If You Sell An Unlimited Plan, Why Are You Telling Me It Will Be Limited?

from the truth-in-advertising dept

After plenty of complaints (and whispers about potential legal troubles) a lot of US wireless carriers have backed off from calling very, very limited data plans "unlimited." Apparently, the discount wireless provider Cricket wasn't informed that when you say unlimited, you actually are supposed to mean unlimited. lavi d writes in to point us to Cricket's highly publicized "Unlimited" data plan. You see, right there at the top, it even highlights in orange that it's UNLIMITED. It's only after you go through all the fine print and get almost to the bottom that you see this:
Throughput may be limited if use exceeds 5GB per month. Internet browsing does not include: hosted computer applications, continuous web camera or broadcast, automatic data feeds, machine-to-machine connections, peer to peer (P2P) connections or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality.
I don't want to be too presumptuous about the definition of "unlimited" but when you say quite clearly that the plan "may be limited," one would have to think that you're outright lying when you call it unlimited. Whatever happened to truth in advertising?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    harknell, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 7:48am

    Truth = Lies

    In the world of advertising (and legalese) Truth can equal Lies. It's like saying that you have the "Best" network. In legal terms this is valid for EVERYONE since you can all be the best if you have equal capabilities. In legal terms using the word "Better" is actually a problem since that compares you to someone else, which needs to be provable.

    Anyway, "unlimited" can probably be used since they say "may be limited" which then legally means that everyone is unlimited with only a certain non-specific person might be limited at some point. So legally I would guess that allows them to say one thing but really do the opposite.

     

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  2.  
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    Rob in ABQ, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 7:50am

    No all-you-can-eat

    If they're going to cut me off if I use some arbitrary limit of their "unlimited" service, then I want to be compensated for using less. Either charge me less per month, or offer "rollover bandwidth" when I don't use my limit.

     

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  3.  
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    noah, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    Throughput != Total Usage

    Throughput and total usage are not the same thing. This is just like T-Mobile's plan, which says that if you go over 5GB/month, they throttle your bandwidth. You can still use it all you want, it will just be slower. By your (implied) definition, unlimited usage is impossible because there is no such thing as infinite bandwidth.

     

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  4.  
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    Ben Doom (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    Machine to machine?

    Aren't "machine-to-machine connections" the definition of a data connection? Are we connecting to an abacus, or a man with a cable in his belly button?

    I do question whether "limited" implies deactivation, or throttling, or filtering of certain connection types (P2P, streaming video, etc.). I do think calling any plan which is artificially limited "Unlimited" is pretty scummy, though.

     

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  5.  
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    Avatar28, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:13am

    not cut off

    They don't actually cut you off. They just throttle you back after you break the 5 gig barrier. Which is pretty crappy when you consider that the commercials seem to be pushing this as a sort of ISP replacement. Still, it is unlimited in the sense that you aren't cut off or charged extra for going over 5 gigs (which makes it better than some wireless providers). It's also only $40 which isn't too bad for cellular broadband, even if it IS EVDO. Their voice service is a lot better deal, though. I think it's about $30/mo for unlimited if you get no frills (i.e. no caller id, voicemail, etc) and about $45/mo I think with all the trimmings (unlimited voice, data, and messaging and all the features, call waiting, voicemail, etc). Only bad thing is that their coverage area isn't that great. That's a big part of why I switched to AT&T a few years back. I'm sure it's improved since then, but still isn't great. For instance, the town I grew up in is about 5000 people now I think. It is located about 10-15 miles NW of Nashville and they have NO coverage out there still.

     

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  6.  
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    Monarch, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:19am

    "Internet browsing does not include: hosted computer applications, continuous web camera or broadcast, automatic data feeds, machine-to-machine connections, peer to peer (P2P) connections or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality. "

    They need to specify what "Internet Browsing" is. As per their definition of what it's not, excludes ALL types of data connections, including web pages, as web pages are rendered from "hosted computer applications" and "machine-to-machine connections" and also "applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality."

    So technically, the only thing their plan covers is POTS via wireless phone connectivity, however their disclaimer may even remove that as it could still fall within, "machine-to-machine connections" and also "applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality."

     

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  7.  
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    Mikeaton, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    Verizon doesnt throttle or cut anyone off anymore with there EVDO offering. They simply charge you $.25 a Megabyte

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:22am

    Re: Truth = Lies

    "It's like saying that you have the "Best" network"

    "Best" is qualitative and subjective, while "unlimited" is quantitative and objective. They're not analogous at all.

