OUT OF CONTROL
It's been said that phone companies spend more on billing for a call than making the call happen in the first place. Billing is a major part of all phone companies, both wired and wireless. And it doesn't matter whether they're charging you for voice or data. And it certainly doesn't matter whether they're charging you per minute, or flat-rate on a supposedly "all-you-can-eat" plan.
Two anecdotal examples of this were notable this week.
First up, is this hilarious post, along with supporting images from Ars Technica, on their first iPhone bill from AT&T:
"...AT&T's iPhone bills are quite impressive in their own right. We're starting to get bills for the iPhone here at Ars, and while many of us have had smartphones for some time, we've never seen a bill like this.
One of our bills is a whopping 52 pages long, and my own bill is 34 pages long. They're printed on both sides, too. What gives?
The AT&T bill itemizes your data usage whenever you surf the Internet via EDGE, even if you're signed up for the unlimited data plan. AT&T also goes into an incredible amount of detail to tell you—well, almost nothing.
For instance, I know that on July 27 at 3:21 p.m. I had some data use that, under the To/From heading, AT&T has helpfully listed as "Data Transfer." The Type of file? "Data." My total charge? $0.00.
This mind-numbing detail goes on for 52 double-sided pages (for 104 printed pages!) with absolutely no variance except the size of the files."
I guess one shouldn't be surprised they're tracking every kilo-byte of data transfer even though they're not charging by kilo-byte for iPhone plans. As some commenters to the post suggested, they actually are tracking and reporting on the sites one visits via the iPhone to government agencies as requested.
In any case, it is funny how they simply can't resist sending hundreds of thousands of iPhone customers (soon to be millions), dozens of pages per month with essentially nothing really important to say. Since most customers don't opt for paper-less billing by default, this will likely go on for quite some time, as it does for ANY cellphone bill by ANY carrier, I'm sure. It's just interesting it happens to be an iPhone bill in this case.
The second anecdote of phone billing gone wild, is from The Register, on a billing episode in Malaysia:
"A Malaysian man who paid off a $23 wireless bill and disconnected his late father's cell phone back in January has been stiffed for subsequent charges on the closed account, MSNBC has reported.
Telekom Malaysia sent Yahaya Wahab a bill for 806,400,000,000,000.01 ringgit, or about $218 trillion, for charges to the account, along with a demand from the company's debt collection agency that he settle the alleged debt within 10 days, or get a lawyer."
It goes on to explain the enormity of this amount:
"No one apparently at Telekom Malaysia is quite sure whether the bill was a mistake, or, cryptically, if Yahaya's father's phone line was used illegally after his death.
This correspondent not long ago got his sh*t pushed in by Verizon for $117 in roaming charges during a week-long conference in Montreal, but even at Verizon's ultimate 'screw you' rate of $4.99 per roaming minute, yours truly would have to clock 43.7 trillion pure, hardcore roaming minutes to ring up $218 trillion in charges, or roughly 727 billion Verizon-hours of internet surfing and chit-chat.
The $218 trillion total is roughly 17 times the GDP of the United States."
What's not surprising here is that the phone company WOULD send a bill like this, but that their computer system COULD physically calculate and bill for an amount like this.
Remember how computer programmers were freaking out the world over seven years ago about "Y2K", when computers couldn't be counted on to go from 1999 to 2000 without blowing up?
I mean who but a telephone company would make sure their software and billing systems can bill for hundreds of trillions in any currency?
Truly extraordinary stuff when you pause to think about it.