If your monthly cellphone bill seems high, that may be because American cellphone service is among the most costly in the world. A comparison of two similar plans, one in the United States and one in Britain, reveals a marked difference.
Both plans include a new iPhone 5S with 16 gigabytes of memory. Both require a two-year commitment and allow unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting. The plan offered by the British provider, Three UK, offers unlimited data and requires no upfront payment. With Britain’s 20 percent tax included, the plan costs 41 pounds a month, or $67.97 at current exchange rates.
The plan provided by the American carrier, Verizon Wireless, has an upfront cost of $99.99 and then $90 a month, not including taxes. Spreading the upfront cost over 24 months and adding 17 percent tax – typical for the United States – comes to $109.47 a month. But while the British plan includes unlimited data, the American plan does not. It includes two gigabytes a month, with an additional gigabyte free during an introductory period.
This should not surprise anyone. Companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, et al., are state-owned monopolies in all but name. They are not state-owned, but the way the US government – both local and federal – protects them essentially makes them the equivalent of being state-owned. They have no competition, and they know it. There is no incentive for them to lower prices, improve service, or expand coverage to less important areas.
Meanwhile, here in The Netherlands (I can’t speak for other countries), our government mandated that the owners of the physical cables provide access to other players, ensuring competition across the board, which has benefited all of us. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure something like 95%-99% of Dutch households can get broadband internet via several different media and through several different ISPs. All because our government was smart enough to realise that it would take government intervention to ensure competition.
Of course, it’s unfair to compare one of the smallest and most densely populated western countries to the United States, which is crazy large and has large stretches of impoverished areas that probably do not have access to the financial means to create a proper network infrastructure. Still, the US is supposed to be the richest country on earth, and if it really wanted to, it could definitely provide good broadband access to every American citizen at low prices.
It’s just that the monopoly companies don’t want to.