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How To Rack Up $28,000 In Roaming Without Leaving the US 410

pmbasehore writes "While waiting for his cruise ship to depart, a man decided to use his AT&T wireless card and Slingbox account to watch the Bears vs. Lions football game. When he got his bill, he was slammed with $28,067.31 in 'International Roaming' charges, even though he never left American soil. The bill was finally dropped to $290.65, but only after the media got involved." He might have left the soil (the story says he was already aboard the ship), but shouldn't the dock count?


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How To Rack Up $28,000 In Roaming Without Leaving the US

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  • He might have left the soil (the story says he was already aboard the ship), but shouldn't the dock count?

    Which means it is likely he was in internal waters [wikipedia.org] (description here [wikipedia.org]) so unless his contract had a specific clause phrasing "Internal Waters" to be a roaming area then I would assume it is no different than boating out on a lake in Kansas and not subject to roaming charges. Even $290 seems more than a bit steep & unfair.

    I'd pay it and change providers but if he's upset, there's always small claims court.

    • by Samalie ( 1016193 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:42AM (#26970037)

      You have to dig pretty deep for this to actually be specified, but he was docked at Miami, before the ship ever left port.

      The cock-up was that the ship had already turned on their satellite-based cell network, even though they shouldn't have, which resulted in the guy's phone connecting to the Ship's netwrok & being billed at international rates.

      • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:51AM (#26970191) Journal

        Precisely. It's not a grand conspiracy. It's just technology going "a little kha-ka" and the customer having to pay the bill, because a poor design caused him to connect to the international cell tower instead of the local U.S.-based tower.

        That's the unfair part. The customer has to pay for somebody else's technological error. If I was the customer, I'd say "fuck you" and refuse to pay.

        • I wouldn't call it a poor design.

          The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception.

          The only real WTF was that the ship turned on their "tower" before it left port.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:23PM (#26970677)

            I wouldn't call it a poor design.

            I certainly would. A cellphone should never choose a roaming cell over a local one.

            The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception.

            In the UK, early on in the development of digital cellphones, some users complained that their phones would pick up transmitters from France if they were near the coast (presumably the Calais transmitter was closer than the nearest one from their network).

            As far as I know, this doesn't happen now. A phone won't chose a transmitter from abroad over a local one.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              In Canada we were driving along the highway near the US border and my sisters phone connected to an American Tower. It's a pretty new Motorola so I have to assume that many cell phones sill do just pick the strongest signal.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by ubercam ( 1025540 )

                In the Network options (on CDMA phones, so YMMV on GSM) select Home Only and you will never roam. If you want to roam, go in the settings and turn it back to Automatic.

                Fairly easy solution to that issue.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *
                  With the iPhone, there's an option to disable data roaming. It might even be disabled by default; I don't remember. That would prevent something like what TFA describes.

                  There is no similar option to restrict voice roaming, but that's likely not nearly as hazardous to your wallet.

          • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:30PM (#26970799)

            "The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception"

            But as this story points out, there are factors other than "best reception" than can weigh into which tower is best to connect to. Looking at only one factor in a multi-dimensional problem is a poor design.

            In a good design, the phone would connect to a "home network" tower with "acceptable" reception before even looking at an "international roaming / if you have to ask you can't afford it" tower.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              But as this story points out, there are factors other than "best reception" than can weigh into which tower is best to connect to. Looking at only one factor in a multi-dimensional problem is a poor design.

              This is where having a GPS could have helped, to an extent, since with that the phone would have the information to decide where it is and therefore which tower to use. I say to an extent, since if you are in a situation where GPS can get a signal, such inside a building, then the phone is going to have t

          • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:38PM (#26970943) Journal

            >>>The only real WTF was that the ship turned on their "tower" before it left port

            I would agree with you, but the same design flaw exists near the Canadian border. You can be on U.S. soil, and yet still be charged international rates because your dumb phone connected to a Canadian tower. That's a technological flaw, and the customer should not have to pay the price for the mistake.

