Tech advances zig while access zags

As hot! new! technological enhancements, additions and innovations that require Web access come out every day, the more we hear about connectivity issues and restricting unlimited Internet access, at least on mobile. Is the move away from all-you-can-eat Internet because of the strain the new features put on the networks (hence the lack of dependability), or is it simply a terrible idea that isn’t taking into account all the yet-to-be-discovered advances that could possibly benefit mankind as we roam around video-chatting with one another?

Take AT&T, which has had a nightmarish past couple of weeks. It’s dealing with an embarrassing security breach — or two. Its pre-order system for the new iPhone went down. A couple of weeks ago, it announced tiered data plans for new iPhone customers, becoming the first of the major wireless providers to ask people to step away from the smorgasbord. (See How does that AT&T cap fit you?) Are its moves, and its network problems despite its improvement vows, an effect of being the sole provider for a smartphone whose users consume so much bandwidth? But wait: The company’s official line is that many users don’t use all that much, and it — and others — say iPhone users might actually find themselves saving money because of its new data plans. Perhaps AT&T is just protecting itself. Some have speculated that the recently announced deal to bring free WiFi to Starbucks smacks of AT&T wanting to ease all the iStrain on its 3G network. Some might call them cynical and ungrateful — not I — but they might have a point.

Besides the here and now, there are the issues that might arise tomorrow. For example, if the future brings cloud-based music on your mobile phone, and other wireless providers follow AT&T’s lead away from unlimited data plans, one might find oneself singing the I’ve Gone Over My Gigabytes blues instead of listening to the blues.

Some thoughtful and reasonable individuals (such as the European Court of Justice) might point out that data caps are justified, that data hogs were getting way too fat on unlimited mobile web access, and that it’s high time somebody make them pay. Maybe so, but it seems like a punishment, or at the very least, a major inconvenience, for those who want the freedom to enjoy the latest and greatest on their gadgets and are willing to pay for it. It’s not as if most users are clamoring for a free lunch, or even to stay all day at the buffet.


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  • Erik L

    You are very unkind with the European Union and the Court of Justice. None of them capped date, but what you pay for data. in Europe your data plans are only valid within one country: travel abroad and voilà you are subject to horrendous data rates – yes, paying telcos through your nose. In in the UK they call it “mobile bill shock”.
    This is what the European Commission has limited, and some operators have tried to avoid

  • So lessee, with all of that whiz-bang technology we have, we can’t identify the extreme cases of bandwidth hog and isolate them? Somebody is lying, to cover a hidden agenda. Could it be to get rid of a lot of the POOR people (i.e. useless eaters) from the Internet?

    And AT&T? C’mon – AT&T wouldn’t care if half the world drowned in a tsunami, or got blown up in an Air Force raid. They don’t care because they’re the phone company, remember?

    AT&T’s bean counters have this all figured out down to the penny, and until someone in the Congress has the courage (heh) to challenge them, it’s on with The Plan, as is.

  • jrobino

    Unlimited data for a low price is a fairly recent development in the US.
    For the last 40 years communication lines have been priced by speed.

    People/companies bought certain amounts of speed for a certain amount of money. The dollar was the throttling mechanism.
    In fact, this was still true 10 or 15 years ago. (And it’s still true if you want reliable connections)

    If there are people using excessive amounts of bandwidth simply have them buy a bigger pipe – or settle for reduced speed and data counts.

    Why are people suddenly assuming that they can get any speed that they want for $19/month ?

  • Joe Huber

    “It seems like a punishment, or at the very least, a major inconvenience, for those who want the freedom to enjoy the latest and greatest on their gadgets and are willing to pay for it.”


    There is no cap on AT&T’s plan. You can use an much as you want. You pay $25 for the first 2GB and $10 for each GB thereafter. Simple, fair pricing.

    It gives people who are willing to pay for it EXACTLY the freedom you’re requesting. So where’s the problem?