Free cellphone service for poor lowers rates


Assurance Wireless

announced today that it is cutting its per-minute calling option in half in a program aimed at giving poor people cellphones.

Call it a coincidence, but the move comes less than a week after WalletPop pointed out that after the 200 free monthly minutes are used, customers can buy more airtime at 20 cents a minute -- double what the company's sister program, Boost Mobile, was offering at 10 cents a minute.

Its text messages, however, remain extraordinarily high at 15 cents, making messaging more costly than a domestic phone call. Most prepaid plans charge less for texting. Whatever. At least the calling rate drops.