Sunday, December 31, 2006

Steffy: Not Hearing and Definitely Not Seeing Or Thinking

And here I thought the Houston Chronicle's Loren Steffy would be off until 2007. And yet, here is yet another example of business and economic muddleheadedness by the Chronicle's premier business writer.
Why, they asked, would [text messaging] be extra? I once asked a similar question about caller ID. Why should I have to pay a monthly fee to use a function that's built into my phone?
Loren, let me give you a clue, for free. It is called providing an enhanced service that people want and getting paid for it. And here is a second clue: caller ID is not "built into [your] phone". There is equipment and technology that costs real money to keep caller ID going. To think that it is "built in" is well, muddleheaded at best.
The answer is that phone companies charge for such things because they can. That's their prerogative, but for consumers, alternatives are emerging.
No, phone companies charge for such things because people value them and pay for them. I think caller ID is worth more money than the actual phone line. If I see an unfamiliar number, I don't answer. If I see my dad is calling, I can answer with a smart aleck response.
Eventually, phone calls, and for that matter text messages, will essentially be free, whether phone companies like it or not. The Internet will make separate phone service obsolete, and we will finally be free of their arcane pricing structures and serpentine bundling tricks.
Steffy is dreaming. There will still be costs associated with transferring a voice over miles of distances. People have to maintain lines, switches and computers. To think it will be free is just plain, well, muddleheaded again. But wait, in the same article:
The technology, though, isn't what holds the promise. It's the pricing. Eventually, we will pay only for a connection, regardless of what we transmit over it.
So instead of being virtually free, it will be flat pricing regardless of content. At least in contradicting himself, he makes more sense.
When the long-distance business was deregulated more than 20 years ago, the promise was cheap phone calls. That promise has been more than realized.
So now Steffy links deregulation to price decreases. Hmmmm, that is not what he was advocating here, here and here. Well, at least Steffy closes out the article like it began:

When I opened my monster cell phone bill, I was at first stunned, and then angry. But sometimes it takes the perspective of youth to see the absurdity to which we've all grown accustomed.

Shouldn't text messages be included in the price? They should indeed. And someday, maybe they will.

The bottom line is Steffy is upset because the world is more complex than he thinks it should be. He is angry that he has to think and research for himself rather than be responsible for his choices. Arguing against complexity and responsibility is not an adult response. The world is complex not flat, deal with it. You have to think and decide for yourself, deal with it. That is the bottom line.

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