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Ting gets Lifehacker’d

A recent Lifehacker article titled How to Get Out Of Your Cell Phone Contract Without Paying Termination Fees in the Saving Money section mentions Ting and our Dump Your Contract Month sweeps. The article goes on to call out our unique approach to the wireless business.

It’s driving some nice traffic to the Ting site; people looking to save money on mobile phone service by paying for what they use as opposed to paying a premium for unlimited. Presumably, it’s also driving people to the ABC News post about DYCM that’s linked in the story. So, if you found your way here from Lifehacker (or from ABC News): welcome! Get your entry in to the Dump Your Contract Month sweeps while there’s still time.

On a personal note, I’d like to say thanks to Lifehacker. First for including Ting in the roundup of ways to get out of your contract and second for the great Android rooting help and the sweet routers running Tomato firmware I have at home.

CISPA and protecting your personal online freedom

During the SOPA / PIPA debacle, Internet denizens came out in droves to beat the bills back and protect our collective online rights. We, as in the Internet at large, said that the battle was won but the war would continue. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is the latest attempt at an affront to your online freedom.

CISPA hits the senate floor for voting in early June having already passed the US House of Representatives. If passed by the Senate, the last hope to get CISPA sent back to the proverbial drawing board would be a White House veto.

If passed, CISPA would provide broad authority to government organizations to collect and pass information between agencies. “Cyber threat information,” as the bill puts it. Ostensibly, CISPA is intended as a response to cyber security threats from hackers, terrorists or criminals. CISPA would give broad allowances for government agencies to pass our private information and communications between themselves. Currently, doing so leaves said agencies open to lawsuits from private citizens. Perhaps more disturbing, it allows (or could force) private organizations to pass information to government agencies under the same provisions.

The language in CISPA is in some cases so vague that it would be too easy to put to ill use. The powers afforded are too broad and would allow the government and private corporations like Facebook, Google et. al. to pass private information freely, with impunity. All under the guise of protecting against a “cyber threat.” The language explaining what exactly constitutes a cyber threat is also too broadly and loosely defined (see page 15 of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and potentially sacrifices too many of our personal freedoms.

Our issues with CISPA are many. As concerned Internet citizens, we worry about what it would mean for personal online privacy—both yours and our own. As an Internet company that takes your privacy very (very) seriously, we worry about our ability to protect your online privacy, for our part, will be severely compromised.

If you feel, as we do, that CISPA is an ill conceived and too loosely defined a bill, please make your voices heard.

At Tucows and Ting, we feel that the Internet—whether accessed on your computer, on your smartphone or via any other vehicle—is vitally important. CISPA is a very serious threat to the freedom and privacy we take for granted online.

Six ways Ting makes for the perfect mobile business plan

Ting is the best mobile plan for businesses, if we do say so ourselves. Many of the things that make Ting the best mobile family plan are the same things have real value for businesses too.

Unlimited devices on one plan

Our unlimited devices on one plan idea is unique in the industry and seems purpose-built for business. Whether it’s a team of two or a team of 200, everyone can get the phone or data stick they need. Each device on a plan costs $6 per month.

No overage penalties

With a bunch of people and devices accessing the same shared pool of minutes, messages and megabytes, the chances of busting out of your plan level are greater. If you use more than you thought you would, Ting doesn’t penalize. We’ll just bump you up to the next service level. If you use less, we’ll bump you down and credit the difference on your next bill.

Individual device control

If we as a mobile service provider have access to a setting like turning voicemail on or off, enabling or disabling international roaming, tethering, data, SMS, MMS and so on, you have the same access. Individual devices under a plan can be individually controlled in the Ting control panel.

Consolidated billing

Rather than juggling a bunch of different mobile business plans for different members of the team you see all charges for all phones in one clean, clear bill. Ting’s electronic bills can be digitally filed away and are saved in your account dashboard whenever you want to see them.

Data only devices and plans

At Ting HQ, we have several data sticks and hotspots that anyone on the team can grab when travelling. Rather than relying on spotty hotel Wi-Fi or worse, the wireless network in a convention center, we’re able to connect from just about anywhere. When it’s business-critical you’re online, there’s no replacement for your own connection.

Great rates

Comparing the mean price per minute, message or megabyte which we’ve done previously here on the Ting blog, Ting comes out a winner. You pay $0.02 per voice minute, $0.0025 per text message and $0.0225 per megabyte of data once you bust out of the XXL service levels.

Run the numbers and see for yourself. Take what you currently pay for your business mobile plans and see how much you’d save with the Ting cost calculator.

On Data Use and Doing the Right Thing

When you’re trying to bring about a better way to do mobile, you face some unique and interesting challenges.

Case in point: recently, a Ting customer reached out to us to explain that he’d been billed for some data and couldn’t initially figure out why given that he hadn’t actively used any data. After some forensics, it turns out this customer has a data device that released and renewed its IP address. In so doing, it used 536 bytes of data or 0.0005 of a megabyte. There was no other data use on this device. Effectively, this tiny amount of data pushed him from the XS tier ($0, 0MB) for data and into the Small tier ($3, up to 100MB).

Rather than rubbing our hands together while laughing maniacally at our ill-gotten $3, then grabbing three sodas from the vending machine (that was my suggestion but it was summarily shot down) we decided to do the right thing. Not just by refunding this particular customer but by making a change to our billing policies for all Ting customers.

