New AT&T Plans Called "Bait-and-Switch"
Reactions throughout the industry to AT&T's new data plans have been almost
, with many commenters describing the change with the same term, calling it a "bait-and-switch." The expression generally refers to the practice of luring someone in with a certain promise, only to change it after a commitment has already been made. Proving that this was the carrier's intention is close to impossible, of course, but a patently untrue statement made by a senior AT&T executive is casting serious doubt on the stated rationale behind the move.
Stacey Higginbotham gave what could reasonably be described as a softball interview
with AT&T's "senior VP of data and voice products, mobility and consumer products" (how big is this guy's business card?) Mark Collins. She asked all good questions, but didn't follow up on any of them, including when Collins tripped himself up on his own talking points. Higginbotham asked "What about the $20 tethering fee? It looks like a convenience charge." She had it correct; in her own analysis of the new plans
, Higginbotham herself noted that "the $20 fee for tethering is simply paying AT&T for the privilege of using your phone to connect your laptop to the web." Collins replied that "you’re going to use more data so the price is based on the value that will be delivered." John Gruber properly called BS on the "you're going to use more data" part, saying "You’re using the same amount of data but in a different way... if you go over your cap, you’ll be charged the $10 overage fee for each additional gigabyte." Gruber concludes forcefully that "there is no excuse for this $20 tethering charge other than greed."
Mitch Wagner puts the pieces together
, showing how the way AT&T is moving users to tethering will likely create much higher demand for data, leading to tidy overage charges for the carrier. For example, users will be more likely to take advantage of things like streaming video using their laptops as opposed to their iPhone screens. And since AT&T will only tether iPhone OS 4 devices, multitasking support will allow users to do things they're currently unable to do, like streaming Pandora music while browsing, that will also quickly push users to their 2GB cap.
AT&T's rationale has been that they are providing "incentives" to reduce use. There seems to be little of that here, but plenty of opportunities to soak customers who have come to expect unlimited data.