    "Anyway, 'unlimited' can probably be used since they say "may be limited" which then legally means that everyone is unlimited with only a certain non-specific person might be limited at some point."

    That makes absolutely no fricken sense, and I'm an attorney with a philosophy degree, so I'm used to linguistic BS.

     

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  9.  
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    RCFiver, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:24am

    Also, Webster's definition for

    Denigrate:

    1 : to attack the reputation of : defame
    2 : to deny the importance or validity of : belittle

    So, I guess those webcams, applications and network connections need to stop calling each other names.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Terms of Service

    " . . . other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality. . . . "

    That lawyer could use a dictionary.

    By complaining to you about the lame contract, he has denigrated the service and already violated the contract. Or does that condition only apply if an application represents it as lacking in value?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:48am

    Sadly, wireless networks were not built for the level of consumption in mind, so it seems easier to limit specific application. I wonder if "unlimited" has a specific industry-definition that differs from a man-on-the-street consumer's definition of "unlimited". Maybe a different word should be used. We all know going to a Buffet is not "unlimited". But this is where it seems the "deceptive advertising" issue comes into play.

     

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  12.  
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    TOS my Cookies, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:51am

    Change w/o notice

    Does the TOS also state that the terms and conditions can be changed at any thime without notice ? And that you agree to any and al changes ?
    (I'm not going to enable JS just to look at their TOS)

     

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  13.  
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    nipseyrussell, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:53am

    everyone is struggling to define unlimited in various ways. can we end the madness? it means without limit. if you place any kind of limit on it, then it is not unlimited.

     

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  14.  
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    Jason, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    Read the fine print

    I NEVER LIE*



    *Except when I'm lying.

     

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  15.  
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    drkkgt, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    love it

    thats great - sounds like the call I just got from verizon - they can save me 15 bucks a month with their "new" unlimited data plan - UNLESS I use my phone for Exchange Active Sync, then I don't qualify for the lower unlimited plan rate.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 9:13am

    its actually limited to 5gb transfers per month

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Re: Throughput != Total Usage

    they're still limiting your usage though. its not just throughput, but even terms of how you can use it. you can't place limits on an unlimited plan.

     

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  18.  
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    Bad memory, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    Free Speech ?

    "Whatever happened to truth in advertising?"

    A few years ago there was a company defending its self against a false advertising claim, I do not recall the name of the comapany. But their attempted defense was a claim that the company has a right to free speech and that everyone knows that the ads are not truthful anyway. I think they lost

     

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  19.  
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    Mark Regan, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Is that $25 per Meg or $.25 per meg?

    My screen resolution is not so great and I can't tell if there is a decimal point between the dollar sign and the two.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    I almost wrote in to tell you about this two months ago when I signed up with them. BTW, I have been very pleased with the service so far. I did my research in advance, and it did not require a lot of reading or searching to find this. The limitations were very easy to find.

    I would not call this unlimited, but aside from the improper use of that one term, Cricket was very up front. I talked with their online reps as well as a local sales person who explained that the machine-to-machine was meant to combat peer-to-peer file sharing. But it was written so broad that it includes terminal server and citrix situations. And the REALLY DUMB PART, everything is a machine-to-machine connection, even web surfing is my machine connecting to someone elses machine.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Mr. Nosuch, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    Re: Is that $25 per Meg or $.25 per meg?

    That's not the only thing you have that isn't so great.

     

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  22.  
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    lavi d (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    Another Unfortunate Use of "Limited"

     

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  23.  
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    lavi d (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:20am

    Another Unfortunate Use of "Limited"

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:20am

    Avoiding exploitation..

    This is still a unlimited plan, but after 5GB the speed is going to decrease, which is a very reasonable solution.

    Whenever there is all-you-can-eat scenario it is going to be misused. I think there should be more pay-as-you-go plans. In this case if 5GB is costing $40, then charge $10 for maintainance+ say a cent for every 50MB.

     

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  25.  
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    OldGeek, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:24am

    On the Same Page

    I went to the link for Cricket and on the very same page at the bottom of the intro is:
    "you get all the blogs, videos and music downloads you want."
    Ugh, someone's gonna have to explain that one to me, especially after scrolling down and finding this:
    "Throughput may be limited if use exceeds 5GB per month. Internet browsing does not include: hosted computer applications, continuous web camera or broadcast, automatic data feeds, machine-to-machine connections, peer to peer (P2P) connections or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality."
    It seems to me someone who makes way too much money can't make up their mind.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    TOS without notice

    I feel that the TOS should not be allowed to include a statement that says can ge changed at any time without notice and you auto agree to it.

