Sunday, June 6, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With a Mythical AT&T "Data Hog"

According to the mainstream press, evil "data hogs" have been ruining AT&T's iPhone service for everyone. Because of them, AT&T claims it was forced to initiate a tiered pricing plan that supposedly will make everyone happy except those evil data hogs.

For example, the New York Times states: "The trouble for AT&T was that a fraction of users-fewer than 2 percent-made such heavy use of the network that they slowed it down for everyone else." The Times doesn't state where it came up with that number, presumably AT&T. In the same piece, telecommunications industry analyst, Roger Entner, says: "The free lunch for the ultra-heavy data user has been taken off the menu." In the Los Angeles Times, Jack Plunkett, another analyst states: "There are a handful of subscribers that are using a ton of bandwidth…" No facts or figures are independently confirmed or researched by either paper, which seems odd since there would seem to be some big logic holes in this "data hog" story. (For example, all of AT&T's iPhone contracts have a data cap of 5 gigs which isn't a lot for supposedly "unlimited" plans.) Thanks for keeping your readers informed, leaders of the fourth estate!

While AT&T Critic doesn't have access to the same crack reporting staffs that are able to reword AT&T press releases, repeat corporate dogma without question and quote paid industry analysts without any fact checking, we do have this EXCLUSIVE interview with one of those elusive DATA HOGS.

AT&T Critic: "Hello, so you are a real life iPhone data hog?"

Data Hog: "Yes. I'm a data hog. Oink. Oink."

AT&T Critic: "I have to say, I didn't really believe you existed. I thought you were just a mythical corporate scapegoat invented to justify a complicated tiered pricing scheme aimed at ripping off all customers."

Data Hog: "No, no, I really exist, I suck up lots and lots of data and ruin things for everyone."

AT&T Critic: "But AT&T widely advertised that it was offering "unlimited" data access for iPhone customers. Why are you such a bad person because you take full advantage of a service they promoted that you paid for under a minimum two year contract?"

Data Hog: "Because I hog so much data."

AT&T Critic: "AT&T says that 98% of smart phone customers use less that 2 gigs of data and even claims that 65% use less that 200 megs. These are very low amounts of supposedly unlimited data. So isn't the real story that most smart phone customers aren't using their phones that much and AT&T has been racking in profits on people who are paying for services they barely use?"

Data Hog: "No, no, that's not the story, the story is that data hogs are ruining things."

AT&T Critic: "But how could AT&T not assume in advance that some small percentage of people might use data more than others? Where is the surprise in that? After all, it actually seems pretty amazing that only 2 percent of people are using more than 2 gigs. How could AT&T have not planned on some tiny percentage of people taking them up on their widely advertised offer of unlimited data? Why should that be such a problem?"

Data Hog: "Because I'm such a hog. I'm ruining it for everyone else."

AT&T Critic: "That makes absolutely no sense. Cable companies don't get upset when people watch more TV. 24 hour fitness centers don't get upset when people work out a lot. It would seem that you're one of AT&T's best customers. Why should you be vilified?"

Data Hog: "Because… I'm evil? Oink?"

AT&T Critic: "In addition to paying $30 a month for the right to use "unlimited" data, you also have to pay above average fees for having an iPhone. I still don't understand what you've done wrong. I assume if you're such a heavy data user, you probably do a lot of texting, which AT&T has the highest rates for, and therefore they get extra money from that. Not to mention you probably use your phone a lot and pay for unlimited minutes. If you use so much data, perhaps you're a customer of AT&T's internet service, second lines and land lines. AT&T offers mapping and family tracking services for extra fees… surely you're a customer with above average phone bills all around. AT&T must be making a ton of money off you already."

Data Hog: "No, no, I don't do any of that. I don't text, use the phone, or anything. I just hog data."

AT&T Critic: "Even if you personally are not using a lot of AT&T's expensive services, a large percentage of other supposed "data hogs" probably represent AT&T's most valuable business customers. So, what exactly are you doing with all this data you're hogging?"

Data Hog: "Oh, I'm just hogging it. Lots of it. Lot's of data. I'm a data hog."

AT&T Critic: "But what EXACTLY is the data? What is it you're down loading all the time?"

Data Hog: (Long pause.) "Umm… porn."

AT&T Critic: "Porn? Why are you downloading porn on your iPhone? But why not use your computer if you want that much porn? I mean, wouldn't it be faster? In fact, if you're doing a lot of data hogging, why not use faster services like wi-fi, many that are free? Why would you use your iPhone to download lots of data? It doesn't make any sense."

Data Hog: "Because… I'm evil?"

AT&T Critic: "Well, okay, but exactly how much data are you hogging?"

Data Hog: "Oh, tons and tons. All porn."

AT&T Critic: "AT&T already has a 5 gig per month limit on iPhones. So if you went over that, why didn't AT&T cut off your service or bill you extra?"

Data Hog: "I don't know…"

AT&T Critic: "I mean, if data hogs are a problem, isn't it AT&T's fault for not enforcing it's contractual 5 gig limit? If congestion was really all because 2 percent of customers who were violating their contracts, why didn't AT&T cut them off or charge them extra? Why change the rates for everyone because AT&T didn't follow it's own rules? Are you saying that AT&T's service problems were all AT&T's fault for not enforcing their own limits in the first place?"

Data Hog: "Umm… maybe I was just under 5 gigs."

AT&T Critic: "So data hogs are really a tiny 2 percent of iPhone customers who went over 2 gigs (which is about two feature films a month) and less than 5 gigs using a service advertised as "unlimited?" Anyone watching You Tube on a two hour daily train commute could use 5 gigs a month easily. Why should these people be condemned as data hogs and have their rates doubled? And why should everyone else have to worry about their phone bills suddenly spiking, when they had been using well under the iPhone's contractual capacity? Isn't the real story here that people have not been using much data on their iPhones, so AT&T is lowering it's data limits to bill everyone more? Wouldn't a better justification of raising rates be that everyone was using lots of data, not just a few data hogs? Wouldn't the real way of solving this imaginary "data hog" problem just be to enforce the original contracts 5 gig limit or lower it to 4 gigs if necessary? That is, unless AT&T is lying about data hogs being a problem, and simply wants to raise rates on everyone."

Data Hog: "Oink… oink, did I mention I hog data?"

AT&T Critic: "Isn't the truth that you are not a mythical data hog at all. You're just Randall Stephenson wearing a fake pig nose?"

Data Hog: "No comment."

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