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ID law for prepaid circulating in Massachusetts

It’s not like this is totally new, but there are some states looking to require ID for prepaid cellular purchases. The latest state, according to the Boston Globe, is Massachusetts. State Rep. John J. Binienda wants to impose this requirement in order to aid police investigations. He’s being met with resistance, though, and the bill could be delayed until next year.

“There has always been a concern that prepaid services in general enable anonymity in wireless usage and that’s in part a concern because it lends to its use by criminals,” said Fedor Smith, an analyst who monitors the prepaid cellphone industry for Boston-based consulting and research firm Atlantic-ACM. “If you’re calling other prepaid wireless costumers, there’s a completely anonymous network of people.”

While that does make sense, there’s the matter of how to enforce this issue. The onus would go to the retailer. Many smaller retailers might find it not worth it to continue carrying prepaid phones in that case. Not only will they have a ton of paperwork, but they might also be losing one of the bigger prepaid demographics: immigrants who do not have access to a government ID.

“The proposed legislation would impact all types of retailers (not just wireless carriers), from mom-and-pop convenience stores to large department stores,” Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless of New England, wrote in an e-mail. “It’s important to learn how these retailers would safeguard customer information (like photocopies of driver’s licenses) and how any point-of-sale requirements would change customer service and sales operations, or customer satisfaction and cost.”

Binienda said that he’s “asking [wireless carriers] to do a little bit of work,” but that sounds like political rhetoric. It’s clear that while he wants this legislation, he has no feasible way of going about it. Until that day comes, it makes little sense to require ID for prepaid phones.