I routinely get the following text message to my phone: “Connecting to a WiFi network is easy and saves on your data allowance”.
I don’t know what part of ‘power failure’ AT&T doesn’t get but there is no fricking WiFi network. That’s one of the things that makes this whole event so frustrating. Without WiFi, we’re forced to rely on our phones and data plans for news, information, messages to relatives, radio, etc. And everytime we use the damn phone or iPad, assuming we can find a signal that isn’t going to die on us, we end up chewing thru the data allowance.
That means that in spite of all the cell tower problems, AT&T is making money off of those of us in the impacted zone. I’m guessing it’s making a LOT of money the longer the power failure goes on. And those of us who get power last are going to be paying AT&T more.
In this scenario, AT&T’s data plans meant to gouge the customer. There literally is no other alternative. It’s like driving up to the gouging firewood place on Rt 206 (jerseyfirewood.com) only to find that they will either sell you a Duraflame log or half a cord of wood. The cord is going to cost a fortune but if you only buy one Duraflame log at a time, hoping for the power to come on and the electricity to control your thermostat before you have to buy another, you will find that you have to buy another and you will get less fuel than if you had been forced to by a cord. Either way, the price is outrageous.
It’s especially dicey when you share data plans with an adolescent creature who needs to do her assignments online and notify her friends of her boredom level every half hour.
Now, I know that the telcomms do not like regulation. They don’t like to be forced into the role of a public utility. But whether they like it or not, that’s the role they’ve been forced into. And for those of us who pay more than $100/month for these lifelines, and additional data plans for their iPads that are just for emergencies when the wifi is down, the data allowance cap and additional charges feels like extortion.
If your cellular network can’t handle all the affected New Jersey residents and Manhattanites and Staten Islanders and LawnGuylanders who are starved for information, then maybe it’s time, that the millions and millions of us who are getting royally reamed by your companies to have a little chat with our elected officials about forcing more infrastructure improvements from you out of the obscene profits you already make from us and regulating your cellular networks during power failures by mandating generators for all of your cell towers for extended periods of time.
Yes, I think that’s just what we should do. Let the lobbying commence. If you are in a Sandy impact zone, call your congressman and senators and let them know how disappointed you are that AT&T and the other telecoms are using their data allowance caps to extort money from you in the absence of landline and wifi accessibility. Tell them that this disaster has taught you that the telecomms who provide cell service are actually public utilities and that they should be regulated like a public utility.
Also let them know that without the aid of their phones and iPads, it will be impossible for you to find out where your polling place is next week so you may not be able to vote for them. That ought to wake the elected officials up.
Are you listening Bob Menendez, Upendra Chivakula? Are you picking up what I’m putting down, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson?