back to article Canadian runs up $85,000 mobe bill

A Calgary man who mistakenly believed that a $10 "unlimited mobile browser plan" would enable him to surf the internet with impunity, "downloading high-definition movies and other bandwidth-hungry applications", was slapped with an $85,000 bill for his trouble. According to Canada's Globe and Mail, 22-year-old Piotr Staniaszek …

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Duh...

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo....

People still get caught out by those extra charges on mobiles. A cousin recently got her very own mobile and commenced texting all her friends...all day...enough to rack up a bill of US$500 for the first month. Her mom was not pleased.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Well best of luck to him. While pleading foolishness isn't much of a defence, no company should allow someone to change purchase pattern and run up such a bill without querying it. The Telcom knew what it was doing too.

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Anonymous Coward

FS!

MOBE! EMBARGO! GRR!

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Either

...the bloke is a complete idiot or mobiles really do fry your brain. I suppose some would claim that being Canadian he falls into the first category but I wouldn't risk immediately jumping to that conclusion.

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Dam

using as a modem not part of the data plan ?

quote:

"using the cellphone as a modem wasn't part of his data plan"

Errr, hold on there.

What's a modem supposed to do then, playback dumb tones ?

That's called dialing, after that it kinda transmits... you know... *data*

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Des

Immigration Application?

...maybe he can move to the US now he's passed the IQ test?

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Flame

I'd a made him pay the lot.

Damn Freeloading bastards "oh, I'm too stupid to read the terms and conditions, give me free stuff.

Its time we stopped rewarding studpidity.

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Edge?

Isn't the fastest mobile connection stateside Edge??

And aren't fixed broaband connections cheap as poo??

Confused as to why he would ever of bothered....

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Flame

Moron in huge bill shocka

What is it with these chumps who think for $10 a month they can use any resource without limitation? There is no "hold on there" -- his plan clearly stated he had unlimited web browsing from his phone, that's totally distinct from using it as a peripheral device connected to a PC. The man is a cretin of the very highest order. Welcome to no sympathy night.

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Tim
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Struggling with this too

Well, not really. Sounds like 'unlimited' is only that as far as the provider's own walled garden is concerned. Of course we all know how much of that 'content' we'd actually want.

What you would legitimately expect as a user is that you have unlimited access to data through the device whether it's used as a handset or as a modem. The distinction sounds quite artificial to me and I think he can be forgiven.

Not sure the telco can get away with hiding behind the modem driver's warnings; if he got the software from the handset manufacturer rather than the telco then he'd have assumed the warnings only applied to those without 'unlimited' data plans.

Thumbs down to the telco and a 'good luck finding the four grand' to or Canuckistanian hero.

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Paris Hilton

What did he download?

How much "high bandwidth" content can you download on a cellphone based modem? It would be what, a 33.6K data rate? He's hardly gonna get a full-length movie in a realistic amount of time... and yeah, we can blame it on him being Canadian.

Paris Hilton icon, because her Sidekick was hacked so easily :-)

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Paris Hilton

Modem

It depends on the carrier; tethering is considered by and large a big no-no and many of the telco's like to slap you down hard (e.g. Verizon Wireless); however it's a good unwritten rule that if you tether lightly (IMAP emails would be a classic example) then you can fly under the bandwidth radar (many would argue you can get away with more so mileage will vary).

Not so this schmuko - if he honestly thought that his monthly $10 Canadian gave him unlimited access then he deserves the large bill he got. When I signed up with VW I was very careful to research exactly what my five bucks a month gave me (answer: Sweet FA)

Welcome to the 21st century where everything costs and a thought process based off "caveat empor" was never so bloody valuable.

Sure he's not related to Paris H?

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@Dan Grabski

However, this is a contract, NOT a law, so your pithy (or should that be "pissy") listtle statement has no bearing.

What should happen is this slate written off and now he KNOWS and can be proven to know what the deal really is. It's not as if transferring the data actually cost them anywhere near that ammount, is it.

