Everyone knows at least one person who is a professional finger pointer. If they stub their toe on a chair they’ll chastise you for your hazardous furniture placement, and if they spill coffee on their lap they’ll blame you for buying the coffee. You might think that major corporations wouldn’t engage in such daft behavior, but AT&T’s recent birdbrained blaming of their own customers as the reason why they can’t provide sufficient bandwidth for its mobile services would prove you wrong.

Inconsiderate Access

A recent blog by an AT&T executive explains that it’s the customers who are responsible for the telecom giant’s inability to provide popular services. John Donovan, AT&T Senior Vice President of technology & network operations, explained that the company is cutting off users who are accessing bandwidth in an inconsiderate fashion (tsk, tsk) even though they are not exceeding the terms of the contracts they signed with AT&T. Basically what SVP Donovan is saying is that if you’re doing 55 mph in a 60 mph zone but you are doing it without due consideration for the wear and tear your nasty tires are causing to the poor overworked asphalt, you deserve to have your driver’s license taken away.

20,000% Increase in 5 Years

It is obvious that today’s feature-rich mobile web-enabled devices are sucking up vast quantities of bandwidth. AT&T’s demand for data on its wireless network increased by 20,000 percent in the last five years, but that statistic is highly misleading. In 2007 internet access on smartphones was extremely rare and severely restricted by the slower than molasses networks of the time. Mobile phones five years ago were primarily used for voice and SMS, in contrast to the current day’s usage where a staggering 1.2 billion people access the web through a mobile device.

Limited Unlimited

These are not the media hogs who are downloading the entire catalog of 20th Century Fox. The customers that Donovan is pointing out are users who are adhering to all of the bandwidth conditions set out by AT&T in its own contracts. Those contracts are as clear as mud when it comes to determining how much data a user can access before they exceed the limits… yes, even in the “unlimited” plans! AT&T users are finding that if they’re exceeding about 2 GB per month of data their phones get throttled to the point where they might as well try to download a feature film on a 2400 baud dialup modem. (Make sure you are young enough before you start or you might not live to see the movie.)

70 Webpages/Day: Data Hog!

2 GB sounds like a lot, but when you consider that it is easy to exceed the limit just by casual web surfing without a single media download, AT&T’s miserliness becomes painfully obvious. The average size of a webpage is expected to reach 980 kB by the end of this year. That’s not the size of the whole site, just the average for every single page! So if you are clicking on 70 pages a day (something a web user can easily do in the average hour of poking around) without downloading a single song, TV show, movie or digital book… congratulations, you’re a data hog! Prepare your mobile neck for due throttling!

Mobile networks cost billions of dollars to establish and maintain, so any reasonable observer will have to grant that AT&T and the other carriers cannot accommodate exponential growth for all eternity. They either have to start charging hundreds or thousands of dollars per month for access to their networks or they have to figure out some ways of holding back the tempest. The primary problem presents itself most vividly in the carriers’ own marketing policies. If a glutton goes to the Circus Circus All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, they don’t expect to be thrown out after one plate. Similarly, if a carrier is selling an unlimited plan, it should be unlimited. Period. Otherwise, name it by the limit it has. The lesson should not be lost on any marketer: Engaging in misleading advertising will do nothing but alienate your customers!