AT&T: No more fixed-price unlimited Internet
AT&T is starting what could become a disturbing trend: Eliminating your ability to pay a flat fee for unlimited Internet usage.
If you're planning on getting an iPhone, iPad or other Web-surfing wireless device from AT&T, don't plan on unlimited Internet access for a low monthly fee.
On Monday, June 7, AT&T will stop offering unlimited Internet access for new smart-phone customers. Existing smart-phone customers will be able to stay on their $30-a-month unlimited-data plans, at least until their current contracts expire or perhaps longer, but new customers will have to choose from two different plans: the DataPlus plan that offers 200 megabytes of data for $15 a month, and the DataPro plan that offers 2 gigabytes for $25.
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The company says it will send text messages to users of either plan warning them as they approach their limits. Going over means paying an extra $15 for 200 more megabytes for DataPlus customers; DataPro customers will be charged an extra $10 for an extra 1 gig.
If you live in an area like New York or San Francisco where the iPhone is notoriously unreliable, you can probably guess the reason for the move: to get a more reliable network for everyone by charging more to those who use the most capacity. According to an AT&T spokesman quoted in this USA Today article, just 3% of smart-phone users account for nearly 40% of traffic.
Of course, if that minority is willing to pay for the extra usage, the network will still be overloaded and calls will still be dropped. The only change will be that AT&T will make a lot more money.
Don't use AT&T? You may not be out of the woods. According to the article above, other carriers are considering following suit.
And that's not all AT&T has announced recently relating to charging more. On June 1, AT&T doubled termination fees for smart phones. Here's a quote from an Open Letter to Our Valued Customers AT&T published on May 21 (words in parentheses are mine).
For customers who enter into new two-year service agreements in connection with the purchase of our more advanced, higher-end devices, including netbooks and smart phones, the ETF (early-termination fee) will increase to $325 (from the current $175) and be reduced by $10 for each month that you remain with us as a customer during the balance of your two-year service agreement. After that, the ETF will no longer apply.
That means that if you quit your contract with only one month to go, you'll still owe AT&T $95.
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