Monday, February 6, 2012

AT&T Throttles Its Most Loyal Customers

AT&T's almost pathological hatred of its own customers continues.  Its desire to force customers into a pay-per-bit plans, whether they like it or not, exposes them once again very publicly as liars and incredibly short sided business people.

If you recall, the justification for tiered pricing was that "data hogs" we're ruining it for everyone by sucking up too much data, and should be forced to pay more than "ordinary" customers who were reasonable about their data use.  Of course, the whole data hog thing was a myth, but you'd think AT&T would at least try to have their policies somewhat consistent with their made up bullshit.

But this is AT&T, and consistent PR strategy isn't their strong suit.  They instituted tiered pricing, but only for new customers.  Existing customers were grandfathered in with "unlimited" plans (which really weren't unlimited, but that's another story).  This didn't make a lot of sense if there really was a data hog problem, but the truth was AT&T simply wanted to charge more, and even more importantly, create billing confusion so they could occasionally gouge customers and make it hard to compare plans between services.  (This is a company which adored hated practices like daytime/nighttime minutes and ever changing fees for long distance calling.)  So the mission was accomplished by screwing new customers into tiered pricing, without having to take a chance on angering old customers.  Hopefully, old customers would die or fall into new plans.

This of course created a huge opportunity for Sprint to steal customers away by offering unlimited plans, but apparently AT&T's leadership is willing to take that hit in order to force new customers into something they don't want.

Now would be a good time to lay low on the whole data hog thing and see how much self inflicted damage AT&T was doing to itself, but no, why not inflict more damage?   So remember those customers who have grandfathered in "unlimited" plans?  AT&T has gone to war with them.  And not just the "data hogs," basically anyone who actually uses their phones:

AT&T Throttles It's Customers

AT&T has started to throttle usage speeds on "unlimited" customers using as little as 2 Gigs of monthly data.  There are a lot of problems with this.

First, it once again exposes how big a lie the "data hog" thing was.  AT&T has always had the ability to throttle speeds, which they could have easily done on anyone using excessive data, but instead they forced non-data hogs into tiered plans.

Secondly, by targeting customers who don't use that much data, AT&T is making it clear this was always about finding ways to overcharge customers and take away transparent "one price per month" billing.

Thirdly, AT&T is attacking customers who were grandfathered in on the existing plan, that is, long term AT&T customers.  These are people who have suffered with AT&T's lousy service for some time, and didn't run to switch to Verizon or Sprint.  To attack them so soon after adopting tiered pricing is frankly, dumbfounding.  Would have been better to have just forced them to tiered plans to begin with.

AT&T's profits recently took a massive slide, mostly because of their disastrous bid for T-Mobile.  After that billion dollar mistake, a change in thinking might have been in order.  AT&T's plan for some time has been to treat customers badly, charge them too much, and use the money to buy up competing companies so they can't escape.  You'd think once the second half of that plan fell apart, and customers do have real choices for the near future, AT&T wouldn't be so quick to want to kick their long time customer base between the legs.  But I guess tiered pricing is more important than happy customers.

As for me, I switched to Sprint some time ago.  And I'm very happy with my unlimited plan.

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