            • same up here (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Briden ( 1003105 )

              Here in Victoria BC if i am down on the beach facing Seattle, i'll get a txt message saying "welcome to the US!" then if i use my blackberry i am charged international rates. i called Rogers there is "nothing they can do"

              it IS a technical problem, one that works out in the cellphone companies favor though, so they don't really have much interest in fixing it i imagine.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Obfuscant ( 592200 )
            The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception.

            The FA is rather skimpy on details, but it says he was on board the ship, and it is logical to assume he wasn't sitting on deck running his laptop. It is very likely that he had no shore-based reception, so the on-board cell was all there was.

            About his "never leaving the US" claims. Well, he was on-board the ship. That means he had passed through immigration going out, and was on a ship that was almost certainly of a foreign registry. While he

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheoMurpse ( 729043 )

          For future reference, "kha-ka" is spelled "caca" and it's a deformation of the Mexican Spanish "cuacha," meaning "shit."

          Unless, of course, you meant cockeyed [thefreedictionary.com], which should be clear on its face that it means "cross-eyed."

      • by purpledinoz ( 573045 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:55AM (#26970249)
        This is completely ridiculous. Customers should be able to set a bill cap to prevent this kind of thing. If you hit the cap, your access gets cut unless you explicitly give permission to charge more. That's why I use a prepaid phone (I live in Germany, so it's dirt cheap here).
        • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:57AM (#26970299) Journal

          This is completely ridiculous. Customers should be able to set a bill cap to prevent this kind of thing. If you hit the cap, your access gets cut unless you explicitly give permission to charge more. That's why I use a prepaid phone (I live in Germany, so it's dirt cheap here).

          Such a cap wouldn't really help you with situations like these. When you roam on another provider that provider doesn't send your call details back to your home provider in real time. They typically collect a few days worth of calls and then upload them to your home provider. There's no way for your home provider to have a real time accounting of the calls that you make while roaming.

          • by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#26970519)

            There's no way for your home provider to have a real time accounting of the calls that you make while roaming.

            That's a bit of an overstatement. There are several ways of speeding up the information and if you use CAMEL it's possible for the home network to specify some limits in advance which gives full real time billing control. It would take a certain amount of effort, but it's not nearly impossible nowadays. How do you think prepaid subscribers get service when they go abroad? Do you think the phone company lets you rack up 28k Euro charges on your 30Euro prepaid SIM before doing reconciliation?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:25PM (#26970717)

            Which is ridiculous. The roaming provider can stream slingbox to a user but they can't keep usage data up to date in near real-time? No such cap exists because it's more profitable to fuck over people than to implement it.

            • by wwwillem ( 253720 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:15PM (#26971629) Homepage

              I had the same battle with my provider (Rogers in Canada). Because I'm "tethering" (connecting a Nokia N770 tablet with BlueTooth to my KRZR phone) the "best" data package I can get is $10 for 10 MB, nothing bigger. However if I go over those 10MB, they charge me 3 cts per kB. Which means that the second 10MB will cost me $300.

              BTW, my first night of surfing a little to maps.google (just 20 mins, nothing more) did indeed cost me $75.

              But the kicker is that I can't get a bigger package, Rogers is not able or willing to put a 10MB cap on it and finally -- this is the worst part -- I can't get an status report to check how much of my quota I've used up.

              This is not just rediculous, but simply "providers screwing there customers, because they can".

          • There's no way for your home provider to have a real time accounting of the calls that you make while roaming.

            The technology is irrelevant. What you're talking about is a billing system between two differing parties. The important part is the business agreement between the two providers, and between the provider and the consumer.

            Not having a real-time accounting and information exchange between the two providers doesn't preclude having set per-subscriber caps between them. (Or some other arrangement).


          • by fdicostanzo ( 14394 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:40PM (#26970997)

            Actually, according to the article, AT&T was sending him repeated SMS warnings but he did not get them because it was a data card, not a phone. That means to me that they did know what was going on and a cap could be implemented.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            >>>They typically collect a few days worth of calls and then upload them to your home provider.

            I don't buy that excuse. When I was on a shopping spree a few years ago, my credit company identified the thousands of dollars spend, and "froze" the card. I then contacted them and verified that the charges were mine, and please reactivate my account.

