Y r txt mssgs so shrt? Nt wht u think

The only people who don't know about text messages these days are 90-year-olds and infants. Even if you don't use the feature, it is available on nearly every phone in use. Recently, text messaging overtook voice use on cell phones for the first time, indicating that texting is here to stay. Even with email-capable devices, text messaging has retained its popularity despite a 160-character limit. While you might think this limit is in place to force subscribers to send more messages, making more money for telecoms, it can actually be traced back to a typewriter in Germany, circa 1985.

That's when Hildebrand, the father of text messaging, was working on a new way to send text messages to phones. Limited by the bandwidth and clunky entry systems, his team set out to find the correct number of characters for a text message. After determining that most comments and questions were fewer than 160 characters, they chose it as their text message length, and thus set the standard for text messages, known as SMS, or short message service.
Interestingly enough, the amount of bandwidth for email, multimedia and data usage have grown greatly in the past years, just like the cost of a standard text message. Even with the increased bandwidth available, text messages still hitch a ride along with the standard cell phone transmission, which is why they remain limited to 160 characters. According to a follow-up of Senator Herb Kohl's inquiry into price fixing, this mode of transmission costs cell phone carriers, "very, very, very little to transmit."

Rather than greed motivating cell phone companies to split that 161st character into another 20 cents of profit, it's simply the limitation of technology. To lift the 160 character cap, companies would need to alter the delivery method for text messages and draft new industry standards which could easily be used as an excuse to raise prices.

Ultimately, text messages are what they are; short messages meant to be sent and responded to in a handful of letters and punctuation. Whether cell phone companies are raising the prices unfairly or not, customers still have a choice.

Consumers can choose to purchase a text message plan which makes per message cost practically negligible, or they can choose a provider like T-Mobile or Sprint, which lets them block all chargeable text messages. While Verizon and AT&T both offer some text message blocking, they either don't allow for a blanket text message block, or make it enough of a hassle that many subscribers, myself included, cannot find the option. If Senator Kohl really wants to make a difference, he should push all carriers to offer an easy means of blocking all text messages, instead of focusing on the cost per text.

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