If the company had told him he'd run up a bill of $1000 in a day then they could have told him, just to make sure. If they let him build up debt then that's not right, is it.

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I see both sides...

but maybe the telco should slap a credit limit on their customers? It seems like some alarm somewhere should've gone off long before he hit $85k.

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Boffin

I may be ignorant here but....

modems signals are not data as such. They are actually analogue calls, in the same way as voice. Granted they rely on better clock signals than voice, but are analogue none the less, so surely they should be treated as voice calls.

Like I said, may be completly wrong as I haven't used a modem for about 4 years and never on a mobile.

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Pirate

Pah

The wee guy against the big corp, hope he gets off with the bill.

Count to 10 though and you'll see an RIAA van pull up at his house just to see what kind of Hi-Def movies he has been downloading!

$80,000 could end up being cheap!

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Paris Hilton

Canadian ?

The recent science tests from the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) ranked Canada 3rd in the world, the UK 14th ( (1) possibly due to taking the test in a pub) and the USA 29th ( (2) likely due to the fact that everything in the USA is done by a nice invisible being)

Other Categories:

Literacy

Canada 2nd

UK 7th

USA 15th

Math

Canada 6th

UK 8th

USA 19th

http://www.siteselection.com/ssinsider/snapshot/sf011210.htm

Surely this kid* just recently moved to Canada from the UK, USA or more likely Brazil ?

*he evidently lives at home so he's either a kid or a loser. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt

Cheers !

I use Paris as my icon because she's a good example of not using your brain.

*(1)http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/02/booze_teens/

*(2)http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071208-more-shots-fired-in-the-war-on-science.html

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I'm on the guy's side

If you can download as much as you like using your mobile on this price plan, there isn't a huge stretch to using the gsm components via your pc and basically just not using the screen and keypad on the mobile.

Interestingly a couple of days ago I was in a "3" store chatting to a salesman who mentioned I could pay £5 per month for unlimited web access. I asked if I could bluetooth it to my laptop to use it as a modem and he said no - not with that model. For that I'd need an N95. He didn't go on to say that would incur extra charges - but I bet it does.

What astonishes me most is how he didn't get cut off as part of a fair use policy...

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Anonymous Coward

Only a luser.

"...his plan clearly stated he had unlimited web browsing from his phone, that's totally distinct from using it as a peripheral device connected to a PC..."

It may seem so to you, maybe. To the general user, "from his phone" includes "via his phone". And it's no surprise that the telco just merrily let him run up such a huge bill. If there's a limit on how much traffic can be passed "inclusive" there should be a warning as soon as that limit is exceeded, and probably one saying it's being approached.

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It's time that internet companies spoke our language ...

... instead of taking words with well-defined common meanings and twisting them into marketing speak. For example 20Mb/s* (where the * means "up to" and usually only gives you 1/3 rd of the headline figure). Or "unlimited downloads" where unlimited really means "however much we want to cap you at - which we'll never tell you".

If a phone plan says yo can use the phone to connect to the internet - that's it, you can USE IT. Real people don't know what "tethering" means or even what a "modem" is for that matter. If phone companies want to make your usage so restrictive, that information needs to be in plain english (or canadian) and at least as high-profile as the original headline.

It's about time some of the regulators took on the phone and internet companies. I really hope someone takes an ISP to court soon and gets a judgement that this woolly advertising practice has no standing.

Maybe I should start paying "up to" £15 per month for my "up to" 10Mb/s connection: fair's fair.

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Ahem

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo...."

As Mark rightly points out, ignorance of the law is nothing to do with it.

If, and in this case it's not likely, the company failed to inform him appropriately of the relevant details of the pricing plan, then his ignorance most definitely is an excuse.

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Paris Hilton

ok ok ok fine.. he's a loser......

...though I still say 22 yrs old means you're a kid ;)

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Coat

But....

