$4.08 to say, ‘I love you’

I listened to a story the other day on WBEZ (National Public Radio) which featured the issue of what it costs people to speak to their family members in prison.

I used to work at the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and my job predominantly entailed traveling throughout Illinois to educate consumers through free events on how they could save money on their phone, electric, and gas bills.

We’d do what we called ‘Phone Bill Clinics’ and host them in libraries, parks, community centers, or senior residences.

Among the strategies these companies employ to extract cash through deception, confusing options, and campaigns of disinformation, was the issue of sometimes seeing grannies with exorbitant bills because they called their child, cousin, brother, or sister in prison.

See, to call a prison, the price jumps. And I don’t mean, from 8 cents a minute to 10 cents a minute. I’m talking about the price per minute going from 3 cents per minute to $4.08 per minute.

That’s over 120x the normal rate. That too, should be a crime.

This is not about defending people who have broken the law, it’s the fact that despite the rhetoric about free markets that gets beaten like a drum in this country, there are still way too many sectors in America in which monopolies or duopolies create conditions that not only don’t get us the best prices, they don’t even get us the best products & services. In fact, it encourages predatory situations like this.

Why try when they can give us less, make more money, and fend off any real competition?

Profit is fine, but not when you rig the game. Markets can’t help us evolve if large companies can make more money dragging their feet then they can delivering.

Hallmark sectors that give less and charge more are all utilities — electric, gas, phone service, cable & internet service, & the health insurance industry. These companies are anti-progress, anti-competition, and anti-health.

It shouldn’t cost $4.08 to say, ‘I love you.’

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