The Hidden Costs of Your Monthly Cell Phone Bill

06.06.24 - 5 min read

An image of people walking in a crowd.

When it comes to the price we pay for wireless connection—an essential service that’s required to live and function in today’s society—we’re all too willing to give up control over the cost of our monthly bill and basic right to privacy.

It’s an alarmingly common story. You sign up for a new phone plan with a traditional telco. When you get your first bill, you see you were charged an in hidden taxes and fees, getting a case of “bill shock,” like mobile customers before you. While frustrating, it’s a cost you’re willing to accept for the wireless service that allows you to stay connected. But after the first couple of months, your bill increases yet again by another few dollars. Scouring through your bill breakdown and the fine print, you learn that your carrier can increase their fees whenever they want. Most of these fees are ones that they’re not obligated to pass on to their customers, yet do so anyway. As a result, you’re left with little control over the price you pay for a service that you need, and uncertainty in what next month’s bill will look like.

But the monetary cost is just the beginning.

There’s another, less obvious price to consider—the erosion of your privacy and security.

When you sign up for a mobile carrier, within the jargon of their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are important disclosures about the way your carrier may use, transfer, and monetize your data. By subscribing to their service, you unwittingly give your carrier the green light to collect and sell your most personal data to a long road of third-parties, roping in an entirely new set of vendors who can access and potentially leak your information through vulnerabilities of their own.

Last year, had their data leaked to the dark web. Each of these attacks involved breaches at third-party vendors. Malicious actors, from nation-state hacking groups to financially motivated cybercriminals, target consumers like us, leading to personal data breaches, stolen identities, and financial losses.

When telcos aren’t losing our data through weak security practices, they’re actively selling it.

Headlines have long told the story of how Silicon Valley companies sell user data to drive ad revenue. However, telco giants, which likely know far more about you given the sheer volume and granularity of the personal data they collect, are , selling data to an estimated $376 billion market.

Location data is among the most sensitive types of data that is collected and monetized. In April 2024, the FCC fined AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon a total of nearly $200M for customer location data to over 300 third-party aggregators. While location data can be used for legitimate purposes like emergency services and law enforcement, it has also ended up in the hands of shady actors like bounty hunters, stalkers, and scammers.

The FCC may be fining the U.S. telco giants now, but these charges are only surfacing years after their location data selling practices were first exposed. And the fine won’t be the end of the story. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have all pledged to appeal the ruling, and it’s likely that after several more years of , those penalties could be reduced, or even abandoned entirely.

Want to opt out of data sharing? Good luck—you’ll have to figure it out on your own or pay for it.

Carriers are required to provide consumers with the option to opt out of data sharing, but the process for doing so is often unclear and deceptive. Even after you’ve already enrolled in a plan, carriers can still change their customer privacy policies and automatically enroll existing customers into data collection and sharing, without obtaining  Or, in another classy move, AT&T gave users the choice to opt out of data sharing programs—for an additional charge of up to .

So, when it comes to choosing a new cell phone plan, the advertised monthly price you see only tells half the story.

At Cape, we show you the real price of your cell service, with no hidden costs.

For $99/month, we provide our customers with premium cellular service. Cape absorbs all federal, state, and municipal taxes and fees on behalf of our customers, so you can know exactly what you’re paying. And when you sign up, we only ask for the minimum information necessary. We don’t store your name, social security number, date of birth, or street address—because, unlike other carriers, we don't need this information to provide you with the same reliable, high-speed nationwide coverage that you have today.

A chart showing the cost to begin service on Cape vs other carriers. The chart shows that Cape customers pay for only the base price and the cost of their phone number, while customers using other carriers also pay numerous hidden fees and pay by exposing their private information.

In addition to our , we secure your account with modern and expert-vetted cryptography and a unique 24-word passphrase, making it much harder for hackers to crack. We have the most stringent firewalls to block signaling attacks, and account authentication services that mitigate like password stuffing and phishing emails. Our spam shield also closes off a main conduit for social engineering and imposter scams, protecting customers from fraudsters.

At Cape, we’re helping people take control, both of their bills and their mobile identities. Join our waitlist to get early access to connection without any compromises.

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