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June 3, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

AT&T Just Killed Unlimited Wireless Data (and Screwed Everybody in the Process) AT&T is likely just the first, since carriers rarely do anything alone (like when everybody launched unlimited voice calling in lockstep), and Verizon's CTO has rumbled that plans with "as much data as you can consume is the big issue that has to change." And so it is.
posted by Christ, what an asshole (133 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
just dumped the DeathStar (over other issues), god it felt good to do so. New carrier doesn't have quite as much coverage, but I feel 100% better about using them.
posted by edgeways at 10:08 AM on June 3, 2010


Sprint is looking pretty damn good right now.
posted by mullingitover at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, if you use 5GB of data, you're looking at a $55 bill for data.

Since I'm someone who doesn't ever even use wireless internet (and I guess is not therefore part of "everybody"), could someone indicate how much a typical user uses in a month?

First, consider that the old, non-iPhone tethering option offered you 5GB of tethering data for an extra $30 a month. The new plan charges you $20 extra to use the same 2GB pool of data for tethering. You are not buying extra data. You are simply paying extra to use it for tethering.

Wasn't that the same in the old plan? As I understand it (and I just had to look up "tethering", so I could very well not), I couldn't use any of my "unlimited data" for tethering. Instead I had to pay $30 to get 5GB.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on June 3, 2010


Well see if you read way down, they didn't actually kill it. They maimed it for anyone changing or buying a plan after June 7. If you already have an unlimited, you will remain on unlimited.
posted by spicynuts at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2010


I just checked my usage and, according to my iPhone, I've used just under 4 GB of total traffic since I bought it back in August of 2008.

I am outraged that AT&T is offering me the option to have a cheaper phone bill or keep my current unlimited plan! THIS WILL NOT STAND, SIR.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2010 [25 favorites]


This news prompted me to check my iPhone data usage. Turns out I've only used over 200mb one month in the 11 months I've had this phone. I thought I was a pretty heavy user. Guess not. So I suppose I'll be saving $15/mos now. Fucking AT&T.
posted by mullacc at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah. I've got mixed feelings about this. The only real screwjob is the $20 added fee AT&T charges for tethering a device to your phone, because the fee doesn't add any data to the 2GB cap. It's a nuisance fee, nothing more.

That said, what I really hate is being forced to think about what I view and what I download every time I click on a page. That is the real value of unlimited bandwidth; not having to concern myself with anything other than viewing whatever I clicked on.
posted by ardgedee at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I too was frequently under $200 per month. However, I chalk most of this up to the fact that EDGE is painfully slow so I avoided it like the plague. I'm really liking the EVO and may be walking around with one next week, cold watching hi-def Youtube while streaming Pandora and Last.fm simultaneously.

As for the tiers, I have to wonder if this is going to lead to some kind of intrusion into net neutrality. What if certain web sites don't count toward your monthly data limit? For example, Vimeo and Youtube will eat into your data allowance but buying music from iTunes will not?
posted by mullingitover at 10:18 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I could use a (legit, non-bricked) iPhone on any other carrier, I would.

But having drunk the Kool-Aid... can't go back. PRECIOUSSSSSSSSS... IT'S OUR PRECIOUSSSSSSSS.....
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:18 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since I'm someone who doesn't ever even use wireless internet (and I guess is not therefore part of "everybody"), could someone indicate how much a typical user uses in a month?

10.8GB in the last, uh, two years here. Chez Fairytale in toto has probably used about 15-18GB in two years between two iPhones and one 3G iPad.

John Gruber rightly points out that the $20 charge for tethering without a raised data cap is bullshit. His longer post on the overall issue is pretty good too.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2010


er $200 = 200mb. I can't brain today, I have teh dumb.
posted by mullingitover at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come buy a wireless data plan in Canada and then tell me again how you are all getting screwed over.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2010 [14 favorites]


That is the real value of unlimited bandwidth; not having to concern myself with anything other than viewing whatever I clicked on.

I was just looking at my usage, and I could probably save some money by bumping down to the 200MB plan. I won't do that though, and this is exactly the reason why.
posted by rollbiz at 10:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, well. There goes my desire for an iPhone. If I'm going to have to fret over data usage, I'll just keep my touch and use wifi.
posted by rusty at 10:22 AM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dear nascent moguls of cloud computing: a metered internet will either kill your dreams stone dead, or stunt them into starveling, flickering wraiths of the glorious gleams that twinkle in your eyes. Y'all might want to take that into account and maneuver accordingly. (Also: last year's rant from the fake Steve Jobs.)
posted by kipmanley at 10:23 AM on June 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sprint does look awesome. around $50/GB if you go over your 5GB of 3G service (see Data Usage Limitation) and they opt to charge you for it. T-Mobile won't charge you overage but they will cap your speeds. Verizon has overage charges too, but I can't find good (recent) data on it.

to be honest, I can't understand the hewing and hawing about this - it's not unlimited anymore, but at least they're being honest about it and telling you on the front end, and they're backing it up with making the overage charges known and (relatively) cheap and cutting the cost of the plans. the only real bad bits I can see is if you buy an iPad after the 7th (since you won't get the ability to use the plans they announced when it launched) or if you want to tether - 2GB is kinda lame if you're tethering a computer. I've no special place in my heart for AT&T but at least this isn't outright customer-hostile.
posted by mrg at 10:24 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


AT&T claims that 98% of its data plan customers use less than 2GB/month. This may be true now, but with the coming of video conferencing, Netflix streaming, and other data-intensive applications, I'm not so sure it will remain true.

As others have mentioned, the $20 for tethering + $25 for 2GB is absurd. Anyone who has tethered has probably seen their data usage go through the roof. A friend of mine tethered for a few days during a cable outage. In those 3 days he used over 3 times as much data as he uses in a typical month on his iPhone alone.

The worst part is probably the iPad data plan bait and switch. Apple really played up the 'revolutionary' pricing scheme: $30 for unlimited data without a contract. True, if you're on that plan now and never cancel it you can keep it. But of course that kind of negates the purpose of the 'no contract' plan.

And of course, none of this will do anything to curb abuse by people who jailbreak to tether. They'll just stay on the $30/5GB plan (or the iPad $30/unlimited plan), jailbreak to tether, and merrily consume tons of bandwidth.
posted by jedicus at 10:24 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


NYTs coverage. For most people, this is actually going to be a money saver.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2010


Obviously some people ARE using more than the quota, or the companies have done studies that show that in general people will use less if their data is limited, so they aren't doing it to help you, don't kid yourself. It might help you by accident, but it's not intended to be in your best interest, not by a longshot.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


This may be true now, but with the coming of video conferencing, Netflix streaming, and other data-intensive applications, I'm not so sure it will remain true.

With metered bandwidth, the coming of those things will be delayed indefinitely.
posted by rusty at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


In addition to making money, I think this is also in preparation for 4G tethering. If you have say, an Android based phone that has a 3 - 4 megabit downlink and the ability to be a wifi hotspot, and you live alone, why not cancel your in home data plan and just use your phone. Cap the phone, 2 payment streams from you.
posted by casual observer at 10:27 AM on June 3, 2010


Come buy a wireless data plan in Canada and then tell me again how you are all getting screwed over.

Please elaborate, for us curious but clueless Duhmericans.
posted by dust of the stars at 10:28 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


First, I'd like to say cheers on leading your post with an hyperbolic, rambling post from the bastion of fine journalism that is Gizmodo. You can be certain you're going to see an even-handed analysis when the forgone conclusion is that everyone is getting "screwed".

Unlimited data is an untenable arrangement for carriers to offer to customers because that's not the nature of the resource. It is finite. In the earlier days of smartphones and mobile broadband devices, it was fine (generally) to market their plans as unlimited because it allowed the customer to not have to worry about what they were viewing and whether that next PDF download was going to cost them dearly, because in aggregate, everyone wasn't using all that much. The companies were charging what they thought was fair for total usage divided amongst the consumers.

Now, with the current state of affairs with constrained spectrum, sites using more and more bandwidth for more and more media content, that has to change. They cited that 98% of users used less than 2GB a month. For those people, the new plan is a benefit to them because of the cost savings. The overages are reasonable, relative to what the industry usually had billed data overages at, so there's really a nonstory here.

The reason why this is getting blown out of proportion on the internets is as usual, those lovable nerds who decided to put on their CEO-hat yesterday morning. The ones that want to BitTorrent all day, stream video constantly and use their devices in ways that violate the Terms of Service they agreed to. You may also remember these nerds from their other hats: television ratings expert, media conglomerate executive, impromptu economist, and more.

For most people, this won't matter in the least. Current customers are grandfathered into their old unlimited plans. AT&T said that they could keep them even when upgrading to another device (like other carriers have done in the past in similar moves), and most people, net net will save money. Others, like the loud internet masses, will finally pay their fair share for their usage and not have the rest of the subscriber base subsidize their usage.
posted by cgomez at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Duhmericans

Oh man. Best neologism ever.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since I'm someone who doesn't ever even use wireless internet (and I guess is not therefore part of "everybody"), could someone indicate how much a typical user uses in a month?
I've had my iPhone for about a year and I think I make pretty heavy use of it. I download and use a lot of apps, especially when I'm on the road and bored. I use it a LOT to keep up on email and review various web stuff while it's under development. I listen to last.fm streams, and so on. When I'm traveling it's usually my only link with client projects that are changing rapidly. I also use it to push content to Flickr when I want to stay active but don't have my full sized camera with me. I'll upload three minute long movies to YouTube and occasionally do short streaming videocasts with uStream.

I checked my data usage after the news came out and discovered that I have used a little over three gigs of data. That was worrisome, because the monthly cap for the high-end plan is just two gigs.

Then I realized that I'd used three gigs in the entire year I've had the phone. So, I can theoretically imagine someone using two gigs of data on their iPhone, but they'd have to be streaming movies from NetFlix or something like that. Perhaps other peoples' usage patterns differ from mine but I'm finding it tough to get worked up: I think of myself as a heavy user, and I'll be getting a price cut.
posted by verb at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2010


Come buy a wireless data plan in Canada and then tell me again how you are all getting screwed over.

Please elaborate, for us curious but clueless Duhmericans.


Canadians pay more for wireless than any other developed country in the world. The market's opened up a bit with a few new carries coming in offering unlimited, which previously was unheard of. When I moved here 4 years ago, I called around the wireless companies looking for a plan comparable to my old plan in Florida - an unlimited wireless plan through Cingular Wireless/AT&T - I was basically hung up on, laughed at or otherwise shut down. The closest thing they had at the time was a ~100 dollar per month plan which still had strings attached.
posted by SassHat at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


RIM has actually been pushing for tiered data plans - BlackBerry handsets use much less data because of better compression systems than Android, iphone and Windows units. While was nice to be able to pay a fixed price for "unlimited" (and come on, we all know that it wasn't truly unlimited anyways) most BlackBerry users should be happy for the change because it will result in a lower bill for most.
posted by jeffmik at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2010


Others, like the loud internet masses, will finally pay their fair share for their usage and not have the rest of the subscriber base subsidize their usage.

Except they won't. They'll keep their $30/5GB soft-capped plans or their $30/unlimited plans and use hacks to tether their devices. It's a remarkably dumb move on AT&T's part, in my opinion, because it's actually going to get them less money from most subscribers to pay for subsidizing those who abuse the system.

Far better would've been to simply enforce the existing caps and terms of service for the most egregious offenders (e.g., people downloading 10GB+/month via their jailbroken iPhones).
posted by jedicus at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2010


Please elaborate, for us curious but clueless Duhmericans.

$55/mo for 500MB of data and 200 minutes of voice. Texting, voicemail, caller ID and the like are all extra.

If you want an iPhone in Canada, for the last three years, that has been your only option.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me play devil's advocate. Comcast used to pitch their plans as "unlimited," and would then send cease and desist letters to heavy users (followed by cutting off service for the remainder of the month if the user kept up, IIRC), without stating how much usage is over the limit, as they didn't even want people to approach that limit. Eventually, people complained and Comcast eventually set the limit at 250 GB.

Since AT&T has the iPad and later, 4G tethering, people are going to be downloading and streaming a lot of media. Especially for people who try to use their 4G account like a home broadband package (say, for bit torrent), they could create a really heavy (and expensive) load for AT&T, followed by the same embarrassment that Comcast faced when they had to cap accounts after users began exceeding network capacity.

AT&T is being more open at least. Of course, I think the best thing to do would be to add more tiers to the service and up the price of the "unlimited" plan (making it really expensive, but available for users who really want/need that much bandwidth), and continue to add to infrastructure.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2010


what I really hate is being forced to think about what I view and what I download every time I click on a page

You don't. Look, you're currently paying $30/mo for unlimited. Drop to the $15/mo plan. Check your bill at the end of the month, based on your past usage, you'll be fine. If you go over, you'll probably just be billed $10, which is still under the old fee, and if you hit that more than one a quarter, move to the $25/mo plan...which is still cheaper that the old unlimited plan which you weren't using anyway.

I'm no fan of the telcos, but the way this is being spun is weird. 98% of us get cheaper rates, and ATT protects itself from people replacing their DSL with a tethered cell phone. What's the big deal?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:36 AM on June 3, 2010


The 'omg we're going to run out of internets if we don't cap bandwidth, it's already killing our service' argument that AT&T is making is a red herring. Outdated and poorly planned network infrastructure is what's killing their service.
posted by mullingitover at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


I restored my phone about a month ago and I just checked my usage. 2.5GB in about a month.

my aircard only works for the first 10 days of the month because I go over the 5GB limit in a little over a week, so I end up doing EVERYTHING on my iPhone instead.

This really screws me... if I ever have to change my plan.
posted by subaruwrx at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2010


98% of us get cheaper rates, and ATT protects itself from people replacing their DSL with a tethered cell phone. What's the big deal?

98% of smartphone users, not necessarily iPad 3G users, who I expect will use more data than smartphone users. The iPad 3G users got a pretty raw deal. And anyway the abusers will just stay on the current plans and continue to tether as they always have, so AT&T isn't really protecting itself except from new customers who might try to abuse the system.

And like others have said, by choosing to throttle back the availability of bandwidth (as opposed to investing more of its ~$12 billion annual profits into building infrastructure), AT&T is killing new rich content delivery mechanisms before they can get off the ground.
posted by jedicus at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2010


I restored my phone about a month ago and I just checked my usage. 2.5GB in about a month.
I'm curious - what is it that you're doing with your phone? I'm not saying that you shouldn't be able to, just trying to figure out what usage pattern puts someone so much higher than me in the bits-per-month realm.
posted by verb at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010


besides, my total charges are about $150 - $180 (business expenses for iPhone and aircard) a month and for that I get about 5 dropped calls a day, intermittent "No Service" messages and all sorts of other crap. Fuck AT&T.
posted by subaruwrx at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010



Please elaborate, for us curious but clueless Duhmericans.


Canada:

$100/mo. for 3GB, 550 voice minutes and "unlimited wireless at Starbucks."

And that's the new, much more reasonable, data plan.
posted by Shepherd at 10:44 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am one of the people AT&T hates. I have unlimited dfata and I damn well make use of it - I watch a lot of YouTube while roaming around a lot (well, technically it;s not me watching - it's an excelent child pacification measure I thoroughly recommend). Also my wireless doesn;t get on with my iPhone so I pretty much just leave it on 3G ll the time.

So no, I will not be switching to this new plan. Unlimited data is what i signed up for when I signed up for the phone, and it's how I use it.

Of course, I don't believe I have to change, it seems like I can just keep my current plan as long as I don't opt out. If that turns out not to be the case, then it's bye bye AT&T.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on June 3, 2010


I've had the iPhone for about a year and average out to around 1.5 gigs per month, mainly from streaming audio all day at work. Yeah, that is a lot of usage, but the thing doesn't have an AM/FM radio built in specifically because Apple thinks internet radio is the future.

If I don't get unlimited data I won't be getting a smart phone again when I am done with the iPhone. It is already expensive as hell and I would surely go over the cap once streaming video and stuff gets big.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2010


Well, Verb I use my phone for downloading quite a few attachments (architectural drawings in PDF), iTunes and app store, network testing, video streaming, HEAVY email usage, HEAVY web browsing and RDP.

I usually use my aircard for that, but like I said, I go over 5gb quite easily on that.
posted by subaruwrx at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2010


What's the big deal?

Well, we were sold (bandwidth *infinity) for x dollars per month, and now we're going to have to pay x + ? for substantially less than (bandwidth *infinity).

That most people weren't using anywhere near the new cap is immaterial; the perceived value of the deal has been changed, and boy does that piss us off.

I use 'we' and 'us' in the loosest possible sense, mind you.
posted by Mooski at 10:47 AM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I recently switched to Verizon's 3G service for my primary internet connection. It's the same cost mrg is paying for Sprint, $60 for 5 gigs plus $50/gig if you go over. There is a website where you can check your usage. I went with Verizon because I knew I have a good 3G signal at my house; the service is just as fast as my old DSL landline which AT&T couldn't seem to keep working.

Having been tracking my usage for several months now, I can say categorically that the only way you will come anywhere near 5 gigabytes in a month is if you are doing file sharing or watching video. If YouTube and Hulu did not exist I probably wouldn't ever get anywhere near 1 gigabyte in a month. So I ignore the cap for normal usage but I keep track of where I am for the month before watching video. It's not that big of a nuisance.

And the MiFi2200 portable 3G wireless hotspot is the best thing *ever*. (A friend of mine has one and uses an iPod Touch with a hands-free kit and Skype instead of an iPhone.) Next time I have to evacuate for a hurricane I can put my internet connection in my shirt pocket, and use it even if the hotel I end up in doesn't have wifi.
posted by localroger at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2010


This only applies to new users, which is kind of an important point.
Dear nascent moguls of cloud computing: a metered internet will either kill your dreams stone dead, or stunt them into starveling, flickering wraiths of the glorious gleams that twinkle in your eyes.
I think it's really unlikely that people are going to give up their home internet connections, and wifi for their phones at home/work. This really only applies to people on the go. Maybe for people who take a train to work, this is a big deal, but I think for most people mobile internet isn't all that big of a deal.

