Right On Cue, U.S. Wireless Prices Creep Skyward After Mergers

from the the-circle-of-life dept

Antitrust and telecom experts warned anybody who’d listen that the Sprint and T-Mobile merger (which reduced the number of major U.S. wireless players from four to three) would eventually result in layoffs and higher prices for everybody. The layoffs were quick to arrive (T-Mobile laid off more than 5,000 employees before the ink was dry), though the price hikes were slower to materialize. At first.

Over the last few weeks, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have all slowly but steadily started nickel-and-diming consumers. Like most telecom prices hikes, the fees largely came in the form of sneaky fees, and were blamed on everything except reduced competition in the space.

Verizon, for example, increased the “administrative charge” it places on millions of user wireless bills from $1.35 to  $3.30. Then immediately pretended this wasn’t a price increase and tried to imply it was all the fault of government regulation:

“To be clear, this is not a price plan increase for consumer lines,” a Verizon spokesperson told Fierce in a statement. “From time to time, we review and make adjustments to fees to defray some of Verizon’s administrative and telco expenses and costs of complying with regulatory requirements. To that end, Verizon Consumer will implement a change beginning in June.”

AT&T also implemented price hikes on numerous tiers ranging from $6 to $12 a month. T-Mobile, the one-time pesky upstart that made a name for itself by initially not nickel-and-diming users with obnoxious fees, quietly announced it would be boosting it upgrade and activation fees by $5.

Once all three companies got done implementing their various price hikes, they then set about playing a little game where they pretended to be mad about the other companies’ price hikes, which in a consolidated market are about as natural as water flowing downstream:

Verizon said it “will not sit on the sidelines and watch as the Un-carrier continues to hoodwink consumers by dazzling them with one catchy announcement after another, only to Un-ravel and Un-do them just as soon as people forget.”

Again, economic evidence from other countries where the total number of major wireless competitors consolidated from four to three made it clear that price hikes would be inevitable. T-Mobile will try to buck this trend for a while to maintain its reputation as the “uncarrier,” but Wall Street gets what Wall Street wants eventually. And Wall Street wants for these companies to exploit reduced competition with higher rates — while pretending they’re “fiercely competing on price,” of course.

As it gets worse, all three companies will increasingly blame inflation, despite the fact that a major cause of inflation can oven also be… unchecked consolidation. And the U.S. tech press will largely just repeat the claims, making it trivially easy for an increasingly consolidated telecom sector (and advocates of consolidation) to avoid any meaningful introspection or accountability whatsoever.

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Companies: at&t, t-mobile, verizon

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Comments on “Right On Cue, U.S. Wireless Prices Creep Skyward After Mergers”

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Eric says:


The price of the grill cheese sandwich has not gone up, just the price of the milk for the cheese has increased, thus causing cheese prices to go up, and in turn you will now see an additional line item “cheese recovery cost fee” representing these additional costs. But the cost for the grill cheese is still the same, just your final bill will be higher.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:


Wikipedia says Verizon Wireless has 142.8 million US subscribers. A $1.92 price hike generates $278,460,000 extra cash PER MONTH, I would loooove to see any documentation hinting that Verizon is spending anywhere close to that amount MONTHLY to comply with federal regulations.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d be very interested to see what would happen if Wall Street were destroyed and companies were no longer enslaved to its whims and demands. Combine that with outlawing all mergers and acquisitions, forcing every company to stand on its own and divest itself of every business it already owns until all it’s left with is the original core company itself (force Disney to drop Marvel, etc. to allow them to be their own company again) and that could considerably shake things up while also reducing the ability of companies to influence government.
Imposing size limits on corporations (they can’t grow larger than the regional level, for example, and any companies already bigger than that would be broken up no matter who they are) on top of these other steps could also play a part in that.

Naughty Autie says:


The fix there is not to destroy Wall Street, it’s to pass legislation forbidding the sale of stocks and shares, which would include the destruction of Wall Street as a side effect. If companies are no longer allowed to line share holders’ pockets and are also forbidden from having more than two years’ worth of profits for a rainy day fund in the bank…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

the evidence is stronger that it’s an interesting typo

How does one mistype “often” or “even” as “oven”? The O and E are nowhere near each other in QWERTY, and while T/F/V are nearby, the number of letters is different. The idea that it’s a typo is somewhat plausible—especially in Dvorak—but I’d say it’s more likely the writer was simply thinking of the wrong word.

Alternately it could perhaps be some kind of on-screen keyboard autocompletion, or automated speech transcription, but do those really count as typing?

Of course there’s no way to prove any of this, but I’m not the one claiming this error to be of a specific type.

Anonymous Coward says:


Clearly the already paid for and installed equipment is getting more expensive. The electricity to run the equipment is paying through the nose for it’s gas to get to work. The rent has gone up at all cell sites, they definitely did not have agreements already in place. And there’s nothing left over from the continuously funded and failed broadband efforts.

For all these reasons your bill is not going up.

Your bill is going up. The current atmosphere is convenient cover for greed. Sounds unlikely, but what remains must be.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Now now…

If the only change T-Mobile makes is those two, they still have the lowest activation and service upgrade fees.

The fastest customer service, 611 takes 3 minutes or less. Often a few seconds.

The fastest 5G where available. Looks to me consumer wise the only people hurt by the merger are using other carriers.

Keep in mind despite Eric‘s inaccurate opening, the price of a grilled cheese sandwich HAS gone up. The price of everything has gone up. So props to T-Mobile for keeping rates the same!

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