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Maybe I wasn’t clear before: AT&T is gouging in the Sandy impacted area

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?

21 Responses

  1. When Harry Truman said,”The buck stops here” he meant as commander and chief he was ultimately responsible. today when your Senator, Representative or President says it there is a whole new meaning. Who are they going to listen to, call and letters from some angry constituents or the sound of money from lobbyists?

    • That’s exactly it. They don’t even pretend they represent the constituents anymore. I remember Bobots justifying: “But if he doesn’t make nice to Wall Street, how will he get money to get re-elected?” Some find it acceptable these days.

  2. I was wondering about this too. here, in NYC dark side, I was able to hook in free internet (SANDY) until Thursday (if I traveled midtown – light side). Friday morning it was gone – and even in the Starbucks light side I went it wasn’t working. Ditto, Bryant Park which always has it. I was wondering who is trying to make money of us.

    • Isn’t it outrageous? You’d think they would have suspended data limits in affected areas and lets not pretend that they don’t know exactly where you are.
      It’s immoral that the telecoms were allowed to continue to fleece customers.

  3. Riverdaughter, are the local television stations broadcasting?

  4. I’ve already contacted Senator Robert Menendez and sent him a copy of this post.

    We are going to a rationing system for gas today. It’s a good thing I got gas yesterday because I have an even numbered license plate.

  5. glad the power is back

  6. Your best defense is to limit your use of data. I don’t have data at all and believe me, I get along fine without it, even during outages. And yes, we experience week-long outages. You don’t need it.

    It’s a huge cash sucker, all the time, not just during a power outage.

  7. wouldn’t it be sweet if the cell companies that have been “Allowed” to gouge the s@#*! out of us were to do something like this:

    FON, a company that manages a large network of wi-fi hotspots, is opening up its 500,000 some-odd hotspots in Japan to web surfers for free until the country’s state of emergency following a massive earthquake and tsunami comes to an end.
    The wi-fi networks will open up for everyone in order to help Japanese residents displaced or affected by the earthquake communicate more effectively. That includes the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have become critical during national emergencies as tools for communication


    FON’s humanitarian offering could also prove to be a fantastic way to generate some positive buzz for the hot-spot service. The free wireless should be really helpful for Japanese citizens, seeing as a number of the country’s cloud-based services — where programs and services are run on remote servers — were disrupted following the quake. Residents are posting videos of the quake on the CitizenTube channel on YouTube and using the service to reach out to friends and families across the world. Google Person Finder is also available to help people get information about loved ones.

    Fat chance some “Humanitarian act” like this were to emanate from the halls of these profit driven bastards!

    • New York and New Jersey, victimized twice. First by Sandy then by the Wall Street greed is good, gouge while you can culture.

      Here in the Alabama Triangle of PA republican sponsored attack ads are coming fast and furious. One featured unintended irony. It blamed Democrats for the Big PX ranking number 7 in Global Competitiveness. Funny thing 5 of the six that beat us have government that can be described as Socialist. Meaning the Middle Class isn’t treated like indentured servants.

  8. First off, let it be stated that I am an old guy, old enough to remember the time before cell phones and the intertoobs. But amazingly enough, I and a large number of my fellow citizens did not feel ourselves to be without resources in those benighted times of our youth. Some of the primitive devices that we limped along through life with are still available, and rather handy in times of crisis, in fact.

    I understand and fully sympathize with your consternation concerning profiteering bastards; but if you don’t put yourselves fully in their power, you can still get access to some really, really useful information and services. To wit:

    1) Radio – Get yourself an emergency radio. By this I mean a radio that will run off of regular AC power from the wall socket, but through a converter that continually charges an internal battery in the radio. Should the power go off, you have battery power at the ready. But here’s the really important part: make sure that this radio is also equipped with a hand-cranked dynamo that can KEEP the battery charged even in the absence of regular AC power. A few minutes spent spinning the crank, and you have a point of contact for all manner of useful information. Some of these radios also can be used to charge your cell phone battery if you have the right connecting cord. This radio should at minimum cover the AM, FM, and NOAA weather band, but they often also include at least some shortwave bands, too. Particularly useful are the NOAA radio stations, as these provide continual updates for weather/flooding information. Usually, you will have the ability to select from a number of frequencies on this band, the clearest and most powerful signal being likely to be the station that covers your vicinity most closely. Many of these emergency radios can be configured so that should an emergency alert be issued by the NWS, the radio will AUTOMATICALLY GO ON with the alert. Real important when your area might be under a tornado watch (which is often the case with hurricanes). There are all-news type radio stations (here around Philly this role is filled by KYW 1060 on the AM dial) that can be invaluable sources of information in times of crisis. Don’t let yourself have access to “radio” only through some phone or iPad or such, as this is totally unsatisfactory for so many reasons.