Mobile internet is getting a lot of attention because it's a growth market, but it's not replacing traditional internet connections. One thing that's nice about it, though, is that it brings back competition. With cable/DSL you really only have one provider to choose from, but with mobile internet there are lots of options.
And of course, none of this will do anything to curb abuse by people who jailbreak to tether. They'll just stay on the $30/5GB plan (or the iPad $30/unlimited plan), jailbreak to tether, and merrily consume tons of bandwidth.
Well, I thought the whole point of the iPad was that it replaced your PC for web surfing, so a tethered iPad shouldn't use too much more bandwidth then a regular PC, right? Unless you're torrenting like crazy. Surfing in a phone isn't really that much fun, compared to a nice monitor, but surfing on a tablet could be pretty reasonable.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2010


I average 1.2GB/month on my iPhone. I pay $30/month for 6GB. I get tethering for free.

I am Canadian.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2010


I still have my 1st-gen iPhone and it's $20 unlimited data plan. And you can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands (or, I guess take it out of the cup holder if I'm using the bluetooth thingy in my car.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2010


Well, I thought the whole point of the iPad was that it replaced your PC for web surfing, so a tethered iPad shouldn't use too much more bandwidth then a regular PC, right? Unless you're torrenting like crazy. Surfing in a phone isn't really that much fun, compared to a nice monitor, but surfing on a tablet could be pretty reasonable.

Maybe I wasn't clear. The abusers use their iPhones or iPads as 3G modems for their regular computers. They stream video, torrent, etc on their PCs via their iPhone or iPad. I've seen lots of anecdotal reports from people claiming to regularly use 10GB+ that way without AT&T saying anything. The one report I've seen of someone getting hassled by AT&T was from a guy who claimed to use over 30GB in a month by, basically, continually saturating the connection with bittorrent. I think AT&T could've solved a lot of its problems by simply being a lot more proactive in enforcing their existing TOS against flagrant abusers.
posted by jedicus at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was all ready to be really pissed off, considering myself to be a "heavy user of wireless data," and then I went to AT&T's website and my report showed that I went above 200MB in a month exactly once since I bought my original iPhone the week it came out.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2010


I average 1.2GB/month on my iPhone. I pay $30/month for 6GB. I get tethering for free.

I am Canadian.


*IF* you got in on that special plan when you did, good for you. I know one other guy that has it. It is completely unavailable to anyone buying right now, and the second your plan expires, you will never get it again.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:00 AM on June 3, 2010


ATT protects itself from people replacing their DSL with a tethered cell phone.

This. CheeseDigestsAll nailed it.

Remember back in the BBS days how you only had a certain number of minutes to be connected to your favorite board? Well, there was a bottleneck set by the number of inbound phone lines so your friendly neighborhood sysop had to deal with it and time caps were the method. Want more time to play LORD or Elite? Better donate or bank your time.

Even most early commercial dialup internet had a fixed hourly rate. (Glad I dialed in via my brother's uni account...) Luckily the fat pipe of broadband has eliminated most of the restrictions (not all, as alluded above... but 99.9% of users don't reach any sort of limit.)

So now we've got wireless companies offering speeds approaching DSL/Cable... and at price we already pay for our smartphones? Sign me up! But wait - the 3G/4G pipe isn't quite as fat as your DSL or cable connection. So damn straight there are going to be caps.

Someday the current tech will reach the point where the caps aren't needed (it wasn't too many years ago where "unlimited cell phone minutes" was unthinkable...) Then we'll be set free. Until we hit the next tech breakthrough and the next cap. Rinse and repeat.
posted by m@f at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, we were sold (bandwidth *infinity) for x dollars per month

And you'll continue to get it. Existing users are grandfathered in.

If you really want to complain about getting ripped off, complain about $20/mo for unlimited text. Text messaging doesn't use the internet, it's basically no cost to the telcos (free ride on the control channel), and they're charging the proverbial arm+leg.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:03 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Its the future that's the worry, not the present.

Yes, *right*now* not too many people are using much wireless data. But by charging lots for data the carriers are going to kill innovation. Video phones, Hulu, etc all depend on bandwidth being extremely cheap.

How many HD movies can you watch for 5 gb? Answer: 0. A single HD movie is going to run around 10-20 gb.

This is why bandwidth caps on internet home service, or anything but extremely low prices for bandwidth, are a shitty deal. Want to watch some HD video via Hulu or the like? That 250gb cap on your home service is going to end that dream real quick.

The same, writ small, applies to mobile devices. Not many people are using such devices to their maximum potential right now, but absent the insanely low and expensive caps they would be. If this keeps up AT&T and their fellows will have successfully strangled the potential for mobile computing in its infancy.
posted by sotonohito at 11:04 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, we were sold (bandwidth *infinity) for x dollars per month, and now we're going to have to pay x + ? for substantially less than (bandwidth *infinity).

Yeah, but nobody's losing anything that they were sold. If you were sold unlimited bandwidth, you still have unlimited bandwidth, for the exact same price as before. Even if you upgrade to a new iPhone.

That offer just won't be available anymore for new subscribers. Honestly, compared to how much AT&T usually screws things up, I think they're handling this very reasonably. As for me, my bill's about to go down by $15 a month.
posted by designbot at 11:05 AM on June 3, 2010


m@f if you really believe that the carriers will ever lower prices let me tell you about this great bridge I can sell you....
posted by sotonohito at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2010


Yeah, like many others I was ready to go all pisspot about this, because I'm a nerd addicted to my phone so I assumed I was a heavy user. But then I went online and checked my usage, turns out in the last 14 months I've only gone over 200MB once, and that was a mere 207 MB. apparently I spend the vast majority of my time in wifi hotspots.

So starting June 7th I'll be saving $15 a month. Surprisingly I'm OK with that.
posted by Jezztek at 11:07 AM on June 3, 2010


Sotonohito - where did I say anything about lower prices?
posted by m@f at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2010


We're so far behind Finland, South Korea, Japan etc. in terms of getting people into the 21st Century. This latest insult to injury is just another example of how the telecom monopoly over connectivity and the Internet is bleeding America dry slowly, while the regulators look the other way.

It probably wouldn't have been much different if Google had won their wireless bid, either. FCC's ceiling is so high that all the "competitors" are smoking the same cigars in the same dimly-lit backroom.

As with healthcare, when a government or other entity does try to compete, lobbyists get busy and laws get put into place to maintain monopoly control.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How many HD movies can you watch for 5 gb? Answer: 0. A single HD movie is going to run around 10-20 gb.

From the article:

It's true, for most people (98 percent of users, says AT&T), 2GB a month might be fine—I've only used 1GB on my iPad 3G, even after streaming a ton of movies with the intent of killing my battery.

Average size of HD movie from iTunes (which wouldn't be downloaded on an iPhone, and which most people would download over Wi-Fi on an iPad): ~4 GB.
posted by designbot at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2010


Yeah, but nobody's losing anything that they were sold.

This is not true. iPad 3G users were sold a $30/unlimited plan that they could cancel and renew as needed. Now, they'll lose that plan unless they sign up for it before June 7th and never cancel it, which kind of kills the point of not having a contract.
posted by jedicus at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dear nascent moguls of cloud computing: a metered internet will either kill your dreams stone dead, or stunt them into starveling, flickering wraiths of the glorious gleams that twinkle in your eyes.

The problem is that an unmetered internet will also kill your dreams or starve you. People will find a way to use what you're selling them, and when enough of them do, you either have to be a jerk who takes back what they've sold (see: Dreamhost), or you have to eat the cost.

I'd much prefer a 5GB to a 2GB cap, but it's much higher than a lot of BS caps like 100MB in the recent past.

The important BS that remains: rather than going metered, you should be able to specify (and pay for) either a higher tier of usage, or that you want a hard cap so you don't ever have to pay it. Metered overage charges are predatory.

Also, charging extra for tethering is unmitigated BS. The data doesn't cost any extra no matter which device originates it.
posted by weston at 11:12 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


AT&T is the sole reason why I don't have an iPhone. The App Store is bullshit but I could probably hold my ideological nose and bear it, but there's just no way I'm putting up with ATT's consumer-hostile crap.

T-Mobile may not have the latest and greatest phones but they've never looked askance at me or demanded money just for the privilege of tethering (not that I would ever tell them -- that's the beauty of an un-crippled phone). I've had unlimited voice and data and will sometimes go months using only a few KB, but then I'll be somewhere without Internet and have to use it for tethering (via WiFi -- JoikuSpot is awesome), and burn through 50-100MB/day. It's never been a problem.

Apple's products may have more eye candy but they're not worth the AT&T screwjob.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, well. There goes my desire for an iPhone. If I'm going to have to fret over data usage, I'll just keep my touch and use wifi.

...

AT&T claims that 98% of its data plan customers use less than 2GB/month. This may be true now, but with the coming of video conferencing, Netflix streaming, and other data-intensive applications, I'm not so sure it will remain true.

Yep, this has nothing to do with "now." This is all about "the future" and setting the expectations for when data usage gets serious.

