Man receives $28,067.37 data overage charge from AT&T

A Slingbox and a wireless data plan are like oil and water because many carriers put a cap on data limits for your wireless data access. When overages like this occur it's generally an uneducated user blowing his cap out of the water.

An AT&T subscriber uses his data card with a slingbox to stream cable broadcasts to his laptop. While sitting in the port of Miami about to set sail for a Caribbean cruise he wanted to watch the Chicago Bears play before he left for a relaxing vacation. After watching about two hours of the game the boat was leaving port and he didn't want to be charged roaming fee's so he turned off his laptop.

After returning home he received a bill from AT&T for $28,067.31. The user was perplexed and called AT&T to report the mishap but found out the charge was legitimate. Somehow, while sitting in the port of Miami, he was picking up a rogue signal on his AT&T data card that was charging him international rates while still in the US.

The best part of the entire story was AT&T's initial defense was that "they sent a text message about the high use and roaming; however, they sent the message to the wireless card phone number, which cannot be called or texted to."

Many calls to AT&T got his bill down to $6,000, but it wasn't until he went to the media, the Chicago Sun, that AT&T finally admitted their mistake and took off the roaming charges.

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Are there any providers out there that offer a service cap? I would hate for this to happen to me. A provider that lets me set a cap of $200 of service charges would be enough incentive to make me switch providers. When I hit the service cap, just shut off my connection. Nobody in their right mind would allow a service to continue at the rate he was paying, and the service providers should be sensitive to that.

I was thinking about switching to AT&T when my Verizon Wireless contract ran out, but after hearing about this I'm thinking otherwise.

Well if this is a real worry you can always go to Sprint. They allow you to add an addon to your account for unlimited data anywhere in the world for $40 a month. Since this isn't a contract mandated addition you can add it for as long as you need and turn it off when you are back home. Then you'll only pay the prorated amount...

$40 a month isn't expensive at all for unlimited roaming data anywhere in the world

actually driving up to montreal from ny, once i hit the border, it somehow knew to switch from at&t to rogers. it was literally within seconds of crossing, so somehow it does know border lines.

And they would have forced the issue of paying $6,000.00 had not the media gotten involved....and here I thought the media wasn't good for anything

a rouge signal? We're going to need new protection from such signals much like we need protection from viruses and spyware. LOL, wow, this totally sucks. I wonder how many people had to pay in the past for this exact same thing.

This is why I disabled roaming on my phone.

Even if the card itself does not have the ability it can easily be done by calling customer service. There is a code they can add to your account that will disable the ability to roam.

AT&T was right... I am sure his card has some way of telling him that he is roaming. And the card just picks the strongest signal which was probably the roaming tower on the ship...

Cell signals know no borders. It is the consumers job to check. I use it to my favor in Niagara Falls, Canada where I pick up US signals from Niagara Falls, NY. He just did a silly thing and got AT&T to pay. he wont learn his lesson...

Shouldn't the tower be off if the boat is still at the dock? what would happen if I walked by a port and made a phone call? If the strongest signal would be that tower, I would be charge roaming?

Yes you would... It is just like when I go to Canada and I'm in a border town like Niagara Falls, Ontario. I can pick up my Sprint Signal and make and recieve calls as if I'm in the US (no roaming) even though I'm technically in Canada. The radio waves don't know the human construct of national borders, they don't just drop off.

Likewise, I could be in Niagara Falls, NY and end up getting a stronger signal from Bell Canada or Telus and roam on that. My phone allows me to decide very well how it should handle roaming situations, but I have to be proactive in keep my eye out if my phone didn't have these features...

You know you are in the range of international roaming (a border location) so that should signal some pre-thought.

Also, how would AT&T know when the ship moves and doesn't? He should have just made a change in his card's configuration to not automatically search for a signal and to only pick AT&T native signals.

I travel to the falls alot and I have to be careful when using my cellphone there. I can be 5km inland by Marineland and my phone will pick up Verizon.

Frazell, It seems fairly obvious that you don't know the first thing about the geography of Miami. It is NOT a "border location" by any means. It is on the coast, but there is no reason for anyone to suspect that they would be picking up an international signal there. The nearest foreign country would be Cuba, well over 100 miles away.

but it wasn't until he went to the media, the Chicago Sun, that AT&T finally admitted their mistake and took off the roaming charges.

It's pretty sad that it takes a public disgrace to get a company to do the right thing sometimes. AT&T is sure to lose this customer now and I am sure anyone who has heard this story will not be impressed.

Whatever happened to companies wanting to make their customers happy?

Companies only care about the consumer until they get your money. In the case of AT&T, they could care less as cell contracts are at least 2 years and they have you locked in.

Most people, if something like this happened to them, would probably think it was their mistake and make arrangements to pay the bill for fear of being sued.

I have ATT datacard, and if you use it with either SierraWireless Generic Watcher or Novatel Software or ATT's Connection Manager, you are able to send and receive text messages. So I don't think it was silly of them to do it. Waiting for the next story to come; ATT didn't notify user of excessive usage charges even though they could have.

I checked Port of Miami ATT 3G data coverage map and I see nothing that indicates there is no coverage. But if you really want to nitpick, technically their map only shows coverage on land, and the water around the land apparently doesn't get signal... If they were on a boat, technically they are out of ATT's coverage area, per their map.