If he comes from Europe then maybe he was used to mobile phones with actual data connection via bluetooth rather than tone based (voice) connections. He probably just missed the sign at customs saying he was entering the 3rd world.

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How about..

Companies stick to using the dictionary definition of words instead of redefining its meaning in small print.

The company sold him an 'unlimited' data package and a phone that was capable of hooking up to his PC, it absolutely shouldn't be up to the individual to read all the small print to find what 'unlimited' actually means when we all have a full understanding of its exact meaning already.

Wait till we are buying a car with unlimited mileage* or 5yr warranty and getting reamed by the small print. when the salesman isn't upfront about it and we are too taken in by the new smell than stand reading the T&C's.

*1000 mile

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Unreasonable contracts.

Basically, it shouldn't ever be possible to run up an $80,000 mobile bill.

There are no exceptional circumstances where this sort of sharp practice is ok and to allow this to occur on a $10 a month data plan is simply criminal.

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Stop

Cellphones as modems

Those of you who haven't used a cellphone as a modem need to bear in mind this isn't like your old dial up modem... These can get great data rates... Some phones and networks will do up to 3.6 megabit... The latency sucks though. The only thing that they have in common with a dial up modem is the way you set windows up to make the connection.

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Paris Hilton

Canadian Mobile Data Carriers - YMM extremely V

1) Rogers EDGE Network = Five cents per kilobyte (~$50,000/GB)

2) Bell - varies from place to place... $75 EV-DO plan requires 3-yr contract

3) Telus EV-DO Network = $75 + $6.95 + $0.43 + tax (unlimited, month-to-month)

Hmmm... which one should I choose...? Hmmm...

I am using a Sierra Wireless 595U EV-DO gadget plugged into a Cradlepoint CTR-350 'travel' modem to provide my house-in-the-forest with high speed Internet access not otherwise available. This gear combination provides a 1+ Mbps WiFi hotspot for "$75" per month - apparently really truly unlimited.

My first week's data usage was about 3GB and the line item on my first bill showed $0.00 in extra data fees. The bill from Telus simply listed the $35 start-up fee, the first week fee, and the next month's fee (billed in advance - which is fine, as agreed).

That amount of data (3GB in one week) would have cost $152,000 from Rogers EDGE Network. But if it was on a data plan, maybe only $92,000. LOL.

By the way, the huge province of Alberta (where our $85 Calgarian friend is located) is almost 100% covered with the Telus EV-DO network.

Here is my EV-DO in Nova Scotia blog:

Link = http://evdo-novascotia.blogspot.com/

Not reading the fine print is bad.

But charging $50,000 per one GB is completely insane. It's just lunacy. Crazy babbling nonsense. It's like if a gas station upped the price per liter to 1 million and some people didn't notice and suddenly owed $50M. No. It's insane and totally unjustifiable. The telco deserves to eat the bill - this time and many more times. There are reasonable limits and they're over them by about 30dB.

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Paris Hilton

Although he is an idiot - I hope he wins his case

Unlimited should mean unlimited - but it doesn't. I would have been tempted to try something like this if I didn't have access to home broadband although first making sure i'd read the T&C's.

The provider probably assumes no-one is going to be able to download very much on a mobile connection but guess what - my N95 can download videos from youtube, it can load full webpages with all imagery and embedded flash... all without using it as a modem. I could EASILY rack up a few hundred megabytes with ordinary browsing. What I would expect to be a bit cheeky would be using P2P, but I BET that wasn't in their Ts&C's and that my friend is their problem.

There will be an acceptable usage policy but surely they should have contacted him when it was found to be higher then $50/$100.. letting it get up to the thousands of dollars - crazy!

And not being allowed to use your mobile phone as a modem? Why not...

It's data all the same whether it's being displayed on your handset or your PC.

