AT&T Wants to Charge Heavy Data Users ➝

Jacqui Cheng reporting for Ars Technica on AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega’s remarks at the UBS conference:

Heavy data users may soon find themselves paying more for service if they’re AT&T customers. […] noting that a mere three percent of smartphone users suck up some 40 percent of the company’s traffic. For those of us who are constantly tortured subjected to AT&T’s slow service, this may seem like a great idea, but de la Vega’s threat falls into the same trap that other ISPs have used in order to merely profit more from heavy users. […] The company claims that perhaps these users aren’t aware of what kind of effect they’re having on the network and could use some “education” on the matter.

I wish AT&T would realize that charging people more to use a crappy network is no way to run a business. These are your power users who convince their family and friends to use (or not use) your network. These are the people you want to keep happy, they might have lower margins because of their data usage. But, don’t you have enough customers who pay for services they barely use?

Update 12/17/09: Krishna Subramanian, founder of Mobclix, speaking with PC World:

As a consumer, you definitely don’t want [usage-based pricing]. It’s going to limit the number of applications you download, the amount of content you consume, the amount of music you’re downloading. […] What I think will happen is there will be more competition from other carriers with their devices that will force the load across different platforms.

Agreed. If AT&T keeps this up users will be forced to eat the early termination fee and unlock their devices for use on other networks. I hate to say it, but this may be the only way AT&T will learn to treat their customers better.

AT&T Mobility Chief Executive Ralph de la Vega denied rumors of tiered pricing when speaking with the Wall Street Journal:

We have not made any decision to implement tiered pricing.

Translation: We haven’t decided how much we’re going to charge you by the megabyte yet, but we’ll probably figure that out soon.

Currently they have plans to offer “incentives” to limit their use of the wireless data network. The plan’s details are still unknown but we do know that they will offer more free Wi-Fi hot spots and are also running femtocell trials.

Update 12/20/09: Joel Johnson, writing for Gizmodo, reveals that AT&T has spent less on network construction every quarter since the iPhone’s launch. So, they want to charge us extra because they didn’t have the foresight to build out their network?