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AT&T is looking to juice more money from its customers by eliminating budget texting plans.  (Source: Flickr)
You would have to send 12 million SMS text messages a month to get your money's worth, with the plan

AT&T, Inc. (T) looks to continue its modifications to its smartphone plans, announcing this week that it would soon be terminating the budget texting tier and forcing new customers to either enter the $20 USD/month "unlimited" tier, agree to more expensive pay-per-text fees, or forgo texting altogether.  AT&T does also offer a consolidated $30 USD/month tier for family lines, which offers a slight discount.

The budget tier was a relatively good deal -- $10 USD for 1,000 messages, or roughly $0.01 USD per message.  Sadly, such days of budget-friendly plans on AT&T are long gone. 

Text messaging is becoming a cash cow for AT&T.  SMS texting is typically relegated to "slow" connections on phone networks.  And an SMS text is around 140 bytes.  So at AT&T's own 2 GB for $25 USD/month plan, you would have to send 12,271,335 texts to get your money's worth.  Or assuming we're talking MMS texts, which have fancy pants pictures, you'd have to send 1638 1280x768 pictures to get your $20 USD/month worth on the texting plan.

In other words, AT&T is grossly overcharging people on texting, in almost all cases, based on its own data plans.  Of course, it's not the only carrier to be doing this.

The new rules go into effect on August 21, at which time the $10 texting offer will vanish for new plans.  Current customers can keep their $10 USD/month tier plans.  

For those that want to get away from carrier texting altogether, you could always go the Google Voice route for free outgoing and incoming texts. On the downside, however, Google Voice doesn’t currently support MMS and you’ll have to deal with another phone number.

AT&T currently is the nation's second most expensive carrier, behind only Verizon Wireless (VZ).  AT&T not only doesn't offer unlimited data, it throttles "heavy" data users' tiered connections, as well.  

In recent months the company has moved forward to acquire Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA, which would make it the largest carrier in the U.S.  An AT&T spokesperson recently told DailyTech that their company vowed to retain T-Mobile customers' current contracts, but left the door open to forcing them into AT&T contracts by saying that offer only applied to "comparable" phones to their current one.  Thus eventually T-Mobile customers could be in for a rude awakening, should the deal be approved.

In other related news AT&T recently announced free botnet protection for its subscribers, and rolled out LTE wireless internet options.





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You guys watching?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 8/18/2011 9:35:10 AM , Rating: 5
FCC... DOJ... anyone, anyone?




RE: You guys watching?
By icanhascpu on 8/18/2011 10:00:25 AM , Rating: 5
They are too busy counting money.


RE: You guys watching?
By amanojaku on 8/18/2011 11:11:56 AM , Rating: 2
The times, they are not a-changin'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fQ6glHwV4I


RE: You guys watching?
By drycrust3 on 8/18/2011 4:26:51 PM , Rating: 2
Also, they probably have a special deal with AT&T which includes unlimited texting for almost nothing, so when you complain to them they won't know what you are talking about.
As I see it, if a company doesn't want to offer products or services then that is their right, but if they choose not to then they shouldn't complain if people or businesses opt go to another company.


RE: You guys watching?
By icanhascpu on 8/18/2011 10:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, i'd say that's a given. The problem is we have less another company and more horsesh!t than ever to choose from, and its still going in the direction.


RE: You guys watching?
By AntiM on 8/18/11, Rating: 0
RE: You guys watching?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 8/18/2011 10:28:21 AM , Rating: 3
I actually very rarely text, and if I do, I use Google Voice. I don't have a paid texting plan on my phone.


RE: You guys watching?
By NellyFromMA on 8/18/2011 10:45:34 AM , Rating: 2
When I was a child, I used to have to walk up and down 3 hills, barefoot, just to go to school and back! ::end old man voice::


RE: You guys watching?
By DJ Brandon on 8/18/2011 11:15:48 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking.


RE: You guys watching?
By Iaiken on 8/18/2011 10:57:03 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Would your world crumble if you weren't able to text?


Way to miss the point by a million miles...

The point is that AT&T and Verizon are acting with increasing belligerence towards their customers simply because they can. The costs of texting for carriers has steadily been declining, but the cost to the consumer keeps increasing. There is something wrong with this picture.


