Why are we still paying for long distance?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by yg17, Dec 15, 2007.

  1. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #1
    So my parents and I just called my sister who's currently in Israel and using an Israeli SIM card over there (so we get stuck with the long distance, but it's still cheaper than if she roamed with her US phone) and paid 34 cents a minute. That got me thinking.....in this day and age, why are we still paying ridiculous long distance fees? Surely it can't cost T-Mobile 34 cents a minute to connect my call to a phone in Israel....can it? (Not that I'm complaining, we only talked to her for 8 minutes so it won't even cost us 3 bucks) With the internet and all that, you'd think it would cost them nothing. My ISP doesn't charge me per data packet that's sent to another country because it doesn't cost them any more per packet if I download something from a local server or one halfway around the world, why are phone companies still doing it. Is international (and to a lesser extent, domestic) long distance something they're still charging us for because they used to have valid reasons for charging it but know we'll still pay it, or is there actually still a real reason behind it.

    I have no idea how the telecom industry works, could someone who does know please answer for me, because I'm really curious.
     
  2. Oryan macrumors 6502a

    Oryan

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    #2
    My understanding is that once the phone signal gets to the phone company, they digitize it and pump it through fiber optics, just like the internet. I suppose the bulk of the cost comes from agreements with foreign carriers for the right to connect the calls at the other end, but I don't claim to be an expert. Just guessing here. :)

    Why not try Skype?
     
  3. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #3
    This is because they have always done it this way. They have always ripped you off, and now that VOIP is getting more popular, they won't be able to get away with it anymore.

    Why can I make a call using a long distance phone card from Sydney to Toronto (Canada) for around $0.02 per minute, and yet it costs me something like $0.25 per minute to call another Australian city? Because they CAN charge it.
     
  4. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #4
    Thats what I was thinking too. International is one thing (still a ripoff) but what gets me is domestic long distance in the US. My cell phone has free domestic long distance, but on the landline, I still have to pay something per minute if I call outside my area. And sometimes it's not even really a long distance call if you think about it. Lets take the St. Louis area into account. You can have a landline phone just on the Missouri side of the border in the 314 area code, and a landline just on the Illinois side of the border in hte 618 area code. These phones can be separated by nothing more than the Mississippi river (so a quarter mile max) and to call one from the other would be long distance. But from the MO side phone, you can call anywhere else in the St. Louis area (possibly up to 30 miles away depending on where you call) and it's not long distance.

    Plus, considering how much of the country's phone service AT&T owns, the call probably doesn't cost anything for them. We have AT&T for local and long distance service, and chances are pretty good that if I call another number in the country, it will also be an AT&T customer, which means the call goes over their local lines, across their trunks, and back out across their local lines. They charge it because they can.

    Domestic long distance has always made me go "WTF???" after the advent of cell phones anyways. My sister has a New York number but currently lives here in St. Louis, and if I call her from a landline, it's long distance even though she could literally be standing right next to me. But if I take my phone (with a St. Louis area code) anywhere, whether it's New York or halfway around the world in Bumf**k, someone else in St. Louis could call my phone from a landline and won't pay a dime.

    When I'm away at college (in the same miserable rural hellhole in Southern Missouri that Oryan's in actually :D) my parents call my cell phone all the time from their landline. They're not paying long distance. I'm not paying extra roaming or anything. Obviously, it's not costing someone more to carry the call 10 miles versus 100 miles, because if it was, the greedy telecom companies would be passing it on to the consumer.

    Normally, that's probably what I'd do, but my parents and I were the ones talking to her (and my parents will probably call her later too) and for them, 2 people who know nothing about computers, it's easier for them to punch a few digits into their cell phone to dial it.
     
  5. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #5
    Yes, this is true, but again, don't try to understand it. The reason it doesn't make sense to you is because it doesn't make sense, period. They charge you because they know they can do it, and you can't live without a phone, so you'll continue to pay it.


    That's not true, or at least it isn't in any of the places I've been to. Also, I'm from Canada, so I do have some understanding of how the US system works, because it works very similar to the system in Canada.

    If you have a St. Louis mobile number, and you travel to New York City, you should be able to call local NYC numbers without paying long distance while you're in NYC. However, if someone from NYC calls your mobile phone, she'll be making a long distance call, despite the fact that you're standing beside each other in her flat in NYC.

    [/QUOTE]
     
  6. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    #6
    That's not true either. Whoever calls you calls for free if they are in that area even if you're in a completely different state.