    Thats like saying you owe me $100 for me giving you a rid home and during the rid i change the conditions 3 times and now you owe me $250 and you have no rights at all..

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Sean, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:00am

    Re: No all-you-can-eat

    They do not cut you off after the limit they just slow down the data transfer. They would have a problem if the plan said "Unlimited 5mbps plan" and they then degraded your service after a point below the 5mbps.

    Also they plan does not say it is unlimited unrestricted. They expect you to use the phone plan for normal operations on the phone not as a mobile connection to the internet for your computer.

     

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  28.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:19am

    Whatever happened to truth in advertising?

    there is no truth in advertising. marketing, spin, damage control, "getting in front of" something, it's all fancy talk for lies. if they weren't lies, there wouldn't be fine print and disclaimers, but the is always fine print and there are always disclaimers and fine print.

    that's what legal and marketing departments are for: to manage the creation and dissemination of lies.

    corporations lie. advertisers lie. sales people lie. politicians lie. lying is what makes the world go round.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    RD, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Here we go

    Cue the Apologitards who will rush to defend the ISP and fervently declare their right, nay their OBLIGATION, to limit "abusers" and "unfair bandwidth hogs" so that they can surf their porn sites and not have to wait for their jerk-off material even one second longer than necessary. May as well state this now, get it out of the way:

    IF YOU ADVERTISE UNLIMITED YOU NEED TO HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR IT. IF YOU CANT HANDLE THE LOAD, DONT ALLOW NEW CUSTOMERS TO SIGN UP.

    ITS NOT "ABUSE" IF YOU USE THE FULL BANDWIDTH YOU PAID FOR.

    PUSHING "UNLIMITED" TO GET PEOPLE TO SIGN UP AND THEN BURYING LIMITS IN THE FINE PRINT IS NOT PROPER, LEGAL, OR RIGHT

    That should counter just about all the arguments that will inevitably pour out from the mouth-breathers.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    bob, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:52am

    It's Hard

    CDMA, shit it will be really hard to go over the 5GB limit in 30 days.
    I would not want to read my email on that system.

     

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  31.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    Misunderstanding "Machine to Machine"

    Aside from the BS of calling it "unlimited" when it clearly is limited...the $40 price point is quite good, and it's nice to see some competition for the current $60-80 plans from the national brands.

    As for MACHINE-TO-MACHINE, I can clear up some of the confusion. M2M is industry jargon, so no wonder it doesn't make sense to readers here, nor should it. It shouldn't be written in a consumer-facing document.

    M2M refers to a specific type of enterprise wireless connection, such as sensor networks, vending machines, traffic cameras, telematics, etc. One important aspect of M2M connections is that that there is NOT a human on the remote end of the connection, but JUST a machine. MetroPCS wants to protect the opportunity to sell these enterprise customers different plans, not the consumer plan for $40.

    So in industry jargon, you using your laptop to connect to a server is not M2M.

    More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_to_Machine

    Derek Kerton
    Telecom Analyst

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Daemon, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Why? Here's why:

    Cricket and others have had to implement this practice because 5% or less of the users hog up 95% of the bandwidth. A few bad apples spoil the bunch. Why do you think AT&T did what it did? Buffet busters, ruin it for everyone. This isn't unique to Cricket, but clearly someone didn't bother to do their homework before placing crosshairs on a target.

     

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  33.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 19th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Why? Here's why:

    Why do you think AT&T did what it did? Buffet busters, ruin it for everyone. This isn't unique to Cricket, but clearly someone didn't bother to do their homework before placing crosshairs on a target.

    no one is arguing with the limits. people are arguing about the fact that the plan is advertised as unlimited when there are in fact, several limitations.

    a buffet advertised as "all you can eat" that cuts you off after two plates full shouldn't be billed as "all you can eat" it should be billed as "limit two plates per customer". if you can't handle the load, don't tell your customers that you can. that's dishonest.

    all broadband service is limited. those limits should be clearly noted so that we can evaluate each providers' limitations and make an informed choice.

    why> here's why: competition. no one in the telecommunications industry wants competition. so they lie to consumers so they can't make informed choices, and make them sign contracts so they can't switch once they've been screwed.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Daemon, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 2:27pm

    Why? It was already answered Momo

    "Cricket and others have had to implement this practice because 5% or less of the users hog up 95% of the bandwidth. A few bad apples spoil the bunch. Why do you think AT&T did what it did? Buffet busters, ruin it for everyone. This isn't unique to Cricket, but clearly someone didn't bother to do their homework before placing crosshairs on a target."