    2) Telephone – If you maintain a land line, unless the wires have been knocked down, you can operate your phone without the power being on. Caveat: you must have an old school phone that does not itself plug into the AC wall socket. The old land lines have their own voltage that makes them operable even when your AC power is out. Handy for calling first responders (even when your cell phone battery is kaput, or the cell phone tower has lost power). In fact, if you are calling a person who also has a land line, and the wires are still intact, you can call them regardless of the viability of AC power for them or for you.

    Food and water I leave to you, but not all of the advantages of a technological society have to go away just because your cell phone/iPad battery are dead, or the cell tower is also dead.

    Also, too, AT&T was largely regarded as a public utility in those days of yore, and was required to have these capacities built into their system. And then the great god Free Market spoke, and like cable TV, many of the rules no longer applied to the successor bloodsucking capitalist schemes. Take that libertarians.


    • Years ago, I bought a field phone (re: WW II era war movies); never used on dead phone lines but if things get desperate…

      1993 blizzard– below zero for a week, three feet of snow, no power for eight days; fireplace for heat. Drank snow. Bored. Read by candlelight. Slept a lot. And on the ninth day, a dozer dug us out. After a trip to town (and a shower at the gym), KFC never tasted so good. 66 trees down in my driveway. I’m still cleaning up brush.

    • Hey, thanks for the tips. As a matter of fact, I have a solar flashlight AM/FM/WB radio with a crank mechanism that I used heavily during the black out. However, it was difficult to get LOCAL information from it. Like, should my township be boiling the water? How many days should we expect to be without power? Which municipal facilities were open? Stuff like that.

      As for landlines, I gave mine up last year after I was laid off. There was no point to having one, no one was using it and it was an extra expense that I didn’t need. So, I guess it would depend on whether you are employed or retired. Since I am neither, the landline and the satellite subscription were the first things to go. We have priorities.

      But I am hardly unique in having given up my landline. Many people I know, and most younger people, have given them up. In that case, the cellular providers have become the lifeline for information and communication and they should be regulated like public utilities because the landline phenomenon is going to go the way of the dinosaur. It’s inevitable. If other countries can do cell and broadband better, there is no excuse for why the US is lagging behind Romania in these areas. We need to expect more for our money. The burden needs to be shifted off the shoulders of the consumer like it has been for the past 30 years. I think if these companies want to keep operating here in the US, we need to make some rules and make them stick to them or pay a heavy fine.

      The exploitation of the consumer for the cause of a free market has to stop. I am a human being, not a crop that can be harvested for every dollar of disposable income I possess without any rights.

      • Ah, you said the magic word…”consumer”. I, for one, knew that the Republic was in dire straits when Our Exalted Leaders found the term, “consumer”, to be an adequate substitute for “citizen”. This was a tell, as they say at the poker table. When in the past you were referred to as a “citizen”, you were somebody who had reason to expect that your interests might be respected and addressed by THEM in their capacity as our representatives. But when they began preferentially to denominate us as “consumers”? Well, we had been identified as mere clients of their true masters.

        In its own right, this should be seen as indicative that Our Exalted Leaders have decided that civil society is a archaism – “quaint” They might call it – and that servicing the needs of the Free Market is now the imperative for them. In that light, our appeals to our representatives for help and redress have become the moral equivalent of praying to a saint for intercession with the Almighty. Hmm.

        This Weltanschauung is quite appropriate in a world where government, far from answering to the “citizenry”, is there to deliver us all up to the tender mercies of the Corporatocracy through the craven assistance of a captured government. Elected officials, legislative or executive, financed in their electoral campaigns by the rich and powerful; civil servants in regulatory agencies cowed or corrupted through the power of the so-called regulated to call the shots with the active connivance of their agencies’ politically-appointed leaders; judges selected by legislators and executives who are made men of the Corporatocracy, and therefore pre-disposed to pick Federalist Society hacks for positions on the bench to avoid the inconvenience of having their cabal brought up short by people who take their oath to defend the Constitution seriously.

        As my man, Thomas Jefferson, sagely observed, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

        Guess which condition now obtains.

        Keep Calm, and Plot Revenge.

        (May your current discomfiture be of short duration.)

        P.S.: If you keep track of such things, I found my way over to your ‘blog via Naked Capitalism, and I suspect through the inclusion by Lambert Strether of links here.


        • LOL! Keep Calm and Plot Revenge. I love it.

          Yes, Lambert and I have been on the same side since 2008. He’s a good guy. Yves is lucky to have him.

          Funny how I couldn’t come up with the right word to replace “consumer”. Citizen is the right term so why don’t we use it more often? I think you have hit on something very important.

        • Would a facet of that revenge be an ongoing movement of economic resistance and economic rebellion on the part of hopefully millions of people?

  9. There has also been a parallel effort to retire the phrase “medical patient” from use and bring in the phrase “health care consumer” instead . . . in the narrower arena of treatment of disease and maintainance of health.

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