When Your Service Slows to 128 Kbps, and You’re Paying 5–20 Times More for Wireless than Overseas — Scream for Investigations.

Part 1 explained the basic history of America’s FCC standard speeds for broadband. And we discussed that there is a proceeding underway to have 100 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload as the new US broadband standard.

Unfortunately, 100 Mbps speed is just the punchline of a bad joke; the regulators are either captured by the telecom industry, or they are too naïve and thus don’t want to or don’t know how to clean up the mess they helped to create.

And it isn’t just the speed of service; America’s wireless networks are controlled by AT&T and Verizon, and this also means they control the underlying price. As we discuss, overseas, a 5G service can cost under $10 bucks and comes with 100GB — under $.10, ten cents per GB. In America, this collection of prepaid services we feature is charging about $8.00-$20.00 per GB.

100 Mbps Vs 128 Kbps Or a Slippery 5G Wireless World.

The fine print of the current Best Buy online shopping page, for a current collection of prepaid wireless services, August 2nd, 2022, reveals just how unfunny the situation is. Let’s look at the speed caveats.

The site features prepaid wireless services from AT&T, Cricket, Lively, Visible, Verizon and Tracfone.

I had never heard of Visible or Lively and didn’t know a lot about Cricket. — but the details presented screams for the need for investigations of America’s wireless prices and America’s wireless speeds.

How can the FCC claim that America’s standard broadband speeds should be 100 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up when these services don’t detail how fast these prepaid services really are or even if the speeds (or services) being advertised are available in the person’s immediate area, regardless of what the advertisements claim?

Worse, how can any service be throttled to a speed of 128 Kbps in 2022, which is slower that the painfully slow 200 Kbps FCC standard which we previously discussed, from 1998?

I’ll get back to the fine print caveats in a moment.

The Prices Reveals a Cartel: $8-$20 a GB vs $.08-$.09 Cents per GB

We would be remiss if we didn’t deal with the actual price — Tracfone, cost $20 a month and supplies 1 GB, while Verizon’s prepaid is $40 with 5 GB and Lively is $20. for 1/5 of 1 GB.

(NOTE: These were the services that were compared on the Best Buy site; for some reason they were different than the fine print listed.)

Overseas Prices vs America: Something is Very Wrong.

As we previously discussed, research from Rewheel Research on wireless pricing for 2021 found that overseas, customers can get 100 Gigs for a fraction of the costs we pay in America. They write:

“Among the ten operators with the lowest monthly prices for 100 gigabytes were operators from the Israeli, Indian, Malaysian, Romanian, Italian, Chilean and French markets.”

“In September 2021, the minimum monthly price for 100 gigabytes was 7.99 EUR in Italy and 8.90 EUR in France.”

NOTE: The EUR (Euro) exchange rate was $1.02 US dollars when we did these comparisons, August 2nd, 2022.

This means that Italy and France have a low-cost average of $8.15 and $9.08 US dollars for 100 GB (rounded) and these services do not include the “cost recovery charge” and other made-up fees that are part of America’s pricing.

IMPORTANT: 100 Gig services aren’t even offered in the US, regularly

Another way of looking at this is that the US services — Verizon and Tracfone, had an average of $8-$20 a GB vs $.08-$.09 cents. (NOTE: This is a lot more than 5–20 times difference. This is an overall number we found in previous comparisons of all communications services including broadband service with internet access and the triple play (phone, cable, internet service) package.)

How is this impossibility possible? How can America be gouged like this, especially attacking the low-end users?

Speed and Hidden Market Forces.

Returning to the fine print, the Best Buy site has caveats that the discussions of the new broadband standards for speed are not dealing with; this is a glaring problem that is the third rail in public policies.

All of these prepaid wireless brands appear to be knock-offs that are carried on the AT&T and Verizon networks, and they control the pricing of all services because, as we pointed out elsewhere, they control the price of the critical wired infrastructure.

Using the previous fine print chart and the Best Buy comparison chart:

  • AT&T’s prepaid services are reduced to a maximum of 128 Kbps — slower than the original 1998 FCC snails’ pace standard.
  • Cricket’s speed also goes to a snail’s pace and that’s because Cricket is owned by AT&T as of 2014.

And the speed is based on 4G. Wasn’t that the technology that was supposed to have been replaced by 5G years ago? Moreover, there is no mention of what the speed of 5G actually is.

Yes, after you use up your 1 Gig allowance, instead of getting ‘overages’, where they keep charging you more for data use, they just turn off your ability to do any streaming, etc. — and just throttle your speed.

Then we get to Visible:

  • Visible is owned by Verizon and runs on Verizon’s 4G LTE Network.
  • Visible’s speeds may or may not be 5G, if it is available; it is just a made-up service with the invisible part being — it’s just another Verizon front.

And Visible has an additional price for data that is listed only in the fine print, not the Best Buy comparison chart.

  • Tracfone was bought by Verizon, and it is charging $20 per Gb. The garbage in the fine print (which was found on a different page) says it requires a very expensive 5G phone but — the service may not be available and there’s no guarantee of any speed.

“5G nationwide access requires a 5G-capable device. Actual availability, coverage and speed may vary.”

Conclusion:

We did not intend to do an article on wireless speeds or prices. We, unfortunately, read the fine print and realized there is a depth of issues that are not being addressed.

Setting a new US broadband standard of speed at 100 Mbps is a joke on any level when you can have a ‘5G’ service that will be reduced to 128 Kbps after a few GB of use, as this speed can’t even do video streaming.

There are many more layers of harms that can be enumerated here, but this is a “clusterfolk” of massive proportions.

All of these actions must be put into context — AT&T et al. are now taking over the over $100 billion in government subsidies on the state and federal level that is supposed to solve the Digital Divide — to feed these plans for maintaining their monopoly. We will be continuing this tale. The more we dig, the uglier it gets and the more it needs to be exposed and dealt with.

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Bruce Kushnick

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.