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Re: Prepaid Cell Data Plans (was: Mobile Tor stuff)

Thus spake grarpamp (grarpamp@xxxxxxxxx):

> >  T-Mobile has 3 prepaid plans: "Pay as you go", "Pay by the day", and
> >  "Flexpay".
> >  Anyways, I thought I should report on all this research. I've been
> >  waiting so long for the day when I could walk into a store, give
> >  someone some money (hell, any amount!) and get ... access. You have
> >  no idea how many times I've walked into stores prior to this year and
> >  tried to give someone a bunch of cash, only to have them tell me my
> >  money was no good there because I wouldn't let them xerox my ID, run
> >  my SSN and sign a contract.
> I've been doing some prelim on this too. I can buy a t-mo prepaid voice
> cell for $20 and activate it fully anonymously on pay-go or pay-day plan.
> They don't even ask for a name, which I think is awesome and totally
> inline with what a business should be, providing a good/service without
> hassling the consumer for anything unnecessary to that end.
> However, when I inquired about flexpay, every place I asked wanted
> positive ID [self-serve purchase and activation was not available] and
> they required a credit card as the only means of refill... not store bought
> minute/refill cards. I wanted flex-pay because the minutes were much
> cheaper.
> Are you saying you've found flex-pay does NOT require these things any
> longer? That would be good news to me.

Everything in my post I explicitly tested myself, with the exception of
skype over the virgin modem. Both AT&T and T-Mobile gave me SIM cards
with prepaid plans capable of data access with cash without a contract
or ID using the GoPhone and FlexPay plans, receptively.
> I think it's important when people talk of this subject to also specify:
> - Requiring real credit cards vs. anonymous debit cards [refillable or not]
> - Positive ID / verified real world data [mailed bills, etc] vs.
> supplying random data that is never checked.

No sketchyness was required here. They asked if I was paying in cash
or looking to open a contract, and I specified cash and that was it.

It might have had something to do with being in a major city, or maybe
it is up to the store manager's discretion to require contracts for
certain types of plans or features? At any rate, I had no trouble and
did not even need to explain privacy concerns or anything like that.

However, when I purchased a SIM for their pay-by-day/pay-as-you-go
plan, that manager first asks me for an ID. I looked at him
strangely and said "Why do I need an ID? I'm paying in cash" and he
said "Ok, just write your name and birthdate down and I'll create your
account." Little did I know that this SIM card could not get any sort
of data plan added to it.

So maybe it has something to do with attitude and the expectation of
the salesperson/manager in addition to your own expectations? I also
didn't have my phone on me and was very confident technically about
the fact that I should just be able to buy a SIM and put it in my
phone later without hassle, perhaps that helped?

But these sorts of social subtleties are well beyond me, though. Maybe
they were able to sense that I've been so desensitized by all these
demands from me over the years that I really didn't care any more if
they would take my money or not? :)
> Also, I've run into prepaid 'no-contract' 'plans' from various providers that
> were two sided. One plan was more expensive and could use store bought
> refill cards. The other less expensive one required a 'credit card'... typically
> on file, not just on customer demand... as the only means of refill. You can
> see this if you detail the kiosks/flyers at any Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc.
> My minute usage was nearing the Boost and Virgin $50/mo unlimited zone.
> Boost had gsm phones. Virgin had what appeared to be non-gsm phones.
> I've not switched to either yet. The other carriers voice plans were not
> competitive with the above three.

Yeah, it's really sad that Virgin is CDMA-only. Or rather, given that
GSM security is totally broken[1], and GSM's TDMA modulation scheme is
horribly inefficient, it's really sad that the best smartphones are
GSM and not CDMA.

Prior to my experiences with T-Mobile and AT&T, I'd been relying on
Virgin Mobile. They've been the most straight forward carrier by far
in this regard. Basically everything about my experience with Virgin
in general has been as painless as possible, which has really
surprised me. In fact, as far as I know, Virgin was the first carrier
to allow you to actually disable location reporting for non-911 calls
via the phone UI. While I obviously don't trust that this can't be
overridden or actively triangulated anyway, it's at least nice to know
that precise location isn't being passively volunteered for historical

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/technology/29hack.html

Mike Perry
Mad Computer Scientist
fscked.org evil labs

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