            If a credit card company can monitor my shopping activity from thousands of miles away, there's no reason why a cell phone company can't do the same. The

          • The phone traffic obviously gets routed in real-time, so why couldn't they attach the billing info ?

            There's a big difference between a limitation caused by technical shortcomings, and one caused by corporate laziness and rampant greed.

          • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:59PM (#26971329)

            And? Why is their technical design allowed to screw the customer? If I had such a cap, I would expect my provider to refuse and reject "uploaded" calls that exceeded my cap. It would be the fault of the roaming provider for giving me service in excess of my cap.

            I'm quite certain, given the lucrative market that roaming would continue to be (up to the caps), that a technological solution that preauthorized charges would be devised quite quickly.

    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:44AM (#26970069) Journal

      It's likely that he wasn't roaming because he was already registered through the telco relay on the ship, which charges at international rates, despite being within spitting distance of the shore.

      The real problem is that he was able to register to the international point before the ship had left port. I wonder how many other people get ripped off by making calls in that area while that ship is in port?

      I think he should take it to court...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by east coast ( 590680 )
        Just from my recent experiences on a cruise (Carnival using a Verizon phone); I could not use my data plan with the ships service. I tried it just to see if I was able with no luck. I was able to do voice and text but that's as far as it went. I couldn't even send a photo using SMS.

        Obviously something went wrong here and different carriers may have different abilities. This is just my personal experience.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pegdhcp ( 1158827 )
        My phone (and my phones in the past as well) asks lots of questions and basically disturbs me (user...) a lot before switching operators. Is there a different approach in bricks sold in USA??
      • If you're connecting to alternative providers at different rates, that's a misconfiguration of your phone. I've owned many cell phones in this life, and I've never seen one that doesn't have the ability to isolate your phone strictly to your provider. Maybe you're in GSM territory which might be different, but here in CDMA land (North America) our phones have this option.
        • by Keruo ( 771880 )

          Manual operator selection doesn't differ in GSM. It's same as CDMA.

        • by jandrese ( 485 )
          It may be a misconfiguration, but it's also the default configuration. Most phones try to lock on to the best signal, preferring to use the native carrier mode first, but defaulting to whoever will give you any service at all otherwise. Manual selection mode is an option you have to enable, usually buried well down in the option menus somewhere. Of course if the guy in the article were smarter he would have wondered what that little icon (roaming indicator) on his screen was before he watched a streaming
        • Umm... North America is also GSM land, depending on your provider.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blair1q ( 305137 )

        I think he should take it to court...

        Yes. He should. But he should have accepted the bill from his phone company first, then sued the international-carrier operator for hijacking his signal.

        He could have got triple damages out of it, putting him somewhere like up $100K, instead of down $300.

    • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:52AM (#26970193) Journal

      As I suspected, TFA says he was connected to the ship's cell network, which should not have been operational while it was docked.

      So it's not just me having horrible experiences with AT&T, then. I tried to get DSL service from them last year. After four technician visits, I had service for two full days before it stopped working. I canceled service and returned the equipment in their postage-paid box, and they sent me a $70 bill. I called to complain, and told them I was willing to pay for the two days I had service, and nothing more. They told me they'd look into it, but they had no way of sending me a corrected bill. I did not pay them a penny, and I have not heard from them again.

      We also had phone service with them for a bit. When I set it up, I specifically asked for unlimited calling to Canada, and was assured it was on the plan. I called back again for another reason, and was again assured that I had unlimited calling to Canada. Next month's bill? $1200. They had not added unlimited calling to Canada. It took me about a half-dozen calls to sort it out, during which time I was told that it was impossible for me to talk to anyone who was capable of modifying my bill, because "they don't have phone numbers."

      I recently had to deal with AT&T Wireless, and was asked to verify my identity. I provided my information, and they told me it was incorrect. I told them they were incorrect. After about two hours of phone calls, it turns out they were using a default value for the information they asked for. When I provided the actual value, they looked at the default, and said that I was wrong. Apparently they could not figure out that "9999" was probably not the actual last 4 digits of anyone's SSN.