    Ex. I live in Colorado and my parents who live in Virginia can call me for free since I kept the number I was given (same as their area code) when I got the phone.

    The only reason my wife and I got a land line was so that people local to Colorado can call us for free. We hardly ever use it.
     
  7. flyfish29 macrumors 68020

    flyfish29

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    #7

    It is not actually "free" but is built into the cost of the cell phone monthly bill. Phone companies have to maintain phone lines...when ice (I know you have had plenty of that in MO!) takes down lines it costs money to get them back up and running. Also, remember, a land line is almost always reliable...I have never been able to say that about a cell phone- call dropping, searching for towers, etc. Of course it depends on where you live, but people will not get rid of land lines entirely until cell ( or other tech) becomes as reliable. I have kids and never want to take a chance on not being able to call 911 and have it always work (minus some sort of line outtage during an ice storm or similar)

    Also remember phone companies no longer get revenue from selling (or renting) phones. Cell companies get money from either expensive phones or expensive packages and overages on plans.

    Phone company has also replaced most of their lines in recent years with fiber optics, etc.

    The thing I do find weird is that "long distance" in-state costs more to the consumer than it does out of state. When I lived in KC (Kansas side), I could call Columbia MO (2 hours away) for cheaper than my sister in Lawrence KS (30 minutes away)
     
  8. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

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    St. Louis, MO
    #8
    I think I may have worded it poorly. I can take my phone to anywhere in the world, and someone in St. Louis can call it without paying anything in long distance, even though the call could be more "long distance" than someone standing right next to me dialing my phone from a landline somewhere outside of my area.

    You do have a point, and you're right, landlines do still serve a purpose. I just wonder how much of the money I'd spend in a long distance call is actually spent for the purpose of connecting my call....
     
  9. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    #9
    It all has to do with area codes and nothing else anymore. If you are in the same area code then bingo, no extra fines for calling (apparently even if you're in Antarctica).
     
  10. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #10
    Yeah, pretty much. Although I hope we're not too far away from the days where area codes will serve no purpose other than geographically dividing up numbers and have nothing to do with billing purposes
     
  11. flyfish29 macrumors 68020

    flyfish29

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    #11
    I wonder how much of my money I paid for my computers goes towards the development of the iPhone which I don't currently own? You could probably say the same things about most anything...we pay a company to not only produce the product or service we want, but also to develop products and services we will want in the future...and there is plenty of that going on in the telecommunications industry- not that there isn't waste, lots of profit to go around and such...I hate the fees as much as anyone which is why I don't use it much- email works better for me and my crazy schedule. I don't even have a cell phone- use my wifes when I need one.
     
  12. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #12
    Are you both kidding? Is that how it works? That's awesome!

    In Canada, I'm pretty sure it works the other way around. If I have a Toronto mobile phone number, and I travel to Montreal, then I'll be able to make calls to Montreal numbers as if it was a local call, since I'm "roaming" in the Montreal area. Basically, I can make outgoing calls at local rates while visiting Montreal. However, if I'm in Montreal and people in Toronto phone my mobile, I don't believe it's free. They need to pay long distance, since I'm roaming around on the Montreal mobile phone network, and am not in Toronto.

    So same thing, but opposite way around with regards to what is considered a local call, and what's considered long distance.
     
  13. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #13
    That sucks. Especially for the guy who's calling you who has no idea if you're in Toronto, Montreal or Timbuktu and might get hit with a surprise long distance bill.

    The US system with mobile phones isn't bad. If I'm anywhere in the US, and I call anywhere else in the US, I won't pay anything extra. Pretty nice, no worrying if I'm outside my calling region or crap like that. And anyone calling me doesn't need to worry about where I am, they just need to look at my area code and they'll know whether they'll be paying extra or not.

    I know people from other countries think we're back asswards because we have to pay for incoming calls on our cell phone (as opposed to caller pays when dialing a cell phone) but I don't mind it at all. I have more than enough minutes each month (since most of my calls are free nights/weekends or mobile to mobile). Again, no surprise charges on my phone bill, because unless I'm told otherwise, I have no idea if a phone number is landline or mobile just by looking at it. No need to worry about that because I won't be paying anything different regardless of what it is.
     
  14. mfacey macrumors 65816

    mfacey

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    Netherlands
    #14

    The only reason you pay for incoming calls in the US is because the phone number can't indicate whether its a cell phone or not. It would be a bit tough for a consumer making a call to suddenly realize when he/she gets the bill that all the calls were to cell phones and therefore 3x as expensive.

