Take Your Paper Bill & Shove It

How much do you pay for your cell phone service?  If you are like me, and are carrying around an iPhone in your pocket, you are probably close to paying, if not more than, $100 a month.  I pay $120 a month for my service.  Now, before you get all bent out of shape that I would pay that much for my service, think about how much I use my phone.  I use my phone as my only source of communication in regards to phone calls and text messages.  I do not have a landline and do not plan on ever getting one.  On my phone I have my email, my facebook, my MySpace, my Twitter; you see where I am going with this.  I am never too far out of touch.  And if all else fails I have unlimited access to 3G wireless Internet.  So if I cannot access something that I need or want from an application, I can go to the latest version of Safari and search for it there.  Not to mention the fact that is serves as my MP3 player, a compass, my grocery list, and pretty much everything short of making me breakfast.  (I wonder if there is an app for that?)  So for the technology that it has and the benefits that I see, at $120 a month it is worth every penny.  (I even have roll over minutes so if I don’t use them I don’t loose them.)

So how do I know that I have a cell phone bill?  Well, other than the fact that I get email notifications when the bill has been prepared, I also get a text message saying that I am able to log in and pay my bill online.  Instead of logging into their website, I go to the iPhone app from AT&T and hit a couple buttons to pay my bill.  The application is linked to my wireless account, which is linked to my bank account.  I never have to write a check, buy a stamp, or visit the post office.  (Did you hear that they are closing 700 post offices across the United States?  I wonder if this is a direct result of the Internet and the adaptation of email?)

But with my digital notifications I still enjoy getting a paper bill in the mail.  I have to keep those letter carriers in business somehow, so I still subscribe to the paper bill.  Before the iPhone was released, I would get a bill with every single phone call, text message, and byte of data that I used that previous month.  Recently, AT&T has begun to ship a lighter version of their paper bills.  A lot of this is due to the advent of the iPhone and increased data usage, phone calls, and text messages.  The first time AT&T had to ship a bill in a box they began to get smart.  They now send very brief bills that tell you all you need to know and nothing more.  You can, however, log in to your account and view a detailed bill if you so desire.

AT&T is not the only company doing this, however.  T-Mobile (who the hell is even on T-Mobile anymore) still sends you detailed bills to each and every customer.  Granted, their user base is much smaller than AT&T, but they still have to gather data, print it, package it, and ship it.  And that costs money.  Well, according to reports from T-Mobile that cost is now going to be passed on to their customers.  If you are a T-Mobile customer, and you still get a paper bill, you will now be paying an additional $1.50 a month.  If you want a detailed bill, like the one that I was talking about earlier, you will have to dish out an extra buck on top of that.

But this is exciting for me.  Not because of the fact I am an AT&T customer, but this is just one more push towards a paperless society.  This is a society that I hope I get to see in my lifetime.  (See, I do not need the paper bill any longer.  I just like getting mail.  You never know how much longer you will have that luxury.)  T-Mobile, of course, is saying that the reason they are going to begin charging is due to a decrease in their custom base (all of them are switching for iPhones) and because it is costly to do all the things required to get you a paper bill.  Of course, your monthly rates would not be able to cover that cost, so they decided why not have the customer pay for it?

I am curious to see how T-Mobile customers react to this.  Will they start dropping like flies and coming to AT&T to experience what a real phone is like?  Or will they not even realize that they are paying that extra chunk of change to get a paper bill?  If it were AT&T doing this, and not T-Mobile, I would immediately notice the change as I am on a strict budget.  That is something I am probably safe to say not many of you out there are on. But it is exciting to see a major corporation like this taking a step forward.  Sure, they make claim that the reason they are doing it is because of cost (everything always boils down to cost) but in the end it is only benefiting their customers and forcing this world of digital natives into a paperless society.  Next thing you know instead of buying a pen and paper at the start of the school season you will be buying a stylus and a digital notepad.  Try to imagine a world without paper.  I challenge you to not see immediate benefit in this.