using the web based content that they have paid for access to, they should improve their cable service to provide a better product. Heck, they have a long… Read more »

11 years ago

If prices were in line with costs that wuould be a different matter,as they would be with a competative marketplace. As it is it wiull probably have to be regulated just like the utilities the isp’s are fond of comparing themselves to. I think all would welcome a .15$/GB price. If their pricing structure is so bad, why did the ceo of time warner make 15million in cvompensation during a down turned economy? Why not invest some of that in upgrades that he says they have no money for? Why do the want to be included in content owners but… Read more »

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