    Here in the Netherlands we have a unique "area code" for all cell phones namely 06. (kind of like you having 1-800 for all free calls). So the caller pays the fee for fixed to mobile. However, if your mobile is roaming in another country then the fixed line caller (assuming that person is making the outgoing call) pays up to the national border (as if you're just local) and the cell phone owner pays the roaming charges.

    I guess both systems have their merits in the end.
     
  15. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

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    #15
    Land lines are regarded as critical services. In most western countries, there are laws mandating that land lines be ultra reliable, have power supplies seperate from the national grid etc. Most large phone companies started off as Government divisions.

    Paying for 99.999% uptime costs money, a lot of it.

    The mobile companies have no such restriction, and 95% or 98% reliablity is 'good enough' for them, which is about 10x or 30x cheaper.

    In the UK, and I think most of the world outside the USA, you never pay for incoming calls or texts. When you ring someone, the prexfix to the number usually (but nowadays not always) gives an indication as to if you are making a local land, long distance land, mobile, or high rate call.

    I won't say it's more sensible - it has its own problems, and I'm sure the telcos will get you pretty much the same in the end, no matter whichever system we use.
     
  16. flyfish29 macrumors 68020

    flyfish29

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    #16
    I think the reason it is free in the US to call a cell even if it is across the world is the fact that the land line is taking the call to a local area (St. Louis in your case) and then it travels on cell towers or at least cell networks across the world (I assume it doens't use the local phone carriers land lines anymore but switches to the cell carrier's way of transporting that call. So to the local company (verizon or whoever) it is no longer their call once it leaves their local land lines.
     
  17. Dagless macrumors Core

    Dagless

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    #17
    We use Post Office phone cards to ring abroad for cheap. VOIP would be nice but our home in Poland doesn't even have a broadband internet connection (hello, mountains).

    I'd like VOIP to give out some bloody noses though. It's not so bad with phone cards, take them away and the costs really mount up.
     
  18. maccompaq macrumors 65816

    maccompaq

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    #18
    If both parties to a phone call use Skype, the call is free anywhere in the world. If only the caller has Skype, the long distance charges to another country vary from as low as 2 cents per minute. The annual fee for Skype is around $30 a year, a bargain.

    I do not represent Skype.
     
  19. danny_w macrumors 601

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    #19
    That's not true either. The 512 area code covers much of central Texas, but if I live in Austin and call San Marcos (both 512 area code) I am calling long distance and pay a long distance fee.

    EDIT: And we still pay long distance even though we get plenty of free minutes on our cell phones because cell phones cannot be tucked under your chin to talk comfortably like our cordless phone can be. While we sometimes use our cell phones, if my wife is calling long distance she always prefers the cordless phone for the convenience.
     
  20. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #20
    @yg17: I wanted to correct you regarding Canada. If I'm in Toronto, but I have travelled to Ottawa, I can call another Ottawa number as if it was local. However, if someone from Toronto were to call my Toronto mobile number while I'm in Ottawa, they get charged long distance, BUT they are warned that it's a long distance call before the call is made. In case they get through, I believe the first 4-5 seconds of a call are free in Canada. This way, you don't get charged for reaching someone's voicemail or answering machine. :)

    I believe so, anyway. My memory from 6-7 years ago is fuzzy. I know it worked like this at some point, because when I went to uni in another city (which is also where my mobile number was registered), I could make local calls when I went to visit my parents in Toronto. I'd ask my friends not to phone me, and said I would phone them instead. I was on the cheapest plan with no long distance minutes.


    So there's no such thing as long distance fees in the US mobile system?

    I think maybe your phone plan includes long distance calling. I can't imagine them not charging long distance for phoning out when you're outside your city/state, and yet also not charging for incoming calls when you're in another city or state.

    In Canada, I guess they just decided that "roaming" means you can roam in another network and still call out as if it was a local call.


    I don't think Canada's system is bad, either. In fact, I think Canada's system works out cheaper for me. I'm sorry, but $35 CAD per month for unlimited evenings and weekends, and 100 minutes during the day? Sounds good to me. As a uni student, I didn't get many calls during the day anyway. My friends called me in the evening when I wanted to go out to a pub, club, etc.
     
  21. yg17 thread starter macrumors G5

    yg17

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    St. Louis, MO
    #21

    For the most part, no. If you have a national plan (which almost everyone has) you can go anywhere in the US and call anywhere in the US without paying extra.

    Some carriers offer regional plans which have more minutes per month, but limit where you can use your phone and where you can call without getting charged
     

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