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I hate cell phone companies.

Was looking for a new cell phone service for my son.

Naturally cell phone services just love teenage customers - especially when attached to their parent's service plan. Teenagers have a tendency to talk ... which translates into occasional (very) expensive overages, or requires their parents to buy plans that are much more expensive every month. Either case has to make the service company very happy.

Just as naturally, as a parent of two teenagers, I want to limit how much I end up paying.

The cell phone service companies like to offer plans that sound good on the surface, but when you look closer contain a "let's screw the customer" zinger. After (once again) reading though the service plans offered by a number different outfits - it seems pretty clear I was going to get screwed, the only question was how badly.

There is a tremendous market opportunity for a company that simply offers a good service at a good price without screwing around with the customers. What a cell phone service should charge is a fixed monthly fee (since part of their costs are fixed), plus a variable fee based on the number of minutes used. I would like to buy a phone, prepay for a year of service, and prepay for a several months worth of "minutes" - and expect to receive a modest discount for prepaying. No need for printing and mailing monthly bills. No need for processing monthly payments.

About a year ago I setup my son with a T-Mobile "To Go" plan. Bought the phone up front. Prepaid for $100 for 1000 minutes (usable for one year). When he ran low on minutes (every few months) I would buy another 1000 minutes off the T-Mobile website. My son did a good job of moderating his use, and only burned 200-300 minutes per month. All told, a very satisfactory arrangement - I was even considering switching over my Verizon service when the current agreement ran out.

Coverage with T-Mobile is not quite as good as with my Verizon service when driving across country, but just fine the rest of the time.

After about a year, suddenly the "minutes" started disappearing from his account at an unusual clip - in September nearly 1000 minutes disappeared. Now my son is not especially chatty by nature. He claimed that his usage was not much changed, and from what I have seen I believe this to be true. Oddly enough T-Mobile will not provide a list of the charges against your account - so there is no way of spotting any erroneous items.

Without any sort of accountability, you have to wonder if T-Mobile is lying to increase their profit.

I let the minutes run out on the T-Mobile phone, and started looking for a reasonable replacement. Another round of reading through cell phone company agreements has left me throughly disgusted with all the major outfits offering service. His new phone is on the way. Will have to see if the new service works out any better.