Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

AT&T’s iPhone data billing is irritating

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I love my Apple iPhone.

I have an 850 Anytime minute plan, which is just about right. I have the basic 200MB data plan, which is also just about right. I’ve gone over on the data plan just once, and I’m very careful to not go over, which doubles the cost for data that month.

On March 26, 2012 at 7:04am I received a text message from AT&T saying I had used 90% of my data plan for the month, which is the calendar month for my account. That meant I needed to consume less than 20 megabytes in the next five days. I was careful to limit my usage, staying on WiFi as much as possible and not checking my email in line at the grocery store, for example.

Thus I was upset when my bill arrived and it showed I had used 201 megabytes of data in March. That extra one megabyte cost me USD $15.00. I called to complain. I reviewed my data usage online during the support call with Brandon Hillhouse. I added up all the data I used on March 26-31, 2012, starting at 12:01am on March 26th. The total came to 17,970 KB or 17.548 MB. So I did not go over the 20MB that AT&T’s own text message said I had left as of March 26th.

Hillhouse told me that iPhone applications started on 3G stay on 3G even if you roam into WiFi coverage. He said the only way to force using WiFi is to shut down all apps explicitly via a menu I can not find on my phone. I have never heard of this, so I asked him if he was certain. He said he was. I then told him I was a journalist and planned to write about this and name him, so I wanted to be certain he was certain. He said he was certain, and he further said he deals with this issue on a daily basis. I advised him to write good notes on my account so that if he’s approached by his boss later he will remember our call well. He said he would write good notes.

I am wildly skeptical that Hillhouse has his information correct. I just don’t believe it. What’s the point of roaming into a WiFi area if you have to shut down everything to take advantage of the ‘free’ data on WiFi?

However, if Hillhouse is correct, this is news I think many people don’t know, which is why I am writing about it here. Let’s get a discussion going in the comments about this.

Hillhouse removed the USD $15.00 charge for going over. Thank you, I think. I told him charging me for an extra megabyte when their own bill shows 17.548 MB used after the text message looks like fraud to me. What’s probably happening is that text message was slightly incorrect, and probably should have not said 90% but the exact, precise value to several decimal points. According to the bill, I used 200.1924 megabytes in March. How nice for AT&T to round up rather than to the nearest megabyte. AT&T should send out accurate text messages that state exactly how much data remains. I suspect their messages are rounded to the nearest 10%, which caused this problem for me, because they probably rounded down. My long call with Hillhouse today must have cost AT&T at least USD $30 — a big waste.

I know I can buy 3 gigs of data for the price of 400 megs of data if I go over on my 200 meg plan. But I don’t want or need 3 gigs of data, and the data networks are already overtaxed, so I feel my frugality is bandwidth conservation, not cheapness. Also, I have a Verizon MiFi WiFi hotspot with 5 gigs of data per month, which I can use if I need to really consume a lot of data on the road from my iPhone. I justified getting that device and accompanying bill by cutting out my unlimited IPhone data plan that I had since I bought the original iPhone on launch day July 7, 2007.

Here’s my actual billing detail from the last charge on March 25, 2012, the day before the AT&T 90% consumed email. You can add up the numbers in the 6th column and learn that I did not use more than 20 megabytes of data during the rest of the month of March. But you can see in the 7th column on March 31, 2012 where AT&T decided to charge me USD $15.00 for going over 200 megabytes for the month.

177 03/25/2012 09:46PM phone Data Transfer 1,757 KB 0.00
178 03/26/2012 09:58AM phone Data Transfer 29 KB 0.00
179 03/26/2012 10:43AM phone Data Transfer 39 KB 0.00
180 03/26/2012 12:20PM phone Data Transfer 48 KB 0.00
181 03/26/2012 02:35PM phone Data Transfer 35 KB 0.00
182 03/26/2012 03:20PM phone Data Transfer 328 KB 0.00
183 03/26/2012 07:45PM phone Data Transfer 16 KB 0.00
184 03/26/2012 08:10PM phone Data Transfer 7 KB 0.00
185 03/26/2012 08:19PM phone Data Transfer 44 KB 0.00
186 03/26/2012 09:19PM phone Data Transfer 236 KB 0.00
187 03/27/2012 10:13AM phone Data Transfer 1 KB 0.00
188 03/27/2012 10:13AM phone Data Transfer 1 KB 0.00
189 03/27/2012 10:25AM phone Data Transfer 67 KB 0.00
190 03/27/2012 01:14PM phone Data Transfer 418 KB 0.00
191 03/27/2012 09:17PM phone Data Transfer 21 KB 0.00
192 03/27/2012 10:22PM phone Data Transfer 3,791 KB 0.00
193 03/28/2012 04:15PM phone Data Transfer 5 KB 0.00
194 03/28/2012 04:25PM phone Data Transfer 14 KB 0.00
195 03/28/2012 05:08PM phone Data Transfer 90 KB 0.00
196 03/28/2012 09:08PM phone Data Transfer 911 KB 0.00
197 03/29/2012 03:46PM phone Data Transfer 7 KB 0.00
198 03/29/2012 03:58PM phone Data Transfer 184 KB 0.00
199 03/29/2012 09:38PM phone Data Transfer 1,148 KB 0.00
200 03/30/2012 01:26PM phone Data Transfer 7 KB 0.00
201 03/30/2012 01:51PM phone Data Transfer 32 KB 0.00
202 03/30/2012 03:37PM phone Data Transfer 8 KB 0.00
203 03/30/2012 04:24PM phone Data Transfer 296 KB 0.00
204 03/30/2012 09:43PM phone Data Transfer 2 KB 0.00
205 03/31/2012 01:27AM phone Data Transfer 10,088 KB 15.00
206 03/31/2012 07:32PM phone Data Transfer 97 KB 0.00

 

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 6th, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Protest,Technology

Tagged with ,

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