At approximately 6am on Tuesday of this week, I got a terse text message from AT&T:

YOUR OFF-NETWORK DATA USAGE IS IN VIOLATION OF YOUR SERVICE CONTRACT. CALL [phone number] FOR DETAILS.

I also noticed that my phone was listing “Off Network” a couple places on the screen where it usually said “AT&T.” I hadn’t noticed that before. I assumed that I was still within AT&T’s network because I knew that they had serviced around Callie and the phone had given me no indication that I was not in an AT&T area. Had I been missing the words “Off Network” this entire time? One of the downsides to having my detail-attention problem is that I never know these things for sure.

I called AT&T when I got out of bed a couple hours later and sure enough I was outside AT&T’s range. This meant that AT&T was having to pay someone else for the use of their tower. This was costing AT&T money and AT&T did not like this very much. If I continued to do this, there would be a series of repercussions and none of them good. None of them logical, either. First, they would start charging me for off-network use. Then if I didn’t stop they would cut my off-network use. Then if it did not stop they would cut off my data plan and then my cell phone altogether. Then if it did not stop, they would cut off my entire family’s cell phone plan (my family shares a plan – I have a Colosse number).

The first step is in itself curious. If AT&T starts charging me for off network use, then are they still losing money on me? Seems to me that they could charge the same amount that they’re losing to whoever’s towers they’re using. Or they could do what companies like AT&T often do and charge more and make a little profit off the deal. The charge is 5 cents a kilobyte. Are the local towers really charging them more than that?! Then, if they proceed with the next step, which is to prevent me from using data for any off network at all, the rest is rendered moot. Because at that point, it has to stop.

The next thing he said was equally bizarre. He said that the problem was that my usage was over 40% off network and that was the problem. So it wasn’t the amount of off network use I was doing, but rather the portion. So then, theoretically, if I go up to Tupelo (where AT&T has coverage) and use up a whole bunch of bandwidth, I could bring that average back down. The easiest way out for me then would be to clog up their data streams needlessly. That I could do.

What appears to be the case, however, is that the guy I was talking to was talking out of his hat. While the portion may have been an issue, the number is not 40% (which is really quite generous) but 20% (which is about what I would expect it to be). But mostly, there is a kilobyte limit that I was not only exceeding, but smashing like a pinata. No amount of data usage in Tupelo would have made up for that. So at that point, my only option was to cancel my data coverage on AT&T. Further, given that I am presently out of AT&T’s service area, it probably won’t be long before they discover where my phone calls are being made out of.

I’ve been a loyal AT&T customer since I was 17. It wasn’t AT&T at that point, but it was a company bought by a company that merged with a couple other companies that bought AT&T. And I technically wasn’t with AT&T in Deseret, but was with an affiliate that was on AT&T’s network. But then I got on the folks’ plan and have been with AT&T since. The only problem I’ve ever really had with the company was actually with Deseret Mobile, the affiliate, who were not up front with me about the price spike that came with a new phone I had purchased and, despite the existence of a 7 day no-questions-asked return policy, would not let me get back on my old plan.

As it happens, I may not be away from AT&T for very long. It appears that they are moving into the area by the end of the year as long as the FTC does not step in. Of course, this is a bit frustrating because all of this could have been avoided if they had just done so a year ago. Now I’m going to have to figure out what to do between now and when they arrive or elsewise decide what other carrier to go with.

I’m tempted to tell AT&T where they could stick it with their illogical threats, but I am inclined to think that was mostly just the guy I was talking to. The fact that he got the 20%/40% wrong tells me that he wasn’t reading from some threatening script. Besideswich, whoever made this happen more than made up for it.


Category: Market

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4 Responses to Trumwill: Network Outlaw

  1. Mike Hunt says:

    I’m suprised your carrier isn’t UST&T…

  2. trumwill says:

    Except when there’s a degree of regionality to companies or they factor into my employment somehow, I generally don’t pseudonym them.

  3. Kirk says:

    Am I the only one here who doesn’t use a cell phone?

  4. trumwill says:

    Now that my wife and sister-in-law have one, I do believe you are…

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