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Would You Like Undercoating With Your DSL?

A popular argument in the telecom world these days is the line that says government regulation stifles innovation. But when you see news like today's announcement of Verizon's DSL fee increase, you wonder if more, not less, regulation is needed, since service providers seem ready to replace car dealers as the experts of hiding true costs.

I have no problem with providers passing along the cost of government-regulated fees to their customers. What is truly objectionable is advertising one price for a service, and then tacking on arbitrary costs with intentionally misleading descriptions on the final bill. Unfortunately, the practice is widespread amongst all types of services and providers, from cell to landline and now broadband. It smacks of the old "undercoating" charges car dealers used to try to slip in, and none of the explanations from providers justifies the real purpose -- to hide the true costs of a service.

Sure, the telecom regulatory structure needs an overhaul, and older telecom providers may feel like new entrants like VoIP providers are getting a free ride. But don't complain about regulation on one hand, while simultaneously using regulation as an excuse to mislead customers. That's the kind of tactic that invites legislative intervention, while also making VoIP's all-you-can-eat-for-one-price service look all the more attractive.