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 even eight decades later.
So I was absolutely delighted during my recent trip around the world that Sprint allowed me to call from just about anywhere for 20c a minute. My text messages were free. My Google Fi service allowed me to access its 4G partner network at $ 10 a GB. I could answer my office phone on my Vonage extensions app on widely available wi-fi.
Wow, we are getting closer to that elusive one world as a single area code. I had heard Pat Phelan use that term when he ran MaxROAM 7+ years ago and I was cynical we would see it anytime soon
But don’t feel sorry for the telcos. They make pretty lucrative monthly fees from us. They charge businesses for MPLS circuits and other network infrastructure at even more lofty rates. They have just been forced to adjust to much more reasonable marginal costs of global communications.
However, before we celebrate too much, the US may be headed the other direction. Trump’s new head of the FCC, Ajit Pai could very roll back bunch of consumer protections and lead the US industry to buck global trends.
A son of Indian immigrants, I hope Pai heard and still remembers horror stories from his parents on how miserable and costly global calling used to be. Let’s hope we keep pushing the ball forward, not regress.