AT&T Passport Exploits Customers

by Colin Berkshire

Colin here. International roaming by AT&T and Verizon are unethical rip-offs. Both of them charge about $20,000 per gigabyte while roaming. Yes, you will pay more than a new car just for using one gigabyte of data while roaming internationally. In this day when cell phones can easily consume 1/2 gigabyte a day you are looking at a $10,000 a day potential problem. Your son headed off to China for a one week tour can potentially run up a bill large enough to buy a house. This does happen.

Consider that AT&T and Verizon charge about $20,000 per gigabyte of data and that this same gigabyte costs about $3 when purchased in-country from the local carrier. How is it even ethical to charge this much? (Answer: It is unethical.)

T-Mobile solved this problem elegantly by giving everybody unlimited and free 2G international data in over 150 countries. T-Mobile only charges if you want High-Speed data for videos and not for data suitable for eMail and text messaging. Plus, T-Mobile charges 20¢ a minute for phone calls while roaming while Verizon things $2.49 a minute is more fair.

I cannot imagine that AT&T or Verizon pay the local carriers more than $3 per gigabyte, which means they enjoy a 99.985% profit margin (approximately higher than any illegal drug ever sold.) $20,000 per gigabyte is just absurd.

To address any accusations of unethical behavior, AT&T has launched their new Passport international program. Under this program you pay $30 to $120 a month and then get international data for “only” $150 to $250 per gigabyte on top of that. This is only a 98.5% profit margin. Thus, your trip to Germany may only cost you$1,250 or so.

I think it is profoundly unethical to charge such grossly inflated international rates. This is a $3 item being sold for $200 or $20,000. It’s profiteering in the worst way, often preying most on those who are least informed and least able to anticipate these deplorable charges.

I know of an individual that came home from an international trip and had a bill of almost $10,000. They knew that international roaming charges were high but they simply could never imagine how high they were.

Imagine going into a grocery store and a month after discovering that the bunch of bananas you purchased cost $20,000. The grocery might respond: But you slid your credit card, you saw the total, weren’t you paying attention? I think a valid argument could be made that you don’t pay that much attention and that nobody could ethically sell a bunch of bananas for $10,000 or even $200.

Why can’t call carriers do something really reasonable, like charge their standard overage fees of $10 or $15 per gigabyte for global data. Isn’t an 80% profit margin sufficient?