AT&T has been so much in the news lately because of their potential merger with T-Mobile. But what’s not getting as much coverage are some of the restrictive contract clauses they’re putting in place for high-speed Internet customers. David Lazarus of The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the following ones:
- Caps on high-speed Internet customers begin in May. Customers will be hit with $10 fees for every 50 gigabytes they use beyond what AT&T says is fair use of the connection, which is 150 gigabytes per month. (In all fairness, I have to tell you that Comcast is also putting a ration of Internet in its terms of services too.)
- You’ll be required to pay for unsolicited “upgrades” in service. If AT&T decides to move you to a more expensive plan, you must pay for it for the remainder of your service agreement. This is the most one-sided, customer unfriendly policy I can imagine!
- Unfriendly customers will now be fired. This is the most bizarre thing in AT&T’s new terms of service. If they decide you are threatening, harassing and abusing on a phone call, that will be sufficient grounds to fire you as a customer! (Hey, how come this doesn’t work in reverse, allowing us to fire them for having unfriendly representatives?!) Now, I know some customers don’t behave well, but I can’t imagine what has happened that AT&T needed to write this into their contract.
The real problem is we have a shared monopoly for Internet in much of America. You can either choose from the local monopoly phone or the local monopoly cable company. And a free market can’t function with just 2 players. Monopolists (or in this case, duopolists) always look to allocate shortage and charge the most money possible by sharing the monopoly. As a result, the country suffers with declining innovation in a given field.
Fortunately, there is a third choice in some cities across the country and it’s called Clear.com, though it’s not doing well financially. You can check coverage in your area on their website. But beware that it’s not enough for Clear to just be in your city; they have to have good service on your street. (Yes, their coverage map does get that granular!)
So Clear can offer you an alternative to the cable vs. phone duopoly for Internet service. And with Clear, there’s no installation required and the service can travel with you anywhere as long as you’re in a market where the service is offered.