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )

        Nope, it's not just you having problems with AT&T.

        I had such horrible problems with AT&T that I will never give them another dime as long as I live.

        Vonage is great, BTW!

      • by jmpeax ( 936370 ) * on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:12PM (#26970495)
        I have a mobile broadband (HSDPA) service with Vodafone (they own 45% of Verizon Wireless in the US) in the UK. Occasionally, something will go wrong with a mast that I'm connected to and I'll give Vodafone a call to check if they have any reported problems in the area. The thing is, my account with them has my home post code (equivalent to a ZIP code) associated with it, and back home I don't have 3G coverage. As you can imagine, every time I call them they try and tell me that the lack of coverage in my area (having looked up my home post code) is causing the problem - this seems to instil in them a stubborn scepticism that persists even when I tell them that I'm not at home, and that until 5 minutes ago the signal bars on my laptop were full and I was connected at full speed.

        Why call centre workers in the business of troubleshooting mobile data services don't consider that users may not be at their registered home addresses, completely bemuses me.
        • Every time I've called an actual Verizon rep about a data problem, they've always asked where I was.
      • As I suspected, TFA says he was connected to the ship's cell network, which should not have been operational while it was docked.

        Exactly what I was thinking too, though I wondered how that could be performant enough to watch video...

        So it's not just me having horrible experiences with AT&T, then

        Say what? If the ships cell network is not supposed to be on while docked, why would it be AT&T in charge of enabling that? It would be the ship operators. I'd complain to the cruise line.

        I've had most of

        • I was referring to the fact that after he called AT&T, they reduced his bill to "only" $6000, and it took media involvement to get them to actually fix the bill.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nametaken ( 610866 )

        Since we're sharing horror stories...
        I called AT&T for a DSL line to a facility our company was building. Easy enough, they scheduled a date for install, and I informed my boss that the line was coming on that date. After about 5 visits from AT&T and a month later than the install date, they decided that our building was too far for DSL service, and that we were still going to pay them for a phone line we had installed specifically for the DSL service. Imagine how great I looked to the boss trying

      • AT&T reps I've dealt with all have the attitude of a government agency like the IRS, someone you have no choice but to deal with, not a commercial company with competition. It's amazing that attitude survived the breakup, but apparently it has.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:24PM (#26971845)

        I had an almost identical experience with Verizon assuring me (sales rep & store manager at the physical store + Verizon servicedroid on the phone) that Canada is included in the plan I chose. The *reason* I chose that plan was to give a 2nd phone to one of my associates, so she could talk to partners in Canada. We got the phones, she started talking to folks in Canada, I checked the account weekly to make sure there are no extra chages (being a responsible customer and all that).

        Next month, I get a neat little SMS stating "Your Verizon bill is ready online... balance is $ 3,479.00". Holy $%^&. Their excuse was that they had no idea those charges were accumulating, and that's why they didn't show up in my account (which I was checking weekly). OK, I understand a delay of 24-48 hours... possibly a week... but a MONTH? What are they using for billing info transmission, pack mules???

        It took 17 phone calls totaling over 9 hours to sort it out & reduce it to around $ 700 (back-dating an international plan, etc.). Which I paid, and vowed to NEVER deal with Verizon again.

        So, it's not only AT&T that plays merry hell with billing practices, other carriers are guilty of that too.

        I would like to ask Verizon 2 rhetorical questions:

        1.) What's the point of having an online account system that doesn't show international charges - not a DAY later, not a WEEK later, but only for the next billing period? I was especially amused by the "Top 10 Most Expensive Calls" feature - which was $ 0.00 every time I checked.

        2.) Why would multiple people in the company LIE about a particular plan feature to a customer who explicitly states that they will definitely use the heck out of that feature? They're setting themselves up for problems.

        Verizon: can you hear THIS now? Jackasses.

