Long Distance? Seriously??

Cidu Bill on Jul 1st 2013

It can only be an “old-timey social networking thing” if it still exists.

Filed in Bill Bickel, Zits, comic strips, comics, humor | 40 responses so far

40 Responses to “Long Distance? Seriously??”

  1. John Small Berries Jul 1st 2013 at 03:27 pm 1

    I just looked at AT&T’s site, and they’re offering various long-distance plans, so apparently it does still exist.

  2. DPWally Jul 1st 2013 at 03:41 pm 2

    For some reason land-line phones (which still exist) never adopted cell phones’ air-time price model, so long distance still exists. If you call someone outside your carrier’s defined local service, you get switched to your long distance provider and pay their prices.

    That said, this comic is still anachronistic. It’s been a long time since long distance was expensive enough to justify that reaction.

  3. DPWally Jul 1st 2013 at 03:47 pm 3

    When I was a kid, AT&T (then known as “The Phone Company”) charged by distance. Calling across the country cost more than calling the next state. So “it’s Aunt Mabel calling from California” justified a frenzied a rush to the phone, since she was paying enough to run through her monthly grocery budget in 30 minutes.

    (For illustration purposes only. Your mileage may vary. I do not not have an Aunt Mabel.)

  4. Mark M Jul 1st 2013 at 04:05 pm 4

    “I’m roaming” would have been a little believable.

  5. yellojkt Jul 1st 2013 at 04:15 pm 5

    I’ve got Verizon FIOS and the VOIP is unlimited long distance. My cell phone plan no longer logs minutes.

    And in the days of long distance, in-state long distance calls were actually more money than interstate calls.

  6. Bookworm Jul 1st 2013 at 04:28 pm 6

    I figured she was old enough to still be thinking like that, even though she doesn’t have it anymore. I’m like that about a few things if my attention is on something else. It’s only momentary, but it happens.

  7. Judge Mental Jul 1st 2013 at 04:51 pm 7

    To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I even understood the “It can only be an ‘old-timey social networking thing’ if it still exists.” comment. Lots of people still use long distance and it still costs more, even if the added cost no longer merits the person freaking out over it.

    Believe it or not, my mother (who only passed away in 2011) still had a land line phone plan that charged her for the actual phone calls she made (even local). The phone company no longer even made it public that they offered such a plan, but she made so few phone calls (she still primarily communicated with family members via snail mail) it was actually cheaper that way.

  8. mitch4 Jul 1st 2013 at 05:55 pm 8

    In reply to the proposed “I’m roaming” emendation: That may not be a cell phone, but the portable part of a system where the landline plugs into a “base station” that makes a radio coneection with the portable unit (and charges it up as well).

  9. Detcord Jul 1st 2013 at 06:11 pm 9

    It is only “relatively” recently that I stopped phoning home to the USA from Great Britain. I’d buy so many minutes - for a very small price - and do the ET thing. Of course I now use Skype and I talk for as long as I want for free (I wonder how long that will last). The only catch for me is that my mother’s computer and mine have to be on-line with Skype turned on for this to work - so the back-up is a land-line phone call - if only to say, “Hey Mom, get on Skype”. Click! :)

    I do remember when a long distance phone call was a very big thing - cost-wise. :(

  10. James Pollock Jul 1st 2013 at 06:24 pm 10

    People with landlines still pay extra for long-distance, yes.

  11. Cidu Bill Jul 1st 2013 at 06:35 pm 11

    You mean “some people,” James, right?

  12. Cidu Bill Jul 1st 2013 at 06:38 pm 12

    This is the kind of thing that makes me feel old: when I was in college, a short phone call to my girlfriend 300 miles away was a significant expense. My younger son’s girlfriend spent last semester in London, and they could talk all they wanted. For free. With video (science fiction!)

