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The Telecom Scammers' Latest Ploy to Screw You for More Cash

Fees, surcharges and taxes make wireless companies tons of money.

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Given this, individual customers have limited options in dealing with their wireless providers. In selecting a plan, one needs to make a relatively simple calculation. How much TV do you now watch on your TV set? Calculate the total data amount per half-hour shows and two-hour movies; take that total and compare it to your wireless usage (some people live electronically via only an iPhone and an iPad).

The telecoms are attempting to impose an austerity model on media consumption. Scarcity, a technical limit to bandwith was the model of the great 20th-century media revolution. Radio and TV offered only a limited number of channels; its distributed network fostered the decentralized national grid.

The great 21st-century media culture is based on a model that assumes the potentially unlimited capacity of digital technology, a capacity that instantaneously links two people across the globe. It is grounded on three utopian assumptions:

  • It inherits the tradition of the ubiiqutous late-19th and early-20th century publishing and U.S. mail distribution, creating a ubiqutous national market. 
  • It is inspired by Moore’s first law of the digital age: the number of transistors on a signal processor doubles every 18 months or so and price declines acccordingly. 
  • It fulfills Stewart Brand’s famous notion: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable....On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.” 

Digital technolgies offer increasingly more sophisticated data processing capabilities. As data compression, storage and transport get more robust, costs decline. In the face of these utopian impusles, the telcos are attempting to impose a 20th-century analog business model on 21st-century digital media. This is what the current wireless squeeze is really all about.

David Rosen is the author of  Sex Scandals America:  Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming  and is a regular contributor to CounterPunch, Brooklyn Rail and Filmmaker.  He can be reached at