Hi Jim. thanks for sharing your thoughts. You're correct that WHOIS information has always been made public. With the privacy services we mentioned, that information is obscured. In such cases, the registrar usually acts as a proxy, listing it's own information instead of the registrants. However, there are some registries that don't allow this. Those registries often provide other privacy options or limit the information that is displayed in some way.
While you may feel that a privacy service is of little value, many domain registrants purchase these services because they have legitimate concerns about publishing their contact details online. We offer the service as a way to keep that information safe.
As for the cost involved with our service in particular, each company chooses to handle privacy in it's own way. We've chosen to have dedicated staff for dealing with support issues, complaints, and investigations. This additional level of support and protection requires that a fee be added to the service. Hope that clears up some of your concerns. ^W