Component Connection

What Price Electrons

Earlier this past year, I opened my monthly telephone bill to find it significantly higher than previous versions, which were always the same amount because of fixed-price plans, i.e., unlimited local calling, unlimited long distance, etc. Upon quasi-intense perusal, it appeared the price of Internet service jumped by about fifteen dollars, an amount that also added several dollars to the numerous taxes and local government fees attached to every component of said bill except perhaps the envelope and postage. Of course, this assault upon my financial resources would not go unchallenged.

I yanked off an e-mail to the phone company questioning the increase. Its response, which actually appeared quicker than expected, claimed the company raised its rates for broadband service, however I could continue to “enjoy this wonderful, uninterrupted” service at the old price if I signed a two-year contract. Obviously this is the stuff of TV commercials, e.g., FiOS versus the world. At any rate, this was the only solution the company could offer. It became obvious that this situation required voice-to-voice confrontation via Alex G. Bell’s reliable old brainchild.

While waiting on hold for a “customer service technician”, a few ideas dawned upon me. First, as one with a somewhat varied technical background and being an editor for a publication that caters to electronics engineers and designers, I might know a thing or two about how this broadband and telephone stuff works. Second, the person I’m waiting for will most likely have no clue about how this broadband and telephone stuff works. Third, why does broadband cost less with a two-year contract? Has the company found a way to stabilize the price of electrons if they sell them in bulk, two-year supplies? Some unique technological breakthrough perhaps? Hmmmm???

Piecing it all together, I presented my theory of electron pricing to the “customer service technician”. I voiced my discontent with the practice of price gouging followed by contractual discounting of the price of my personal broadband electrons. After referring to Ohm’s law, demonstrating Kirchoff’s law, debunking myths about particle collision, string theory, Q waves, Boolean algebra, and the effects thereof on broadband traffic, I got to speak to this person’s supervisor.

To make a short story long, I proposed a wager of sorts. If the company could satisfactorily explain how they could price fix electrons over time, I would sign on the line. If it could not, then I would continue being a customer at the old price and without a contract. They said they’d get back to me. While waiting, I got a better broadband deal, sans contract, with another company that subscribes to a theory much simpler than mine about electron pricing: customers keep us in business.
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