Across America, consumers spend well over a hundred billion dollars per year on cell phone service.1 While cell phone service makes up a substantial portion of many households’ budgets, the industry receives surprisingly little attention from consumer advocates.
People purchasing phone plans have to sort through a confusing mess of plan policies, convoluted pricing structures, and competing claims about network quality. Bad financial incentives add to the confusion by encouraging reviewers and evaluators to look kindly upon mediocre networks and carriers.
As The Coverage Critic, I act as a consumer advocate and help people make sense of their options in the cellular marketplace.
While I’m not fully insulated from the bad financial incentives mentioned earlier, I try to manage my bias by maintaining an extreme level of transparency. I share specific details about financial arrangements I have with companies on my transparency page.
My name is Christian Smith.
Before starting Coverage Critic, I spent a few years with the charity evaluator GiveWell as a research analyst. For most of my time with GiveWell, I was the point person for the organization’s cost-effectiveness models.
I’m a huge fan of transparency and a big believer in a free and open internet. In my view, humanity has still only scratched the surface of the internet’s potential.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey suggested the average household had 2.5 members and a mean annual expenditure on cellular phone service of $1,188. Projecting those numbers onto the U.S. population gives a ballpark estimate of the 2018 consumer expenditure on cell phone service at about 150 billion dollars.
(330,000,000 / 2.5) * 1,188 = 156,816,000,000