Effective today, we’re offering data grace in an effort to ensure that customers aren’t billed for data they didn’t know they were using; IP refreshes and the like.

In the first month of service, every Ting customer receives 20MB of data grace. This is to cover data that’s sent during the initial activation of a smartphone or data device. If you connect your smartphone to a Wi-Fi network before activating, which we recommend in all our Ting Start Up Guide video series, you’re already ahead of the game.

If you roll through the 20MB grace with willful data use, you’ll be billed normally. We’re not making the first 20MB of data free so much as we’re protecting customers against data that didn’t intend to use in the initial activation, phone setup and poking around process.

You’ll definitely want to make sure you connect to a Wi-Fi network before doing anything major like grabbing the latest Android update or pulling all your Gmail contacts in from the cloud on the mobile network, but 20MB will more than cover any data used in the initial activation.

Subsequent months, every Ting customer gets 1MB of data grace to cover things like IP refreshes and server pings. Again, basically, data that customers didn’t willfully use.

That’s just how we roll.

Ting Refer a Friend Program Goes Live

referafriend1

Tons of Ting customers have asked us for a Refer a Friend program. We take that to be a good sign. After all, you’re not about to ask us for sharing tools to refer your friends to a service that sucks, right?

We’re happy to take the wraps off the Ting Refer a Friend program. With this program, you can refer your friends to Ting. In other words, it’s aptly named.

We’ll give each friend you refer a $25 credit they can use toward purchasing a device or as Ting account credit. For your first referral, we’ll add a $50 service credit to your Ting account. For each subsequent referral, we’ll drop a cool $25 credit into your account.

If you’re a Ting customer, log in and head to the Refer a Friend page to get started. This is a personal referral page that displays your unique referral URL. Send this URL to your friends and if they click through then sign up for Ting service, your $50 or $25 credit and their $25 discount will be automatically applied!

We’ve also integrated sharing tools on the referral page including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and an email button. These will share your custom URL so you can sit back and watch the service credits roll in.

We genuinely appreciate how much the Ting community has asked for this Refer a Friend program. We’re happy to hear you’re ready and willing to spread the love. If you’re persuasive and particularly popular, you could conceivably never pay a Ting bill again thanks to all your accrued service credits.

We’d consider that a win-win.

Log in to your account today and let the referrals begin!

Contracts, crack, confusion and marshmallows

The last few days have been really interesting around here. We’ve had about 200 people a day signing up for our dump your contract sweepstakes. We’ve also really hit a chord, with tons of people embellishing on how trapped and wronged they feel in their current mobile relationships.

My first reaction to all this is, “These poor people! They have been wrongly imprisoned by their mobile providers and I need to set them free!”

My second reaction is sort of like, “Hey, what are they complaining about? They signed a contract. A fair agreement between consenting adult parties. They did not want to pay a lot upfront for their device so the phone companies offered them a reasonable exchange. Pay less now and a bit more over time. Stay with the service until you have repaid your debt. How can you really complain about that halfway through the deal?” (I’ll admit I have a very personal aversion to anything resembling a victim’s mentality. I almost worry that it makes me a little Republican sometimes.)

In considering all this, my mind has wandered to a bunch of random references and analogies.

One is a great little undergraduate public policy class I took at Duke about 20 years ago. It was about the regulation of substance abuse and vice. I think the professor was Philip Cook if anyone is fact checking. It had a lot of philosophy mixed in and, among other things, we spent time questioning what right we have as a society to keep people from doing harm to themselves by smoking crack or jumping off buildings. One answer made a lot of sense to me. If most people end up saying later that they wish they had never started doing something in the first place (as most smokers do, for example), then it means that the decision making process is flawed (by confusion, youth, addiction or whatever) and we have a right to intervene before it ever gets to that point.

I’ve also thought about the famous marshmallow test. This is where they offered 4 year old kids a marshmallow now or two marshmallows later. They ended up discovering that the kids that had the emotional maturity to wait for the two marshmallows went on to better careers, lasting marriages and happier, healthier lives.

I’ve thought about this awesome SNL sketch:

I’ve also thought about this cartoon that @kenschafer showed me the other day:

At Ting, we have a pretty dangerous business strategy. We are exposing a ton of information. We are encouraging people to think rationally about a lot of decisions where irrationality has reigned supreme for years. We are asking you to forego the comfort of an unlimited plan, for example, to ultimately pay less for what you use. And we are boldly suggesting that people pay for their device now rather than ultimately pay way more for it over time (in the form of inflated monthly service bills).

I think so far we are appealing to the early adopters that jumped on the two marshmallows 40 years ago.

But I’m going to assume that millions more of you are pretty smart too. So what do all these references above indicate? Why is Ting “going to war against service contracts” as Joanna Stern explained it? The answer is that mobile service decisions have been way too clouded by confusion, fear and addiction. People have not quite had the information they need to compare these options and plans fairly. They also haven’t really considered that when someone has you under contract for two years, there’s a good chance they’re not going to service you like they could lose you tomorrow.

I guess my conclusion is that American mobile phone users are confused, cracked out 4 year olds with a debt problem. But we love them. And we want to help.