About a week ago, I got an interesting piece of snail mail. It came from CREDO Mobile — a name that didn’t ring any bells at the time — but it didn’t start off like your average “switch to us” cell phone pitch. Instead it began by talking about all the positive change that has been accomplished in the past year: initiatives to help combat global warming, improved health care, marriage equality in Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, the Lily Ledbetter Act — which ensures that victims of pay discrimination can go to court for justice…
What is this? Is this a political campaign or a mobile provider? What’s their angle?
Here’s the bit of important information I was missing: CREDO. CREDO Action is an activist organization much like Organizing for America (what the Obama Presidential campaign evolved into after the election), Change.org and MoveOn.org — which is to say, they have a bunch of causes and you can help out by signing a petition or donating money. It was through my involvement in one (or all) of these organizations that I became a member (by signing a petition) of CREDO Action, mostly to my unawares.
Okay, so what does that have to do with cell phones, then?
Well, did you know that AT&T made campaign contributions to someone who called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” and Verizon contributed to the Republican Senator of Louisiana who urged President Obama to expand offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
Did you know that AT&T gave the maximum allowable contribution to GW in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections? And AT&T has also been a repeat contributor to the Oklahoma Senator who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and advocates the death penalty to doctors who perform abortions. Did you know Verizon has been a steady contributor to the group of centrist Democrats who helped derail the public option in the final healthcare bill?
As a member of all the above petition-signing groups and being an AT&T customer, out of contract for over a year, and just hanging on for lack of anything better to switch to, it’s hard to read where AT&T’s values lie and not be tempted to jump ship rtfn. I’m sure they’ve made other contributions to other politicians with not so spotty records, but, in the end, is it worth it? But woah there, space cowboy — how much do the plans cost?
My current plan with AT&T is a basic, 2-line family plan, 550 anytime minutes, free nights and weekends and in-network mobile-to-mobile. We don’t even touch those minutes, though, because we actually talk on the phone so little outside of those times that our rollover minutes effectively amount to infinity (although rollover is something we got in the last year or two, the 550 shared minutes was never a problem for us even before we had rollover since the majority of calls we were making were to each other). Our monthly bill averages out to about $120/month — $50 per line plus taxes. Compare that to the 550 shared plan from CREDO: all of that (minus rollover) for $59.99. I must be reading that wrong, I thought. It can’t possibly be $59.99 for both lines. Even if it was though, that would end up being just about as much as what we’re paying for AT&T anyway with better values.
So I contacted CREDO Mobile and asked about the $59.99 family plan. I looked all over the site and, try as I might to find some kind of loophole or fine print that said $59.99 was per line, I failed. So I asked them. Two days later I received a personalized email (not an email from a robot or a script monkey in India) that specifically addressed all my questions and concerns. Effing brilliant! I couldn’t sign up fast enough.
How does this action group become a mobile provider? Obviously they’re targeting people just like me: educated, active in news and politics, concerned about strong issues, they’ve got a huge network of people (with names, addresses and email addresses) from everyone who’s ever signed a petition (a rather clever way of culling a contact list). Now they’ve got a list, they’ve got an idea to fight against the big mobile conglomerates with right wing leanings, but they need to jump into an already-crowded market with no cell phone towers of their own. They solve the problem by using Sprint/Nextel’s network. I looked up Sprint/Nextel for coverage in my area: I got a combination of “Nextel is the best provider in this area” and “Sprint is the worst provider in this area” (Nextel was purchased by Sprint in 2005), so this puts them right about the middle with everyone else if you average it out. As far as tech goes, Sprint/Nextel is the first nationwide 4G network, and CREDO Mobile offers Blackberrys and Android smartphones (The HTC Hero 2 is coming soon). Their plans are all pretty cheap — at least if you go by minutes. It gets pricier for unlimited plans, but even if we added almost 1,000 more minutes to our family plan, we’d still be paying less than we are now with AT&T. Their individual plans are similar — dirt cheap if you go for the least amount of minutes, more as you add more minutes, data or texting. But the point is, they’re competitive, and, if you’re an activist for any of the causes that CREDO Action supports, why would you get a cell phone plan with anyone else?
Chris Reynolds is one half of the design team at Arcane Palette Creative Design. He writes in his personal blog, jazzsequence, on subjects like music, technology and social media and shares links, videos, and posts various personal music and writing projects. You can also follow him on Twitter.