My friend in uni halls of residence at the time tried hooking up his mobile to his computer to activate HalfLife 2 when it first came out - probably a few hundred megs, and there wasnt an unlimited plan back then (rather idiotic but he was desperate). A mobile almost-broadband connection with 'unlimited access' would have been perfect back in those days, would have seemed quite a reasonable proposition, and if used would result in thousands of dollars of charges. Rather unfairly I think.

Rip em a new one. Perhaps then they will learn to use easily understandable language when advertising their products.

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@ Phil Rigby

Not necessarily. Although on a basic plan, yes, he probably was speed-throttled, it all depends on what the provider's idea of 'basic' is. The second basic plan from my provider is 512kbps which is more bandwidth than my father's UK-based landline connection. They also offer a higher-end package, for example 1M or even 2M for a relatively small monthly fee - the latter is double the speed of my landline internet.

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Dead Vulture

no "mobe" !!!

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo...."

... and what about the law that you can't use the word "mobe" in an article..?!

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@ Tony Barnes

"Isn't the fastest mobile connection stateside Edge??"

No. And Canada is not "Stateside." It's a sovereign nation (no matter what Brown and Bush may tell you).

"And aren't fixed broaband connections cheap as poo??"

If you want the quality of poo, yes. 128kbps is not, IMHO, "boradband," but it's advertised as such, and it *is* cheap.

However, large portions of North America barely get dialup; broadband simply is not available at all. This is not the UK, where towns are barely a mile apart; we have stretches of wilderness with literally 200 or 300 miles of open road and no more than a single house every 10 miles, and lots of places are even less heavily populated.

The entire North American continent is *not* New York City. You should get out more, Tony. Perhaps a geography class...

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Learn to read

Another case of someone signing a contract without reading it. If he had bothered to read the contract in the first place it would have been clear what he could and cound not do as part of his plan. Instead he just did what he thought he should be able to do.

Tut tut.

Frankly the offer of $3k seems reasonable - they're giving him the best rate for the service he's used. It's not often you see that!

Todays lesson - either read the contract, get someone competent to read it for you, or walk away. I get *so* fed up with these whiney types that plain refuse to take responsibility for themselves...

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Unhappy

What?

So in Canada, you get sent a bill for mobile phone usage *after* the event, like a landline? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. And this story confirms it!

If you pay for the calls you're going to make before you make them, the most you can lose is what you've already spent. You can still wipe out a £20 top-up in a few seconds if you're not careful, but at least it was only £20.

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Tom
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Should have gotten "pulled over"

The phone company is really dumb! They play bandwidth police and let you speed away only to tell you the "fine" is cumulative. It is like the police issuing speeding tickets at the end of the month, after you have been speeding all month because you heard the word "unlimited". When he ran up a bill of over $1000 the first day they should have warned him about his activities (limited his access). The $85k in a month is STUPID, the phone company should know better.

Moral of the story: Don't mention "unlimited" very loud. At least without explaining it AND getting the customer to understand the term as it applies (difficult these days, I know!).

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re: I may be ignorant here but....

"modems signals are not data as such. They are actually analogue calls, in the same way as voice. Granted they rely on better clock signals than voice, but are analogue none the less, so surely they should be treated as voice calls.

Like I said, may be completly wrong as I haven't used a modem for about 4 years and never on a mobile."

You are confusing the method of transportation and encoding (analogue / digital) with the content within. Lets say a modem does use analogue signals (I don't really know) that doesn't preclude it from being data. Data doesn't = digital.. radio signals are analogue, aside from a select few 'HD' broadcasts, and they carry massive amounts of data.

All that aside, an 'unlimited data plan' should be just that. this company is clearly using marketing-speak to confuse users like this poor Canuck.

The user who lives by caveat empor is correct but that doesn't excuse misleading offers and newspeak about features. consumers are what keeps these companies alive (mostly) and they should be treated fairly.

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@ dan b.

this isnt an unlimited means unlimited case. He was given unlimited web for the exclusive use of being viewed on his phone, not using his phone to connect to his pc. This is a we told you you could use it one way, but you used it in another.

