Posts tagged AT&T

FTC Sues AT&T Over “Deceptive” Data-Speed Limits

There’s a singular truth about the state of mobile today: All the cellular carriers limit bandwidth for heavy data users. But the devil is in the details. And that’s where AT&T is now locking horns with the Federal Trade Commission, which is suing the wireless operator over what it contends is a good old-fashioned bait-and-switch over the company’s grandfathered unlimited data plans.

AT&T’s pants aren’t entirely on fire—merely charred and smoking. Technically, subscribers with unlimited data plans can still use as much data as they want. But if they use too much—as determined by AT&T—the carrier will throttle down their data speeds to Stone Age levels.

See also: Thanks, Verizon! Now The FCC Is Asking All Carriers About Data Throttling

According to the FTC’s filing, the carrier isn’t doing enough to make that clear to people.

AT&T Throttling Goes Back Years

In 2010, following three years of steadily rising data traffic due to the iPhone, AT&T introduced tiered data plans that capped data usage at levels ranging from 200MB to 2GB. At the same time, it tried to end its unlimited plans, sparking outrage among existing subscribers. The carrier ultimately let those with unlimited-data plans keep them. Only new customers would be forced into tiered plans.

The problem is, AT&T is still calling those plans “unlimited,” even though it clamps down on data speeds for heavy users. This is the heart of the lawsuit. “‘Unlimited’ means unlimited,” tweeted FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. And yet, AT&T takes aim at those subscribers in particular with its “network management process.” 

AT&T’s policy states that unlimited users who exceed 3GB (for 3G devices) or 5GB (for 4G/LTE devices) in a month will experience slower speeds. The purported idea is to offset the heavy data loads that congest AT&T’s network, as its webpage explains:

As a result of the AT&T network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. Customers on a 4G LTE smartphone will experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle exceeds 5 gigabytes of data. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.

It all sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? It should: Throttling is a common practice among carriers. AT&T’s policy is very similar to the same unpopular approach Verizon proposed, but ultimately abandoned in the face of pressure from the FCC.

See also: How All The Major Carriers Throttle Your Data

Deep Throttle

The FTC singles out AT&T’s practice as “deceptive” because the service provider doesn’t make its tactics clear to subscribers. Worse, the commission alleges that AT&T doesn’t just slightly reduce individual speeds to collectively preserve the network. It claims the carrier clamps down so hard that common activities such as streaming video or music wind up being “difficult or nearly impossible.”

So far, the FTC estimates 3.5 million customers have suffered this experience more than 25 million times.

AT&T, predictably, issued a press statement calling the accusation “baseless”: 

The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program. It’s baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts. We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning. We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented. In addition, this program has affected only about 3% of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.

AT&T’s claim that it reaches out to the users it throttles seems legit. But that doesn’t mean the FTC will back down. From the looks of it, AT&T may not either. 

Then again, it may have to if it’s using “everyone else is doing it too” as one of its main arguments. That never seems to work when carriers fling that at federal regulators.

Just ask Verizon. 

Photo by Rob Wilson for Shutterstock

View full post on ReadWrite

AT&T Ruins Apple’s SIM Bid In War On Carrier Choice

Apple’s first SIM just had its first arrow slung at it: AT&T has locked down the company’s new Apple-Made SIM cards in its newest line of iPads. 

Typically SIMs, the teensy ID cards that allow a device to be used on a cellular network, come from the carriers. But Apple now makes its own, presumably so that the devices can be used on any network.

See also: What’s Apple Going To Do With All Its Loose Ends?

However, customers purchasing the iPad Air 2 or the iPad mini 3, the first to carry these SIM cards, won’t have that freedom if they buy from AT&T. The carrier has locked the Apple SIM down, effectively shackling them to its network. Macrumors was the first to report this news, and an Apple support document was recently updated, confirming it.  

AT&T did not immediately respond to ReadWrite’s request for comment. 

