Your inconvenience powers high-tech profits

Printers, texting, and mobile data are rife with price gouging and sleight of hand. Why do we put up with it?

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But there's more to the mobile data nonsense than ridiculous fees -- they're also lax in metering when it suits them. Many mobile carriers offer fixed capacity plans that limit you to, say, 3GB per month, then throttle the throughput once you've reached that limit. This means they're actively monitoring each device's utilization and triggering extensive QoS rules to reign in the bandwidth available to each and every device on an ongoing basis. You hit that cap, and kapow, you're running at the speed of a 56kbps modem. But somehow, they can't tell you how much data you're using in a timely fashion.

In fact, many carriers show a monstrous lag in utilization reporting. For instance, I was in a hotel not long ago that had horrendous Wi-Fi. Luckily it cost "only" $9.99 per day; at best, I was able to eke out 384kbps, falling to 56kbps at times. Instead, I tried out Verizon's LTE service in that area. Netflix performed admirably, streaming high-quality video to my iPad with nary a hitch. Websites loaded quickly and smoothly, and the latency was refreshingly low.

After mucking about for an hour using only LTE, I logged into the cellular data usage panel on the iPad to see how much data I'd gone through. The stats showed that I hadn't used any data at all in that hour. Intrigued, I watched yet another episode of "Justified" on the iPad, a few YouTube videos, and did some surfing and email. After another hour I checked again -- and it showed the same usage.

Three or four hours later, I saw the usage rise. My heavy network utilization was actively costing me money, yet Verizon couldn't be bothered to tell me how much I'd used. Imagine a gas gauge on a car that only registered full or empty, with nothing in between. Plus, Verizon makes it as annoying as possible to check that wildly inaccurate status, requiring that you enter your email address and password every single time, without an option to save them.

That might be maddeningly inconvenient for the consumer, but it's quite convenient for the vendor, and barring mass revolt or an investigation by the FTC, it will continue to be convenient for them. Ma Bell was broken up for a reason, as you may recall.

This situation has and will continue to hamper innovation and adoption of new and better technologies. Not only are we given this bread and shown this circus, we're being overcharged for the privilege.

This story, "Your inconvenience powers high-tech profits," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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