Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's a bargain at twice the price!

I don't have an iPhone, Palm, Treo, or laptop with a 3G card or whatever... so I've never even paused to price wireless data plans before, but this story via Kevin Drum caused my eyes to pop out of my head for reasons different than I think the author intended:
The bill showed $182.96 in monthly access charges, $5.17 in taxes and fees . . . and $9,805.75 in wireless Internet activity.

According to the bill, Elliot used his cellphone to upload, download or otherwise access more than 44,000 megabytes worth of data in a single month.
The point of the story is actually how this mistaken charge(of 10,000 dollars!), because of some weird "third time is the charm" policy of Bank of America, actually went through after repeated attempts from Verizon... despite complaints from the customer and the fact that he had less than 1K in the bank. That's pretty terrible... yet another tale of corporate incompetence, which was only corrected when they found out they'd be in the paper. You just have to shake your head... but what I still can't get over is the $10K for about 44 Gigabytes of bandwidth price tag.

I'll grant you... that's a ton of bandwidth to use in a month... your normal user isn't going to come anywhere near that number... but it still works out to about $230 a gigabyte. It only took a few minutes searching to see that this indeed was Verizon's pricing scheme for wireless internet access... $0.25 for every megabyte(i.e. $256 per GB) over a set threshold. They appear to have cut that back with the introduction of their netbooks to $0.10 (with a 50 MB threshold) and $0.05(with a 5 GB threshold) overcharges for $40 and $60 a month respectively... not to be all cynical, but don't you get the feeling that the reduction is just to make the charges less obtrusive on your monthly bill?

To get some perspective on what a gigabyte in bandwidth means as far as internet usage, looking at Hulu's faq... their standard streams range from 480 Kbps to 700 Kbps for normal definition shows... so that works out to about a GB of bandwidth in about 24-36 minutes of TV watching. I don't imagine a lot of people are streaming video on their iPhones (are they?) but it seems like a natural use of those sleek little netbooks. I also thought people were singing the praises of those 3G wireless cards? It just doesn't seem you could be doing a whole lot before you'd be paying through the nose.

Like I said, I've never even thought much about wireless internet access... it's not something I felt the need to get... and seeing stuff like this makes me feel even less inclined towards exploring it. No blogging from the beach for me, I guess.