AT&T has officially delivered on the threats made by its consumer business director Ralph de la Vega last December: it’s switching to usage-based pricing on data plans for smartphones and the iPad. Starting Monday, all new AT&T customers who buy an iPad, iPhone, Blackberry or other smartphone and purchase the necessary data plan will have two options: $25 for 2 gigabytes, or $15 for 200 megabytes.
Lastmonth, InformationWeek filed a Freedom of Information request with the FCC and the FTC for complaints made about the iPhone in the past year. Although the breakdown of complaints is interesting, what I found most striking was that in a nation of over 11 million iPhone owners, less than 600 complaints were filed in the past 14 months*, and some of those were for other Apple products. If you have a legitimate grievance with a company, you might have a much better chance of being heard by the FCC or FTC than you think.
A man in New Mexico is suing Verizon Wireless over a series of harassing phone calls made by Verizon bill collectors last year. The man, Al Burrows, says the calls were concerning a relative’s unpaid cellphone bill. When he hung up on one of them, the disconnected Verizon rep called back, said she knew where Burrows lived, and added, “I am gonna blow your mother fucking house up.”
The president and a vice-president for CTIA, a lobbying organization for the wireless industry, spoke recently with CNET about why they think the FCC should leave their members alone. The vice-president, Chris Guttman-McCabe, is a lawyer and as such his answers are useless. President Steve Largent, however, actually has a couple of candid moments during the interview.
A woman has sued her wireless provider for $600,000 for outing her as a cheater to her husband. After the they added internet and TV services to the woman’s previously single-user cellphone bill, the wireless company began sending the husband a unified bill, which included several hours long conversations to an unknown number. The husband walked out, and the lawsuits began.
If you want to pay out the nose for Wi-Fi, stay in a W hotel, says HotelChatter. The site has released its 6th annual report on Wi-Fi in U.S. hotels, and the W Hotel chain is named as the worst with no free lobby access and $15/day room rates. Other hotels that suck when it comes to wireless: DoubleTree, Four Seasons, Marriott, and Mandarin Oriental.
Someone named Jennifer called in to the Leo Laporte show a week ago and asked for help on how to get back online. She’d been able to access a Wi-Fi hotspot for over a year and a half from her apartment, but “that’s disappeared now for three weeks.” She bought a wireless extender and that didn’t solve the problem at all. Laporte gently tries to point out that she’s being a freeloader, but she’s not buying it.
Jennifer writes that she bought a new phone, a Samsung Mantra, based on the features listed for the phone on Virgin Mobile’s web site. The problem is that the phone doesn’t actually seem to have the advertised features that led her to buy the phone in the first place.
What the heck, did you guys strike early, and target the wrong wireless carrier? The day before the possibly-ill-conceived “Operation Chokehold” is supposed to bring AT&T’s wireless network to a standstill, T-Mobile steals all the bad press by going out this evening across large parts of the Southeastern US and Puerto Rico.
Update: Immediately after posting this, T-Mobile announced the service was back up.
Last week AT&T, in yet another of a string of PR failures about the health of its network, made things even worse by publicly blaming its customers for, you know, being customers. Over the weekend, though, a new thread was introduced into the narrative: it’s the iPhone’s fault. Not because it’s too popular, which has been the old complaint, but because the hardware doesn’t work right, and AT&T can’t say anything about it for fear that Steve Jobs will reach down through the clouds and smite them.
That sounds pretty tragic and sad for AT&T, but the problem is nobody knows if it’s true, or if this is yet another strategy to shift the responsibility from AT&T.
What do you say when everyone keeps complaining that you can’t handle traffic on your network? If you’re AT&T, you say “We just need to charge more money” and “Our customers who are actually using their phones as advertised are ruining things.” AT&T’s head of consumer services, Ralph de la Vega, told investors today that usage-based pricing is going to happen eventually, and that the company is planning on giving heavy users–who make up 3 percent of their customers–“incentives to reduce or modify their usage.” Somehow I’m guessing he doesn’t mean coupons or cash-back bonuses.
Happy Halloween from AT&T! The maligned cellular carrier’s latest ad doesn’t seem to be as concerned with getting Verizon to stop picking on it. Instead, a headless Luke Wilson staggers around the screen, roaring silently and searching for someone to kill. Stick to AT&T or who knows what might happen to you.
There’s a new Consumer Reports survey out that ranks cellphone companies by customer satisfaction, and to pretty much no one’s surprise, AT&T comes in last in all 19 cities surveyed. (Verizon came in first.) As AllThingsD notes, the survey “suggests that AT&T’s shortcomings are more widespread than the carrier would have us believe and not simply the product of a high concentration of iPhones in the country’s larger cities.”
In August, we wrote about upcoming investigations and possible actions by the FCC on several different areas of the consumer telecommunications experience. Several consumer groups filed comments on the first issue, truth in billing, this week, and we wanted to share some of their concerns and suggestions.
Today Walmart announced that it’s launching its own wireless service, Straight Talk, on October 18th. The network will
piggyback on use TracFone’s wireless network. At launch, two pre-paid plans will be offered: a $30 package that includes 1000 minutes, 1000 text messages, and 30MB of data; or a $45 plan that includes unlimited voice, text, and data. 411 calls are free.
If you dislike handing your credit or debit card over to restaurant employees and letting them wander off with it for a while, you’re not alone, and that’s why some restaurants are experimenting with mobile pay-at-the-table technology.
Until now, airplane cabins have been blessedly free from idle phone chatter thanks to FAA regulations. Now, thanks to the introduction of wi-fi on commercial flights, it’s time to ask: should passengers be able to use Skype, Google Voice, or another VoIP service of their choice to make phone calls in the air?