    • by v1 ( 525388 )

      TFA says he was still in port, waiting for the departure, and that the charges were the result of:

      1) The boat, against established rules, had its local portable cellular network active (supposed to be OFF while in port or near land/cell towers
      2) his wifi card elected to use the ship's tower instead of the one nearest the port (probably stronger signal)
      3) the video app for showing the game was not allowing his wifi to pop up a visible message warning him he was roaming

      I'd argue that by (1), it's the boat's f

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by DavidTC ( 10147 )

        In fact, this is rather obviously a scam. Cruise ships have moderately strong cell towers, the boats are big and full of metal.

        I wonder how many international roaming calls have been billed to people who didn't set foot on the ship. Anyone walking by this ship could end up on their network.

        And wouldn't it be illegal to operate this thing in US waters? (And cruise ships know when they're in international waters...just ask the 18 year olds who can now order booze.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 )

      What determines if one is roaming is the tower to which one is connected.

      The ship has it's own cellular tower. His phone was connected to that tower. He was roaming.

      If the roaming agreement between the operator of the cruise ship's service and his home service has the ships as being "international" roaming, then it doesn't matter where the ship is.

    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:29PM (#26970783)
      AT&T pulled a rate-switch without notice on me - tripled, I think it was. I changed providers and told them to stick the ($45) bill wherever they like. They sent it to collections, who called me at work once, I don't think I even had to write the cease and desist order to them, they complied with my verbal demand. AT&T called me at home a couple of times and whined, I told them to show me the contract I signed (in 1988 when I got the card) that allowed them to triple my rates without notice. They sent me a notice a couple of years later (like 1998 or so by then) informing me that they can notify of rate changes on their website, all I had to do was pay my last bill to acknowledge acceptance of their terms. Needless to say.....

      I had one tiny spot of trouble trying to get a CellularOne cell phone (they were about to be acquired by AT&T), they wanted a $700 deposit - I asked the in-store rep to allow me to talk to the person who came up with that, the person on the other end of the line pointed out my $45 outstanding balance with AT&T, I pointed out the hillarious disproportionality between a disputed $45 bill several years old and a $700 deposit and asked her if CellularOne wanted my business or not... they did, deposit waived.

      The $45 dispute was about 6.9 years old when I went to rent a house, it made a good story for the potential landlord - yep, all that time and the only problem I have on my credit is when an asshole corporation tried to throw their weight around, would you honor a bill when the vendor tripled their rates on you without notice? They said they'd do the same thing.
  • Still 290$? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:42AM (#26970027)

    The correct answer is ZERO. He was not roaming and there should be no additional charges, other than his monthly access fee.

    Even if his usage exceeded what is acceptable for AT&T, there is no provision in the contracts that allow them to assess that kind of penalty.

    I would fight it still.

    • Re:Still 290$? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:01PM (#26970341)
      I think he expected it to be in the $200 range from the article. I took that to mean either his normal AT&T bill was that much or that based on the amount of data usage (maybe not an unlimited data plan) he expected the $200+ bill. The real issue is that they had the onboard cell tower going which overrode the local tower.
    • He was roaming. The issue is that he should not have been roaming based on his location.

      • he was not roaming, his phone was roaming. That's the point. Too often it's just accepted with a shrug and an "oh well!" that when some component of a service already being paid for (mobile, electricity, water) fails, often one which the customer is contractually obligated not to tamper with, it is the customer who gets stuck with the bill.

        This falls under the same category as "City doesn't notice for five years that they have a broken pipe, city bills Joe Random who owns the building over the pipe $6,000,0

    • Actually they do have some provisions for this sort of thing. I have an iPhone and while I was skimming over what was allowed on my plan, I noticed that there was something about running my laptop through my iPhone connection. If what I use the connection for violates their rules then they have the right to bill me for the data usage. Using anything like a p2p program or streaming data to another device all falls outside of what they list as allowed. They specifically list several things but also mention th
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:43AM (#26970039)
    I wonder if there is any danger of this happening to anyone using a mobile near the coast?
  • And I was told the same thing would happen. While I haven't looked over the breakdown of my bill I was only about 40 dollars more than normal and that included sending several photos and making about a half hour worth of calls from Mexico (which came up on my phone as roaming so I was not surprised)