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/18/11, Rating: -1
RE: You guys watching?
By bupkus on 8/18/2011 1:44:09 PM , Rating: 3
Ahhhhh... the old "if it costs too much just don't buy it.
On the surface that makes so much sense, but fortunately for me I don't need texting. Yes, government should not get involved unless...?
Is there ever a good reason for government to get involved besides taking taxes and also bribes from special interest groups?
I just don't like the knee jerk reaction of "government hands off" as if ALWAYS an absolute and obvious truth.
Just sayin'.


RE: You guys watching?
By Iaiken on 8/18/2011 2:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
I am perfectly fine with the government keeping it's nose out of areas where there is meaningful competition.

However, in areas where there are geographical or other types of monopolistic behaviour, the government must either regulate, or break them up to incite competition.

Competition, you cannot have capitalism without it.


RE: You guys watching?
By MrBlastman on 8/18/2011 2:39:39 PM , Rating: 2
This is one of those situations where they are clearly after margin enhancement through egregious abuse of their near duopoly status.

It is obvious what AT&T is trying to do here. They have jacked up the rates on texting enough to where it makes no sense at all to pay that kind of money... just to text. What they are trying to do is sway users into jumping up just a little bit more in costs to a 2 GB/month data plan (which is also highly profitable to AT&T). They realize that some people will be stubborn and not do it, so, if they don't they will get charged out the nose. However, those that do only will mean 25% or more in revenues (and profits) which lets them pay out more... dividends!

They are doing this because they know they can get away with it. Once they purchase T-Mobile, Sprint will die a slow and painful death leaving only Verizon--who, they can be content to live with if they both keep jacking prices up, padding their pockets. Yes, price fixing is illegal but if they have an unspoken agreement where they both increase their profits, that can't be tried and used against them.

I love our free market system and believe in it completely. However, our Government does need to step in when extreme situations warrant action. AT&T and Verizon are approaching this threshold. If anything, the Government should block the T-Mobile merger. It isn't looking likely though as AT&T has bought all the states off already.


RE: You guys watching?
By cooperate on 8/18/2011 8:27:38 PM , Rating: 2
How can you believe in the free market system "completely" and then say that you want the government to intervene?

Seriously explain this to me because you can't believe in something completely and then advocate for the opposite. It is irrational.


RE: You guys watching?
By Iaiken on 8/18/2011 9:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How can you believe in the free market system "completely" and then say that you want the government to intervene?


Because the natural progression of unregulated capitalism is one company that makes everything and for whom everyone works for.

Welcome to Omnicorp, for all your needs. It's a great thought experiment when you sit down and play it out.


RE: You guys watching?
By Kurz on 8/18/2011 9:33:50 PM , Rating: 2
There is no free market when it comes to cell phone companies.
There is limited spectrum that the government sells to Carriers to use for cell phones.

There is a limited amount of choices because of the government limiting the spectrum and who can use it.


RE: You guys watching?
By AntiM on 8/18/2011 2:09:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The point is that AT&T and Verizon are acting with increasing belligerence towards their customers simply because they can.


I think you missed my point. Is a cell phone an absolute necessity? The only way to fight back against price gouging is to stop paying for their service. Do we really need all the whiz-bang features of a smart phone. Those that can afford them can go right ahead and keep paying for them. My cell phone bill is $20 every three months on a pay as you go plan.


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/19/2011 7:44:36 AM , Rating: 1
Exactly. If you don't want to pay for the luxuries of a modern phone, don't. It's just one thing to the next with people expecting the government to come make prices "fair".

I think Apple's prices are ridiculous so what do I do? I don't buy their shit. I don't go whining to the government about how they're making a 20-30% profit on the sale of their devices.

I guess if I invented a holodeck and started out charging $100/hr to use it, then realized people would be willing to pay $125/hr to use it, the government should stop me from doing that? That's the argument I'm seeing here. "I like it and they used to charge less."


RE: You guys watching?
By Goty on 8/18/2011 10:49:34 AM , Rating: 1
Spoiled... sense of entitlement... anyone, anyone?

This is hardly a legal matter. If people don't want to pay more for their text messages, either don't text or go with another carrier. It is at most a minor inconvenience either way.


RE: You guys watching?
By DNAgent on 8/18/2011 11:17:49 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
or go with another carrier


Oh yeah, that's going to work great when they all collude together to ream consumers into the ground. We're in the pro-trust age now, where even the Supreme Court helps to protect corporations engaging in anti-consumer practices.

