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Report: #1073148

Complaint Review: AT&T Mobility - Select State/Province

  • Submitted:
  • Updated:
  • Reported By: FlyTiger — Meridian Mississippi
  • AT&T Mobility Select State/Province USA

AT&T Mobility, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless Wrongfully redirecting internet data over billable network instead of free Wi-Fi ("phantom data," false billing) Internet

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Many people report seeing "phantom data" charges on their AT&T cell phone bills for periods when their phone was on their night stand while they were sleeping and at other times when the phone was not being used and was in their home Wi-Fi coverage.  This data also is charged when the phone is displaying Wi-Fi symbols to the user, which according to the user manual mean the phone is using Wi-Fi for all internet data.  The data is not phantom, but is real.  However, it is travelling wrongfully over the billable AT&T network instead of the "free" Wi-Fi that is available in the customer's home. 

One reason for this behavior is that the iPhone 4 (and likely other phones) have a built-in timer that turns off the Wi-Fi radio after a period of non-use.  This is likely intended to save battery power, but it happens even when the phone is plugged into the charger and the battery is fully charged.  Once the Wi-Fi radio goes to sleep, the phone uses the billable cellular network path for all subsequent data traffic until the user manually handles the phone again and wakes up the radio.  This means that all automated updates during the night or during long periods where the phone is unattended are billable data, even though free Wi-Fi is available.

A second reason for this behavior is that the AT&T Wireless network tells users phones to behave a certain way.  All 3GPP networks control how users phones interact with them for various voice and data services.  There is a network node called Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) that tells users' phones on a particular cell tower what radio and network paths to use for internet data.  It sends Inter-System Routing Policy (ISRP) rules to each connected user cell phone that tell them if they need to stay with only AT&T's 3GPP network, whether there are any trusted AT&T Wi-Fi access points available, or whether they are free to use untrusted (i.e., users' own or public) Wi-Fi.  AT&T can restrict all data to the phones to travel only over billable paths, or can restrict only certain types of data such as application updates to trusted paths.  What is very insidious about this second scenario is that the cell phone will still indicate Wi-Fi to the user when in Wi-Fi coverage as if all the data is transferring over Wi-Fi, even though some or all data is travlling over billable paths. 

There are other cases where this happens as well.  If a large download or streaming data is started where there is no Wi-Fi coverage, it will continue over the billable network even if Wi-Fi coverage is subsequently entered.  This can mean hours of billable data in the case of streaming Pandora or downloading a bunch of songs from iTunes, etc. 

Another case of internet data travelling over billable cellular network paths even when Wi-Fi is displayed also occurs when the iPhone sees a valid network it has previously been logged into, but is not now not fully logged in (such as in a hotel where a website password is needed each time to start browsing).  The Wi-Fi symbol is shown even though the phone is only attached to the hotel's Wi-Fi, but is not connected to the internet and no internet data is flowing. 

The behaviors above are all absolutely contrary to what is described in the iPhone user guide.  They are also not disclosed in the AT&T Wireless Customer Agreement (WCA).  They also defy what a reasonable person would expect.

The result of the behaviors above is that consumers see unexplained data charges on their phones and incur mysterioius data overages and, after fighting for months with AT&T generally get talked into needless upgrades of their data plans.  This causes a lot of grief for customers and makes a lot of money for AT&T.

AT&T knows about this behavior.  In my case they first denied it, but once confronted with the facts, the shifted tactics and blamed in all on Apple.  However, Apple was a partner with AT&T in the exclusive launch of the iPhone on AT&T networks.  My iPhones have all been purchased and provided to me through AT&T and branded with the AT&T logo.  My phones all show they are programmed with AT&T versions of the OS and an AT&T network configuration software.  The behavior of the phones is a product of both the phones and the network, not exclusively one or the other.  The AT&T WCA confirms that they load programs on the phone that control its connections to the network.

To prove my case in arbitration with AT&T I have been requesting detailed records of my data transactions known in the industry as "call detail records" and "charging data records" (CDR).  These are exactly the same "metadata" records that AT&T and all the major phone companies are providing to NSA everyday.  Of course, AT&T has refused my written request for this information for over a year telling me first that they didn't exist, then that they didn't keep records of the information, then that it was proprietary, and finally that it would violate privacy laws to disclose it.  Consider that they provide (actually sell) this information to law enforcement all the time and give it freely to the federal government everyday, and Senator Feinstein says this does not violate my privacy, but somehow giving my own data to me would.  Disclosure to a citizne of any information colleted on them by the federal government is required by federal law under the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act.  Not providing this information to the phone customer is also a direct violation of federal laws 47 USC 222 and 47 CFR 24.6401 which detail specific Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) that must be disclosed by phone companies to phone customers on their bills and upon request, including "call location data."

This is clearly a widespread issue that begs for a class action.  Getting a sleepy, octogenarian arbitrator to understand the technical details of ANDSF and 3GPP networks or to discern the lies of their "expert witnesses" reciting a carefully rehearsed dialogue with their hired gun attorneys from New York is futile.  I know from experience.  Getting the CDR metadata records is the key to blowing this scheme wide open, and also getting the citizens and politicians to recognize how much our privacy is being compromised by the phone companies and giving NSA the keys to our digital lives of all Americans without a warrant or even a crime.

Please share this with all your AT&T customer friends and litigation lawyer friends.  We need to get a critcial mass of complaints to Congressmen and Senators to force the Supreme court to reconsider class action restrictions when the perpetrators are giant companies like AT&T and shadow government agencies like NSA, and individual arbitration does not provide the necessary leverage to raise the case to the levels of consideration required to handle violations of federal law and constitutional rights.  

 

 

 

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/05/2013 10:36 AM and is a permanent record located here: https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/att-mobility/select-stateprovince/atampt-mobility-atampt-wireless-cingular-wireless-wrongfully-redirecting-internet-d-1073148. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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