I'm not surprised. I assumed long ago that all the phone companies would eventually transition to Internet providers and voice calls would be made VoIP (or whatever other online technology is invented). I still think it will happen, but it's sure taking a while.

Wake me up when all the ISPs start charging by the GB (which they certainly might). Then I'll get scared.

As with healthcare, when a government or other entity does try to compete, lobbyists get busy and laws get put into place to maintain monopoly control.

Private business can't compete with the government. That would be unfair. WAAAAH!

you should be able to specify (and pay for) either a higher tier of usage, or that you want a hard cap so you don't ever have to pay it. Metered overage charges are predatory.

Amen. Another reason why I haven't bought into mobile yet.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2010


The raw deal in this is that for the extra $20 a month I pay for tethering, I don't get extra bandwidth. I mean, if I am paying $25/month for 2GB of traffic, fine. If I tether, and I use my 2GB up with that, that is no different in the eyes of ATT network than if I managed to download all of that on my iPhone or with skype video calls, so it's pretty much saying "well we sold you 2GB on the assumption that you would only use maybe 500MB, but now you have tethering, you are actually going to use the 2GB we said you had, so the real cost for us is actually $45/month". So my extra $20 is just going towards the privilege to enable a feature on my iPhone that ATT has disabled. If the $20 also counted towards, even a 1GB increase in bandwidth, it wouldn't seem as much as a raw deal.

Adding tethering to my iphone, along with an additional $30/month to get 5gb of traffic, to match sprints 5gb cap, I still save $5. Now the difference is the 4G cards have unlimited bandwidth while on WiMAX, which as m@f points out, is par for the course. 4G networks may support unlimited traffic plans for customers, granted that the telcos are now trying to set the expectation that $10=1GB in wireless traffic in the minds of the customers.

As for my personal data usage? The most I've used in a month ever on my iPhone is 380MB. I am probably going to get the 2GB plan + tethering since it is still cheaper than paying for an additional 4G sprint card plan with another carrier, and it is one less thing for me to carry in my travel kit.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:17 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The savvy large downloaders who buy their phones unlocked won't be affected because they're already not paying the smart phone data markup or for tethering.
posted by kmz at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2010


"Now, with the current state of affairs with constrained spectrum, sites using more and more bandwidth for more and more media content, that has to change. They cited that 98% of users used less than 2GB a month. For those people, the new plan is a benefit to them because of the cost savings. The overages are reasonable, relative to what the industry usually had billed data overages at, so there's really a nonstory here."

I wonder a couple things:
  1. How is that usage trending? If it's been growing at 10% per month then the percentage of users under 2GB is going to fall rapidly.
  2. What is the theoretical max? Could my 16 year old rack up thousands in data charges over a month?
posted by Mitheral at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2010


Given the rumors over the end of AT&T iPhone exclusivity, I wonder if part of the calculus is to motivate current AT&T iPhone customers to stay with their current unlimited bandwidth plans and, as a result, with AT&T. Of course, this falls apart if other carriers do end up offering the iPhone with unlimited data plans.

I never reset my usage statistics on my phone since I got it about two years ago and it shows that I have only downloaded some 2 gigs of data in that time. I'm not completely surprised because I have been very diligent in opting for wifi instead of cellular data due to the speed difference. The rational thing for me to do here is to forgo the unlimited data plan since I'm in range of a wifi network for the general case but there is definitely an emotional disincentive to step down from an unlimited data plan.

As cellular network bandwidth increases I expect VOIP over the cellular network will follow and this would be a way for AT&T to derive revenue where they would otherwise not be. Personally, I would use my phone in this way to avoid international long distance charges but it's not exactly viable with AT&T's network in my experience.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2010


i am with verizon. i am fortunate in that the palm pre plus still has actual unlimited data for the phone (it has a 5GB limit when used as a hotspot).

i am all for paying for a larger plan to accomadate what i want to do with my phone (listen to pandora at work because i can't stream on our work network and i can't get a radio signal AT ALL, but get 3G just fine).

i know i use more data than the average bear, but i would be willing to pay for it. the fact that the carriers are acting like no one should use data or if they do, pay enormously for it, is what irks me. why is it 2GB, 5GB or nothing? ok, verizon also offers a 10MB plan for like $100 for the mifi.

but why can't they just send us a warning when approaching the limit? why can't they just disable data access when the limit is reached rather than charging $700?

i just don't understand why the options are so limited. well, i do, we're all in contracts ad don't have any other optoins because our devices are tied to carriers. kind of like health insurance, i'm bound to what my employer offers and have to choose a bad plan if that's all that is offered.

it's like the people who want/need a service are unable to pick and choose that service, but are instead limited by arbitray rules that benefit the service providers not the consumer.

glad i didn't get an ipad on the first go round and get screwed on that whole 'no contract' thing. what a joke.
posted by sio42 at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2010


Unlimited data is an untenable arrangement for carriers to offer to customers because that's not the nature of the resource. It is finite.

Food is finite, but there are still plenty of all-you-can-eat restaurants around. AT&T is a big company, which gives it the ability to hedge their gluttonous users with their regular users.

It's really important to see this from the nature of the technology, you're right about that. But the nature of the technology is no better reflected in the new pricing models than in the old. Network availability doesn't reset at the beginning of each month and run out as people use it. If every AT&T user switched to the 200mb plan and tried to use it all the first day of the month, that would be well within the conceptual model of their contract but would obliterate the network.

If we're going to limit the contracts to reflect the limits of the infrastructure, then we have to limit throughput... which is already implemented! "Unlimited data" doesn't guarantee infinite bandwidth and so AT&T could easily throttle the network as needed without abandoning that concept.

Really, the obvious reason for this is to serve as a chilling effect for people adopting new high-bandwidth apps like Netflix streaming. The new pricing policy doesn't address the technical concerns that AT&T says it does.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Please elaborate, for us curious but clueless Duhmericans.

Can you stand one more example? How about my $2000+ bill I got the first month on my smartphone? That was for the data usage alone. Things are better now, I hear, but those are waters you don't dip in twice.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2010


What is the theoretical max? Could my 16 year old rack up thousands in data charges over a month?

Suppose you were getting a quasi-miraculous 7Mbps down from your iPhone, which is about the max that the iPhone 3GS supports. Now suppose you were tethering and maxed it out for a month using bittorrent on a tethered desktop or something. That would amount to ~2,301GB or ~$23,000 in overage fees.

Now, realistically, few people manage to keep even their DSL or cable connections maxed out all month. A more realistic "really high usage" level might be the 250GB that Comcast uses as its bandwidth cap. Even that would cost you $2500 in overage fees.

So, yeah, if you've got a reckless teenager who might abuse tethering (via jailbreaking or otherwise), it could easily cost you quite a lot.
posted by jedicus at 11:41 AM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


$55/mo for 500MB of data and 200 minutes of voice. Texting, voicemail, caller ID and the like are all extra.

If you want an iPhone in Canada, for the last three years, that has been your only option.


Good lord -- I got the $30 for 6GB plan 1.5 years ago, and I still bitch about Rogers. (After all the ludicrous extra fees for luxuries like voicemail or caller ID, and with a decent voice/text package, my total bill is still about $100/month.) I had no idea I had it so "good." I would never have signed up for an iPhone with the packages they're offering now.
posted by chalkbored at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2010


I think there should be a dozen more wireless companies.
posted by Skygazer at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


For all of you saying "I have only used this much data since I got my phone", consider the explosion of (first) streaming music, then streaming video, then streaming HD video on the internet. The bandwidth was the primary limiting factor for successful mainstreaming of those technologies, but now that hurdle is past.

The same is not true of your phone. That is, the bandwidth is the limiting factor, but that hurdle is not yet past. You may use a smaller amount now, but I promise you, in three or four years your usage is going to explode as 4G and future technologies make it easier and faster to download desktop computer levels of content.

You may not be suffering now, but you will be, soon enough.
posted by davejay at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


One need only look at the customer gouging texting prices to understand that cell phone companies are not pricing things based on actual cost to themselves. A mobile to mobile text message of a single character that I receive costs me 20 cents on AT&T (even if you sign up for unlimited data because SMSs aren't data...apparently...). They can and will gouge you whenever they feel they'll get away with it. Don't make the mistake of thinking they'll do just about anything for your benefit.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, AT&T et al realize this is the case -- that's why they're rolling out something that, on the face of it, appears to be losing money for them overall. The only reason they'd accept losses on this deal is if they're making it up in volume (they're not, considering the deals for new customers appear worse than previously seen according to some commenters in this thread) or they anticipate the losses to be short term and offset by long term gain. I know what my money's bet on.
posted by davejay at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


they anticipate the losses to be short term and offset by long term gain. I know what my money's bet on

With iPhone OS 4's multitasking allowing networked apps to run in the background, people will be using more and more bandwidth without thinking about it. If I didn't have any scruples I'd be buying AT&T stock, given the new pricing model.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something had to change. With all the bandwidth sucking apps and streaming and whatall, who exactly was going to support that? At some point someone has to make a profit, and that's what they're doing.

Of course I'm till using my RAZR, so what the hell do I know?

(Former AT&T employee)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2010


I pay $30/month for 6GB. I get tethering for free.

I am Canadian.


