My friend “Dave” recently moved from San Francisco to Sacramento. Being of the modern mobile generation that has “cut the cord” and lives by the cell phone, Dave wanted to get “naked DSL.” i.e., DSL (or other broadband) without any kind of telephone or video contract (Dave also refuses to pay for cable TV, on the grounds that 99% of the programming “sucks”). To his surprise and disappointment, Dave couldn’t find any naked broadband available in his neighborhood. So he wrote to me, as the known expert on all things broadband. “Isn’t there any way I can just get broadband without a telephone contract?” Dave wrote me in an email.
So I thought about it, and I said: “Is Sacramento AT&T territory?”
“Well AT&T has to offer $20 naked DSL, as a merger condition from when they bought BellSouth. Why don’t you try for that.”
So Dave dug around until he found the offer for AT&T DSL until he found the AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet Package With No Voice Contract:
Basic 768 kbps $19.95
Express 1.5 mbps $23.99
Pro 3.0 mbps $28.99
We talked, and I recommended the “Express” package as probably the best suited to his needs. Dave went to order it. His reactions below (warning, contains frank language and highly suggestive ASCII)….
Subject: AT&T Are DICKS!
Well I got the Dry Loop service. There are conditions, though. I can only pay by automatic billing from my credit card. Service won’t start until 1/22. And I had damned well better remember my acct. #, because they’re gonna put me through hell before they look it up.
Dicks. Big ones.
I concurred that this seemed rather “dickish” and that it was undoubtedly designed to discourage people from signing up for dry loop (aka naked DSL). Fortunately, Dave is a stubborn cuss. He then detailed a few further examples of AT&T’s propensity toward male reproductive organhood.
Re: AT&T Are DICKS!
Oh, one more thing: Cannot order service over the web. Must waste much time talking to surly live person. And rebates on equipment don’t apply either. That’s two more things.
One swallow does not a summer make, and one disgruntled Dave does not prove that AT&T is always screwing its customers. But AT&T’s behavior here is consistent with its past behavior on merger conditions it didn’t want to honor. It was AT&T’s rather cavalier treatment of the naked DSL condition from the AT&T/SBC merger (where AT&T priced the naked DSL at $1 less than the bundled voice/DSL package) that prompted the Democrats to stick price controls in this time around.
The folks opposed to conditioning mergers will no doubt shake their heads and cluck their tongues about the folly of behavioral remedies for proposed merger harms. I’m inclined to agree, but I draw a different conclusion. Next time, just deny the damn merger. That would really serve the public interest.
Stay tuned . . . .