It's widely known that iPhone users, with their unlimited data plans, have been straining the AT&T network for a while.This has led to service problems and PR problems (despite the iPhone being a big hit, AT&T's reputation is low) and now AT&T may be discussing ways to respond.
One idea possibly under discussion: charging users for the data they use. At least that's what the Huffington Post is reporting Ralph de la Vega, AT&T's head of consumer services, discussed this week.
It's hard to see how this a very good idea for iPhone users. It makes a lot of sense for AT&T, of course, and may help shore up its network (if bandwidth hogs are forced to reduce their usage), but this is the opposite direction we should be heading. And it's a direction that could further harm AT&T's chances for holding onto an exclusive iPhone contract or any of the millions of new customers it acquired thanks to the iPhone.
Most other developed countries offer much faster broadband speeds, without limit (or with higher limits), than the U.S. does. I'm not qualified to say why that is, but I'm guessing limiting usage of network connectivity, and charging extra to those who use more, isn't the path to closing that divide.
Also, if AT&T thinks people don't like it now, wait until iPhone bills go from an already expensive $100+/month to even more than that. The move will be especially unpopular if a large number of iPhone users are affected.
No doubt AT&T is in a tough position here, but shifting costs back to its customers - essentially punishing its most enthusiastic users - doesn't seem like a good solution.