    But there seemed to be no additional charges for the calls and data usage I made from Long Beach, California. My phone never went to a roaming state while I was in port in Long Beach either. So I'm not really se
  • by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:45AM (#26970081)
    When I used to live 5 miles from the Canadian boarder I would hear nightmare stories like this all the time. People, despite being in the US would find that their cell was roaming to a Canadian tower because it had a better signal. It was bad then, even before data. Now I can only imagine how horrible it must be.
  • Rate Indicator (Score:2, Interesting)

    by deserted ( 1422401 )
    This is totally AT&T's fault. However, I do understand that their system was recording his data usage according to International rates. How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate? I've never been a fan of "just use it, we will tell you how much it ended up costing you at the end of the month." He could have avoided a lot of headache if he had known his connection was screwed up when he originally started watching the game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      >>>How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate?

      Hard??? It's a feature! Phone companies love to keep their customers in the dark about how much is being charged.

      Remember when you used to dial a "1" prior to making a long-distance call? It used to be simple - local calls were free, unless the operator said "you need to dial a 1 to make this call" in which case you knew you were paying long-distance rates.

      Now you have no idea. Is my call to H

      • Very true. Most customers don't rack up $30k bills, but they do pick up a rather healthy expense from a relatively small amount of 'hey, want to meet at the bar'" style calling.
        Most of those don't find it worth the effort of disputing the extra $100 on the bill, and just pay up.
    • No, it isn't. This is the fault of the cruise ship company and the customer.

      There is a roaming indicator on all cell phones.

      How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate?

      As the rate varies depending on contract, location, home service provider, and roaming service provider, it would be very hard to provide that.

  • This is strange (Score:3, Informative)

    by JazzyMusicMan ( 1012801 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:48AM (#26970125)
    Almost all cruise ships now have their own cell tower which they then channel over their satellite links so that passengers can use their cell phones while on board. As far as I know however, they leave these turned off until they are several miles offshore.

    http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-tr-insider5nov05 [latimes.com]

    I know this article is a bit old and this might have changed already.

  • by OneSmartFellow ( 716217 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:53AM (#26970207)
    1.) Why is this guy paying ANYTHING?

    2.) How could a few hours of international data service cost that much ?
    • by mmkkbb ( 816035 )

      It probably ends up getting billed per kilobyte or something when romaing.

    • Never been on a cruise eh?

      Cruise ships have their own towers. Normally when docked, they should be off. They act sort of as a middle man, and are crazy expensive. I mean something like $7.99/min. for voice, and Data is worse. I don't think they charge you directly, but they charge your provider, and your provider charges you.

      Add on top of that the roaming fees AT&T charges....

    • by Zashi ( 992673 )

      It's not by the hour it's by the kilobyte.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Cruise ship markup on top of satellite provider markup? And he streamed an entire game? Last time I checked, BGAN service was on the order of $7/MB, given that cruise ships are going to mark that up a factor of 10 or so, and assuming he transferred a few hundred megs it's probably about what you'd expect.
  • until people start using Ryanair's new in-flight cell phone system [businessweek.com]. I can just hear the people whining about how much their calls to the ground cost them.
  • Color me paranoid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by seeker_1us ( 1203072 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:54AM (#26970233)

    But I think the major cellphone providers do this on purpose.

    How many of their users would WANT to be able to rack up more than $100 at a single time?

    But they give them the opportunity to charge tens of thousands of dollars with one usage.

    Logically, they should put a cap on one use, and have the user call and explicity request the cap be removed on a case by case basis, except for super huge millionaires, CEO's, ETC.

    • Re:Color me paranoid (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:04PM (#26970377) Homepage

      Agreed. As a matter of law consumers should be able to set limits on any services they contract.

      My cell phone provider offers an allowance "service" for a few bucks a month. It is crazy that you should have to pay to limit your exposure.

      Consumers should be asked what their maximum monthly bill should be when they sign up for service, and they should be able to change this at any time by calling the provider. Any fee in excess of this amount would not be collectable, and it couldn't be applied to subsequent months. The phone company should give you a warning and then drop service when you hit your limit. Calls to emergency numbers like 911 would be exempt (most providers already provide free 911 access even if a phone doesn't otherwise have a plan at all).

