Saturday, March 16, 2013

Frat House Phone Bill

Telecom Trends
11 March 2013

Mark Goldberg

More than 30 years ago, in my early days in the telecom industry, there was a story circulating – maybe an urban legend or just part of telecom folklore, but it came to mind as we head into March vacation.

As I recall, a group of women from a sorority at a large mid-western university went to a warmer climate for Spring Break. The boyfriends from a nearby frat house remained at school. Thanks to some alcohol inducement, the boys decided to phone the girlfriends Friday night, pre-Skype, pre-competitive long distance, in the days when long distance rates were frequently $3.00 per minute.

It didn’t take long for the boys to realize that they were in for more than $200 – a term’s tuition – in the first hour on the phone. The decision was made to keep the phone off the hook for the whole weekend. It was an intercom for staying in touch like an international baby room monitor. Monday morning, the long-lines technicians knocked down the call and that finally closed off the call billing record. The bill came in for more than $10,000. A call to customer service claimed it had to be a network or billing error. How could there have been a 60 hour long phone call? No one in their right mind would make such a call.

The charge was reversed. Was the story true? I don’t know, but it makes for a good story. [...]