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8 Things You May Not Know About Your Cell Phone Company

Updated on May 20, 2013

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Tips to better understand your telecommunication company

I have a B.A. in Paralegal Studes and worked for a major telecommunication company for over 5 years as an electronic surveillance technician. Although I mostly spoke with law enforcement, every now and then I spoke with customers.

Two of the biggest misconceptions people commonly have about their cell phone company: 1. Don't let CSI or the Fox network misguide you on technologies or conspiracy about monitoring your phone without a legal demand. 2. Just because you purchased a phone, doesn't mean you own the phone calls, text, voicemail or anything else on the phone. What that means is you won't be able to just look online and get all your incoming and outgoing calls or text messages or call the company and request it. Why? Privacy and protecting your personal information overrides; along with the Federal and State laws applicable to the telecommunications industry. You are paying for a service, you don't own it!

This is an ever and constant changing industry, along with its laws. You may call one week and can get all of your text messages with a customer consent form, the next week the answer may be, "No, we no longer maintain those records. They are purged from our system immediately."

I just wanted to share some tips that may help and guide you towards the right telecommunication company when you choose a phone and service.

  1. General information. What do you need from your cell phone company? What are the most important needs you have? Is it coverage area, a fast Internet, having access to your incoming and outgoing calls. Tracking all the text messages (SMS Short messaging system - terminology for text). Why do you need to lay this information out first? Because every cell phone company specializes or has strengths in certain areas; but not all of them. Because they all interpret the laws a bit differently and lay out polices based on those interpretations. Some will only maintain records they are required to store. Phone calls are a seperate technology from the rest of the things you use on your phone. Those other things are considered "stored communications" (text, voicemail, pictures/videos, etc.)
  2. Research. Check out each company you are considering and review what they have available to the customer. If one of your main priorities is to have access to all text records or all picturemail and videos; find out their retention policy if at all. If something important to you is not available; you may not choose that company. Keep preparing your questions to ask that company prior to starting or switching your service.
  3. Coverage. Advertised coverage versus real life coverage is key. You can look on the maps the companies offer online, but you will benefit in searching online for reviews and comments by individuals and talking to other people with that service in the area you plan to use the phone the most. The technology in cell towers is also a changing technology and there are times they are transitioning from older to the newer technologies. Most of the larger companies are investing in improving coverage. The real test is real life connections or a lot of dropped calls.
  4. Voicemail. Voicemail is a stored communication. Most telecommunication companies automatically purge these out of their system and therefore; right off your phone. Even if you saved it and need it for any reason, including a day in court. It is gone forever unless you saved it or recorded it onto a disc or your computer or use Google Voice. Ask the company how long the voicemail will stay on the phone. The average is 15-25 days. If you change you phone and buy a new one, often times it will not transfer to the new one. So again, if you need them, save them to a separate device first.
  5. Text and pictures. These are considered stored communications and currently, law doesn't require a phone company to maintain these records. Many automatically purge the text from their systems automatically. Even if you still see them on your phone, they maybe nonexistent elsewhere. If you need them for a civil legal matter, you may not be able to use them. Each state has different laws and and privacy guidelines that prevents them from from being presented in a court of law. Why? Because the text are from more than just yourself and that invokes a privacy issue on the part of the other person you exchanged the message with.
  6. Federal Laws. I want to share a resource that you may review to better understand your rights when needed. These are the same laws that define telecommunication company polices. USC section 18 Corn.ell college is an excellent resource for legal statutes.
  7. Unresolved problems and how to get them handled. Call immediately and calmly work through the problems and what you expect. They will let you know what they can do to solve the problem. If it is not resolved through verbal and written disputes via regular customer service. Get in touch with the "escalated customer service help line". Smaller companies may not have this available. Expect to spend a lot of time on more complex issues. Companies are a long ways from being highly efficient in handling complex problems with your account.
  8. Review your bill closely. Make sure if still offered, a log of calls is kept, otherwise you will just get a summary; which doesn't list out calls in detail. Due to privacy laws, Outgoing calls are listed without the actual listing of the phone number due to privacy for that person. People can call your phone blocking their number and that means the number comes into the phone companies network blocked as well. Some companies have the ability to allow you to block a phone number from calling you, but you have to know the phone number.

