AT&T Wireless to Customers: Drop Dead (But Pay Up First)!

Donald Unger
Credit: Shutterstock

I’m opening a new meal provision service, based on the AT&T Wireless model: I’m going to sell contaminated food for $10 per month. Then I’ll “offer” the antidote as an Extra-Cost Option for another $4 per month.

Sweet deal, huh?

Well . . . for me, anyway.

Perhaps you’ve heard: AT&T said last week that they were adding “automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam-call alerts” for all their customers.

Don’t applaud just yet.

“Despite the change,” the website Arstechnica notes, “customers will still have to manually add undesired phone numbers to block lists or pay $4 a month to send all suspected spam calls to voicemail.”

Why are they doing this? How are they doing this? How much will implementing the service cost them? And how much revenue will the service add to AT&T’s bottom line?

Glad you asked!

Across the US, AT&T Wireless serves over 155 million people; like everyone else with cellphone service, they are plagued by spam calls that are largely made possible by AT&T’s lax network security that lets people “spoof” phone numbers: looks like the call is from Aunt Sally; actually it’s from someone in Bangalore claiming to be from Microsoft, letting you know that only by immediate Bitcoin payment can “terrible problems we have noticed with your computer” be made right.

AT&T is “implementing a solution” to the problem of their faulty network because rising consumer rage has put them in peril of the dread . . . Regulation.

The cost — to AT&T — of this “solution,” both the crippled, free, version and the additional cost option?

Pretty much . . . zero.

This is code! Once they engage a Lithuanian middle school student to write the add-on app in his basement in Vilnius, the cost of that code running on their network is . . . zero!

What will AT&T earn — with this zero-cost solution to a problem of their own making?

Spoiler Alert: It ain’t zero!

If we figure a third of AT&T’s 155 million+ customers sign on for the extra $4/month?

That’s about 50 million people * $4 * 12 months, or $2.4 BILLION per year.

More than half of AT&T’s shareholders are institutions — some 2400 of them. For them? Revenue’s great; it translates into dividends and increased share price.

For the CEO of AT&T Communications, John Donovan — who makes over $14.5 million per year, some of that in stock — this is just gravy.

For AT&T’s customers?

This is just another corporate Fuck You!

“Appeal it to the Anti-Regulatory-Republican-Dominated FCC — and good luck to you!”

When people say they are against “burdensome regulations”?

Who exactly is it that they don’t want burdened?

They are saying to the average American: Shut Up and Pay Up!

When people say that progressive policies regarding higher taxes for the wealthy are redistribution of income?

They are ignoring the endless web of ways that out-of-control corporations steal from average people and relentlessly further enrich the already-wealthy.

AT&T charging billions of dollars a year to address a problem they’ve caused?

That’s income redistribution!

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Donald Unger

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I write what I know and what I’ve lived: humor & chronic pain; politics & parenting; business writing & cultural analysis; and . . . ranting (a lot of ranting).

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