    Too late, sorry. See comment #29 above yours. Thank you for playing, please try again. Try using a real argument next time and one that hasnt already been rendered moot by nearly all the previous comments in the thread.

    Oh I suppose I may as well re-state it, since you are obviously oblivious:

    DONT ADVERTISE UNLIMITED IF IT HAS LIMITS

    IT'S NOT "ABUSE" TO USE WHAT YOU PAID FOR TO ITS FULLEST

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Chris S, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 3:29pm

    Hasn't this been going on forever?

    Didn't AOL do something like this back in their dial up days when they couldn't handle all the users and everyone kept getting busy signals? Their plan was "unlimited", but if you stayed connected for too long every month, they hit you with "usage fees".

    It just wasn't AOL. I subscribed to a local mom & pa ISP that advertised "Unlimited Ineternet for $19.99 a month" back in the dial up days. Low-and-behold, I wasn't able to connect to my account anymore after a few months and when I called "Tech Support" I was told that I was staying connected too long and that I would need to pay for a "Dedicated" connection at $40.00.

    The word "Unlimited" has been beaten to death since consumers started paying for the internet long ago.

    This will probably go on forever. Companies just want to take your money, and they do so by lying to you with false promises. It's how it has always been and always will be.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Seth Brundle, Dec 20th, 2008 @ 8:49am

    Nothing is Unlimited

    omg this argument again.

    As a consumer, just remember this: nothing is unlimited.
    Then you will never be dissapointed.

    If ANY consumer internet service was truly unlimited, I would simply add it to my datacenter and resell the bandwidth as commercial.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Daniel W. Crompton, Dec 21st, 2008 @ 3:09am

    Cracks me up

    Although I think it's far worse for a company to offer a 20Mb download speed and deliver anything less than 20Mb. It's that fraud?

    Hugs,
    Daniel

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 2:16am

    "Whatever happened to truth in advertising?"

    hahahahahahaha

    oh, you were serious.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    James S, Jan 3rd, 2009 @ 3:38am

    Re: Hasn't this been going on forever?

    If 95% of the customers don't go over 5GB, then 95% of the customers will believe they have unlimited access. The other 5% will be portrayed as whiners and the company won't miss much by losing their business. And for a company to say they're the "BEST" is their opinion, but UNLIMITED is statement of fact. Throttling down is like buying a 160MPH Corvette that happens to have an rpm limiter holding you back to 120MPH.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    dave herman, Feb 23rd, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    5 gigs

    so what is five gigs really how much usage is it can some one tell me

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Dr.Don, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 9:13pm

    Re: It's Hard

    I have the Cricket plan discussed here, and yes you can easily go over the 5gb limit in less than a month. I've been with them about 8 months now. You can't use a wireless router with it, which bites, and the modem takes up TWO usb 2.0 ports, and sucks up to 1 amp while operating. Not so great for a notebook with only three ports, and an old battery...

    You Tube, all the news site video, as well as many web pages nowadays all use high bandwidth to deliver their content. When I first connected with them, it was blazing fast to me, who just came off dialup - with d/l's transferring around 1 megabit (modem connects at 230k internally, so there is a lot of compression somewhere). Now I'm lucky to get 128k - ALL THE TIME. It truly sucks now waiting almost as long for video to buffer, it was just like the dialup I left behind.

    Now the next part: Try to call them to register a complaint - really. Good luck. Apparently there are no supervisors, and all their paeons can't scratch their ass without approval from the main office... If they can find their ass with both hands in their back pockets...

    I'm an old MS support guy (Win95 days), and just shake my head at all the lost opportunities when these new companies don't listen to their customers. No wonder the economy is in such a mess - there is no pride in putting forth the best product and service anymore, or mastering a true working knowledge of your product - just cheaper, faster, more profit.

    If you are the 'granny special' types, don't have DSL or cable in your area (but DO have a Cricket tower near you), or you need a cheap plan just when you are mobile, with a good battery in your portable, this is a good plan and product. If you plan to really surf (and have the extra money - I don't), you should spring for cable, WiFi, or something faster and more stable.

    Good luck to all, and peace.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Earl Cooley III, Apr 11th, 2009 @ 8:55pm

    hosted computer applications?

    So, I'm wondering if "hosted computer applications" is actually a euphemism for online computer games?

     

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