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Obscene Wireless Bills Abroad? The FCC Wants To Help

Budget, Travel News, USA — By David Chalk on June 24, 2010 at 8:14 am

Taking a well-deserved break from an exhausting war to keep America’s airwaves free from normally-covered skin and profanity, the Federal Communications Commission has somehow found time to make this week “Wireless World Travel Week.” Each day this week, the FCC will unveil helpful tips to protect your wallets from obscene wireless charges that would make most of us drop at least a few of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.  To spread the word, the FCC has a blog, a twitter account (with over 347,000 followers!) and even a #FCCWorldTravel twitter hashtag.

Before we wade into the FCC’s tips to protect you, we must warn you that “International calling can be complicated and confusing,” according to Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC.  However, most of the FCC’s advice can be toned down to — do some research before you whip out your phone abroad unless you want a bill that reads like an FCC fine.

Here’s the biggies:

Check with your wireless provider.

  • Find out about the options and costs before traveling.
  • Turn off features such as automatic e-mail updates when taking wireless phones abroad.

Look into alternative calling options before leaving. More affordable options might include

  • Renting a mobile phone
  • Buying a SIM card for use in countries visited
  • Using calling cards when making calls from other countries

The Internet is a cheap (sometimes free) way of making calls.

  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a good option where there is access to high-speed Internet or a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • VoIP calls are cheaper than traditional calls but require a computer, a compatible smartphone, or a special VoIP phone when outside of the US (consumers should be aware of 911 capabilities and limitations of any VoIP phone before making a decision to purchase it).
  • While VoIP calls can be made from a wireless Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s important to make sure that the phone does not automatically connect to an international mobile network, which can be more expensive to access than the Wi-Fi hotspot.

Travel a lot? Look into world phones.

  • Frequent international travelers should look into different plans and providers of world phones, which are less expensive to use internationally than standard wireless phones.

One more tip — the FCC’s jurisdiction is limited to the good ol’ U.S. of A. So if you turn on the TV in another country and see a nipple, you’ll just be wasting money calling the FCC.

Tags: FCC, FCC blog, FCC World Travel, Travel Tips, wireless travel, Wireless World Travel Week, world wireless

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