Tags: 3G, AT&T, blackberry, mifi, Novatel, Playbook, tethering
I’ve been an AT&T customer for a very long time; over a decade of mobile phone use with their services, from my age’ing Nokia to my various Treo devices to several RIM BlackBerry phones.
I’m currently on the biggest, baddest Enterprise “Unlimited” data, “Unlimited” texting plan they offer, including International Roaming and texting as well, for when I travel overseas. I also have a second line for data only, which I use in my Novatel MiFi device, a SIM card previously plugged directly into my laptop so I could get online while on the train traveling to/from the office.
I recently picked up a BlackBerry PlayBook to use for work, and have been hacking on it a little bit. One thing that was lacking, was “always-on” Internet service. You have to use WiFi or tethering to get the tablet onto the Internet. In fact, you can’t even use the tablet at all unless it’s connected to a wireless network of some kind.
I just called AT&T to see what the additional cost would be to add “Tethering” to my existing phone features. The cordial operator told me that my current “Unlimited” plan is costing me $30.00/month, and to add the “Unlimited + Tethering” package, it would be $80.00/month (a $50.00/month increase).
I’m floored that I’d have to pay an additional $50/month for something that is no different than using my existing phone to browse the web. In other words, there’s no difference at all in the bits-and-bytes coming across the 3G connection if I browse the web via my phone’s browser, or browse the web via the PlayBook (or my laptop), through my phone’s 3G connection over bluetooth, via tethering.
The operator spoke to her supervisor and came back and told me that if I added tethering to my current “Unlimited” plan, I’d lose the unlimited capability, it would drop to 2GB/month, max, and I could never go back to an unlimited plan ever again, if I changed it now. Then she told me that she wasn’t allowed to add the tethering feature to my plan, because I’m using a BlackBerry PlayBook device.
So I said “Ok, let’s add tethering so I can use it for tethering my BlackBerry phone device with my laptops instead.”, and she said her supervisor refused to let me add it at all.
I reiterated that I’ve been a very longstanding customer, with 2 mobile phone lines using an Enterprise account (not a normal customer account), their DSL Internet services, television/cable services, etc. for over 10 years, paying for the biggest, baddest phone plan they offer, and they still can’t permit me to add tethering to my phone?!
Nope, they can’t.
So if you’re on an unlimited data plan of any sort with AT&T, they absolutely will not allow you to add the tethering feature and remain on an unlimited plan, period.
I asked if my main phone line was still under contract, and she indicated that it was on contract for another year, until February 2012. I asked what it would cost to break that contract, and she quoted me $105.00 to terminate the contract early.
$105.00?! That’s almost 1/2 of what I already pay for my monthly phone bill already, not including the $80.00 she wanted to charge me for tethering, on top of that amount. That’s an easy case to make to break the contract and switch providers to someone saner than this.
I explained to her that these draconian policies were making it very hard for me to try to remain loyal to their company and its services, since they continue to take away features and function, charge more, and give less. Why would I pay an additional $50/month for less features than I’d get if I walked into an AT&T store and ordered a third line clean from the company?
I thanked her for her time, and said I would be calling the other carriers to switch to them, and that I’d be calling AT&T back shortly to terminate all of my service with them, from DSL to cable television to my two mobile phone lines. After 10 years, I’m done with them.
Now I’m searching for another mobile carrier who will let me retain an unlimited data plan, tether my phone to my laptop (or tablet) without additional senseless charges, and let me use my phone and devices as they were intended, connected together, in a world where you don’t get incrementally upcharged for reduced services and reduced quality.
Verizon is flat out of the selection pool, since their devices don’t support SIM cards nor do they support BlackBerry Bold devices, so I’m stuck with
Sprint, T-Mobile (soon to be bought by AT&T, which gets me back in the same mess I’m in now), AllTel, Nextel (owned by Sprint now) or Boost Mobile.
Update: $69.99 of my bill from AT&T is for “Unlimited Anytime Minutes”. Sprint has no unlimited minutes feature, and charges $169.99/month for 3,000 minutes. WOW!