      Companies that fail to comply should be fined out the wazoo and injunctions should be placed on credit reporting agencies to withold any negative reports from the provider. There is just no excuse for billing people $30k, $300, or even $3 for a service a consumer did not ask for.

  • by natet ( 158905 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:56AM (#26970275)
    I mean, he was watching the Bears vs. the Lions. No network should be forced to even touch that traffic.
  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:57AM (#26970287) Homepage

    The wireless provider obviously needs to do something about how much credit they issue people. Nobody is going to pay a $28,000 bill for cell phone usage.

    There's a certain segment of people around here that like to play up "personal responsibility". What they often fail to address is the responsibility works both ways. Letting someone rack up a bill on the order of 1000x normal is utterly irresponsible of the provider.

    • Letting someone rack up a bill on the order of 1000x normal is utterly irresponsible of the provider.

      Why is it the responsibility of the provider to monitor how much you use your cell phone? How are they supposed to know, at all times, where you are and who you are calling?

      What if the guy really was in international waters? Should the bill be reversed simply because he thinks it's too much? What about if the guy is in the southern part of Chile and making calls?

      In the current case, as othe
  • TOS violation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:01PM (#26970343) Homepage

    This pisses me off to no end. As a stockholder, I *really* hate reading that AT&T has gouged another one. Seriously.
    BUT, isn't there a clause or statement in the TOS that says streaming video is a no-no?

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      Well, then you must love to read that AT&T is the only company that I will never deal with again as long as I live. I would die first.

  • by urbanriot ( 924981 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:04PM (#26970371)
    I live near the US border in Canada and my phone often prioritizes or switches to American providers since Canadian providers seem to have little to no support at the edges of the country. When I was younger, I'd accidentally made a few calls while connected to the American providers and those were costly. My provider refunded me the difference, walked me through disabling roaming (or Home Only option) and told me if I ever did it again I'd have to pay for it.
  • A little known fact, U.S. Territory extends 200 miles off the shore.

    The ISP should be fined.

  • From the article, he was billed at 2 cents/kbyte, which is $20/Mbyte. Based on this rate, and the bill amount of $28,067, he used about 1.4GB of bandwidth. The article says he watched a single game of American football, so assuming that took about 3 hours, the connection speed is about a megabyte/sec, which means that it was billed at... $1,200 per minute.

    Under common law, if you request a service for which payment is customary, you are obligated to pay any, even if you were not told that payment was expected or what the price is. The common example is that if you go to a restaurant and order food, you incur a debt even if you never looked at the menu. However, this is only the case when the price charged is "reasonable". A restaurant cannot unexpectedly give you a $1000 bill after you have ordered, even if that price was printed on the menu, and expect payment. While sellers have considerable leeway in defining what is a reasonable price, no court could possibly find that $1,200/minute was a reasonable price for consumer data service anywhere. Therefore, he is not obligated to pay, and if AT&T took him to court over it, they would lose.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jimmy_B ( 129296 )
      Whoops, I messed up the pricing calculation there; the actual estimated rate should've been $150/minute, one order of magnitude less. That's still three orders of magnitude higher than the typical price for that kind of service, though, so the reasoning stands.
      • And, the cost of this roaming is spelled out in his terms of service and his contract.

        Therefore, he has been told and has agreed to pay the cost.

        Therefore, he is obligated to pay for the service.

        Thanks for playing, you lose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      Your trip through the quantity of data is completely unnecessary. Since it's streaming video, if you figure the game took around 3 hours, divide the total bill by 180 minutes -- giving you about $155/min.

  • They "accidentally" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) turn on their satellite relay system while in port. I wonder how many people wandering around the port "accidentally" connect to that system and inadvertently put a few dollars in the pocket of the cruise line? This guy caught it because the amount was so high, but how many people wouldn't notice a small charge for a short phone call?

  • You went through all that effort for a Bears Lions game? This spoken from a long suffering Bears fan. In Chicago, we don't have quarterback controversies; we have quarterback dilemmas.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."