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito

View full post on ReadWrite

Heads Up AT&T Customers! Another Employee Accessed Your Info

AT&T said it has fired an employee who gained access to users’ personal information without permission this year. The personal information compromised may include social security numbers and drivers’ licenses.

See also: AT&T Has Invented A Way To Charge You Twice For The Same Internet

The telecommunications provider sent a letter to the roughly 1,600 affected users informing them about the breach. Affected users will have any suspicious transactions reversed and will be eligible for a year of free credit monitoring, as has become customary after data breaches.

“On behalf of AT&T, please accept my sincere apology for this incident,” Michael Chiarmonte, director of finance billing operations at AT&T, said in the letter. “Simply stated, this is not how we conduct business, and as a result, this individual no longer works for AT&T.”

AT&T sent a letter to the Vermont attorney general indicating the company believes the breach took place sometime in August. It is the company’s second insider breach since June. 

Image by Shane Curcuru

View full post on ReadWrite

Amazon Fire Phone’s First Big Mistake: Cooperating With AT&T

A whole lot of “whoa” went into Amazon’s new Fire Phone. Its Firefly feature lets you look at anything, anywhere, and instantly buy it. Dynamic Perspective takes movement related gesture control and to a degree not yet seen in smartphones. Mayday brings next generation customer service. The Fire Phone is packed full of features and hardware, tied with a neat little Amazon bow. 

Yet Amazon made a huge mistake with the Fire Phone: It agreed to cooperate with the cellular carriers. Amazon likely had no choice in the matter. But it’s still going to pay for it.

The Amazon Fire Phone will be exclusive to AT&T for $199 on a two-year contract (or available with a payment plan through AT&T Next). The 32GB version of the Fire Phone will be $649 without a contract. Amazon makes one concession to price, giving people that buy the phone its Amazon Prime service free for one year (existing Prime subscribers will get an additional free year of service). 

Absolutely nothing about the pricing and availability of the Fire Phone is unique. And that is profoundly disappointing coming from a company that makes it a habit to break other company’s business models and run them into the ground.

Amazon just took all the good will that it built with the truly unique and interesting features that it built into the Fire Phone and threw it all away by adhering to the standard smartphone pricing scheme that all other premium smartphones use. The Apple iPhone is available for $199 on a two-year contract. So is the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8 and so forth. 

One big hope for the Amazon smartphone—one that’s been in the rumor mill for more than three years—is that Amazon would shake up the cellular market with a lowball price for a premium smartphone and, possibly, subsidized data plans for its users. Amazon was apparently unable, or at least unwilling, to go that far. Users will pay for all the data they use through AT&T as well as being sucked into the two-year service contract through the carrier. 

In the end, that just makes the Fire Phone another fancy rectangular piece of metal, glass and plastic.

No Prime Data

Over the past few years, we have speculated about what Amazon could do to make a truly different smartphone experience. Almost none of that speculation had anything to do with hardware features or software innovations. Amazon’s market opportunity existed in blowing up existing data and smartphone device pricing.

For several years, Amazon has been a small-time MVNO—mobile virtual network operator. MVNOs license small amounts of cellular bandwidth from wireless carriers in order to resell it or give it away as part of a broader service. If you have a Kindle that can download books wirelessly via cellular data that you don’t pay for monthly, that’s because Amazon is an MVNO.

Amazon had an opportunity to create a truly unique data plan for the Fire Phone. It could have subsidized data for users—say, a free 1GB of data a month. It could have offered to pay for all data associated with Amazon Prime services, like the new Music app or Prime video or book downloads. Or it could have tied subsidized data to use of Firefly, perhaps by offering to cover 1GB in data cost for every $100 spent via the service.

Amazon did none of this. Instead, it’s being a good team player and abiding by the rules that AT&T sets for all smartphones on its network. 

No Prime Price

When Amazon released its first Kindle Fire tablet, the most remarkable aspect of the devices was the price. Amazon was able to completely undercut the market leader (Apple’s iPad) by selling the Kindle Fire for $199. Amazon basically sold the Kindle Fire for its cost of manufacture, confident it could recoup its investment by drawing users into its Amazon Prime services and getting people shopping on Amazon.

