GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Paying the price for water

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 31, 2009

In last week’s VoSD water panel discussion, some people wrote how they are bothered by operating expenses in their water bill. While there are differences of opinion whether operating expenses should be through a separate fixed fee or be included in the the price of water itself, at least the money goes to cover those expenses.

What about other services we use? We not only pay steep fees to other service providers, we often pay them for nothing. Got cable TV? Internet service? Landline? Cellphone? Mobile of any kind? We have no choice but to pay high fixed monthly fees for these whether we use the service or not. This practice makes these companies enormously profitable.

While some corporate entities whip up fears about government control, they’re perfectly happy to use government to force people to use their services. Take the obvious, health care: insurance corporations want government to force every individual in the country to buy their for-profit plans. Forcing the entire country into their revenue stream should be good for profit margins. As for cable TV (and sometimes internet service), consumers in many neighborhoods have no choice due to corporate monopolies granted by the government.

Even without government assistance, these services minimize consumer choice by default. If you want a particular kind of cell phone or mobile device, there’s usually no choice of carrier. Put another way, if you like a particular carrier, your choice of cell phones is limited and you’re usually forced into a service contract extending for a period of time. Of course this is all good for the bottom line: David Rohde describes wireless profits thus: “AT&T posted a 40.9% margin out of its wireless business for 1Q09. Verizon Wireless is doing even better, with a 46.0% margin. Forty-six percent! Hmmm.”

I think we’re in no position to complain about water prices when we live in such a precarious situation, far-removed from our water sources. It’s amazing we can live here at all. And if we didn’t allow ourselves to be bullied by greedy corporations running these other services, paying that water bill would be much less painful.

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