Is AT&T Doing Bait & Switch On Broadband Caps?

from the not-surprising,-but-not-good dept

You would think with the PR nightmare surrounding capped broadband that forced Time Warner Cable to at least temporarily back off limiting broadband, that other broadband providers would be a lot more careful. However, Gigaom reports that some AT&T U-verse customers are discovering the broadband that AT&T is selling them is capped with low limits, but they're not being told about these limits until after they're locked in. It would seem like this is the sort of thing that the FTC has been known to frown upon -- not to mention it's also the type of thing that gets people pretty upset in a hurry. It really is amazing how hamfisted the broadband providers seem to be when it comes to marketing their broadband plans.

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  • identicon
    The Cenobyte, 21 Apr 2009 @ 5:47am

    FCC needs to just force them to list the terms

    All that needs to happen to fix this is have the FCC and/or the FTC to force broadband providers to give a listing of extactly what they are selling you in a simple to read english format. I am sure they mostly already do that, but in 200pages of crap. All I need is a half page of what exactly the service is. Also contracts with home service contracts should be blocked from change without the customers consent at the time of change until the end of contract. IE clauses in contracts that allow pricing and service changes on the part of the provider that do not null the contract should be illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2009 @ 8:18am

      Re: FCC needs to just force them to list the terms

      should be illegal...

      Unless required by law such as tax changes on the state or federal level.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael B, 21 Apr 2009 @ 8:34am

      Re: FCC needs to just force them to list the terms

      The FTC and FCC are pretty toothless and gutless. The thing that will change AT&T's behavior is massive exoduses from its services... and those people who have bundles should drop all of the services.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mechwarrior, 21 Apr 2009 @ 5:59am

    Wouldnt this be a breach of contract?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew Henry, 21 Apr 2009 @ 6:32am

    Wouldnt this be a breach of contract?


    Only if you can convince an arbitrator that is bought and paid for by AT&T that this is a unilateral and material change. ISP contracts all have mandatory arbitration clauses and prevailing over your ISP is almost impossible (and very expensive).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joey Maloney, 21 Apr 2009 @ 6:39am

    It says it at the bottom of the box, after "monosodium glutamate"

    Well, I hardly think that is good enough. I think it would be more appropriate if the box bore a large, red label, "WARNING: LARK'S VOMIT!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mike42 (profile), 21 Apr 2009 @ 6:40am

    Not a cap

    The term, "cap" is a misnomer. I had Verizon, and it's a "ration at your monthly rate." A "cap" would imply that something happens when you hit the limit, which it doesn't. If you use more than 5 gig a month, you just pay more. Much more. As in $1 for every 4 meg.

    Oh, yeah, to check your usage you have a utility you can run (which fails 1 out of 5 times) or you can disconnect and check the log (which doesn't necessarily mesh with their records) It's a very fast connection, which means that you can use up your entire 5 gig in a 36 hour period if you leave your browser on a streaming news site, or if your kid decides to leave the browser on MySpace with a streaming video in the background.

    We really need some consumer advocates. My discussions with the Verizon help desk has led me to believe they nail people like this all the time.

    I canceled my service after this fiasco. Screwing your customers is not a sustainable business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      aguywhoneedstenbucks, 21 Apr 2009 @ 6:50am

      Re: Not a cap

      It certainly is a sustainable business model if all the companies in a particular industry are doing it. They just all have to do it at the same time and destroy any newcomers to the space by either buying them or charging insane amounts of money to leave their service.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2009 @ 8:38am

      Re: Not a cap

      "Cap" is quite accurate. Something DOES happen when you hit the limit... you get charged more. Regardless of the semantics, caps or limits or rations are ludicrous in light of the always-dropping cost of providing the service, in conjunction with the experts' view that the ISPs insistence that we are running out of bandwidth is nonsense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      The infamous Joe, 21 Apr 2009 @ 9:34am

      Re: Not a cap

      Oh, yeah, to check your usage you have a utility you can run (which fails 1 out of 5 times)

      Which I'm willing to bet only runs on Windows, and *maybe* Mac. Sorry Linux, none for you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glurbie, 21 Apr 2009 @ 7:13am

    When competing isn't your only option...

