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Consumer Reports’ annual cell phone service report is out. Challengers outpace the incumbents again in 2015

Congratulations to Consumer Cellular, Republic Wireless and us! It looks like readers had some really nice things to say about us as a whole again in the annual Consumer Reports annual cell phone service ratings.

Seems we three are the new incumbent carriers. The ones to beat. So it is that we sat down together for an in-camera meeting and agreed that the innovation stops here. This far, no further. No new ideas! Unless they’re ideas on how to wring an extra few cents out of our respective customer bases.

We don’t need to say we’re kidding, do we?

Started from the bottom

Just a few years ago, we upstart carriers (MVNOs or mobile virtual network operators, if you want to get all technical) were regarded with suspicion. Now, as reports like this one from this most respected of consumer review outlets make clear, the tide is turning.

The message that MVNO customers don’t get second rate service (because they don’t) and that we’re not fly by night outfits is catching. When it comes to cell phone service, the idea that the way things have always been done is the way they’ll always be is losing ground.

The fact that we no-contract carriers are rising to the top in independent reviews like this, the most independent of reviews, is telling too. When you use the carrot and stick method to get customers (deep discounted and otherwise subsidized or $0 phones are the carrot, the contract is the stick, just to be clear) you have less incentive to keep customers happy.

By never doing contracts, tabs or weird phone financing schemes of any kind, we have to work harder. We don’t get to rest on our laurels. That’s good for everyone involved. Customers get phone companies that actually want to earn their business and speaking of Ting specifically, we’ve never been much for resting.

Why it’s a big deal

Consumer Reports quite rightly forbids commercial entities from taking their independent reviews or survey results and shouting “we’re number (whatever)!” from the rooftops. They aren’t beholden to any commercial entity. They accept no advertising, no review products and no freebies. It stands to reason that they don’t want anyone treating inclusion in their reports like it’s an award. It’s not an award. It’s validation, sure, but it’s not an award.

The thing that makes inclusion in Consumer Reports so special (or so damning, if you’re not keeping your promises) is that very independence. You can’t influence the message, you can’t buy ad pages and try to put the pressure on through back channels, you can’t offer review products, free service, junkets or any of the other things that could put editorial folks in the awkward place of trying to balance business interests with editorial integrity.

It’s an honest, unbiased account based on responses from real people. 90,000 of them, if you’re keeping tabs. It’s more of a very public year-end score card. An affirmation that people like what you do enough to say nice things when people ask.

So thank you very much, Ting customers, for saying nice things when people ask.

Curious about what sets Ting apart from other carriers? It’s our simple, sensible approach with rates instead of plans and the savings and flexibility they offer. It’s help that’s actually helpful and people that pick up the phone when you call. It’s account tools that put people in control of their service and their monthly bill. It’s a bunch of other stuff too.