No pain, no improvement

I have spoken before of the abuse of the word “free” when it comes to telephony.

And today, a statement by Om Malik just set me off. He said:

[Unity is] a nifty marketing ploy that would allow big-spending AT&T wireless and wireline customers to call each other for free. (emphasis added)

“To call each other for free.” There it is again. The telco marketing execs must be proud. In order to qualify for the Unity plan, you have to PAY for an unlimited calling plan on your wireline service (that’s an extra $40) AND you also have to PAY for a more expensive wireless plan (an extra $20 or more, depending on the minute plan you could otherwise be on). You are PAYING for those calls. THEY ARE NOT FREE!

“Free” means no money changes hands. A Skype to Skype call is free. A PhoneGnome to PhoneGnome call is free. A call that is included in my $100+ monthly service fee is NOT free any more than The Sopranos are “free” with my $11 per month HBO subscription.

No wonder the telephone companies, both wireline and wireless, abuse us so badly. There are no consequences for their actions. Even smart people like Om Malik, Andy Abramson, and countless others repeat the telco’s marketing spin for them. We all do it. I don’t mean to single out Om. You probably hear people say it almost every day. If you read industry news, you’ll see someone in the media or a blogger do it almost every day. We put up with the outrageous fees and horrible customer service of these companies. We take it with a smile. Why should they change their behavior when there are no consequences for not doing so? They will continue to rape us until we change our behavior and start fighting back a little.