Of trains, travels and data plans

I’ve come to think that once the infrastructure is up and running, providing broadband via either DSL or 3G costs nearly zero to the provider (hopefully someone will correct me if I’m wrong). In the UK, O2 gives one month of “unlimited” Internet access to prepaid mobile users every time they refill with at least £10. In Italy, despite the availability of sensible prepaid data plans, the latest trend is to trick customers into paying for time-based service, billed in 15-minute chunks (a crime all in itself), and make them believe it’s a good deal. In a country where the infrastructure is in place, but where service is often poor due to the presence of many mountains and such, one can see how this is much less than ideal.

Let’s not even start with the situation in the United States, where AT&T has decreed that iPhone users with prepaid plans (mostly foreigners in the country for possibly short times) are not even entitled to data service.

Cut to the United Kingdom, where I am using wi-fi on the train between Manchester and London. It happens to be free—but that’s because I was lucky enough to find a first-class ticket at the ridiculous price of £45. In second class, data service is still cheap enough to be worth it. Add that to the pleasure of riding in a quiet car—something Italy will never pull off, since it can hardly convince travelers not to smoke in restrooms, let alone talk on their phones—and you have the perfect trip.

Not sure where I’m going with this. I started it as a few lines of personal considerations, then decided to share them with the world. I wish customers (of any kind of service, be it phone lines, trains or freeways) had the possibility to use this kind of information as leverage against the abuses of the providers, instead of being forced to take the same old crap over and over. Just something to think about.