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Jobs Halo

Cell Phones

Cell phones are no different than home phones in the respect to billing. Post paid accounts can rack up as much as they want. I used to work for Verizon Wireless, so I know how it all works. Just like a 1-900 call can rack up your phone bill at $2.99 per minute or more, data usage can too. EvDO is wicked fast, and they just release a 2MPbs standard. Thats faster than my 512kbps DSL connection! I can see why he would use the cell phone instead, but he should have known that unlimited MOBILE browsing, as in ON the MOBILE, not EvDO data flying THROUGH the mobile. As far as I know, there is no way to throttle EvDO, its either on or off. Qualcomm didn't build that into it.

I think the reason so many outside US/Canada/S Korea people are confused is becuase GSM doesn't have EvDO becuase of it being such an old standard and they don't realize how awesome EvDO is.

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Coat

@ AJ STILES

Posted Thursday 13th December 2007 18:09 GMT

So in Canada, you get sent a bill for mobile phone usage *after* the event, like a landline? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. And this story confirms it!

There are 2 main ways to have cell phone in Canada.

1) "Pay-as-you-go" works like a prepaid phone card. You put a specific amount of money, of your choosing, on the account and the phone works until that money is used up. You then put more money on the account and use it up. Like filling a gasoline/petrol tank.

2) A service just like a land line. This is commonly under various contracts where you get a specific price for each component. A possible common example would be: Evening and Weekend Local Calls For Free, 240 Minutes of daytime calling and unlimited text messaging for a monthly few. With a contract like that you would pay extra for anything outside of that list. e.g. over 240 minutes of daytime calling.. web browsing etc

Smart Parents use option 1 (pay as you go) for their kids.

People without the brains to keep track of their usage or the desire to fully understand their contract usually pick option 1.

Businesses and people who have a handle on their expenses use option 2

Obviously the "I can't read a contract" guy in this case, should have chosen option 1

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@ aj stiles...

what world are you living in? Unless you have a pay as you go phone, here in the uk like most countries, if you have a contract, and you go outside allowance, you pay the difference.

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Dom
Paris Hilton

OTOH...

My (French) telco (Bouygues) has sold me an unlimited (up to 50 meg) 'Blackberry Option'. Have a look, if you read French : http://www.modedemploi.bouyguestelecom.fr/Modedemploi/select_blackberry.htm

I'm still wondering about that.

To reassure you all, I'm not actually paying for it yet, either. I thought I'd see what the first free months are like.

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Joke

@Morely Dotes

Time to face facts...

Canada

Population 2006 census 31,612,897

2006 GDP Total $1.165 trillion

United States

Population 2007 estimate 302,981,000

2007 GDP est. Total $13,675,129 m ($13.6 trillion)

Yeah, Canada is "Stateside" ... and there's this large Elephant in the room too.

Cheers!

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Paris Hilton

"Unlimited"

The nice lady at Telus (the perky Canadian mobe Telco where I bought my Sierra Wireless 595U) quite specifically stated that my "$75/month" (actually $82.38 + tax) EV-DO open (month-to-month) contract was "Unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited." I actually counted the 'unlimited' words and there were precisely five in a row.

The Sierra Wireless 595U EV-DO gadget doesn't have a screen and doesn't have a keyboard. It only has a USB plug. I could plug it directly into my laptop or into my desktop, but instead I plug it into the CTR-350 and it creates a WiFi hotspot. Now the Nintendo DSs and Wii, the Sony PSPs, the laptop, the desktop, the home theatre gadget, and more - they can all access the Internet.

We've been waiting for years for high speed Internet to arrive in our neighbourhood. It will probably arrive within the next two years (Cable or WiMax). For that reason, I bought the 595U outright (list price) so I'm not tied into a 3-year contract. When a better offer comes along, then I'll switch.