<Mitt Romney Voice>Remember, corporations are people too!</Mitt Romney Voice>


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/19/2011 7:48:03 AM , Rating: 2
When two corporations are found to be colluding on fixing prices, your argument will hold water. There is no evidence of such activity. You want to file a lawsuit to find out if there is? Go ahead and waste your money. This is like the once or twice a decade reaming of the oil companies for "price fixing". It has a bunch of fanfare by the media only for them to ignore the end where there is no evidence found of anything.

Corporations are made up of people.


RE: You guys watching?
By DaveSylvia on 8/21/2011 3:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
There's a big difference between oil, a finite and highly useful resource and texting, a highly convenient communication service that costs almost nothing to maintain and operate (though R&D and infrastructure costs were very high a decade ago).

Accusing oil companies of price fixing is silly because there are quite a number of variables that go into determining the price at the pump (the number most people equate with oil costs).

Accusing cell phone companies of price fixing with regard to texting does have some logic. It costs Verizon and AT&T virtually nothing to provide texting services. Raising texting pricing is completely a profit grab.

And yes, corporations of made up of people. That doesn't mean that as an entity, it should have the same rights as an individual.


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2011 12:58:39 PM , Rating: 2
Why would the FCC or DOJ get involved? Making money from your products is not illegal. You can dislike the prices, but that doesn't make it wrong. If you don't like them enough, you simply stop using the product.

But of course in this day and age, people expect the government to be their baby sitter to get rid of things they don't like or give them things they want and can't afford.


RE: You guys watching?
By bupkus on 8/18/2011 1:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
Just a thought-- if excessive litigation by Apple were to drive up the costs of competing products to the point of making those alternative products expensive beyond affordability, should government be allowed to turn an eye towards the concerns of consumers?
Should government be bared from involvement in any consumer affairs even if voters were to elect based on such issues?


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2011 5:56:14 PM , Rating: 2
No they shouldn't get involved. Consumers should respond by refusing to buy Apple products. Furthermore, nothing Apple makes is needed by anyone. The government has no business doing anything to help consumers afford toys.

The only way to ever improve the situation with companies blindly suing each other is to reform the patent system so they don't have these ridiculous patents to begin with. I mean Apple just patented the design of the MacBook Air for Christ's sake. Because a thin laptop has never been done before right? Furthermore how do you patent a shape? So what if anyone else wants to make an ultra-thin laptop with a keyboard layout even similar to the MacBook Air's (you know like, oh I don't know, ALL OF THEM?), they have to license a patent from Apple? Unless they put the keyboard upside down or something I guess.


RE: You guys watching?
By cooperate on 8/18/2011 8:32:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah! Let's let these corporations fight it out and gouge people until the market finds it's equilibrium in several years! If people get screwed over in the process that's just the life in a free market economy hey? America! Freedom!


RE: You guys watching?
By FITCamaro on 8/19/2011 7:39:03 AM , Rating: 2
I guess you think PostitNotes should be price controlled too then? What kind of markup do you think they make? How about Pepsi and Coca Cola? Or your local bar with overpriced drinks? Maybe the local movie theater?

It's only so fine a line from one to the other. Cell phones, much less texting, are a luxury. If the prices are too high, people should stop using them until the prices come down. Vote with your dollars, not with the fist of government.


Ha
By Jammrock on 8/18/2011 9:25:01 AM , Rating: 3
Which is why I use Sprint. Unlimited texting built into my smartphone plan.




RE: Ha
By cjohnson2136 on 8/18/2011 9:28:41 AM , Rating: 2
Same here


RE: Ha
By Hiawa23 on 8/18/2011 9:38:05 AM , Rating: 2
Metro PCS is good enough for me. $35/month unlimited talk, text..


RE: Ha
By crimson117 on 8/18/2011 12:43:00 PM , Rating: 2
I wish my area was covered by MetroPCS.


RE: Ha
By quiksilvr on 8/18/2011 9:59:41 AM , Rating: 1
To be fair though, their $20 a month Messaging Plan includes unlimited mobile calling minutes outside the AT&T network. So for $39.99 you get 450 minutes and then add this $20 plan, essentially giving you unlimited talk and text (pic, vid, text, audio) messaging.