I have this plan as well and love it. It is the only reason I ever considered the iPhone.
posted by aclevername at 12:01 PM on June 3, 2010


I have T-Mobile, but just for shits and giggles I checked my data usage. Holy crap! I used 577 MB last month and I'm up to 387 MB this month! Is this from my MLB At Bat streaming audio (at least some of which is over wifi)? The only other large-ish data downloads should be app updates.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2010


I really don't see an issue with tiered wireless service - unlimited access just makes it harder for them to predict what capacity they need and leads to a worse experience for everyone.

What I do hate is the way they tend to enforce these limits, by charging exorbitant fees whenever you go over some arbitrary line. That really should be illegal - if there are going to be tiers of service, they should do something more customer-friendly like throttle and not let you exceed your limit, or just send you a reminder text. Ideally there would be some kind of grace period, or the option to retroactively upgrade.

Also, how long until we start seeing carriers advertising "rollover" bytes?
posted by heathkit at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


With iPhone OS 4's multitasking allowing networked apps to run in the background, people will be using more and more bandwidth without thinking about it.

Exactly, streaming audio is a huge suck. If they are using low quality 96 kbps audio, that 200 MB per month gets you 284 minutes, or just 10 minutes per day.
posted by smackfu at 12:13 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I would like to see is how much data iPad users are *actually* consuming over 3G by doing things like reading emails, watching Netflix films, and the like. I'm considering buying a 3G iPad, and one of the selling points was indeed the 'flexibility' in the contract - there are some months where I will probably use a lot of data (traveling and the like), and others where I will use very little. However, the primate hindbrain (which is prone to panic mode thinking) is telling me I have to get the iPad NOW, so I can lock myself into an Unlimited Plan Just In Case I go over.

But the rest of my brain? It likes charts and graphs and shiny sparkly numbers.

(My usage is primarily webpages and email, with occasional streaming of music from last.fm and Netflix films).
posted by spinifex23 at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2010


Sprint does look awesome. around $50/GB if you go over your 5GB of 3G service (see Data Usage Limitation) and they opt to charge you for it.

what are you talking about?...that article is 2 years old and that plan never materialized. (at least in my area)...sprint is more than awesome compared to all of the other carriers (no snark this time)...i've been doing the pricing lately (considering the evo 4G)...sprint is $69/mo for unlimited everything...well, with one exception...calling landlines. then you only get 450 minutes...mobile-to mobile (any carrier) is unlimited. 4G is only $10/mo more. (my roommate has this plan...says it's legit)

'tethering' is bullshit. it's not something you pay for, it's an app. you download it.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Help me out here:

I'm on the existing iPhone plan + $20 for unlimited texts. I plan on getting the new iPhone as soon as next week, I hope.

Being an existing iPhone customer, will I be able to stay "grandfathered" in my old plan (my 2 years won't be up) or will I be forced to pick one of the new data structures with the new iPhone?
posted by sourwookie at 12:24 PM on June 3, 2010


If you have a first generation iPhone, you'll be forced into a new plan by going to a 3G phone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 PM on June 3, 2010


FWIW, here in the Netherlands I pay €30/mo (USD 37) for 150 minutes, 150 texts and unlimited data on T-Mobile (which has the subsidized iPhone monopoly in NL). In 9 months of use I downloaded 5.1 GB, or about 580 MB a month. (That does include the honeymoon first couple of months where I frequently went on download binges.)

Two observations:

-If I had to pay USD 50 a month and still not get any texting action, I wouldn't.
-I never before felt the urge to watch the news on the bus, but now that I can, I do.

Mine is a convenient position to argue from, I understand that. But if my plan wasn't available at this price with (a) texting and (b) unlimited data (I'd settle for a 1 GB cap, maybe 500 MB), I probably wouldn't have gone for an iPhone in the first place. That's not a point of criticism of Apple or the service providers: it's just not worth that much to me personally.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:26 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


...they anticipate the losses to be short term and offset by long term gain. I know what my money's bet on.

Certainly this is the case. But did anyone ever expect otherwise?

The old unlimited plan was the aberration in my mind--it relied on the majority of (low bandwidth) users to subsidize the high bandwidth users. Now it's flipped. The high bandwidth user--likely an early adopter--pays a price for being ahead of the curve. And the late adopting masses get the better deal. That makes sense to me. The unlimited plans were an aberration, but that was probably because the entire concept of mobile internet was unproven. Now that mobile internet is becoming mainstream the pricing structure is normalizing.
posted by mullacc at 12:28 PM on June 3, 2010


If you have a first generation iPhone, you'll be forced into a new plan by going to a 3G phone.

I have a 3G already, planning on getting whatever is announced next week.
posted by sourwookie at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2010


Haha! Now it is my turn to make all you people with cool phones feel dumb! Feel it, dummies! Feel my "phone only makes phone calls" wrath!
posted by Mister_A at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2010



Haha! Now it is my turn to make all you people with cool phones feel dumb! Feel it, dummies! Feel my "phone only makes phone calls" wrath!


Pfft, we get to keep our unlimited plans if we want. This is only bad for people who were slow to join us on the bandwagon...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2010


I know everyone and John Gruber is aghast at the $20 tethering charge, but it makes sense to me.

Before, everyone paid $30 for 5GB a month. Most people use way less than this, and they end up paying for the 2% who count their usage in GBs. That $30/month price is a major barrier to expanding their users, but they need to charge money to maintain their stuff.

For the new plans, it's really about *expected averages* rather than caps. People capped at 200MB/mo ($15/mo) will probably average less - 150MB/mo, let's say. People capped at 2GB/mo ($25/mo) will probably average far less, probably close to 300MB/mo. To them, the plan is cheaper and they have little worry of going over. People who really want tethering, and are running desktops or laptops now accoustomed to always-on high-speed internet, are expected to use more data - let's make up a number and say they average 700MB/mo - still less than that cap, but way higher than people who don't want tethering. AT&T expects their average to be higher, and so it charges. That 2% which was taking full advantage of their plans now has to pay in proportion to their demand. The cost to AT&T is from averages, not maximums, and by aligning their prices with their costs, they can get more customers.

Also, what davejay said.
posted by Galt at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2010


With real competition, UK users get iPad deals ranging from slightly better to WAY better. If we consider £15 to be roughly comparable to $25, the slightly better is 3GB to our 2, offered by most of them. The WAY better is the 10GB for £15 from three.co.uk.

And they even have the option of ordering a 200MB block for a single day, for -- get this -- £2, or $1GB for a week for £7.50. These would be useful options for people who can get what they need from WiFi when at home but will be traveling and don't want to risk being without connectivity. Either one's a damn sight better than 200MB/mo for $15.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:03 PM on June 3, 2010


RIMM spent many years developing bandwidth-efficient systems. I don't think they'd consider "just use IMAP" to be innovation. This is another reason why the Wired ipad app is an embarrassment. Remember all that green tech? Efficiency calls for innovation as much as just spewing out the first piece of crap uncompressed pdf-knockoff shit that you can.

The tethering fee is problematic but this is an evolving process. I use about 300 megs a month and pay $30 for it now, obviously AT&T expects me to get on the $25 plan which nominally offers 2 gigs but they still expect it to be greatly under subscribed and therefore want to pick on the tetherers.

Eventually you'll pick up your phone in the morning and your slacker, pandora, etc will have updated your multi-gigabyte cache.
posted by Wood at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2010


> Being an existing iPhone customer, will I be able to stay "grandfathered" in my old plan (my 2 years won't be up) or will I be forced to pick one of the new data structures with the new iPhone?

If you have a 1st gen iPhone as of June 7, you are grandfathered into qualifying for the $30 unlimited plan when you upgrade to any 3G phone.

If you already have a 3G phone as of June 7, you can upgrade to a different 3G phone and retain your $30 unlimited plan OR you can change to one of the metered plans, it's your choice.

Once you change to one of the metered plans, however, you can't change back to the $30 unlimited plan.

For data tethering, you have to change to the $25/2 GB metered plan (and then sign up for the tethering for an added $20) and you can't change back to the unlimited plan.

The only remaining gotcha is trading in your phone before its two years are up. Last year, as long as you'd had your iPhone for 18 months or more, you don't have to pay AT&T a penalty to replace it. I have no idea what the rules are this year, other than that AT&T has increased the penalty fees.
posted by ardgedee at 1:15 PM on June 3, 2010


I have a 3G already, planning on getting whatever is announced next week.

Then you will be unable to get an unlimited plan for it without jailbreaking it and switching to a carrier that doesn't hate you.
posted by kafziel at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2010


Eh, if this pricing had been the rule at the start, I probably never would have bought an iPhone. The problem is, internet usage isn't obvious or intuitive. If I have to worry about rapacious overage fees, I'm not going to mess around with the internet and have fun with it - and that's what I bought the device for.

I mean, sure, I haven't even used 2gb yet and I've had it at least half a year - but I can't guarantee my usage won't go flying way up when I start messing around with remote accessing a desktop, or streaming video whenever that comes around, or whatever. I wouldn't have even tried streaming internet radio if I wasn't absolutely certain I wouldn't end up with some five-digit overage bill. If I have to worry about what I'm doing with it, it isn't fun, and fun is mostly what I bought it for.

