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NWW readers: "We're not gonna pay a lot for this bandwidth!"

Many are critical of AT&T’s bandwidth overage fees, but others say that users need to do their due diligence and read the TOS.

By Brad Reed, Network World
March 04, 2009 11:24 AM ET

Network World - An Oklahoma woman's decision to sue AT&T for sending her a $5,000 bill has elicited some strong reactions from Network World readers, many of whom think the company's bandwidth overage charges are disproportionate and excessive.

Essentially, the suit boils down to this: Oklahoma resident Billie Parks was able to buy a netbook computer from Radio Shack at a discounted price of $99.99 in exchange for signing a two-year AT&T DataConnect contract that would hook the device onto AT&T's network for $60 per month. However, the suit alleges that neither AT&T nor RadioShack gave Parks sufficient details about how much she would be charged for exceeding her monthly 5GB bandwidth cap. The result? A monthly bill for bandwidth overages that totaled more than $5,000.

In response to our piece published on the suit yesterday, some Network World readers faulted AT&T not only for its bandwidth overage charges – which amount to roughly $500 for every extra GB of data consumed – but also for charging $60 a month for the first 5GB of data.

"The greed levels our seemingly entire country has succumbed to is so beyond appalling it makes me puke," wrote one anonymous user. "5 GB for $60 month is simply criminal. Period."

"This is the same scam that cell phone companies ran in the late 1980s and 1990s," wrote another anonymous user. "You got 50 minutes a month, and everything over that was $1.50 or $0.99 per minute. To an average customer getting a phone, this wasn't highlighted. People got huge bills and had to curtail usage."

Reader MP, however, said that if AT&T could get away with charging $60 a month for 5GB of data, then that should be the market rate. However, the reader also thought that AT&T needed to do a better job of warning users when they're about to exceed their bandwidth cap and of explaining exactly how much money it could cost them. While AT&T never mentions specific rates for data overages in its rate plan terms, the company does say that it will notify users before imposing additional charges and that it will give users the right to terminate their service beforehand if they don't wish to pay the charges.

"If they believe that 5GB per month cap is a reasonable usage level for $60 per month, given their costs to operate the network, that's their business decision," MP wrote. "But wouldn't it be nice if they would warn a user when that limit is approaching, and what the consequences of overage would be BEFORE the user gets hit with tremendous overage charges? All it takes is a short text message or e-mail!"

Some readers, however, faulted the user for not doing due diligence in carefully reading AT&T’s terms of service.
"The unfortunate truth is most people have no clue about what makes up 5GB," said poster BZZZ. "Does 'caveat emptor' mean anything to today's litigious people? If you don't understand it, don't sign it. If that means you don't buy the latest neat service, count your blessings as you probably will be less stressed without it and the attendant costs."

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