"Take an AT&T wireless card with an unlimited data plan, add a laptop loaded with Slingbox software, and toss in a diehard Bears fan on a Caribbean-bound cruise ship that was still sitting in the Port of Miami. What could go wrong? A $28,000 phone bill, that's what.The scary story comes from an advice column (dubbed "The Fixer") in the Chicago Sun-Times (and discovered by the tireless bloggers at Engadget HD), and yes, folks—there's a happy ending.
So here's what happened, according to AT&T subscriber (victim?) Wayne Burdick of Schamburg, Il:
I was in Miami on Nov. 2 getting ready to go on a Caribbean cruise. I wanted to catch the Bears game before we left port. I have this wonderful Slingbox connected to my cable box, that feeds into my modem. It sends my cable signal through the Internet to my computer. I can then watch my cable package and DVR wherever I go. I just slide in my AT&T wireless card and click on Slingbox and up comes my cable TV.Yep—pretty nice setup, as I can attest after my tests with one of the newer Slingbox models using a Sprint wireless EV-DO data card (read my review of the Slingbox PRO-HD here).
OK, so then what? Well, as Burdick told the Sun-Times, he did what any true Bears fan would do—he fired up his laptop, connected to his Slingbox via his AT&T wireless card, and watched a couple hours of the game.
Yes, he was on a cruise ship, but the ship was sitting in the Port of Miami the whole time, so it's not like he was roaming in international waters (and Burdick notes that he was careful not to use his phone during the cruise itself, for fear of racking up monstrous international roaming charges).
Nevertheless, Burdick says he came home to a rude shock: a cell phone bill for a whopping $28,067.31. Subtract about $200 in typical monthly charges, and you end up with about $27,000 in data overages. Uh ... say what?
Well, lucky for Burdick, the Sun-Times "Fixer" took his case to AT&T (along with proof from the cruise line that the boat was, indeed, still in port at the time Burdick was watching the game) and got to the bottom of it.
Turns out Burdick's wireless card was "picking up a signal it shouldn't have" and (presumably) ended up in international roaming mode—think two cents per kilobyte, which can certainly add up after watching streaming video for two hours. Bottom line: AT&T ended up picking up the tab.
OK, so what's the moral of the story, besides being extra careful when using your wireless networking card at the Port of Miami?
As we've warned many times before, check with your carrier if you're planning on calling or surfing while traveling abroad; most carriers have international calling and data plans that'll save you from a terrifying phone bill."