Because Sprint/Nextel have raised their text messaging charges from 10 cents to 15 cents, customers have the right to get out of their contracts without an early termination fee-- or can threaten to leave and get some goodies to urge them to stay. But you've only got until October 31st, maybe sooner!
My understanding is that if you don't have a text message package and you have sent or received at least one text message in the last couple months, this is a "material change" that gives you the right to get out of your contract for free. (Or if you use the internet and don't have an unlimited internet plan, since that fee changed too.) The change was effective October 1st, so if you have already paid a bill that covers part of the month of October, it's effectively agreeing to the new terms so you're out of luck. (The CSRs may tell you that if you have sent or received text messages since Oct 1st you have also effectively agreed to the terms; you can fight it with that rep, or call back and try to find another one, since other people have gotten past that objection.)
I learned about this from Free the Drones , who has some good thoughts about the benefits of canceling your service. If you've been wanting to cancel for a while, this is a great opportunity; even if you haven't, it's still a chance to sign up for a new contract with all the associated bells and whistles (and sell your old phone for profit, too!).
But if you don't want to cancel, you can still come out ahead here, as long as you're willing and able to bluff. From what I can tell (threads at FatWallet, SlickDeals, Digg, Consumerist, etc), the CSRs are offering 500 free text messages a month to most people to get them to stay. And some people are getting even more goodies-- service credits, 10% or 20% discounts, free phones, extended free calling hours, free internet service. A lot of it will depend on who you happen to get on the phone, how persistent and convincing you are, if you can get to the Retention department vs regular CSRs, and how many times you're willing to call back! But if you're up for it, you might be in luck. I'll let you know how it goes for me!
Here's the language:
If we change a material term of the Agreement and that change has a material adverse effect on you, you may terminate the Agreement without an Early Termination Fee by calling 1-888-567-5528 within 30 days after the changes go into effect.
Here are some other phone numbers, courtesy of Consumerist, who says they checked 'em:
1-407-475-6982 Judy Rathcliffe, Retention Department Supervisor
And if you're not with Sprint or Nextel-- just keep your eyes open, wait for a "material change" in your contract, and you can do the same thing...