AT&T has fired the first salvo in its struggle against net neutrality.
With the new iPhone’s imminent release, AT&T will no longer sell unlimited data plans. Instead, it’s lowering the cost for customers that use 200 MB of data or less per month and they’re going to charge slightly less than the current $30 unlimited plan for customers who use 2 GB or less per month – but then will charge $10 per each additional GB used per month. In other words, use more, pay more.
On its surface that equation sounds fair. Only problem is that the cost of bandwidth keeps going down but AT&T, and every other telecom if we don’t act soon, wants to charge more for it. Hmm. Its cost goes down, our cost goes up. Doesn’t sound so fair anymore does it?
Besides, the more you use, the less it should cost. That’s how AT&T pays for its bandwidth. The more it uses, the less its costs per unit. If they’re going to start charging per GB, then the cost to customers should go down per GB. For instance, if it wants to charge $10 for each GB over 2, then GB 4 should cost less than $10 and GB 5 should cost less than that and so on.
(Btw, AT&T earned just under $2.5 billion last quarter on revenue of over $30 billion.)
But there’s a much larger problem. Once the telcos and cable companies start metering phone usage, two things will follow. The first is they’ll soon export metering to your home broadband and before you know it, you’ll be paying $10, $20, $30 more each month there as well. The most troubling development, though, and what I believe to be their real end game with these new plans, will be the dismantling of net neutrality.
AT&T will, of course, argue that the new data plans have nothing to do with net neutrality and will only affect a tiny percentage of its customers who use the most bandwidth. Everyone else will have a lower bill. Bull. Its using the latest iPhone release and these plans as an innocent-sounding way to lure as many new customers as possible away from Verizon, convert as many customers as it can to iPhone/SmartPhone users then lull everyone into believing that only the the "abusers" are being taxed.
Abusers = people who watch video on their phones. People who watch movies on their phones. People who watch independent film. And by the end of this year or next at the latest, virtually every one of its customers will be watching enough video on their phones each month to qualify for the higher – in many cases much higher – metered rate.
Then, with so many already used to metering of both their phones and their home broadband, the next step will be to start squeezing out competitive internet traffic and charging differently for different programming – which is inherently anti-competitive and anti net neutrality.
This is serious stuff and I’m not kidding when I say that you have to immediately put your iPhone in a drawer and tell AT&T to screw off. Your next call then needs to be to Verizon who you’ll inform you’re switching to because of AT&T’s horrifying termination of its unlimited data plans.
It won’t take many of us to do this for the telcos to rethink their strategy. Believe it or not, they actually do pay attention to dissent, even minor blips on the radar. If enough people complain and especially if enough close their accounts, Verizon and the others will not follow AT&T and AT&T will back off.
As members of the independent film community, this is an especially galling development and I strongly urge you to take action today and to spread the word on this as far and wide as you can. The future of the community depends on net neutrality and any threat must be addressed quickly and decisively.
Full disclosure: I’m not an AT&T customer and so cannot follow my own advice here. But if I were a customer, I would already have canceled my account, happily taken whatever early termination hit it threw at me, and walked across the street to Verizon.
Light this fire!