A Brand New Gouge for the Same Crappy Service

Seriously, AT&T. This is nuts.

Millions of AT&T customers have been griping about your service from the moment they were forced to join your network to use their iPhones. Complaints run from consistently dropped voice calls to slow and erratic data speeds to a lack of service in huge swaths of the country. Did I mention dropped calls? Can you hear me never?

Yet despite confidence killers like AT&T placing last in 19 out of 26 cities in a recent Consumer Reports survey, the public reliably signs two-year contracts (backed by high early termination policies) with AT&T so they can get their hands on a shiny new iPhone.

But now AT&T is hinting that it might start providing additional "incentives" to get customers to stop using so much data — data that these customers are, ahem, paying for. These possible "incentives" include a "pricing scheme that addresses usage." In other words, get ready for a brand new gouge for the same crappy service.

What gives, AT&T? Are you actually about to encourage consumers to use less of what they're already paying for?

Here's an idea: How about investing in your data network?

If only it were that simple. Handset exclusivity — the industry practice that lets AT&T and Verizon be the exclusive sellers of the iPhone and the Droid, respectively — means that these carriers don't compete over speed. AT&T's data network can continue to lag, because the company knows that consumers will get on board anyway, to get iPhones. But if AT&T shared the rights to the iPhone with Verizon, the two companies would have to compete with each other over data speed and cell phone service.

Similarly, if the two companies (and others) all offered the same phone, they'd be forced to compete on price to attract and retain customers, rather than relying on non-competitive contracts with Apple. Introduce real competition and it's a good bet that we wouldn't see ridiculous overage charges and silly incentives note to use data. Instead, AT&T would have to actually work to build a better network than Verizon, and vice versa. Imagine that!

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good