Fortunately, this doesn't really effect me, since I'm already on the old 'unlimited' plan, but I really feel sorry for those people who bought 3G iPads- they'll need much more bandwidth to many any meaningful use of their devices.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2010


Canadians pay more for wireless than any other developed country in the world.

No, I don't think so.

I pay $10 per 100 MB per month. Whining weenies. You lot don't know what "fucked over" is.

The reason why this is getting blown out of proportion on the internets is as usual, those lovable nerds who decided to put on their CEO-hat yesterday morning. The ones that want to BitTorrent all day, stream video constantly and use their devices in ways that violate the Terms of Service they agreed to. You may also remember these nerds from their other hats: television ratings expert, media conglomerate executive, impromptu economist, and more.


Gold, sir, gold.
posted by rodgerd at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2010


I'm another one of the folks whose bill will probably be going down. My husband's usage is over 200 MB regularly, but mine was only over 200 MB during March (SXSW, and I remember buying an album on my phone, which is very unusual for me). I don't find myself feeling particularly stifled because I don't stream music--I have an actual music collection for that--or video. I email, surf a little, read RSS, do maps, and other tasks that aren't data-intensive on 3G, in large part because 3G is still slow compared to wifi or my home DSL connection for heavy-download tasks. If I loaded a movie, I'd do it over wifi or sync it on USB.

Yeah, it sucks that the unlimited plan is going away from new accounts. It sucks that somewhere down the road we'll completely lose the unlimited plan, and it sucks for the iPad users. And maybe AT&T (where, full disclosure, my husband works in the wifi group that puts wifi in your Starbucks) should have planned their 3G infrastructure better. But the whole point of a device like the iPhone being paradigm-breaking or revolutionary or whatever word you want to use is that it's hard to predict what the effects will be. Any cell phone company/network in the US would have had the same kinds of problems. Steve Jobs just said as much at some tech conference recently.

I keep reading people talking about how limited data plans are going to strangle mobile computing and how AT&T's network sucks and they hate their customers, and I admit to wondering where these folks think the infrastructure to bring them 3G bandwidth (physical towers, spectrum, workers to do design, construction, and maintenance, etc.), never mind upcoming 4G bandwidth comes from. That's all got to be paid for somehow. Nobody, including me, wants to pay for it, but either we pay somehow or other or the companies that own the networks can't expand and improve coverage. Yeah, it sucks, and maybe this particular implementation is unfair to iPad users or heavy phone users, but as long as we in the US, which is a big country, want to roll out improvements to wireless technology and coverage, we're going to have to figure out how to pay for it.

My thought has been that the cell companies should be regulated utilities like the power companies, so they have to explain rate increases, but that's socialism and goodness knows we don't want any more of that.
posted by immlass at 1:53 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Australia:
Unlimited data? Tell him he's dreamin'!

I currently pay $10 per 100MB on Telstra pre-paid. Usually that ends up costing me $20-$30 per month.

I have a HTC Desire, and use it pretty heavily for web browsing, Google maps, and email, but I would never even consider streaming a movie or music for an extended period. It would just use too much data.

For my home ADSL2+, I pay $50/month for 60GB (I think) which is 30GB peak/30GB off-peak (off-peak being between midnight and 7AM (I think)).

Streaming HD is really just not an option in this country, unless your ISP provides it as unmetered content. The whole country is throttled by our submarine links to the rest of the world (ie - the US). Things like Hulu, Netflix and Pandora won't even work here unless you use a proxy based in another country. Hence why we're one of the biggest (perhapsTHE biggest) users per capita of bittorrent.

I can understand why mobile carriers would want to limit the use of tethering. As I understand it, the bottleneck is often the local cell tower you are connected to. I can see how one or two users running intensive bittorrent could cause problems for anyone else in the area trying to use that cell.

(In regards to my prepaid 3G, I did trial a much more reasonable option. Optus, resold via TPG. $1/month for 150MB - if you are a TPG ADSL customer - then 2.7cents/MB. Unfortunately Optus coverage in the areas I frequent is "spotty", so I went back to Telstra NextG, which has much better coverage, and NextG on the Telstra Desire is noticeably faster than 3G)
posted by Diag at 2:09 PM on June 3, 2010


A few observations:

The reason we got used to "unlimited" data on landlines is because that's how they sold it. They're being deceptive in their marketing when they say "20 megabits, unlimited!", because they're not actually provisioned to support that. They have to pay for bandwidth outside their networks, like everyone else. To save money, they're taking advantage of the fact that most people don't use their connections that heavily, most of the time. If they were honest about their provisioning (say, "1Mbit guaranteed, 20Mbit burstable"), they wouldn't have to worry about data caps, just provisioning properly. (this, by the way, is what Speakeasy does; they cost more for any given bandwidth level, but you can totally saturate that bandwidth 24x7x365 and they'll just smile. They are AWESOME.) But most companies don't want to do that, because being honest about their actual provisioning levels would be embarrassing, and wouldn't sell as well.

Most landline bandwidth, in other words, is sold under false pretenses in this country.

Wireless bandwidth is partially like that, in that you still have the provisioning issues, which AT&T is still struggling with. They simply don't want to bring in as much bandwidth to their cell towers as they really need. But, at the same time, there's a hard limit in how much data they can send over any given area, which is completely limited by spectrum. They can't just run more wires. Every byte they send you is a byte they can't send someone else. They can roll out towers, and new compression and multiplexing and frequencies and suchlike, but they're still always dealing with a hard physical limit of the spectrum's ability to carry data over a broad area.

Honestly, you should expect this as a permanent change by all wireless carriers, because the landline approach simply doesn't work over the air. Their available bandwidth is sharply limited, shared with all the other customers in the area, and improving data rates is fiendishly expensive. Landline companies can, if pressed, just run another line to you, but wireless companies can't.

And they can't work on committed data rate, because you can roam. If you're "guaranteed" 256KBit, and enough other users hit that cell tower, you aren't getting 256Kbit, period. It's not a guarantee they can make. So they aren't making any at all, just providing best-effort, and charging you by the resources you consume.

It's not ideal from a customer perspective. A fixed committed/burst rate is the ideal consumer approach, but hard physics prevents that from working. This is the next best thing.

I don't like AT&T at all, but given their constraints, this is the right thing to do. The market will become more competitive, because you can actually SEE what you're buying, instead of a vague promise that has no bearing on reality. You'll be able to comparison shop based on your actual needs, and the wireless carriers will be able to set pricing at a level that encourages them to add more bandwidth.

Over the medium-term, I think this will probably drive availability of mobile bandwidth more than most other approaches. But it'll take some time before you start to see it. Existing customers are used to the 'unlimited' approach, where in essence the light users subsidize the heavy ones. So it's gonna take a couple years for the data needs of the light users to start really driving bandwidth expansion.

Bandwidth on copper or fiber is dirt-cheap, but spectrum bandwidth is super expensive. Don't hold wireless carriers to the standards you're used to from your lying, cheating landline providers.

Medium-term, we should be pushing for them to simply be wireless bandwidth providers. Voice is just a form of data. If you're buying 5 gigs a month, you should be able to use that 5 gigs any way you want, whether it's voice transmission or bittorrent. It should be one bill, your bandwidth usage. "Minutes" is archaic and needs to die.
posted by Malor at 2:39 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


This Australian will see your potential lack of unlimited mobile data and raise you a near lack of any non-throttled unlimited Internet plans for the home. Although that situation is slowly improving.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:40 PM on June 3, 2010


As much as I genuinely dislike AT&T for most things, looking at my account now, I seem to use an average of about 150 mb per month. So yeah, I can live with this...
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:48 PM on June 3, 2010


One thing that might make it more acceptable would be to throw the word "month" out. Just charge me for the data I use, the end. Buy it at $10 bucks a gig, with a standing order to bill your credit card for some number of gigs when it drops below a certain level.

They've got us trained to think that "rollover" is some kind of big favor. All "rollover" does is almost kinda conditionally sort of give you what you've actually paid for, up to a point. I'm not interested in being a statistical contributor that balances out their expectations, and either subsidizes or (less likely) is subsidized by other customers.

So if all you're going to offer is metered plans, make it a real metered plan, like the gas company, not some fakeout business model based on how much money you want to make rather than how much service you've actually provided.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Then you will be unable to get an unlimited plan for it without jailbreaking it and switching to a carrier that doesn't hate you.

Just because you say this doesn't make it true.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:23 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, what, this only has anything to do with people who use one of the Apple devices and one of their required data plans? Way to make a mountain out of a molehill.

I was seriously hoping at&t was going to force me off my ancient Media Works Unlimited data/SMS/MMS plan (only $20 a month!) so I could justify switching to T-Mobile, where I can use 3G with my N900.

Thanks for the disappointment, fellas.

As an aside, it amuses me that changing things around for the iPhone is now "screwing everybody." And I though we weren't linking to Gizmodo anymore?
posted by wierdo at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2010


If you already have a 3G phone as of June 7, you can upgrade to a different 3G phone and retain your $30 unlimited plan OR you can change to one of the metered plans, it's your choice.

