How Much Cheaper Are Telecommunications These Days?

I’m barely old enough to remember long-distance calls still being somewhat expensive, but not old enough to remember the market before deregulation. Anyway, I was reading The Shining for the first time a few weeks back and I think Jack was paying something like $3 for 3 minutes of long-distance in 1977. I walked by a pay phone today (which is almost amazing by itself) that had a sign advertising $1 for 4 minutes of long-distance (maybe even international long-distance–by which they would probably mean Mexico–but I don’t remember for sure) and $0.25 per minute after that. These days, I don’t even have long-distance capability on my home phone (which is only there for the DSL and the occasional local call) because I’ve got one of those national cell phone plans with no roaming and basically no long-distance.

So, really, two questions: 1. How much cheaper are telecommunications these days? and 2. Why? Oh, I guess there’s a 3. What took them so long?

I can remember when ATT (in those days they were THE phone company) made a big deal out of calling anywhere in the U.S. for 3 minutes for just a buck. (After 5:00 and weekends only.) Daytime long distance calls were a lot more expensive.

When I was studying in Europe in 1969, a phone call to the U.S. cost something like $15 for three minutes.

What happened? Deregulation, competition. Satellite communications that opened up a lot more channels for long distance calls than the old landline cables. For those of us old enough to remember, it also meant 22-digit access codes, unintelligible reception and some other things that took a few years to get straightened out. And if you think it’s impossible to make sense of a phone bill today, you should see some examples from 1980 or so.

What the young’uns don’t understand at all is that 40 or so years ago you couldn’t call someone directly outside of your own area. You had to call an operator, who had to wait for a long distance line to become available so she could then call an operator in the other city, who then called the person at the other end.

What kunilou says, plus lots of new infrastructure. Fiber optics have much higher bandwidth.

Automation and infrastructure.

Anectodally, I was talking with an older individual and they told me that given the price of long-distance, and the price of gas, it used to be cheaper to drive to Vancouver (~1000km, I’m in Edmonton) than to call someone there on the phone.