Column: T-Mobile's 'Simple Starter' plan
People in Panama are laughing at us.
Actually, people in India, Italy, and Indonesia are laughing at us, too, but I have recent firsthand knowledge of Panama. A group of young, phone-toting professionals there laughed out loud when they heard what Americans pay monthly to use their cell phones. (The concept of a heating bill brought down the house, but that's another story.)
In Panama, as in much of the world, people buy a phone and then buy prepaid coverage, refilling at need. It costs maybe $20 a month, even if they frequently call internationally.
The average monthly cost is about $10 in Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, and the UK. In the US, it's about $85. Those figures are based on purchasing-power parity, meaning they are adjusted for relative cost of living.
In the entire world, only a couple of African nations have costs as high. Canada's come closest, and they're furious about it.