I already Pandora a lot, and in anticipation of of video chat and Netflix I should probably keep what I'm on, right? I'd regret swithching to a 2 gig/month cap to save $5, no?
posted by sourwookie at 3:53 PM on June 3, 2010


I just got a sprint overdrive MiFi discount. I'm paying 54/month for unlimited 4g network and 5 gb of 3g. I've dropped my fios connection and I love the fact that I'll be able to drop down to a 200mb iPhone plan. I keep the overdrive in my backpack and then all my gadgets are good to go.
posted by humanfont at 4:12 PM on June 3, 2010


This doesn't seem bad, but the telcos are trying to push more and more of their infrastructure to towers, because they're cheaper than fiber and much easier to build out in most areas. Moreover, computing is shifting to mobile devices, in the beginning with laptops, but specifically smart phones and now tablets. These caps mean that more of our increasingly large media will be more and more expensive to obtain for more and more people, legally or otherwise. If you have a Netflix or Amazon video on demand account, it simply won't work.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:22 PM on June 3, 2010


I already Pandora a lot, and in anticipation of of video chat and Netflix I should probably keep what I'm on, right? I'd regret swithching to a 2 gig/month cap to save $5, no?

Correct.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:23 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason we got used to "unlimited" data on landlines is because that's how they sold it. They're being deceptive in their marketing when they say "20 megabits, unlimited!", because they're not actually provisioned to support that. They have to pay for bandwidth outside their networks, like everyone else. To save money, they're taking advantage of the fact that most people don't use their connections that heavily, most of the time

That's right, and this business model does work. I work for an ISP, and it's exactly as you say, that a small percentage use more than what they pay for, and a very large percentage subsidize them. But that's how a lot of retail businesses work anyway, and you have loss leaders and other models where not everyone generates a profit. That's OK. In fact, even a serious torrentor who didn't use at peak hours would not cost us anything more than what we pay now, because bandwidth is paid like electricity, where you have a certain peak capacity and pay for each GB over. Extra bandwidth in off-peak times is not an additional cost for us.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:28 PM on June 3, 2010


Setting aside the bullshit tethering fee, I have another question. I keep hearing that this change is supposed to address the fact that only 2% of AT&T's (smartphone) customers use huge gouts of data and how unfair that is to the other 98% but it seems to me like the pricing structure is sort of backwards if that's what you want to change. Apparently 65% of customers use under 200MB, 98% use under 2GB, and those bastards at the top are ruining it for everyone. But if you break down the pricing by GB (and I am not the first to do this, it seems like the 65% at the bottom is getting screwed in order to pay for the top 2%.

With the two plans, if you don't exceed your data limit, here's what you pay:
200MB plan (65%) = $15 or $75.00/GB
2GB plan (33%) = $25 or $12.50/GB

That's a pretty big difference right there. But what if you're one of those data-happy 2% who uses more than 2GB, let's say 10GB in a month?
2GB plan @ $25 + 8GB overage @ $10/GB (2%) = $105 or $10.50/GB.

The more data you use, the lower the price per GB. How does this help the bottom 65% or discourage the top 2%?

Also for each 100 people who would have had a $30 unlimited plan but now must choose from the tiers, AT&T will realize about 1/3 less income for their data plans in aggregate. Will this provide more or less incentive to improve its data capabilities?
posted by SpaceBass at 4:31 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't like AT&T at all, but given their constraints, this is the right thing to do.

Except it's going in the other direction elsewhere. Japan is already at 100Mb/s for $20 and increasing capacity. The main reason it's like this here is due to antiquated and industry-skewed regulation. The telcos were supposed to deliver more bandwidth than they have today years ago in exchange for huge tax breaks. They never delivered on their promises, but they kept the money. See, we've already paid for it.

I just don't see this working in the long run, given that more and more media is pushed through the internet. It won't allow for business to grow the way it should, because nobody will be able to use it like they do in other countries already. We're behind, not ahead on this, and we're going in the wrong direction.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:38 PM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


It always astonishes me how much sympathy ordinary citizens -- including those who live one paycheck away from desperation and one round of outsourcing away from that last paycheck -- have for the needs of very large, very profitable corporations and their very, very wealthy executives. But really, you don't to be sympathetic to them. They pay millions to lobbyists to to cry "pity us, pity us!" on the Hill. But I'm sure they appreciate you pitying them for free.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:56 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> This may be true now, but with the coming of video conferencing, Netflix streaming, and other
>> data-intensive applications, I'm not so sure it will remain true.
>
> With metered bandwidth, the coming of those things will be delayed indefinitely.

Working (sort of) at home today due to miserable cold. Sitting at computer unshaven wearing bathrobe and fuzzy-bunny slippers, surrounded by panorama of half-drunk OJ, half-eaten chicken soup, aspirin, nose spray, Dayquill, etc. etc.

May the coming of videoconferencing be delayed until the crack of doom freezes over.
posted by jfuller at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2010


AT&T's iPhone service in San Francisco is so terrible that anything has to be better. I'd settle for rationing my use to ~200MB/month if it meant that I could actually use the service reliably. It boggles my mine there's been no class action lawsuit over how awful their network is in high use areas like San Francisco or New York.
posted by Nelson at 6:19 PM on June 3, 2010


Japan is already at 100Mb/s for $20 and increasing capacity.

For wireless? I think you might be confused. You could probably do that much bandwidth wirelessly for, like, one customer per antenna, by knocking everyone else offline. I don't think you could buy that service for $20/mo. :-)

Wired bandwidth is essentially unlimited. All it takes is capital costs to string more wires, and the bandwidth you use in, say, reading this page doesn't actively destroy other bandwidth. When you read MeFi, that doesn't stop me from reading the BBC.

EM spectrum is entirely different. It's a finite resource. Every byte you transmit or receive actively prevents other transmissions in your area. Cell bandwidth is multiplexed into timeslots; if you're taking up a slot reading MeFi, I can't use it to read the BBC. With enough people requesting enough data, further attempts to transmit can get very slow indeed. And that's completely independent of how well or poorly AT&T has provisioned the cell tower. If they underprovision, which is very common, the bandwidth will suck long before the cell signal reaches saturation, but even if they had an infinite-speed ground connection, the wireless signal would still be very limited in terms of overall bandwidth.

Don't confused wired and wireless bandwidth. They are very different beasts.

That said, AT&T still sucks rocks in many areas. In the South they're pretty good; when it was still Cingular, they did real investment into their infrastructure, and the call quality there tends to be quite good. But many other areas of the country are truly terrible, and that's simply AT&T not properly building their network out.

Overall, I read this more as an effort to cut demand so they don't have to keep laying in as much bandwidth to their cell towers, and perhaps to try to convince their problem children to find other carriers.
posted by Malor at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2010


Malor: "EM spectrum is entirely different. It's a finite resource."

Thanks for reminding me of this article about how it doesn't have to be this way.
"Interference is a metaphor that paints an old limitation of technology as a fact of nature." So says David P. Reed, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and one of the architects of the Internet. If he's right, then spectrum isn't a resource to be divvied up like gold or parceled out like land. It's not even a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are or an aerial highway with white lines to maintain order.

Spectrum is more like the colors of the rainbow, including the ones our eyes can't discern. Says Reed: "There's no scarcity of spectrum any more than there's a scarcity of the color green. We could instantly hook up to the Internet everyone who can pick up a radio signal, and they could pump through as many bits as they could ever want. We'd go from an economy of digital scarcity to an economy of digital abundance."
/derail
posted by mullingitover at 7:11 PM on June 3, 2010


Huh, that's interesting. He says there are no limits to data transmission on the spectrum, but Shannon's Law says there most definitely is. I don't think that's something you can just ignore. This guy sounds very confident, but Shannon's Law is an absolute, as far as I know.
posted by Malor at 7:22 PM on June 3, 2010


I don't like AT&T at all, but given their constraints, this is the right thing to do.

Except it's going in the other direction elsewhere. Japan is already at 100Mb/s for $20 and increasing capacity. The main reason it's like this here is due to antiquated and industry-skewed regulation. The telcos were supposed to deliver more bandwidth than they have today years ago in exchange for huge tax breaks. They never delivered on their promises, but they kept the money. See, we've already paid for it.

I just don't see this working in the long run, given that more and more media is pushed through the internet. It won't allow for business to grow the way it should, because nobody will be able to use it like they do in other countries already. We're behind, not ahead on this, and we're going in the wrong direction.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:38 AM on June 4 [1 favorite +] [!]


Man, I have no idea who you're using, but Yahoo! BB costs me around ¥6,000 a month and I'm lucky to hit 40Mb/s most of the time. Unless you got some sort of super-deal on fiber optics and live in Shinjuku, that's not a particularly representative sample.

I'd also like to take exception with anyone who refers to the Japanese cell phone industry as "advanced" in any way. The technology in the phones themselves can be pretty cool at times ('sup entirely waterproof new AU lineup) but the industry itself could scarcely be more backward. They've even been lobbying the government to prevent a law from going through making it even legal to unlock cell phones. Beyond that, if you aren't on Softbank's incredibly aggressive ¥4,000 a month (originally ¥6,000 a month) unlimited data plan, packet data is charged at a frankly alarming rate (My usage is unusually large as I tether through *ahem* unsupported means at work, but if I were charged at the normal rate for my monthly data usage, it'd be well into the thousands of US dollars per month, even before I started using tethering).

