Posted by: Kath Usitalo | October 26, 2011

The $2.64 Lesson, Or Another Reason Not To Wake Up To This View

Canada and its communications towers are just across Lake St. Clair

Thanks to my smart phone I have another reason (besides the million dollar mortgage and accompanying taxes) to not live on lovely Lakeshore Drive in the Grosse Pointes.

About a month ago I attended a meeting at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial on Lake St. Clair. Built as the Russell Alger family home in 1910, the mansion is now a center for classes, private functions, theatrical performances and community events. It has a beautiful view of the lake and you can glimpse Canada across the water.

At the start of the evening’s program the president of the group told us to turn off our cell phones; she casually mentioned that we might incur a roaming charge. Non-techie that I am I thought, since I didn’t intend to roam—I was going to sit through that presentation—the fee would not apply to me. I turned the ringer off but did not shut down my Droid.

After the meeting I checked the phone and saw this message from Verizon:
“Welcome to Canada! Roaming data may be billed up to $2.05/MB per your plan….”

I called the number listed and Mr. Verizon rep explained that since:
the meeting site was located on the lake,
and Canada is across that lake,
and given the right conditions (it was a clear evening) the communications signals travel well over open bodies of water,
and my phone was inclined to pick up the strongest signal in the area,
and that signal happened to be from Canada,
I incurred an international roaming charge.

Mr. Verizon said the fine print on my phone agreement states that this is the way it works, and that the phone cannot be selective in choosing a signal from the U.S. or another land.

He added that the fee might be up to $2.05 per minute for the entire time I was in that location—nearly two hours—but that I would have to wait until I received my phone bill to find that out.

Thanks, Mr. Verizon. Just what I needed. A month of wondering whether I racked up an extra $200 in fees for something I didn’t use.

My two phones: one picks up roaming charges, the other doesn't roam

It did make me think about how the folks who live on Lakeshore Drive manage their smart phones.

Do they incur roaming charges on every clear night that the signals are inclined to zip across Lake St. Clair and find their communication devices?

Does this happen in Marine City, Port Huron, Detroit and other spots along the narrow St. Clair and Detroit Rivers we share with Canada?

What about Sault Ste. Marie and elsewhere along the border?

Is there something our government should be doing about those Canadian signals sneaking into the U.S., invading unsuspecting smart phones at will?

The Verizon bill arrived yesterday and it included a $2.64 roaming charge. Period. Thank goodness.

Sure, the view of Lake St. Clair is nice but even if I could afford a mansion on Lakeshore Drive the potential roaming charges would surely do me in.



  1. We live near Port Huron and my daughter has had that message before. She always figured it would be incurred only if she used her phone. My son was on our plan with a smart phone for the past couple of years and I never noticed roaming charges. Years ago, we would be charged for long distance international calls if we used out phone too close to the St. Clair River (therefore too close to Canada). I figured the phone carriers had figured out a way to “fix” that, but apparently not…

  2. Thanks, Laura.
    I like your blog! I’m going to have to spend some time with it to learn more about your Laura Ingalls Wilder projects.
    Thanks for checking out the Great Lakes Gazette.

  3. I often warn our guests at Adventure Inn Bed and Breakfast and Sandy Cottage that their cellphone signal “might get hijacked to Canada” and they might have to duke it out with their service provider. We’re located on Lake Huron about 12 miles from the Blue Water Bridges, so Ontario is about 20 miles away. Still, the Canadian towers apparently put out a stronger signal than the tower just a couple miles away. Most annoying.

    • Hi Sandy, I was thinking about you and your B&B guests. Thanks.

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