Recently the FCC reached out to Verizon Wireless to inquire about why it is raising early termination fees on advanced phones and in addition, the commission wants to know how consumers will be notified that they are purchasing an advanced device and how they will be informed of the prorated charges associated with early termination. This inquiry is in response to Verizon doubling its early termination fees on smartphones.
It will be interesting to see how the wireless company responds to the increasing ETF question but to me it is still obvious these costs are going up because advanced devices the company sells will now have superior functionality, allowing for services such as free GPS which Verizon can charge for on other devices. In other words these new fees cover the loss of potential revenue from enhanced services.
The inquiry came as a result of numerous media reports including one from New York Times Columnist David Pogue. Another columnist flustered with the way carriers like Verizon conduct business is prominent blogger and thought leader Om Malik.
I am thankful the FCC is reaching out to wireless carriers in an effort to protect consumers but I believe the questions being asked while important are minor compared to what should be getting asked.
For example, shouldn't consumers and subsequently the FCC be more concerned about cell phone quality? I would like the FCC to query all carriers about dropped calls, call quality, oversubscribed cell phone towers and how fast their broadband services is throughout various areas of the country and at during various times of the day. Furthermore, what about ratings of call quality based on device?
As a business user I could care less about paying $5/month wasn't planning to - but I do want to know that calls I make to friends, family and customers won't sound terrible. Moreover I want to know my family has cell phone coverage in as many areas as possible.
Pogue lays out a number of problems Verizon has in his post and later updates it by explaining AT&T has some of the same charges. One of his points I happen to agree with is getting rid of the 15 seconds worth of pointless voicemail instructions. But I am sure David knows Sprint already allows you to bypass this greeting and has done so for about ten years if my memory serves me correctly. Yet customers flee from Sprint to AT&T and Verizon proving cell phone quality (and the iPhone) is worth paying for.
This leads me to the next point which I have repeatedly made - Verizon has a far better network than other carriers and they have a different charging model which works for them. Pogue calls it gauging but one has to assume the reason Verizon charges the way it does is because it is concerned about raising initial prices and subsequently losing business. Once customers try the network they realize the extra fees are worth it based on the service quality.
It seems, based on columns I have read that both Om Malik and David Pogue are Verizon customers. These are some of the most tech savvy people I know and they still use the "king of gauging?" Why? Could it be they believe the service is better?
Perhaps I am transposing my experience on my fellow columnists but the more I travel around this great country of ours, the more I realize the Verizon network is far superior to others and having to pay more on the backend for incredible service is worth it to me.
To the FCC I request that if we are going to investigate wireless carriers, please investigate call quality, dropped calls, device call quality and coverage areas. In the end, these are more important factors than fees which can be disclosed to consumers before they sign.
The author is an ex-Verizon Wireless subscriber because of the iPhone but still carries a Verizon MiFi device and Verizon-powered laptop.