Then again, you might as well go with AT&T's prepaid plan that gives you unlimited talk and texting (with unlimited texting only to Mexico and Canada) for $50 a month.


RE: Ha
By DJ Brandon on 8/18/2011 11:18:18 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair though, their $20 a month Messaging Plan includes unlimited mobile calling minutes outside the AT&T network. So for $39.99 you get 450 minutes and then add this $20 plan, essentially giving you unlimited talk and text (pic, vid, text, audio) messaging.As awesome as that would be it's not exactly true. $20 is for messaging and messaging only has nothing to do with mobile to mobile. That is a separate plan.


RE: Ha
By Samus on 8/18/2011 11:56:44 AM , Rating: 2
No carrier would provide unlimited calling to their competitors networks and no unlimited calling within their own?

Think US Cellular. All receiving calls used to be free, and it was killing them.


RE: Ha
By SigmundEXactos on 8/18/11, Rating: 0
RE: Ha
By SigmundEXactos on 8/18/2011 12:27:31 PM , Rating: 2
And if you port your number from another provider before 10/1, you get $125 (https://www.sprint.com/switchtosprint) [$50 for non-smartphones]. This basically pays for the phone.


RE: Ha
By crimson117 on 8/18/2011 12:50:20 PM , Rating: 2
"Unlimited Calling and Messaging to or from any Mobile in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or U.S.V.I. Messaging Unlimited includes domestic Text, Picture, Video and Instant Messaging."

$20.

http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/ser...

Family Plan version for $30.

http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/ser...


Wrong assumptions
By James5mith on 8/18/2011 10:18:29 AM , Rating: 2
There is a bit of false logic in this article.

SMS/MMS != data usage.

Saying you can send 12 million messages for your 2GB a month is only valid if your SMS/MMS data transfers come out of that pool, which they do not.

SMS specifically is nearly free for carriers to offer, as it uses communications sub-channels already in place on their voice network. (Thus the reason text messaging has been around longer than mobile data plans.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS

Research first then post sensationalist articles about the cost of messaging.




RE: Wrong assumptions
By nolisi on 8/18/2011 12:13:02 PM , Rating: 3
I think you missed the context. He wasn't saying that texting comes out of data useage. It was meant to be a comparison of what the cost of messaging would look like IF it utilized the data pool in order to contextualize what AT&T is now charging.

Reread it- I think you made the wrong assumption here.


RE: Wrong assumptions
By andylawcc on 8/18/2011 3:38:30 PM , Rating: 2
why not compare Voice cost with Data Cost?
I believe that is grossly misleading to say it is 12million times the cost.


Oligarchy
By DoeBoy on 8/18/2011 10:24:03 AM , Rating: 3
Well it looks like the old Oligarchy is ready to really start ramming it up peoples asses now. We all knew it was just a matter of time.




Mathematics?
By radium69 on 8/18/2011 9:42:04 AM , Rating: 2
1000 texts 10 USD = NOT 0.10 per text
More like 0.01 :)




Unlimited texting on AT&T
By BenSkywalker on 8/18/2011 9:57:06 AM , Rating: 2
Unlimited texting on AT&T gives you the side benefit of free mobile to mobile calls no matter who the carrier is. Everyone I know that is on AT&T and gets unlimited texting ends up dropping their minute allocation down by a notch or two(although, everyone I know is on a family plan where it makes a lot more sense).




So then...
By Cru on 8/18/2011 12:00:26 PM , Rating: 2
It's time to send messages through facebook and twitter once google voice starts to charge.




natural selection at work
By Pirks on 8/18/2011 9:43:26 PM , Rating: 2
smart guys use free BBM without limitations and dumb ones use non-free SMS with limitations

to each his own I say




By Motoman on 8/18/2011 12:43:35 PM , Rating: 1
Texting is all but free to the carrier - there's no basis in reality for charging the customer hardly anything to do SMS.

One reason why I use Straight Talk - I get an excellent smart phone (Nokia E71) with GPS and everything, unlimited talk, text, and data for $45 a month with no contract - and it runs on the Verizon and/or AT&T networks. Or for $30 a month you can have 1,000 minutes and 1,000 texts.

ST technically doesn't allow tethering...but it's a native feature of my phone (wired or wireless) and I use it on a regular basis and have recieved no complaints.




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