Adam Savage, one half of the Mythbusters crew, was somewhat taken aback last week when he opened his AT&T phone bill only to find that he owed the company $11,000. The reason? Savage was in Canada and used a USB modem plugged into his laptop to do some surfing. What Savage didn’t count on were the extreme roaming charges that came with his time online.
Apparently AT&T’s plan covered wireless access in the US, but not Canada, and they also claimed Savage had uploaded/downloaded nearly 9 gigs of data, which he said was “frakkin’ impossible.”
Not one to take such nonsense lying down, Savage jumped onto Twitter, where he has over 50,000 followers, and called them to action, making ‘AT&T” into a top trending topic and getting the phone company to back down and reconsider their charges.
But Savage’s experience points to a larger problem. Why are roaming charges so outrageous in the first place? In a world where Skype and other VOIP options make long distance calls and even videoconferencing too cheap to meter, why are artificial barriers such as roaming charges and bandwidth caps even around? This false scarcity benefits no-one but the phone company, and we aren’t all famous or popular enough to get our excessive charges reversed, as Savage did.