Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications
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  • Two Countries, Two Approaches

    Since my birth in Birmingham years ago, I have returned to England as a visitor many times. Yet, like many a tourist on vacation or visiting relatives, I was not aware of one of England's most peculiar intricacies: the archaic phone system. Only now, as a permanent resident of London, do I feel the implications of England's outdated phone practices.

    Having spent the majority of my life in the Midwestern United States, I have come to take certain technologies for granted. But, assumedly, my computer-oriented generation worldwide (particularly those who are residents of developed nations) also take many everyday technologies for granted, such as phone services, Internet access, television, etc. So, similarly, in moving to the UK, I anticipated an equally accessible and cost efficient phone system, if not better than is attainable in the US due to England's size. Instead, I bore the brunt of half as much. I found a phone system that is accessible but not cost effective. I instantly found that, unlike in the States, the UK consumer has to pay for every local phone call. The cost implications immediately surfaced in my pocketbook. Whereas in the States simple necessary everyday practices such as faxing, calling a friend next door, and accessing the Internet, are done freely, in London I have had to pay per minute. Unfortunately, such communications have been more needed than ever since I am pursuing a variety of job leads which assume unlimited fax and phone capabilities. Yet, every fax, every local phone call, and all the up to date research gathered through a local Internet service provider, add up to large expenses.

    'But why' I ask? How can the US be able to sustain such 'free local call' practices while England, assumedly equally developed, cannot? The extra costs are tremendous so, possibly on the other side, the extra profits are tremendous as well. Whatever reason or reasons the current system is in place, I do not know. Still, though, it is fair to conjecture that England has access or could have access to the same technology as provided to US consumers. Hence, the current practice of charging for local calls seems overly antiquated and impairing to both businesses and consumers.

    As it stands, England's current phone system condemns England to a second tier placement in the world's technology race. The cost for UK consumers and businesses relative to that of consumers and businesses in similarly developed nations is seemingly unwarranted. To think as a teenager in the US, if my friends' parents or my parents had to pay for local phone calls, how overwhelming the accumulated costs would be. In addition, to think in the past, if my University contemporaries or I had to pay for the local phone calls used when accessing the Internet, how impaired our research and learning endeavors would be.

    In the end, beyond the additional cost and beyond my own particular cross-cultural shock lies the real question of the current phone system: How much does it impair the English people, families, businesses, and students as they compete against their worldwide contemporaries? From my perspective as a US citizen, free local phone calls are assumed. Anything else proves a disadvantage. The currently accepted phone system needs to be rethought, especially as the Internet begins to play a larger worldwide role.

    Text by John Soler

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