Congratulations! You are now a well informed telecommunication customer and you will benefit a great deal more from understanding your service and what you are getting or not getting. Keep in mind, you may consider Google Voice if you need a record of all your calls, text and voicemail, regardless of what your personal telecommunication company maintains or not. just thoroughly review how it works. I think this is a useful service for the hearing impaired as well.

Google Voice Tutorial and What it Is or Does

This is for the parents of children 17 and younger with cell phones

I want to also give some insight and understanding for what can happen when teenagers exchange what can be considered as pornographic material. Did you know when you post a photograph or a video, you can never fully remove it from the internet? They remain out there somewhere FOREVER!

Did you know that unless you disable the location information on your cell phone before uploading an image or a video, it attaches your location with the exact or close location using latitude and longitude? If you leave this feature on a child's phone, they upload a photograph to a child molester (without realizing it,) that bad person can find your child. Make sure you disable that feature when they send photos. You do want the location on when you have a "Family Locator" service, but you can do that when you are going to be seperate and not at home.

Some guidelines to follow and discuss with your child or children with cell phones and what you expect and why. Can you imagine how devasting it is to be caught in the middle of child pretator laws that could affect your teenagers that decided to inicently exchange nude photographs of each other. If either one falls under the age in your law and someone sees or reports it, One of both people can have a criminal record and have to file as a child sex offender.

This is so potentially dangerous, that is the reason I want to inform you of how serious it can be. You don't want to think that no one will find out since it is on your private phone. Kids share things. They end up on social media sites, youTube videos go live, Facebook lights up with drama. Text with photos get forwarded to friends and the concept of going viral means someone will find out and as required by law and according to the National Missing and Exploited Children - it must be reported when you witness any inappropriate images of underage children.

What to discuss with your teenager prior to handing a cell phone and giving them free range and ownership of it.

  1. This cell phone is not yours. It is a privlige to use it and I pay the bill and own it (not according to phone companies, but just for parenting sake - yes) That means at any time I can take it away from you and I can review the phone and what is in it.
  2. Explain about pornorgraphy, laws and what that means if they decide to do that. Set very firm statements to never ever take part in this type of exchange with your friends or adults. Ensure that they fully understand they cannot hide it if the person you send the photo or video decides to share it with others.
  3. Let them know they may not download any of the applications without your permission as many cost a fee and even a monthly fee. As a parent, you can have the mobile phone company block 3rd party premium services to at least ensure your kids don't accidently activate any of those. (example of one: T-mobile has a 411 service application, I clicked it and I suddenly had an additional 9.99 a month charge on my bill and sales texts showing up on my phone daily. I myself was not aware it was a premium service, it never stated there would be a fee)

Missing and Exploited Children CyberTip Line - Reporting Child Pornography

If you do thrive on Consipiracy Theories, this video is for you

Parental Control of a Child's Cell Phone with Spyware

Phone applications called "Spyware" can monitor a child's cell phone for you. If you want that additional peace of mind and easier access to monitor everything on their phone, this is the best way to do it. Check the video to see what all the new phone application does.

Be very careful with applying this to an adult's phone, this can have legal implications. It is allowed for a child's phone only.

To learn more about parental monitoring programs for your cell phones and computers, check online in any search engine to find the best programs for your family.

Spyware for Parents to use on Kids Cell Phones

How Informed Are You About Your Cell Phone Company

Are you aware of those things about the telecommunication companies?

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    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you phdast7. It is good to share information that may help people make a better decision when picking a cell phone company. They change literally on a weekly basis, it is an ever changing market.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Terrific Hub full of much needed information. You have done all of us quite a service. Thank you. Sharing.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you glimmer. One other thing you will notice when young girls have phones, their drama level at school intensifies. I noticed it with my daughter. She had one for a long time, was grounded off of it so I shut the phone off. She told me later she was glad and I could see the difference; much less involvement with the drama side of her friends.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Interesting and useful hub! My daughter isn't ready for a phone yet, but will be soon. These are some helpful tips when she does get one. A little scary too!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you. That is what I hoped is it would give and ensure you are getting what you need and expect from your cell phone company.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Wow, Very Interesting!!! I was aware of some of the things mentioned but have learned a lot more!! Thanks for sharing this valuable information!!

      Voted Up, Interesting, and Useful!!!

