I have an iPhone. At my house in Pennsylvania, I can't get cable or satellite Internet service, but I did notice that my iPhone was loading e-mail and web sites quicker than was my dial-up connection on my computer. So I asked AT&T if they had something that would get me on the 3G network from the desktop. Sure, the rep told me, they have a little USB cell phone that would connect for me.
So I got the thing, which involved signing up for a two year contract with an early termination fee. This worked fine... for about a year. Then, AT&T "upgraded" their 3G network, and I haven't been able to connect since, from either my phone or computer.
After waiting a couple of months to see if the service would ever come back, I called AT&T and asked them to stop billing me for the service they were no longer delivering. The first person I talked to was sympathetic, but said she would have to put me in touch with a manager, because she could not waive the termination fee.
"But look," I said, "you terminated the contract, but stopping my service. I'm just asking you to stop billing me for the service you are no longer delivering."
She again expressed sympathy but helplessness. I was forwarded to a manager. She "checked the service" in my area, and said, "But you do have service there."
"Well, no I don't, and I have two different devices, one of which gets 3G service fine in many other places, that confirm that fact."
But no, her map of where service is theoretically available trumped my actual experience. She told me that AT&T "would not even consider waiving the cancellation fee" until I called tech support.
So now I have to do yet more work before it's even possible that I can stop paying AT&T for service they have stopped giving me. And it will be pointless: there's no friggin' service at my house! What is tech support going to do... move my house? Build a new tower just for me?
"Why," you may ask, "don't you just stop paying AT&T and make them take you to court if they want the money?" Well, I could, but the first thing AT&T would do would be to cancel my iPhone service. And Apple won't let me get service from anyone else.
Yes, my libertarian friends, I know there is a beautiful, theoretical capitalism you admire in which these sort of things never, ever happen. There is also a beautiful, theoretical Marxism in which the socialist calculation problem is solved and everyone works hard for the common good. Unfortunately, we don't live in a theoretical world.
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