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Mixed Reception To AT&T's New Data Pricing Scheme 514

Several readers have sent in followups to Wednesday's news that AT&T was eliminating its unlimited data plan. Glenn Derene at Popular Mechanics defends the new plan, writing, "Imagine, for a moment, if we bought electricity the way we buy data in this country. Every month, you would pay a fixed amount of money (say, $120), and then you would use as much electricity as you wanted, with an incentive to use as much as you could. That brings price stability to the end user, but it's a horrible way to manage electricity load." Others point out that this will likely engender more scrutiny from regulatory agencies and watchdog groups. A Computerworld article says that one way or the other, AT&T's decision is a huge deal for the mobile computing industry, influencing not only how other carriers look at data rates, but how content providers and advertisers will need to start thinking about a data budget if they want consumers to keep visiting their sites. AT&T, responding to criticism, has decided to allow iPad buyers to use the old, unlimited plan as long as they order before June 7, and Gizmodo has raised the question of "rollover bytes."
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Mixed Reception To AT&T's New Data Pricing Scheme

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  • by francium de neobie ( 590783 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @06:41PM (#32464802)
    When I was in Hong Kong, I just had to pay $51 USD per month [three.com.hk] and they'll give you unlimited 3G data with tethering, tons of voice minutes, wifi access at their hotspots throughout the city, and an legally unlocked iPhone 3GS.

    Now I'm in Palo Alto, that barely buys me a voice plan. And even if I give them 2x what I did in Hong Kong, I'm still capped. And AT&T's reception in cities (like San Fran) sucks - yet it's Hong Kong that has more frickin' high rise buildings to block the 3G signals - and in Hong Kong 3G fucking works. I really, REALLY have no idea how any of you guys can try to defend AT&T over their crap service.
  • by GWBasic ( 900357 ) <slashdot@andrewr ... com minus author> on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:01PM (#32464986) Homepage

    These kinds of plans have been tried before, and they always fail. Email is cheap, bandwidth-wise, and movies can be had from Netflix for less than the cost of the bandwidth used by the net.

    What are you smoking??? Gasoline, Electricity, and (utility delivered) gas are all charged per-usage! Where I live, gas has a small monthly fee to keep up the pipes, but the vast majority of the bill is usage!

    These kinds of plans work well when customers need an incentive to conserve, and everything I hear from the telcos is that they want us to conserve bandwidth because we use it as fast as they can build it.

  • Re:I kinda like it (Score:3, Informative)

    by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:21PM (#32465218)

    Download the AT&T app. You can log in, pay your bill, and see how much data, minutes, and texts you've used in this billing period.

  • Re:Stupid comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by GWBasic ( 900357 ) <slashdot@andrewr ... com minus author> on Friday June 04, 2010 @07:40PM (#32465398) Homepage

    Data isn't like that. If the connection is present, it costs no more for the internet provider to transmit at maximum bandwidth versus transmitting nothing at all, for a given period of time. You might as well use it. The only limitation is bandwidth, since the "pipe" is only so big, so if everyone is trying to transmit/receive data at the same time, they're going to be limited as they have to share.

    You're wrong. Radio spectrum is a finite resource; there's no more untapped frequencies. It follows the same economics of energy, which is constrained by how fast we can suck it out of the ground. Radio spectrum is constrained by how smartly we can divide it up.

    If someone downloads tons of stuff during off-hours, making use of bandwidth that would otherwise go unused, this does not cost the company anything, nor does it inconvenience other customers.

    Again, there's still more demand then the bandwidth can handle. What happens as soon as a bunch of people decide to batch up their less-time-sensitive stuff and send it at night? Then nighttime will become constrained. We're already seeing bandwidth peaks at night.

  • Re:Stupid comparison (Score:3, Informative)

    by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:28PM (#32465766) Journal

    yes, but the radio channel, like the analog long distance phone lines of old, can only carry so many transmission at a time (new ways to vode the data onto the channel keeps upping that number tho).

    end result was that a long distance call was payed by the minute to get people to keep their calls short so the telco didnt have to dig one trench for every person in the world.

    this is so they dont have to set up a cell pr square meter of city.

  • Re:Stupid comparison (Score:3, Informative)

    by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:40PM (#32466726)

    No, you're missing the point. Radio spectrum is just like internet bandwidth: the absolute amount is infinite, it's only the rate that is limited. Haven't you ever taken a calculus class?

    If I transmit some information over a radio, it only uses up that spectrum during that time.

    Don't criticize people about calculus when you screw up dimensional analysis. Both the radio spectrum and Internet bandwidth measure rates. The total amount of data transmitted is unlimited (essentially). (It's silly to say it's infinite, since that's only over infinite time scales, but it's true that, essentially, no finite resource is consumed by the transit of data.) However, they don't measure the total amount of data transferred, they measure rates. The term "bandwidth", even, comes directly from terms used for the radio spectrum. So when someone says there's a finite amount of radio spectrum available, they're right, there is. Since they're limiting you to X gigabytes per month, they're not limiting transit, but rather rate -- using a very, very rough measure (averaged over a month). If they have enough users, that coarse of an average might even be reasonable.

  • Re:it had to happen (Score:2, Informative)

    by perryizgr8 ( 1370173 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @03:11AM (#32467394)
    but tethering is inbuilt in all phones. every cheap and expensive phone asks you if you want to share the 3g network as soon as you plug in the usb cable. nothing has to be bought. also, applications like these [ovi.com] are freely available. you can have lite and paid versions too. i don't think they are illegal.
  • Re:Stupid comparison (Score:3, Informative)

    by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @05:19AM (#32467718)

    I find it interesting that people on such supposedly tech-savvy place like slashdot have so much trouble understanding the fundamental issues involved with this.

    Anyway, I'm not going to go into full rant mode, I just want to say that the network I used to connect from home does pretty much exactly what you suggest. The standard rate was 1650/825, and once you go over 200MB withing a short period of time, you'd be dropped to 70% of that, and 50% after another 200MB or so. If you laid off the torrenting for 30-60 minutes, you'd be back at full speed. I didn't particularly like this method since I'd get all excited about something that will finish downloading in 15 minutes, only to have my speed halved and have to wait so much longer. Still, I think this is a rather effective method.

    Many ISPs here (used to?) do something similar, but they usually only do this once per month, so if you go over on the 15th, you're fucked until everything gets reset on the 1st, for example. One thing I still haven't seem widely implemented everywhere is having higher caps/lower prices for night time, as the night-time low is [nix.cz] roughly 4-4.5 times lower than the daily peak.

  • Re:Data Budgets (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @07:12AM (#32467906) Journal

    OK, I'll pay that. But my point was that the ads are an integral part of the free internet. If you want to use it, you're going to need to pay twice.

    Just like when I paid twice for the CD I bought; once to the store, and once to the petrol station that delivered the energy to propel me there and back.

    Personally, I just tally it up to the total cost, and use that for comparison with other ways of buying CDs.

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