  13. minorannoyance Jul 1st 2013 at 07:24 pm 13

    Higher tech and lower rates aside, for some of us fossils there’s a residue feeling that talking to somebody in a different time zone is still a Big Deal.

  14. Mark in Boston Jul 1st 2013 at 11:30 pm 14

    There was a time when it took quite a while to make a long-distance call. You would ring up an operator in your town of Hinsdale who would ring up an operator in Pittsfield who would ring up an operator in Albany who would ring up an operator in Chicago who would ring up an operator in Cedar Rapids who would ring up an operator in Animosa.

    To start the whole process you would tell the local operator who you wanted to talk to. Then you’d hang up the phone. Five or ten minutes later the phone would ring to indicate that you were connected.

  15. Mark in Boston Jul 1st 2013 at 11:32 pm 15

    We never got the Picture Phones we saw at the 1964 World’s Fair and in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    But now we have Skype and don’t need them.

    We never got our rocket belts. What will we get instead?

  16. Kilby Jul 1st 2013 at 11:57 pm 16

    Long distance still exists, for the simple reason that interstate communications are regulated by the FCC, whereas local communications are under the authority of the individual states.

  17. Cidu Bill Jul 2nd 2013 at 12:19 am 17

    While I’m sure telephone plans that charge extra for long distance still exist, I personally don’t know anybody who has them, since it’s usually very easy to get an unlimited plan. The whole concept of long distance no longer makes any sense, since people’s cell phone area codes follow them around (unless they change carriers after they move, or specifically request a new area code): when my son in Baltimore calls his roommate, that’s technically a New Jersey phone calling a Texas phone.

  18. Jenn Jul 2nd 2013 at 01:01 am 18

    I still have a land line, but I can’t make a long-distance call on it, because I don’t have a long-distance plan. I could probably call the operator to do it, which would be old-timely, indeed.

  19. Meryl A Jul 2nd 2013 at 02:23 am 19

    I still have a copper wire land line phone and I pay $27 a month for it (of which half is taxes and fees) with no minutes included and pay by the minute. I have no long distance plan. Jenn - you can use a 1010 number (such as 1010345) to make long distance calls and pay by the minute. I have to fight with the phone company to keep the copper wire service. Why do we have this service? It always works - no electricity needed other than that coming though the copper wires. After Sandy when the cable towers stopped working as the electricity was off, I had service. Normally we use our cell phone for outgoing calls other than 800 and the extremely rare (not in at least 5 years) out of country calls. We give out the land line number, not the cell line so all calls are handled by our answering machine and they hang up unless it actually someone who knows us. We also have a Magic Jack number for husband for the occasional call from someone who doesn’t want counseling by chat and a google voice number.

  20. Meryl A Jul 2nd 2013 at 02:25 am 20

    I meant to say that I think of Long Distance as expensive as that is how I was raised. I could not call my cousin in Queens as it was not on the unlimited plan when I was in high school nor my girlfriend in Suffolk county in college for the same reason.

  21. Blinky the Wonder Wombat Jul 2nd 2013 at 07:55 am 21

    Was oit really that long ago when Candice Bergen was shilling $0.10 per minute long distance phone calls? That seemed so revolutionary at the time!

    For many years I kept an MCI calling card in my wallet so I could make cheap long distance calls from anywhere in the country.

  22. The Bad Seed Jul 2nd 2013 at 08:18 am 22

    Here in SE Pennsylvania back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, it was cheaper to call across the country than it was to call 20 miles away to exchanges within the same area code. At one point I could call California from West Chester for 10 cents per minute, but calling Cochranville, Atglen, or Gap (where I had friends) was 35 cents per minute.

  23. Powers Jul 2nd 2013 at 08:21 am 23

    1-800-CALL-ATT! This brings back memories.

  24. Molly J Jul 2nd 2013 at 09:19 am 24

    @Powers - Not especially good ones. Thanks for that.

