Posted by: Michael D. Austin | January 25, 2014

AT&T Overcharging You & America. God Bless America!

ATT Overcharge 1-25-14

ATT Overcharge 1-25-14

Here’s the bottom line for all of you who have little time or a short attention span: AT&T and other big data companies make it a point to regularly overcharge you. And I could show you how they did it on my iPad. And I can show you how to successfully argue about it with them, so they’ll stop their cow manure.

I’ve had an iPad 2 for around three years. Originally I got it because it made more sense for me to have a versatile tablet than just a hardware Kindle for the electronic books I wanted. Although I didn’t know it would at the time, the iPad became a fabulous boon for a news and culture watcher like me. Pulse news reader was followed by Flipboard and news Web browsing. Thus I’ve got lots of experience with this computer.

Yeah, yeah, I know enough about conflict minerals, rare earth elements and politics to know that my use of mobile technologies can easily be heard as completely dissonant with good treatment of Gaia. But there are some trade-offs I make to be technologically- and culturally-savvy in the Anthropocene.

Add that I’d also built and run a network. From scratch. From top-to-bottom. For 14 years. I know my way around networks, and when I need a tool I can find it and know how to use it. Around 15 months ago when my first iPad 2 was replaced (free) under warranty, I noticed a curious new behavior of my new iPad 2. It wouldn’t keep its WiFi connection to my home studio network, and kept defaulting to 3G cellular for data. Whether it was the new release of iOS software before I got the new iPad (6?) or a sloppy software bug or intentional mismanufacture I didn’t care. The new iPad 2 kept blowing past my modest 250 MB/month limit and I’m very good at managing data volumes.

So, like anyone else who’s thought about such a problem, I instantly suspected that either Apple had changed their policy for everyone  —  which directly affected me  —  or AT&T had, or both. I didn’t care who did it, but I won’t accept it when most other countries in the world – other than America – have much faster broadband at much lower costs. Why should you accept it? AT&T has the most to gain from overcharges. US$ 15 overage charges for each of 70M AT&T customers could equal US$ 1B. Per month. Even if a third of their customers paid an extra $15 monthly that would be $350,000,000. 10% of their customers going over would be $105M. Per month. That’s why they do it.

When I telephoned Apple to diagnose the problem with me, they claimed there was no issue. Although that’s completely inconclusive without some good testing and equipment and a trustworthy company, which I didn’t have at my disposal in that moment, I next rang up AT&T. It’s their SIM card in my iPad 2 which would be the next likely culprit. My studio router is managed by me so I knew it was kosher.

IMG_0227And when I called AT&T a very curious thing happened. When they were presented with my sensible question about how they should help me track the origin of my alleged data, they simply reversed the fishy overcharge. I asked them for the list of IP addresses from which the data came. If, for example, I was sitting in a restaurant, grazing my Pulse news, the data had to come from AT&T’s cellular tower, which in turn had to come from Pulse’s Internet servers. There’s always a trail. It’s not unheard of to have 30 or 40 hops across different IP addresses before your data get to you.

The AT&T rep I talked with in Fall 2012 declined to field my reasonable question – please provide me with the IP addresses which account for the extra xx MB of data for which you want to charge me. She just immediately credited the charge I was disputing.

And now at this writing, by these simple screenshots of my iPad 2’s current, alleged data use, AT&T is back to their old tricks. Fuck ’em. I regularly pay them around US$ 118 monthly for data and voice on my iPhone and iPad. They can’t have the extra $15 monthly because they have sloppy and surreptitious data policies designed to confuse their customers.

You could call ’em and ask them some simple questions. Ask them to show you the trail of their charges. If the NSA and corrupt governments can track us and our children anywhere and everywhere – then AT&T damn sure has the records showing how much you really used on your data plan.

Update, 1-28-14: After calling AT&T to again ask them to solve the problem of mysterious data overages, they said they won’t do it. Gee, and am I surprised, or what? ;-)

After I asked them to, they credited the new data overage charge. But also said they won’t provide any IP addresses to me to track the data. When I told them what was going on, they said for me to look at my account on-line, which shows when the data are transferred. They said the times of day would show there what was happening on my iPad. Except the times are they show are frequently inaccurate. Of course, the only way to stop the problem is temporarily turn off cellular data usage on the iPad.


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