Newsletter Issue #691: International Roaming for Fun and Profit

February 25th, 2013

This past weekend, we took a long drive from Arizona to Southern California, spending a large portion of the trip on Interstate 8, which skirts the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It had been a while since we decided to just use up an expensive tank of gas to see where it would take us, and this particular trip produced a very surprising, and frankly irritating, result.

During the course of the trip, I received a text message from AT&T leading off with the phrase, “Welcome abroad!” It went on to tell us the great rates we’d receiving for international roaming, such as 800MB of data for a “mere” $120. When I got home, I rang up AT&T to ask them to explain. After all, I hadn’t gone beyond the borders of the U.S. in a number of years, and certainly not on this occasion.

AT&T’s explanation, or excuse if you prefer, had it that, even though I never left the borders of the U.S., my wireless handset had apparently been in the range of a cell tower in Mexico. No, I didn’t face any unexpected charges, since I had turned data roaming off. But at the same time, I can almost imagine how many customers of AT&T and its American competitors might find themselves stung with potentially exorbitant charges for which they are not responsible.

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