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John Brownlee over at Consumerist recently received a long email from his mother, a 30-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, contrasting her wonderful user experience buying a prepaid cellphone in Europe and the frustrating afternoon she spent trying to figure out the vagaries of Pay-As-You-Go cellphone services in the U.S. He posted her message for everyone to read but to whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from her conclusions:

All this nonsense where they are telling you about access charges and when/whoever minutes, seems designed to hide costs that shouldn't be there to begin with. I hate seeing people who can't be without a phone in their hand, but service should be universal. Okay rates may vary with time, usage, and even distance, but all networks interconnect, and a rate variance between networks doesn't exist. Having free calling within a network is just a marketing ploy to get people on an individual network.

Similarly, if you have a number the access is there, so to charge you a daily or use access fee is paying for a service that isn't,particularly if you are already paying either a monthly rate, or a high pay as you go minute plan

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We feel your pain, Consumerist's Mom! We live and die for the the shiny shiny of new cellphones but also feel like we need spreadsheets to properly understand all the possible options of our phone service.

My Mom On Buying A Cell Phone In The States [Consumerist]