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you GiblinGirl, that is exactly what I wanted people to be aware of. People are so shocked when they call in expecting to get the information and it is gone.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you Gamerelated. Hopefully some of the newer cell tower technology will improve the coverage across the board for all carriers. Smaller carriers like MetroPCS ride on the major telecommunications cell towers.

      I am glad you listed Open Signal Maps. That should help some people in determining the best coverage from a certain carrier in their area. I understand about the privacy, but it sounds like plenty of people are contributing to it already.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Very informative and useful information - especially concerning the retention of voicemail and photos/texts. I think you gave some really great and relevant tips of what to consider when looking for a cell company.

    • Gamerelated profile image

      Gamerelated 5 years ago from California

      Good information on this Hub. Especially the part about the carriers policy on storing voice mail and text messages.

      The section on advertised versus real coverage is very important as well. I live in a large market, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, so you would think that the major carriers here would have the best coverage. Verizon has good coverage here but AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile do not. The next best coverage here is MetroPCS.

      I use Open Signal Maps to determine coverage. Open Signal Maps builds their own maps using customer generate information. If a customer installs the app and has reception then it will send that reception information to Open Signal Maps and they will use all of the information collected from all of their users to build a composite map.

      I have not personally installed the app because I am paranoid about privacy, but I do look at the maps on their webpage to get an idea of what coverage is like in my area for each of the carriers.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you jeolmoz2.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Zsobig: Thank you. Your perspective about tracking children is trust related, but I just wanted to open a wider perspective. You don't have to use the location services because you don't trust them. It is useful for more serious situations: abduction, missing, attacks. Police and 911 can locate your child with a cell phone. I don't track my children, but I am glad they have their phones in case anything bad happens.

      I agree with the talk. I think that makes all the difference for them to have a better understanding and the dangers.

      The pictures, good point about explaining the good and bad. Teenagers get a bit more involved. Again, explaining the law has helped my children and I don't think they would ever do those exchanges.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      JustSimple Info: Thank you for so much additional information. I agree, privacy is nearly impossible. I am glad you listed one of the phone applications for children. I just think with the insight you and I have about cases involving children, those applications should be available to parents that need them. It's not so much a trust issue, it is protecting children that cannot protect themselves.

    • jeolmoz2 profile image

      Julio E Olmo Sr 5 years ago from Florida, USA

      Voted up & interesting

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      This is eye opener. I am impressed with all the research and information you have shared. I never thought about any of this..well maybe my husb and has. Thanks and voted up.

    • zsobig profile image

      Sophie 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very interesting hub!

      Especially the part about the children and their mobile phones. I can understand why some parents try to 'track down' their own children, still, now I say I wouldn't do this to my kid. If I were the kid who is being tracked I would be very unhappy and for me it would mean that my parents do not trust me. Yes, I understand that this is necessary sometime, but if I think about myself, I would have never done something like that EVER.

      In my opinion you just have to tell your kid everything, including the drawbacks and dangers and also try to be included in their life as much as you can: be friends with your children. With this I doubt there will be any problems with the kid sending questionable pictures or status updates in the future. You just have to tell them from the early ages what is bad and what is good. That's what my parents did.

      All in all, good hub, voted up + shared!

    • JustSimple info profile image

      JustSimple Info 5 years ago from Puget Sound

      I worked for a Wireless Company for 15 years. I have seen and heard it all, and seen the request by consumers and law enforcement when it comes to records request etc. Also, like with free email, after 180 of non use, the government doesn't need any subpoena to request access to your digital information if it hasn't been used/touched/accessed for 180 days.

      Wireless companies do keep more and more info now about what you do with your phone.(Think tethering to your laptop). Sprint and HTC still blocks consumers of HTC phones from using certain free apps. Verizon just lost a case with the FCC when they tried to restrict users from using certain apps.

      We are in the no longer privacy age.

      LookOut, and some other apps that allow you to lock and track your phone are great tools to use for kids.

      For my oldest, I just set up a email account on her device that also sends emails to my device, so I can check to see what she is sending and receiving. And most carriers also offer restrictions that you can set up sorta like filters. Parents can also download parent type of apps to lock features of the phone or make it so your child can only call to family and friends and that's it.

      Great Hub keep up the good work.

    • bridalletter profile image
      Author

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      You are welcome! I did that for 5 years and loved every day of it, even though it was a very difficult place to work. All worth it for sure.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting! Nice job of compiling facts and then passing them on to us in an easy-to-understand format.