The size of this kit is amazing. Very small. The entire 595U + CTR-350 + AA battery pack could fit under your hat. You could wear a T-shirt that says, "I'm a WiFi Hotspot" and hang around in parks. Carry the PSP and you could even control the CTR-350 router and make money by charging $2 per hour. But that might be outside the scope of the 'unlimited' contract...

I hope that this info is helpful...

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$3000 a month?

At those rates, it'd be cheaper to lay your own fiber. Around the world. Heck, anybody with that kind of money probably owns their own telecom. Anyway, the best idea would be to drop Rogers.

Go with a wireless plan which is honest about their data rates, and doesn't try to hide it in the T's & C's. Yes, the fine print tells all, but you shouldn't have to read the fine print in order to estimate costs. All costs should be up front. Any company that isn't this transparent isn't worth dealing with, period.

I was thinking about this as well: why is a modem not voice? Isn't it the point of a modem to translate computer speak into little grunts and gurgles that the phone can transmit as sound, to be translated back into computer speak on the other end? How is this not voice, or at least audio? So what if I can get more than 1 megabit/sec out of this? The only reason why 56k was considered fastest speed available is because the FCC said so, not for any technical reason. So, instead of sounding like a baritone, the audio is sped up to sound like a chipmunk. It's the same information.

Someone (not me, since I'm all thumbs and foggy-headed, to boot) is so going to hack this. Or we can just wait for 4G/WiMax/700MHz. Still, this whole voice/data wall is just waiting to be breached.

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@ Morely Dotes, where the heck do YOU live?

Broadband is available everywhere I know of in the US, depends on how far out you are. If you're in the boonies, you can only get slower DSL, if you're in the city you get any varying speed of DSL or Cable modem service.

There's not many places I know of that you just can't get broadband, and I don't exactly live in Silicone Valley. (Yes, I meant Silicone..)

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inconsistent behaviour on Bell's part

Other articles covering the story mention that the guy with the giant bill has received warnings from Bell when he was going to be billed an extra $100 over his regular rate. This time there was no warning that anything was out of the ordinary until the damage was done.

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Dead Vulture

What's a mobe bill?

Something like an duck bill? or some nation's currency?

Anyway, did you hear about the guy that got hit with a $85000 cell bill?

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Hmm.

"When the customer downloaded the software to do so, a warning came up that said there would be additional data charges on top of the mobile browser plan."

Because let's face it, when we're installing a bit of software and box pops up with lots of text and button saying "I agree", we all read every word of the text before hitting the button, don't we?

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Bill system problems?

Works out to nearly $2/minute (though it's probably per Mb) for the entire month. Amazing that the billing system didn't cut him off. Most post-pay systems have limits based on usage patterns, at around 250% of the average usage.

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He might be an idiot, but...

He might be an idiot for not reading the fine print, but one of the issues in Canada is the not-so-competitive mobile phone service market.... and price gouging on things like overage rates.

All this guy needs to do is take his bill to the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) and complain about PRICE GOUGING and there will be a lot of high level people at Bell Mobility that will have a very bad time after that... as they try to fight new regulations... like maybe a maximum amount allowed to be billed, irrelevant of use. Or maybe a cap on overage rates. Mobile phone companies make a killing on this in Canada. The CRTC could easily end this party.

As it stands, the CRTC has excluded current mobile carriers from bidding on new bandwidth spectrum for mobile carrier use so that new companies can enter the Canadian market because of price gouging.

Peter Stern

Toronto, Canada

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Silver badge

DON'T use Rogers

Just don't. There is way too much fine print.

It starts right from the moment where you read "CHEAP PLAN 20$ a month!"

And reading the fine print, you see that after paying the plan, you need to pay

an additional 7$ a month for "network access". It's like asking in a hotel

how much a room is, being told that it's 100$, then having to pay 30$ more

for "dayly rental of the room key"

As for all the guys talking about personal responsibility, I wonder how often they

read the EULA of the software on their computers. Face it, the day Microsoft

adds a hidden fee in that, they'll end up legally owning the planet before

anybody notices it.

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