A plea for truly simple shared carrier plans

Now that multiple devices, and multiple device households, have become more common, several carriers around the world have announced various types of shared plans in order to help customers simplify their billing and save some money. Although not too much money. And nowhere near as simply as their marketing typically suggests.

The problem is, instead of flat data chargers, carriers are adding per-device charges. Those charges can add significantly to the ostensibly reasonable data buckets, so even if families still end up saving money, it's not as much money as it appears up front.

Of course, carriers run on ARPU (average revenue per user) and while the humans behind them probably do want to cut families a break on cellular bills, the suits they're wearing compel them not to do it in a way that damages that revenue. But it shoudn't compel them to do it in a complex, ultimately customer-hostile way.

Carriers enjoy a legal (and poorly regulated) oligopoly that allows and even encourages them to abuse the customer relationship over the short term, in an effort to get the most money possible before times change and they inevitably become what they should be, what they fear most -- dumb pipes.

Hence, shared plans which are no different than your DSL or cable internet provider charging you for every iPhone, iPod, iPad, laptop, desktop and game system on your Wi-Fi network. It's no different than your local power company charging you for every fridge, dishwasher, microwave, TV, and gadget stuck into a plug.

And it's no different than ordering an extra large pizza, paying $20 for the pie, and then having to pay $10 extra for every person eating it.

People like to talk about Apple's reality distortion field, but really, they have nothing on carriers. There's an expectation of fairness in any consumer relationship. No one enjoys feeling like they're being bamboozled, hoodwinked, or otherwise taken advantage of. At the heart of any good financial dealing, customers like to feel they paid a fair price for a fair service. The simpler and more straightforward the dealing is structured, the better the chance the customer will come away happy. Carriers have traditionally been on the wrong side of consumer-friendly placing, but that can and should change.

Shared data plans should have one cost associated with them and one cost alone -- data.

Charge for the data, a small one-time activation or administration fee per device to cover any overhead, and that's it. That's all. Tell me a price for 100GB and let me pay it, and then leave me and my family to share it between ourselves, and our devices, as we see fit.

Anything else is bullshit.