This time of the year, I am reminded of my Brazilian-American friend, Karin Morton. With family spread around the world she said her father would have palpitations, as she was growing up, with all the international phone calls at $ 5 a minute at holiday season.
Bell Labs thought up the 3 digit US area codes in the 1940s. They have spread around the world in the form of country and city code through ISO and other standards. The codes made long distance calling so much easier but telcos have also used them to terrify us with big bills.
Skype changed the rules, and with Vonage now, I don’t hesitate to call anywhere, anytime as their monthly global plan covers most landline calls around the world. Mobile phones, though, continue get us with roaming calling and data charges.
That’s gradually changing. My new Google Fi plan, when using local Sprint and T-Mobile partner networks, only costs 20c a minute from most of the world. On wi-fi, it costs nothing. Sprint has a plan called Open World where a number of S.American countries are counted as part of your US plans. Their rates for other countries are also improving.
But as with everything, there are always gotcahs. Sprint reminded me “If your travel plans include a cruise and you do not wish to incur these costs, you may place the device in airplane mode until you arrive at your final destination.”
70 years later, telcos still love playing Grinch. The world keeps getting smaller and the dream of every call as a local call continues. Just may take another 70 years.