• Nov

    Cell Phone Service in the United States: Lies, Evil and Some Good Stuff


    This winter, when I traveled to the US, I wanted to get a chip for my GSM phone. That turned out to be one of the most frustrating experiences I had in a long time. I was repeatedly turned down or told that I’d have to buy a new phone (not to mention a plan) something I didn’t want. I was determined to get a chip. That turned out to be a nightmare.

    I finally wound up at an AT&T office where I was told I could get a chip for my phone. I did, but it took an hour and I endured appalling customer service. I found a pay as you go service for 13 cents a minute, which while high, was reasonable as I was only going to be in the area for a few days.

    When I started to use the phone, it immediately became apparent that I was being charged 29 cents a minute and higher, up to 58 cents a minute if I made a long distance call.

    Furious, I called customer support and found out they had left out a crucial detail. That rate of 13 cents was only for AT&T phones. Since I didn’t have one I was being charged an exponential rate.

    I tried to cancel and they put me through hell trying to do so. Eventually I came to understand that if I simply stopped using the phone (with their chip) it would expire and I wouldn’t be charged.

    But now, even though I wanted to use my phone, even for emergency calls, I found the range wouldn’t reach east of Portland to La Grande, where I was headed next. Essentially, my phone was a cold hunk of plastic and circuits.

    When I got to La Grande, I tried to get a new chip, to no avail. I was told I’d have to buy a new cell phone, which annoyed me immensely. By buying a GSM world phone, this was precisely what I wanted to avoid. Unfortunately, I had no other choice.


    With the help of my buddy Tom, I found a solution, Net 10. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best overall option. It was a simple cell phone that one could buy for only $39.95 and it came with 300 minutes of air time. Each minute of a phone call accounted for 10 minutes of time.


    Buying time was straightforward, without frills, bullshit, or extra charges, as you can see by the phone card above. The Net 10 phone also had great reception and covered all the areas where I wanted to go. I used this phone for the rest of my trip.

    Buying minutes cost me a small fortune, but it was worth it. For me, the Net 10 phone saved the day.

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  • I use PTel. They use the T Mobile network and calls are only 5 cents and messages 2 cents. With pay as you go, you only have to buy $10 every 2 months – $60 a year.

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