  25. Dave in Asheville Jul 2nd 2013 at 10:54 am 25

    It still exists. We live in a location with limited cell phone coverage, and no cable/fiber connection. We have two landlines; one with a long-distance plan (by the minute), and one without. We also have DirecTV (love it, but it’s getting pricey), and HughesNet for our ISP (not so loveable). Between phone, long-distance, cell, satellite internet, and TV, we pay about $450/month for data. Long-distance charges are by far the least of all of those, but also the only one that is charged by volume of use.

  26. SusanKatie Jul 2nd 2013 at 02:17 pm 26

    I pay extra for long distance calls (and all calls outside of a small local area). I could get an all-inclusive plan but it would cost around $10 per month more and I never spend more than $2-3 per month for long distance and regional calls. But I don’t think I’ve made a big deal of a long distance call in 35 years.

  27. fj Jul 2nd 2013 at 03:03 pm 27

    >> The whole concept of long distance no longer makes any sense, since people’s cell phone area codes follow them around

    First of all, long distance still exists. It’s existence is not dependent on a telephone service provider’s decision to bill you separately for it. If a call needs to be routed from one LATA to another, it’s a long distance call. And it even applies to mobile phones: if Bill’s son calls his buddy and they use to different mobile physical phone carriers (e.g., ATT and Verizon), the call will get routed from the ATT Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) to the appropriate Verizon MTSO (or vice versa) through a long distance carrier. If they are both on the same carrier, and connected to cell towers on the same MTSO, it is effectively a local call. Mobile phone providers have never charged for long distance because they opted from the beginning for an approach that charged both the initiator and receiver of the call for the cost of calling. If mobile providers wanted to charge for long distance usage, they certainly could: trust me, they know when you initiate a call that gets routed through a long distance carrier. However the providers and the market have chosen alternative approaches.

    As an additional note, there are still plenty of places where long distance dialing for landlines is different than local dialing (+1 or not). (Wasn’t that discussed in this forum a year or two ago?)

    So long distance does exist, and Connie, most likely is actually making a long distance call.

    Now, if Bill wants to argue that it is anachronistic to make a big deal about long distance, given that long distance calling is so cheap now that most telephone service plans do not even itemize out charges for it and unlimited plans are readily available, then I will gladly agree. However, that’s kind of the point of the whole cartoon.

    I can absolutely imagine my wife telling our teenagers, “be quiet, I’m on long distance” even though we have unlimited domestic calling. And I can likewise imagine my kids being clueless as to why “long distance” is a big deal.

  28. Cidu Bill Jul 2nd 2013 at 03:50 pm 28

    Actually, I never said long distance charges no longer exist; but a, it’s unlikely Jeremy’s family (urban, professional, and in possession of cell phones) would be subject to them, and b, if their landline did have long distance charges, how ignorant would Jeremy have to be to not fully understand the concept?

    It does bug me how often Jeremy (a straight-A student) is portrayed as a complete idiot. And believe me, nobody has to tell me how intelligent kids can be completely clueless about certain things, but there are limits.

  29. Detcord Jul 2nd 2013 at 05:30 pm 29

    Cidu Bill (28)

    From London, UK, I see (via video) and speak to my Mother, brother and - on occasion - other members of the family every week via Skype. I don’t pay a single penny either. Now that’s progress :)

  30. Lola Jul 2nd 2013 at 08:39 pm 30

    Back in the 90s we had so many kids in college, we had an 800 number installed to take the calls. It was vastly cheaper. This was when cellphones were carried in these huge heavy battery bags, so that wasn’t an option. It was really handy. Every time any of us needed to call, we’d find a pay telephone and use the 800 #. What a hassle that would be today. Where the heck can you find a pay phone these days? The last time I needed to make a call where a pay phone would have been the obvious option, it was in Taiwan and I just asked somebody passing by. Amazingly, the first person said yes. Maybe I just was really good at profiling a suitable Samaritan.