Japan's got some cool things going, but telecom ain't one of them.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:43 PM on June 3, 2010


Malor, if I'm not mistaken (and I freely admit I might be, I'm out of my area here) the Shannon-Hartley theorem applies to a single channel, of unspecified bandwidth. If we adjust for the idea that multiple channels don't have to interfere with each other it seems to me that we almost never run out of channels. Just working from the "color" metaphor, imagine if every pixel on your monitor were changing color as rapidly as its physical implementation would allow. Assuming perfect color fidelity in both the pixel hardware and your eyes, every pixel could be transmitting data on a 24 bit wide channel, at, say, a very modest 120Hz, in a resolution of a paltry old 1024x768. That means the monitor is technically radiating data at about 2Gb/sec (assuming I've done my simple arithmetic properly), though of course we don't ordinarily feed it that density of information. Now imagine that each of those color point sources can change color at GHz instead of Hz. Now imagine far higher pixel density, and imagine lots and lots of such monitors. Receivers can distinguish them the way our eyes do: simply by direction. Obviously the technical implementation is harder than that -- possibly absurdly hard, but this is a conceptual illustration, not a design; it does suggest how even a narrow band like the visible light spectrum can theoretically convey preposterous amounts of information without interference.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:48 PM on June 3, 2010


Malor wrote: "Huh, that's interesting. He says there are no limits to data transmission on the spectrum, but Shannon's Law says there most definitely is. I don't think that's something you can just ignore. This guy sounds very confident, but Shannon's Law is an absolute, as far as I know."

Moreover, there is a rather finite amount of the spectrum we have that's actually useful for transmitting data to mobile receivers. The higher the frequency, the more attenuation both from the atmosphere and things like buildings and trees. That means the higher frequencies need either more base stations, more power, or line of sight.

And once you get too low in frequency, propagation is too good, so interference increases and capacity suffers. (and antennas have to be bigger, and you can't transmit as much data, the list goes on)
posted by wierdo at 7:53 PM on June 3, 2010


Oh, and the color portion of the spectrum? Much wider than what we can feasibly use in inexpensive electronics. The visible light spectrum is almost 400 terahertz wide.

Also, discrimination between closely spaced frequencies at that wavelength is very hard, so much of it ends up being wasted.

Your cell phone can't really be all that directional unless you want some sort of antenna array mounted on your head. That said, beamforming (on the base station side) is apparently a pretty big part of 4G wireless technologies. Phased array antennae are cool, yo.
posted by wierdo at 7:59 PM on June 3, 2010


His work is waaaay over my head, but I get the from-a-mile-up impression that he's thinking of some type of mesh networking going on between devices. There's more about it from an older article here, and then there's the cognitive radio page in WP.
posted by mullingitover at 8:11 PM on June 3, 2010


For wireless? I think you might be confused. You could probably do that much bandwidth wirelessly for, like, one customer per antenna, by knocking everyone else offline. I don't think you could buy that service for $20/mo. :-)

We're pretty close with WiMax -- $50 a month for unlimited use at 40 Mbps down, 10 Mbps up.
posted by armage at 8:16 PM on June 3, 2010


David Reed seems to be one of the folks trying to sell the FCC on ultrawideband communication, which transmits over broad swaths of the spectrum which are simultaneously being used by regular radio. This is kind of like going to a dinner party, sneaking one drop of wine out of each other guest's glass, and claiming that because no one has noticed your theft, you've made new wine from thin air. UWB makes new bandwidth by interfering just a tiny bit with other users; they might never notice, but the spectrum is still finite.
posted by miyabo at 8:43 PM on June 3, 2010


$55/mo for 500MB of data and 200 minutes of voice. Texting, voicemail, caller ID and the like are all extra.

SGD 56 (== USD 40-ish) for 12 gigs + 200 min per month out here in Singapore. The line is significantly better than the wireless at my client's workplace (although it's possible that they're throttling pipes for us outsiders) so much so that a tethered iPhone is my primary mode of getting online.
posted by the cydonian at 8:43 PM on June 3, 2010


How many HD movies can you watch for 5 gb?

Used to have a 5 gig/month cap on my 3G dongle when I was on the road in Malaysia. 5 gigs is about 1-2 major Windows updates, a few ISO's from MSDN, and perhaps a week's worth of streaming Daily Show from their website. I calculated that each 4 minute YouTube vid is _roughly_ 25 megs, and each Daily Show - Colbert Report tuple is about 400-500 megs.

(This might sound slightly contradictory to my earlier post, but I should clarify: 5 - 10 gigs / month would be great for purely work-related stuff, but if you want to do anything more, you should have a cable backup. For instance, I download ISO's etc exclusively through my cable pipe at home)
posted by the cydonian at 8:52 PM on June 3, 2010


They pay millions to lobbyists to to cry "pity us, pity us!" on the Hill. But I'm sure they appreciate you pitying them for free.

Feel free to explain your device for the provision of infinite data transmission across those parts of the electromagnetic spectrum which will provide optimal performance characteristics without screwing up existing infrastructure, and can be rolled out with such low initial and ongoing costs that a few bucks a year will provide it for all.
posted by rodgerd at 12:59 AM on June 4, 2010


Except it's going in the other direction elsewhere. Japan is already at 100Mb/s for $20 and increasing capacity.

Quite apart from the fact other people have noted your example doesn't actually appear to be true, I'm sure I could get better wireless broadband in New Zealand if I could cram a couple of hundred million people into it, as the Japanese have done. While our situation sucks here mostly as the result of an entrenched duopoly market-fixing in the absence of strong regulation, there are also some fundamental differences in what can be provisioned in a high-density country like Japan or Korea, and lower-density areas such as New Zealand and Australia.
posted by rodgerd at 1:02 AM on June 4, 2010


At this writing, Apple still hasn't changed their website to reflect the change. Given that it's three days away and they show a 7-10 day ship time, this is any of denial, false advertising, or some undisclosed deal whereby people ordering now will still qualify even though the change will come a week before the purchaser is able to choose it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2010


Clicker (about whom I know nothing myself) have posted some numbers on data usage for streaming video from YouTube, Netfix, and ABC (but not it would seem Hulu); they seem to think the AT&T caps will prove hopelessly small for anyone who wants to stream video on an iPad.

The point, by the way, or my point anyway, isn't (so much) the amount charged. It's how it's being charged. The sheer unfairness of slapping overage fees on you without warning you you're about to go over (much as banks have taken to doing, thanks) has been noted above, which is part of it, but if the mechanism for payment forces you to think and worry and fret over each click you make, it won't matter whether you can easily afford the clicks and overages or not. You'll click less. You'll be more conservative with your browsing and downloading and exploring. You'll adopt less. And it will become harder to roll out new things. Hence the starveling and the flickering and the mass ennui: not because of the cost, but because of the behavior.

Those who say well just keep your home pipe and your home wireless network and forget about watching the Daily Show on the bus on the way to work every morning, don't kid yourselves. If the meter works on wireless traffic, they'll slap it on the wires, too. Doesn't matter what it "really" costs them or what you're "really" paying for, as the epic gouge that is monthly texting fees has proven.
posted by kipmanley at 10:44 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those who say well just keep your home pipe and your home wireless network and forget about watching the Daily Show on the bus on the way to work every morning, don't kid yourselves. If the meter works on wireless traffic, they'll slap it on the wires, too.

A lot of the wires don't belong to the phone company. The phone companies who provision DSL and fiber optics (and now AT&T does some kind of cable thing with U-Verse, too, I think) and so on and the cable companies who want to move your land line to VOIP are deadly rivals. The only reason the mobile phone space and the home broadband space have very much to do with each other is an accident of history: the way AT&T rebuilt itself after Ma Bell was broken up. It's not entirely a surprise that AT&T would move into the mobile phone space, and that mobile phones would turn into mobile computers with broadband-type data needs, but it wasn't an inevitable thing. It certainly wasn't inevitable that AT&T would end up a big player in the mobile space, although it's no surprise it took over the DSL end of home broadband. It already had the infrastructure (your telephone wires) in place.

I'm sure AT&T and the old cable companies would love to throttle your bandwidth and rip you off with tiered payment plans if they could get away with it, but I strongly doubt the market will let them.
posted by immlass at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2010


The point, by the way, or my point anyway, isn't (so much) the amount charged. It's how it's being charged. The sheer unfairness of slapping overage fees on you without warning you you're about to go over (much as banks have taken to doing, thanks) has been noted above
I'm not sure if it's been noted during this thread, but the new tiered approach comes with automatic SMS and/or email notifications at the 50, 75, and 100% marks as well as 75% of each over-the-limit gigabyte.

We can say that tiered access is bad, or that the tiers are too low, or that it's bait-and-switch for the iPad owners, but there are clear warning notices baked into the tiering.
posted by verb at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2010


O2 signals end of unlimited data tariffs for iPhone customers.
posted by immlass at 10:24 AM on June 10, 2010


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