The high cost of American tech consumption

Unconscious Consumption.

This week I put together an article about the recent fee changes to Apple’s App Store subscriptions policies. If you haven’t been keeping up, Apple changed the way the App Store handles subscriptions this week so that the company will take a 30 percent cut. It also included some stipulations that will make it very difficult for content providers to get iPhone subscribers through means other than the App Store, virtually forcing the 30 percent fee upon third party content providers.

The news reminded me of the ways American corporations gouge consumers on tech. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

While we’re talking about cellular service, why not talk about our cellular plans? You’ve no doubt heard that texting fees are a total ripoff, but let me remind just how bad things are. SMS messages are nothing more than data – tiny bits of data at that – sent along their own control channel in the wireless spectrum. That same control is used, on many networks, to tell your phone that it has service. Do you see where this is going? Let me use a simple analogy. Let’s say my friend Joe sends me a letter every day to let me know he is still alive. One day, he starts writing personal messages at the bottom of the letter, things like “lol y u so funny,” but for adding that personal message, an insignificant amount of ink on a letter he was sending anyway, the post office charges him 20 cents for sending it and charges me 10 cents for receiving it. SMS transmission costs the carriers almost nothing, but they’ll charge me $20 a month for unlimited nothing. That little tirade of mine doesn’t even address the fact that I’m paying for an unlimited data plan, yet I’m getting charged again for sending miniscule amounts of data in a text.

If you think it’s like this everywhere, think again. A 2009 study by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that Americans pay more for cellular service than any of the 30 member countries it surveyed. For an average, medium-use package – 780 voice minutes, 600 text messages, 8 multimedia messages – Americans paid an average of $53 a month. Consumers in the Netherlands paid $11.

It doesn’t stop at cell service, either. To read more about our tech expenditures, head over to the Bullz-Eye gadgets channel.


My experience with broadband penetration

Ethernet cabling.There has been a lot of talk, both in government and among non-profit groups, about bringing the web to everyone. Rural areas still struggle with slow connection speeds and a lack of quality service. I’ve been having some problems with my service over the past few days that make me really appreciate what it is to have broadband basically whenever I want it.

I have a pretty cool job. I work from home, I get to write, I do a little programming. All of those things, though, require the internet, and for most I need a pretty fast connection. I’m actually writing this post from my phone. It’s great to have that option, but cellular service is still pretty slow and the data fees are too expensive for a lot of people. It’s also ridiculously cramped typing full posts on a touchscreen keyboard. Tablets could change that, but there’s still the 3G speed cap to deal with and the cost of a monthly data plan.

With the economy still struggling, I can think of few better ways to stimulate rural and low-population areas, areas typically hit hardest by tough economic conditions, than a rollout of affordable, reliable internet service. When service goes down, it’s tough not to immediately start shopping for better broadband deals. At the very least, I could use the reliable connection. Waiting on yet another modem is painful.


Police arrest Korean couple that allowed their baby to die while caring for a virtual child

Prius Online character.Take your time and reread that headline. Yes, a couple in South Korea left their baby – their real baby – alone in their apartment while they raised a virtual child from a local internet cafe. The couple would return to the house once a day in shifts to feed the malnourished child. The baby eventually died of dehydration and severe malnutrition.

According to police, the couple had been on the run for the past five months after it was discovered the child had died. South Korea has been lauded by web penetration advocates for having the highest broadband per capita stats in the world. With that comes the occasional terrifying story of internet addiction like this one. The country had another web related death recently when a young man died in an internet cafe after playing an online game for 86 hours straight.

The report at AOL cites the economy as one possible cause of the obsession. At some point, though, I think we just need to hold people accountable without excuses. Unemployed or not, abandoning a baby isn’t justifiable.