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The wireless industry association has a response to consumers who consider themselves helpless against the siren call of high-powered phones and unlimited connectivity.
“There are a wide variety of options for consumers,” said Robert Roche, the wireless-industry association’s vice president of research. “Ninety percent of consumers live where there are five or more wireless service providers, offering multiple calling plans. Those plans include individual and family plans, as well as prepaid, pay-as-you-go, and postpaid options.”
But in South Boston, Myrianah Evans, 33, a disabled homemaker, say she is in a no-win situation.
Her $100-plus monthly bill is too high, but the thought of paying $200 to break her contract so she can lower her bills with another carrier also seems wrong to her. “Why should I have to pay to get out?” she asked.
Other consumers, like Celozzi, the tailor in Hyannis, are dealing with teenagers who don’t quite understand what the words “monthly minute limit” mean. And many adults say they’re baffled at all the fees that show up on their bills, but they lack the wherewithal to dispute the charges.
The bills may be confusing, but one thing is clear: mobile phones have become so necessary in today’s world that the government expanded its Lifeline program, which provides free or discounted phone service to people who meet income and eligibility requirements.
Starting in 2005, subscribers were given the choice between financial assistance for landline service or low cost, prepaid wireless service. The majority of subscribers, the FCC says, have gone wireless.
Meanwhile, many who struggle with bills say they routinely stall other creditors while making sure their phone service stays on.
“Sometimes I put off paying my medical bills — I need my phone,” said Shirley Drayton, a laborer with the Boston Housing Authority, as she swept a street in front of the Old Colony development, in South Boston.
“I’m already late with my NStar bill,” Chrissy Leon, 37, a legal secretary from Quincy, said as she walked to work through Downtown Crossing on a recent morning. She has an iPhone 4 and a $90 monthly phone bill, but like millions of other Americans, she’s coveting the new iPhone 5.
“Getting a new phone is more on my mind than paying my [wireless] bill,” she said.