TIFF: AT&T International Data Roaming Sucks

Tomorrow I'll be in Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival. But today I have a huge gripe to share with "The New AT&T". A few months back I purchased an Apple iPhone, which with the exception of a few little things, I love to death. Am I angry that Steve Jobs dropped the price today $200? Sure, but that's the price you pay as an early adopter. And while most people have bashed Cingular, I've yet to have a customer service or reception problem. And the EDGE network in San Francisco is fast (okay, not as fast as 3G...) enough for me.

So today I called AT&T to add International Roaming to my calling plan, and encountered some unexpected problems. It appears that the data-rate in Canada is 5 cents per KB. And if you know anything about data, that can add up really fast. Some guy had a story on BoingBoing about getting a $3,000 data bill for two weeks of travel. This is ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that AT&T offers a International dataplan for $24.99/month, which gives you 20MB and a reduced roaming rate (0.0125/KB). And while that isn't exactly what I was hoping for, I would have easily been willing to settle for such a plan. But get this – AT&T requires a one year commitment with a $175 early termination fee. I'm only going to be in Canada for a matter of days, and don't need a year long plan. But I asked to speak to a supervisor, explained my situation, and "Allison" told me there was nothing that could be done. I would have been more than happy to pay for one month's service, but apparently that's not possible.

Now you're probably thinking to yourself, why don't you just refrain from using data. If that was your first thought, than you're probably not a smart phone user. You probably never owned a crackberry, Trio or iPhone. And besides, if I refrain from e-mail, and try to find wifi access on my MacBook throughout the day to access e-mail, there is still Visual Voicemail. For those of you who don't know, the iPhone has this GREAT feature called Visual Voicemail. Basically, when someone leaves a voice mail message, it downloads the audio file to your phone. The problem on this trip is that Visual Voice mail download goes through EDGE, and data useage costs money. I'm not sure how much data a Visual Voicemail message is, but I'm guessing it would only take about ten to add up to a very hefty international data usage bill. Now you're probably thinking, why don't you just turn off the Visual Voice mail. Well, I would if I could, but I have yet to find a way to do this. I've done a few google searches to no avail. You might also be wondering, why not just answer your phone. Unfortunately that won't be possible at a Film Festival since I'll be in and out of screenings all day (sometimes up to five movies in a day).

AT&T does however offer a international roaming voice plan for $3.99/month (no commitment), which brings the per minute fee down to $0.59, which seems to be comparable to other wireless carrier rates. That's fine, I'll just try to avoid phone usage while I'm at the festival.

AT&T, if you're reading, is there anything you could do to change this? Why must your customers suffer for traveling out of the country? I stick up for you guys whenever I can, but this just seems like the wrong way to treat your loyal customers.

Peter Sciretta