  31. Cidu Bill Jul 2nd 2013 at 09:17 pm 31

    Lola, why did you need a pay phone to call the 800 number?

  32. Lola Jul 2nd 2013 at 09:24 pm 32

    Because this was before the days when folks were walking around with cell phones. Land lines were pretty much the only game in town. It was pay phones, home phones or business phones. It was a lot easier to use a pay phone than to ask a business or a random home owner to use their phone to make a “toll free” call, yeah right. The college attending progeny used the pay phone in the hallways of their dorms.

  33. Lola Jul 2nd 2013 at 09:30 pm 33

    Also, it was SOOOOOOOOOO much cheaper than collect calls. Something they weren’t the least bit shy about doing and this completely ended that. Ah, kids. But I’ve got my revenge. They’ve mostly all got kids of their own now…with iPhones and notebooks, yada, yada, yada.

  34. James Pollock Jul 3rd 2013 at 02:39 am 34

    “You mean “some people,” James, right?”
    Actually, I don’t. There’s a fee to be hooked up to the long distance system even if you never make any tolled calls.

  35. Cidu Bill Jul 3rd 2013 at 03:31 am 35

    Apparently somebody was kind enough to pay that fee for me, then, because I don’t.

  36. Ian Osmond Jul 3rd 2013 at 08:06 am 36

    Our land-line has local only service. I forgot to pay our long-distance bill, and it was cut off. Didn’t notice for quite some time, and haven’t bothered to reinstate it, although I keep intending to.

    We can make local calls, and we can receive calls from anywhere, but we have to use our mobiles to call our out-of-state family.

  37. James Pollock Jul 3rd 2013 at 09:25 am 37

    “Apparently somebody was kind enough to pay that fee for me, then, because I don’t.”
    Since it’s federal law, I think you do.

  38. fj Jul 3rd 2013 at 10:27 am 38

    >>Actually, I never said long distance charges no longer exist

    “It can only be an ‘old-timey social networking thing’ if it still exists” implied to me that you did not believe that even the concept of long distance still existed (let alone charges related to using service). If that is not the case, I don’t understand the comment.

  39. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Jul 3rd 2013 at 10:44 am 39

    Bill @ 17 - Yes, it is _easy_ to get an unlimited plan, but that isn’t the same as _free_. I am currently on a minute-limited plan (like a cell phone plan), though admittedly it has long distance bundled in. (I have this because it costs $15/month less than the unlimited plan, and like a number of other posters, I don’t use my house phone enough to justify the greater expense.)

    fj @ 27 - WRT your comment that Mobile phone providers have never charged for long distance - as I remember, in addition to not including “free” roaming, my first cell plan (some 20 years ago) _didn’t_ include “free” long distance but had a per-minute additional charge. (Note that this was long before number portability, so area codes actually still meant something, and for “local” cell phones out of area, if the caller wasn’t paying long distance, the callee was paying roaming.) I don’t remember when bundled long distance was added, but I’m pretty sure it was sooner than free roaming.

    And yes, I am another one old enough to remember long distance being a big deal - when I was young, making a long distance call was a major decision and getting one was an event. When I was in college, calling “home” was a once a week (or less) couple of minute deal, in large part because of the cost, and when I traveled, I reported my safe arrival by calling home on a person-to-person call to myself (which would be refused, so no charge) as a code.

    Now, even international calling is generally not a big deal - how quickly times change…

  40. fj Jul 3rd 2013 at 11:09 pm 40

    Ted @39 “my first cell plan (some 20 years ago) _didn’t_ include “free” long distance but had a per-minute additional charge”

    You know, now that I read that, it does ring a vague bell of recollection. Still, though, the mobile phone concept of billing for both calls initiated and calls received was a pretty radical departure from the traditional landline model (and necessary, since a mobile circuit was much more costly than a traditional link). Competition by the long lines providers soon made it easy for mobile providers to bury the long distances costs into the bundled service.

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