Friday, March 12, 2010

Changing rates

Telecommunications is obviously a competitive industry, and with emergent technologies and competition, the cost of things like phone and internet plans tends to move downwards. The mobile phone plan that used to cost my work $500+ a month, is available for less than $100 nowadays. I've had many ISPs, and it was quite common for me to suddenly find that my bill would drop, or the available bandwidth would grow on a plan commitment as time progressed, because of how the plans would evolve.

Except Telstra. With Telstra, they create new plans all the time. When I first got wireless ( which I need to get because while my local exchange has ADSL, Telstra used poor wiring in my area, so I can't get it ), it cost me $249 for 3 GB. Unlike most plans with a capped usage, there was no way to get shaped or even cut off when I hit 3 GB, instead I'd be charged extortional rates for any overuse. That, too has changed in recent times due to market pressures. However, what I discovered after being on this plan for a couple of years, is that the plan I was on, was no longer for sale. Instead, one could pay something like $159 for 5 GB ( I am not sure of the exact number, I pay $119 for 10 GB now, and I don't recall the specifics of the inbetween step ). The other important distinction was that the new plan shaped you instead of charging extra. The point of all this is, I had to call Tesltra, where the person on the other end of the line cheerily said 'yes, we're happy to move you to this new plan if you would like'. It is clear that no-one WANTS to pay $249 when they could pay $159, any more than I wanted to keep pay $159 when it dropped to $129 for 10 GB ( and I found out this week that the price dropped to $119 for 10 GB a while ago, the guy on the phone actually ASKED if I wanted to move, can you imagine saying 'No, I'm a shareholder, I'd prefer to pay extra' ? ). But, because Telstra's business model is based on people being ignorant and uninformed, they just keep gouging people on the old plans unless they ask to be moved.

What I found most concerning was that they had a broadband plan at $29 a month that gave you something like 100 MB. Those plans are gone now, the minimum you can get is 2 GB. The issue was, they had ads on TV selling these plans, and they showed someone at a computer watching a video that was at least DVD quality, and surely would have come close to filling that 100 MB quota. I could easily see some old couple signing up and getting a $4000 overuse fee in the first month, and it seemed to me like the campaign was calculated to create that eventuality. I considered complaining about it, but I confess I never got around to it. I just warned every person I knew, especially older people who I knew were not technical, of all the ways that Telstra was looking to fool them into something they could not afford.

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