The Fire Phone, however, doesn’t do anything remotely so pathbreaking. It’s a classic $199 device on contract, $649 off contract—exactly the same as Apple’s iPhone. The Fire Phone’s price is a tacit admission that Amazon couldn’t crack the nut that is AT&T (or any of the other carriers, apparently). To get the Fire Phone into AT&T stores and onto AT&T’s network, it had to play by the carrier’s rules. 

No Prime Distribution

In the United States, we have yet to see a top-end smartphone that has successfully circumvented the carriers. Google wanted to create a completely new smartphone buying dynamic when it released the original Nexus smartphone available solely through its own website. It didn’t work. Amazon has likely learned the same lesson.

Worse, though, Amazon has been suckered by another longstanding carrier ploy—the “exclusive partnership.” Nokia learned how badly such deals can work out the hard way, when most of its premium smartphones ended up as exclusives to the likes of AT&T (Lumia 1020) or Verizon (Lumia Icon), thus shutting them out from millions of potential customers. Few smartphone makers outside of Apple and Samsung have the leverage to escape the trap of carrier exclusivity. 

Business Insider’s Jay Yarow suggests that Amazon deliberately priced the Fire Phone at a standard level to limit demand for the device. (It’s worth remembering that Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider.) Hardware projects inherently lose money, Yarow notes, and selling a lot of phones out of the gate would mean that Amazon would be losing a lot of money by selling the Fire Phone in vast numbers.

The problem with that theory is that Amazon has shown time and time again that it does not care about making a profit and is willing to lose as much money as necessary to control a market. We’ve also seen this same exclusivity tactic from carriers—especially AT&T—too many times to think it’s actually a double-reverse play by Amazon to keep its losses down.

For all its bells and whistles, gimmicks and technological advances, the Fire Phone is probably not going to sell well. AT&T probably already knows this. Soon Amazon will as well.

Lead image by Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite

View full post on ReadWrite

AT&T Takes On Google, Eyeing 21 Cities For Ultrafast Internet

AT&T plans to expand its high-speed fiber-optic Internet service to as many as 21 new US metro areas. It’s claiming speeds of up to one gigabyte per second with its U-Verse with GigaPower system, which is only available in Austin, Texas, today.

After years of slowing its rollout of faster Internet connections, what’s the rush? Thank Google, whose first location for Google Fiber high-speed Internet was Kansas City, in the heart of AT&T’s local-service area. Now Google is expanding to Provo, Utah, and Austin, and recently announced that it was exploring adding more cities like Atlanta, Georgia; San Jose, Calif.; and San Antonio, Texas.

All three of those cities are on the AT&T’s list. Coincidence? Here’s the full list of areas where AT&T is considering deploying U-verse with GigaPower, on top of Dallas, Texas, and the Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem regions in North Carolina:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Ft. Worth
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Houston
  • Jacksonville
  • Kansas City
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Nashville
  • Oakland, Calif.
  • Orlando
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • St. Louis

It’s not just Google: AT&T also has an eye on its cable competitors in those markets. (While Verizon also has a high-speed fiber-optic Internet service, Fios, it doesn’t serve the same areas as AT&T.)

How fast is a gigabit per second? AT&T says it’s fast enough to download an HD film in just 36 seconds.

But before everyone races to their Netflix subscription, AT&T isn’t exactly promising high-speed Internet. Instead, it seems to be negotiating in public.

AT&T says that “communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies will influence these future selections and coverage maps within selected areas.”

In other words, it’s looking for areas with governments that will smooth the way for AT&T in terms of permits, approvals, and possibly economic incentives.

Demand for U-Verse with Gigapower in the Austin area, which began in 2013, has been higher than initially thought, AT&T said.  We can expect to hear more when AT&T announces its first-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

View full post on ReadWrite

Go to Top
Copyright © 1992-2015, DC2NET All rights reserved