Friday Rant: AT&T's Solution to their Crappy Data Service? Charge More.

During my freshman year of college, when most of us had regular access to then-"lightning-fast" ETHERNET for the first time -- and programs like Limewire that provided free access to every song EVER -- one of my good friends got a call from his University IT department. He was a music fan. A big, download every-bootleg-Phish-concert music fan.

His nonstop downloading habit, unbeknownst to him, was also apparently taking up 1.8% of the entire school's data bandwidth, and he got busted.

In today's generation of smart phones, how do we single out the data hounds that make the whole network run slower for all of us? AT&T's new plan: charge 'em. According to the NY Times, "Instead of paying $30 a month for unlimited data, new customers will be given the option of paying $15 a month for 200 megabytes, or $25 for 2 gigabytes, with added charges for greater use. AT&T estimates that the more expensive plan will cover 1,000 minutes of video, 400 song downloads or a million one-page e-mail messages. Those who want to keep their existing unlimited plans can do so."

This leads me to wonder about whether this is a solution for those of us who suffer from the nonexistent 3G service in big cities (especially in Chicago's Loop), or simply a "we're going to make so much more money!" solution from AT&T. To be honest, I have no idea how much data I use every month -- I indeed check my e-mail a lot, download the occasional song, and play a LOT of Words With Friends, but as a loyal AT&T customer (going on six years now) -- I didn't hear about this change until I saw it in the news today.

While I think it's fine to charge the people who take "unlimited" literally, as a customer, I also need to be informed that I'm going to suddenly be placed into a data consumption category. Believe me, AT&T, I'm happier to pay to keep playing Words with Friends than I am to cram an entire week's worth of vacation clothes in a carry on to avoid paying exorbitant "checked luggage" fees at the airport, but just let me know.

Adding insult to injury, they've also introduced this wonderful new gadget, that provides "five bar coverage for your home!" By "connect[ing] to AT&T's network via your existing broadband Internet service (such as DSL or cable) -- [it is] designed to support up to four simultaneous users in a home or small business setting."

Here at Spend Matters, we all use iPhones, and they all get horrible service in the office. Let me get this straight: to fix this problem, we must pay a gazillion dollars for a) our cell phone plans, b) Comcast, and c) this 3G Microcell Device, which will THEN provide the magical combination of devices to give service we should be getting in the first place?

No thanks, AT&T. The things I put up with to keep my iPhone...

Sheena Moore

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