AT&T MicroCell – is it a class action lawsuit waiting to happen?

We have a problem with out local cell tower signal. It is constantly fluctuating, between 4 to zero bars. This results in quite a few dropped calls.  (Yes, AT&T, you need to get off your butt and put some of that iPhone contract $$$$ back into your crappy network.)

Yesterday, I called to complain. And was suggested a MicroCell.  I was told it was $150, but that there was currently a $100 rebate. I was given a $50 discount as well.  However, there is a $20/month service charge. This is for “unlimited minutes at home”.  We looked at the rate, and our current plan an minutes usage. We fall right into that gap, that I presume most families fall into. Somewhere above the 700 minute plan and below the 1400 minute plan.  Gone is the 1000 minute plans that most people needed. Don’t ask my why they just don’t get rid of the plans and sell minutes by blocks (ie: $10 a block) but they don’t.

Our thought was to drop our plan down a notch and utilize the MicroCell unlimited home minutes. Except, if we did that, we’d probably be right about 800 minutes. Blargh….once again caught in the “no good option” web.

So last night I picked up the MicroCell. After having 5 dropped calls in a two hour period. And having to resort to Skype to make calls.  Which made me think, why doesn’t AT&T just let you connect via the WiFi connection. (I can do that with the Skype app).

I unpacked the MicroCell. Only to discover it was not quite what I expected. I figured I was buying some boosted antenna and powered relay. A device that would pick up the signal and re-broadcast. No, what I have in fact picked up is merely a WiFi access point running in AT&T’s spectrum.  In fact, that unlimited talk they’re charging me $20 for runs on my Comcast broadband connection. So wait, now I am paying AT&T to let me use the connection I pay Comcast to use. (Not a single AT&T employee I spoke with mentioned this little fact of minor importance (er, most significant aspect) during any of the sales process.

Does this sound like the biggest scam?

Supposedly, I can drop the $20 service. But get this, if you do that. AT&T is still going to charge you for minutes (even though you’re using you’re own network connection for data transit), on top of this, I’ve heard for all those suckers who are now on the “2GB data plan”, that data usage will count towards your quota. Oh, that’s right. Even though you’re using Comcast’s cable connection to transmit data, AT&T is going to charge you…suckas.

But who will get the last laugh?  I think the consumers this time. Why? Because if Verizon gets the iPhone.  All these dropped calls, the attempts to remedy will be good faith for getting out of one’s contract.  Second, because the way AT&T is handling the MicroCell is so sketchy that I think it’s going to open them up to a lawsuit. And I think the likes of Comcast, are going to find themselves aiding and abetting such a class action lawsuit.  If I was Comcast, I’d be advertising to have anyone using the MicroCell on their network to contact them. Expressing, we don’t believe there is anything wrong with your use of such a device. But we believe AT&T’s charging of our customers for the use of our data to be in bad faith.  And I think it’d be hard to find any jury of 12 who would think it not bad faith.

It’s rather akin to having the water company charge you for using water from your own well….

It’s bad enough that AT&T is charging customers $150 for a fix to their crappy network.

7 Responses to “AT&T MicroCell – is it a class action lawsuit waiting to happen?”

  1. 1 Shannon Hicks September 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Ok, let me start off by saying that the idea of AT&T, instead of fixing their network, is having customers buy a device to provide a stronger signal… it’s just wrong.

    With that out of the way, let me point out a couple flaws in your argument.

    1. Whatever AT&T rep you talked to got it wrong… but it’s very clear on the MicroCell site that it works over your existing internet connection. I’ve been following this device since it’s trials in NC, waiting anxiously for it to be available here. I get 5 bars on my porch, but as soon as I come inside the house, my signal drops & waivers.

    2. T-Mobile has a similar device that uses WiFi instead of the standard cellular signal. The problem is, you have to get one of their special phones to use it… The advantage of the MicroCell is that it works with any 3G phone, even the ones that are 8 years old. This also means that you can seamlessly switch from your MicroCell to another tower, should you, say, have to leave the house in the middle of a call.

    3. The idea that AT&T is double-charging you for your internet connection is preposterous. If that’s what you truly believe, then don’t forget to also complain to Netflix that they’re charging you for using their service over your internet connection. When you make a call over the MicroCell, do you think it somehow magically gets to the other person’s phone directly via the internet? No…. it routes the data from your call over the internet to AT&T’s network, and then on the same path it would have gone over if you were connected to a tower. It still uses AT&T’s network, it just uses less of it to get there. AT&T’s gains something by not having your phone taking up space on one of their towers, yes.

    4. You’re probably not using up your data package while connected to the MicroCell. If you’re in range of that MicroCell, you’re probably in range of your WiFi network anyway. Yes, the MicroCell probably could do a better job of getting data directly via the internet connection instead of via AT&T’s network, and potentially save you money, but I have to assume the engineers made the same call that I did… you’re probably on WiFi anyway.

    I didn’t sign up for the $20/mo service. Of course, I don’t qualify for any of the rebates because of that. I might eventually pick up the $20/mo plan because I work from home… and if my work call volume increases, that $20/mo for unlimited talk just might be a deal for me.

    I needed the MicroCell for the reason it *should* have been built… I live inside a structure that blocks too much of the signal to have reliable calls. Unfortunately, AT&T’s reps seem to have decided that instead of fixing tower problems, they should get commission selling something to a customer. Yep, that’s rotten.

  2. 2 Shannon Hicks September 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Oops, forgot to check the follow-up email checkbox.

  3. 3 Frank January 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    dude att is getting free broadband either way. If I was any ISP I would block the use of microcells. its a piggy back ride and a cheap way of trying to mask a horrid problem. the sad fact that i have 1 year left on my contract. but rest assure that I will never again trust a company that like cutting so many corners !
    att customer since the original iphone. depressed person for 5 years.

  4. 4 arbysauce November 13, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    class action? where do I sign up

  5. 5 al December 29, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    BOUGHT one –won’t work — ATT has wrong address for me won’t fix it 90 days with worst techsupport in the business. we need a class action re this POS — Charge for a service but won’t provide the service Seems a good scam for the company getting paid

  6. 6 phinsup July 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    This is racketeering, att makes a profit on their network being weak. There’s no encouragement for them to fix the problem, in fact it’s quite the opposite there’s profit in them not fixing the problem.

  7. 7 Mayer Avner October 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Paid $300 for a micro cell from AT&T, otherwise there was no service. My unit was defective and under warranty. They replaced 3 different units. The third unit was defective as well and still under warranty. I was told be ATT that the micro cell was no longer supported. My micro cell was under warranty within the year of being replaced. I asked for a refund for the microcell – they will not refund any money. Instead ATT sent me a free wifi enabled phone to replace the microcell – ithe phone was defective as well, ATT told me the free phone “was out of warranty” and would replace the phone. I reminded the ‘loyalty’ department that this was their free phone sent to replace the defective micro cell and I was never asked or given the option to buy an extended warranty. I’m stuck with no phone and no microcell. ATT tspen 1.5 hours telling me today – basically “touch luck”, “wish we could do more”. ATT is a bad company, bad customer relations, bad general attitude, If you have the choice – do not use ATT

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September 2010

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