2011 is already starting to look like it’ll be a Shock and Awe war on all things online. It started in 2010 with “Do Not Track”, then moved on to the “Online Privacy Bill of Rights” and, finally, the “Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act”. Now we have the FCC stepping in over complaints of cell phone bill shock.

Cell phone bill shock? Such was the case with an Orange County couple who returned home from a cruise to a $3300 bill. The co-founder of Apple found himself hit with roaming charges while in Germany that amounted to $7,000 for a 3-hour conversation. Even a top International plan didn’t save him. The kicker, of course, came when someone helping with the relief effort in Haiti returned home and found herself slapped with an almost $35,000 bill. It seems that while T-Mobile was extending courtesy calls in the country due to the emergency, it didn’t extend to texting or sending data, something she was doing due to poor cell service.

Some of the charges above were able to be negotiated down with the service providers, but the FCC had to step in about the largest one and is currently working on rules that would help customers from receiving such excessive bills. The providers, of course, are already screaming that they provide ways for users to know when they’ve gone over their limits and what those charges will be if they do etc. etc. etc. Let’s think about that for a moment. If you have the opportunity of increasing your company’s monthly take from $60 for a lower plan to $3,300 or $7,000, are you really going to go out your way to tell your users that they’ve gone over? I’m betting not.

The irony here for me is that my partner insisted that I get an internet service added to my phone over the recent holiday. Why? I wanted to remain one of the last holdouts. He said I could check my e-mail from my phone. Don’t wanna. He said I could download really cool apps. Don’t wanna. He suggested getting me an iPhone, the same one where the alarm didn’t work for two days after the New Year. Don’t need it. I like my phone to do two things; be a phone and text. Unfortunately, even I get hit with the occasional roaming charge that makes my blood boil.

Wouldn’t it be great fun if you were about to run out of minutes or deal with a roaming charge only to have a text message pop up and say “The call you are trying to make will cost you $4.00 a minute due to (insert reason)? If you REALLY want to make this call, Press 1 on your keypad. If not, wait until you’re back in your home country.” Now seeing that would be some Shock and Awe!

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