    If telcos have a tendency to throttle competing VoIP traffic, and cable companies have a tendency to throttle competing video and p2p traffic, then maybe it makes sense that a comprehensive service like U-Verse would tend to throttle the internet as a whole.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 21 Apr 2009 @ 7:19am

    bandwidth yadda yadda

    want to know how much bandwidth capacity they really have? Ask if they could handle every viewer watching HDTV at the same time, multiple rooms in a house even. Guess what? They already do handle this (and have for 5+ years).

    Yes, lets let them throttle for excuses of performance. sheesh. They just want to oversell it by a factor of 10 higher than they already do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Frosty840, 21 Apr 2009 @ 7:42am

    What has happened with this situation in the UK is that all the IRPs (Internet Restriction Providers) suddenly introduced a bunch of capped plans with very low prices, so that nobody complained ("it's cheap, it's crap, and I'm not interested, so I don't care") and then started slowly raising the prices on the uncapped services (which all have cap-like, crippling "fair use" restrictions on them anyway) until we got to the current, dreadful situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alex, 21 Apr 2009 @ 7:50am

    Would you expect anything less from a company that will give up your ass to the Feds without even blinking an eye.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2009 @ 7:54am

    Why you all down on AT&T? They're just doing what their Lizard Overlords are telling them to do. I for one welcome our new overlords.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Griffon, 21 Apr 2009 @ 9:13am

    My buddy in Reno is spitting mad about this. He signed up for uverse and never had the caps disclosed to him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2009 @ 9:14am

    AT&T = Evil

    This is not news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    that other Guy, 21 Apr 2009 @ 9:33am

    Lesser Evil

    While I am not a big fan of AT&T when I was forced to choose between Comcast and AT&T the choice was easy.
    Comcast has screwed too many people I know for me to ever consider paying them for crappy service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Brinker, 21 Apr 2009 @ 9:33am

    "mandatory arbitration clauses" have been shown in several courts to be unconscionable. This is because the courts accecpt the thory that a business is generaly in a much better bargining situation then the customer.

    The Cell Phone companys already got hit with this:
    http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/legal-services-litigation/11565671-1.html

    (note: I am a Washinton resident, your state might be differnt)

    The court felt that since arbitration paid for by the company had a 97% + rate of being in favor of the company that it was not fair to the consumer. As such the customer cant sign away their rights to lawsuit (including class action lawsuits) no matter what the contract says.

    Anyway, if you sign me up for a 2 year net access, then change my terms im just going to cancle under the grounds that you changed my contract and I had a right to accecpt the new contract (or not).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 21 Apr 2009 @ 1:33pm

    This is a GREAT business model!

    I'm going to start my own house painting service, and I'll make people sign a contract before I begin. Buried in all the fine print will be a clause saying that I can change the terms of the contract at any time. Then, I'll paint one small area, claim that their house is taking too much paint and quit. When they complain that I didn't deliver the service that they paid for, I'll just point them to the contract and tell them that I changed the terms.

    That way, I can charge big bucks and hardly have to do any work or use much paint. I'll be rich!

    If they try to sue me, I can point out the anti-sue clause that they agreed to and use AT&T as an example of other businesses that work this way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      FakeName1986273, 22 Apr 2009 @ 12:17pm

      Re: Rekrul

      I'll tell you this much... I just signed up for U-Verse, and I like some things better than Time Warner, but other things I don't like as much. If they change my rates at ANY POINT or cap my broadband either by throttling it down or charging me after a certain limit is reached, I'll be leaving them, and I will not be paying them a dime. I've got two friends that are lawyers (one in intellectual property) and my dad is a senator. Bring it bitches. If you want to tussle, lets tussle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Yep, get 'em hooked, then jack up the price. Then run an ad campaign villainizing 'pirates and other illegal bandwidth hogs' as the reason your service already sucks; Just keep trying out different lies 'till you find one that'll keep your 'customers' from burning down your corporate headquarters, and go for it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 21 Apr 2009 @ 6:13pm

    What contract?

    AT&T will never breach a contract with the consumer because he will never see the contract or understand it without a K street lawyer on retainer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shawn, 5 Dec 2016 @ 12:56pm

    At&T

    Hook em and book em every 3 months at a higher rate spend hours on the phone trying to get it right, and if that's not enough when you pay on-line they post it 2 weeks after funds have left your bank and sneak in 9 late fees each month. There needs to be a class action brought against these thiefs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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