Note that we've slashed the number of phone lines and services we use in our household, and cut our costs drastically.
The cost of a phone call has actually been coming down. Through the miracle of new technology and heated competition, a three-minute cross-country call that once cost two bucks now costs 20 cents. But what's all that other stuff on your bill — surcharges, regulatory fees, state gross receipts tax? A lot of people are upset about these extra charges.
But Steve Largent, president of CTIA — The Wireless Association, says it's not the cell phone companies' fault.
Most of the charges are fees that government, not the phone company, adds to your bill.
It's a way to raise taxes without people seeing it because phone bills are so long and contain so many extra charges. Also, putting more taxes on your phone bill is not as politically painful as, say, raising income or property taxes. In Baltimore, where phone users were already paying heavy state and federal taxes, the city decided it wanted some of the action.
"They were charging every resident who used wireless services in the city of Baltimore $3.50. They said, 'Hey, this is a good thing. Let's double it,' " Largent said.
With the new "Baltimore City Surcharge" of $3.50, the average cell phone user there must now pay about $7 extra in taxes per phone line. Taxes on cell phone service nationwide now average 14.5 percent — more than double an average sales tax.
It would be nice if the wireless providers who advertise a plan for $39.99 a month said you'll really have to pay closer to $50. But the companies are just passing on taxes and surcharges that government mandates. So instead of screaming at the guy behind the counter, maybe you should scream at city hall.