Ridiculousness

Today I was rudely reminded of how ridiculous telco pricing is. I’ve ranted on txt messaging before on my Twitter, but today I’m going to talk a little about data.

I was recently on holiday up in Vancouver, BC. Unfortunately my GPS unit had not been preloaded with Canada maps, so in the interest of not getting lost, I elected to open a map once or twice on my smartphone. I knew that this would be charged as “roaming” data, and as a smart person I had done my research, and established that AT&T would be charging me the exorbitant price of… $0.015 per kB. Didn’t seem soooo terrible – I figured that opening a map would use a handful of kB tops. If I was unlucky I was looking at a few dollars worth of usage. How wrong I was.

Total usage: 4.6MB. Total charge: $69. FML.

Let’s put that in perspective. I pay $33 per month for internet at home. I can use up to 250GB on my plan without repercussion, although let’s say I average around 100GB. That means I pay around $0.000000315 per kB.

The upshot of this, is that the data I used in Canada cost me more thanĀ 47,000 times as much per byte than my home internet plan. Forty. Seven. Thousand. For those keeping score, that means that if the roaming charge was the standard rate, I would be getting a 99.9979% discount on my internet bill every month. You can’t make these numbers up, we’re talking mind-bogglingly disparate numbers here.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the implications of roaming. AT&T has to negotiate with third-party providers to use their networks and their bandwidth when I’m out of the country. I understand that there is a significant difference between the cost of transferring data over a cable connection and a 3G connection. But if you think that all of those issues justify a 4.7 million percent markup, you have got to be pulling my leg. Canada is a first-world country, with (presumably) first-world cell networks and internet access. AT&T can give me an unlimited smartphone data plan for $20/mth, but can’t negotiate a better rate than $60 for 4MB of data?!

Give me a fucking break.

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