Page Two

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-12-20 Print this article Print

: Users Binge at the Wireless Buffet"> And the small print in Sprints brochures certainly discourages the use of the phone as a modem: "Unlimited PCS Vision offer for PCS Free & Clear Plans with Vision is: (a) only available with a Vision capable PCS Phone or PCS smart phone device; and (b) not available with Connection Cards, Aircards, or any other device used in connection with a computer or PDA—including phones, smart phones or other devices used with connection kits or similar phone-to-computer/PDA accessories. Sprint reserves the right to deny or to terminate service without notice for misuse." But a Sprint PCS customer service representative said that he was told to discourage, but not disallow, customers from using connection cables from third parties, and the company actually contradicts itself on its own site.
"Funny thing is, Sprint still makes the connection manager software freely available as a download from their site," said Joe Cummings, senior Web developer at the Boston Phoenix, a weekly newspaper in Boston who bought a connection cable at a local Radio Shack. "I get the impression that Sprint included those little nuggets as a safety valve in case access abuse blew up in their faces."
The text accompanying the download says "PCS Connection Manager software allows laptops and PDAs to wirelessly connect to PCS Vision with a data cable and a PCS Phone or a PCS Connection Card." "I know that the group that handles our Web site is in the process of removing all verbiage from in relation to Connectivity Kits and software," said Bit Vo, a Sprint PCS spokeswoman in Kansas City, Mo. But as of late this week, the software kit is still available on the site. At any rate, customers can buy connection kits—both software and cables—from retail outlets and online. FutureDial Inc. sells a connection kit called the SnapDialer that includes both cables and connection software. It works for 3G service connections from both Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless, for its part, is a little clearer about its unlimited data plans. Its a flat rate of $99 per month regardless of whether customers are using the phone as a Web browser or as a modem for a laptop. But Verizons terms are a little vague, too. "Machine non-stop downloads, [such as] downloading the content of the Library of Congress using CDMA1X and are connected 24/7, are not allowed," said Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless in Bedminster, N.J. "If we saw that kind of usage, wed contact the customer directly." Officials at FutureDial said that they are aware that customers are using their products to get laptop access via the plans Sprint PCS intends for the phone. "My understanding is that theyd rather that you didnt do that," said Byron Fujikawa, a customer support manager at FutureDial in Sunnyvale, Calif., which actually partners with Sprint PCS on other wireless data products. "They havent told us not to sell them." Cummings bought the SnapDial connection kit at a local Radio Shack. "My prime motive for getting the cable was so that I could back up phone book data," Cummings said. "Internet access is a happy bonus. Given my job as a Web developer, when a problem arises at work, I have to be able to connect. Its nice to know that I could fix any one of my employers properties when Im on the road—as long as I have a signal." Cummings pays $85 per month for 2000 voice minutes, plus the unlimited data access. "There is no way Id spend $100 per month plus the cost of a card for a wireless Internet connection," he added. "The cost just isnt worth it to me."


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