back to article Chicago Bears fan hit for thirty grand for a bit of Slingbox

A hapless Slingbox user managed to run up a data bill of $28,067.31 watching a game of American football, despite being aboard a docked cruise liner and having an unlimited data tariff, thanks to a technical hitch or two. The story comes from the Chicago Sun-Times, who have managed to get AT&T to credit Wayne Burdick with most …


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  1. kain preacher


    I cant knock this guy. He thought he was local and gets hit with international rates. Come on.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Report the ship to the FCC

    Call the shipping company and ask them do they cover the bill due to misconfiguration of their equipment making sure that the treat of reporting them to the FCC is clear enough. If they refuse report the incident to the FCC.

  3. Owen Sweeney


    The joys of beaing a Bears fan - almost as bad as following Leeds!

    Certainly as expensive with Ken's ticket prices :p

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I think the question

    Should probably be why the hell he is happy paying $220 to watch a game of American football when a ticket to the ground probably costs less. Firstly, the report says he has an unlimited data tarriff, but then he says he normally pays $220 a game to do this - which is true? Secondly, if he was docked in the states surely he could have found a bar showing the game and saved $220? The really galling thing would be fast-forwarding through commercials at a cost of over $110 since at least half of an American Football game is commercials.

  5. Edwin
    Thumb Down

    Not AT&Ts fault

    It's the cruise operator's fault.

    The only shortcoming on AT&T's side was its attempt to warn him by SMS via a card that didn't support SMS (silly sods).

    I would say the cruise company should credit AT&T

    Then AT&T can credit their customer

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    If the network wouldn't budge...

    ... it sounds like he would have had a good case for the cruise liner's operators to pay, given that they had apparently been running their micro cell when they shouldn't...

    For once this doesn't seem to be a case of stupid user not reading the small print....

  7. Dan Harris
    Dead Vulture

    Has he made a profit

    "and AT&T has credited Wayne with $27,776.66"

    I think not - they may have issued a credit note but that's simply them fixing their internal accounts. He was never going to have to pay it

  8. RichyS
    Paris Hilton


    <quote>Roaming rates like that, without even leaving the country, make the EU look like a haven for the international traveler - perhaps once Ms Reding has battered EU operators for unreasonable behaviour, we can ship her over the pond to sort out the septics. ®</quote>

    Is 'septics' a typo? I can't decide...

    Paris, 'cos I can't decide about her either.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: I think the question

    Read the article again, the average *bill* is $220, for the whole month I expect. The article doesn't say that watching a single game is $220.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @I think the question

    > the report says he has an unlimited data tarriff


    > but then he says he normally pays $220 a game to do this

    WRONG. The report says he normally pays $220 a MONTH for his entire phone bill. That seems a little steep to me (it's £110 per month!) but not wildly out of line.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @I think the question

    Do you usually get separate bills for programs you watch on your mobile?

    I think to be fair, the implication was that his monthly bill was $220 not the cost of watching the game....

  12. Chris

    The real Question

    "once Ms Reding has battered EU operators for unreasonable behaviour, we can ship her over the pond to sort out the septics."

    Being from "over the pond" I have no idea who Ms Reding is, but is "sorting out septics" the sort of job those of you in Blighty would like to see her doing? Perhaps Wacky Jacqui even more so.

    The way most cruises in the US operate, the ship leaves port Sunday afternoon. Football games are also usually played on Sunday afternoon. I imagine he would not have been able to attend the game (or even watch it at home) without "missing the boat." Especially considering it probably didn't sail from Chicago in the winter. An avid fan would probably be willing to pay a $220 one-time fee to see his team while on vacation, (which was probably the wife's idea anyway).

    Pirate because it looks sort of like the Oakland Raiders logo, and you don't have one for "Da Bearss."

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Oh, Canada!

    My son rang up huge international roaming charges calling his girlfriend from San Juan Island in Washington state. Seems he was picking up a cell site on Vancouver Island.


  14. Les

    @AC - That's not the question....

    I think the $220 was his typical bill amount, not the amount he'd expect to spend watching a game...

  15. milan


    Reread the article, he claims his monthly bill is $220, not $220 a game, it's also possible he has a handset on the same account.

    Can't knock the guy, he thought he was doing things the right way, it was the shipping company that should have ponied up the money though, not the network.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I think the question

    Read it again, ffs.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    could only happen to a Bears fan - duhhhh

    go Packers!

    ps I'd pay $200 to watch the Packers. (each to their own, you know, 'mockracy an all.)

  18. /\/\j17

    @AC - I think the question

    AC, you seem to be unwilling to use your brain for higher levels of thought, such as postulation - extrapolating probable answers from the available information/, or reading the source material.

    1) Mr Burdick states that his usual (one assumes monthly) phone/data bill is $220 - not (just) the cost for watching each Bears game via that connection.

    2) A ticket to the ground may or may not cost less than $220 but on November 2nd (the date in question) they were playing away at the Minnesota Vikings. As Mr Burdick was on a cruise ship due to sail from Miami, Florida at 4PM EST and the game was starting at 1PM EST in Minnesota, approx. 2,000 miles away this would have made a pitch-side attendence...problomatic.

    3) While a shore-side bar would have been an option this would also have risked Mr Burdick massing the departure of his ship. An on-board bar is another option but may not have been showing have games/the Bears game (hardly the atmosphear the cruise line would be trying to promote).

    4) Fast-forwarding through the commercial would not have cost $110 - unless the Slingbox has been upgrade to fast-forward through liev transmissions through some bending-space-time-over-IP technology.

  19. Andrew Molyneux

    @AC "I think the question"

    I think $220 is his average monthly bill, not the average he pays to watch a game. Makes more sense if you read it like that, doesn't it?

  20. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Not $220 a game

    Not $220 a game -- that would be his total bill, unlimited data (for tethering to a computer) is typically about $60. And probably a few other phones on the line.

    I agree, AT&T shouldn't have offered $6000, they should have credited it in full and said "what the hell" to the cruise ship operator -- they are not supposed to operate in-ship service in port... in international waters they can do as they wish, in port the frequencies are licensed to the local phone company and the cruise ship is not to transmit on them.

  21. Tim Spence

    RE: I think the question

    His normal monthly mobile/cellular bill is $220, not that he pays that to watch one game.

  22. Martin Silver badge

    @I think the question

    I think he meant his average monthly bill is $220, not the bill for watching a game.

    If he has unlimited data plan the incremental cost of watching a game is zero.

  23. disfit

    @ AC 16:48

    Ehrm ... it must have been a tough day, causing some logic failures at the end. The $220 was not the amount for the game, but the periodic bill (month, 4 weekly,..). Even though that was not mentioned in the article, it kind of goes without saying.

  24. Charles

    Re: I think the question

    I'm pretty sure $220 represents his entirely wireless bill for the month, which would include his voice minutes, his data plan (unlimited in this case), and SMS allotments, perhaps a tethering charge (he's using a GSM modem), and all associated taxes. I admit, though. that even taking all that into consideration it seems a stretch, unless he factored in a few true international uses while on the ship which would've increased his rate.

  25. Peyton


    I see this in the comments on a frequent basis - can't claim to be fond of it, but it's the comments, so I check my "feelings" at the door. But in an article? I think that's a first... Why the derogatory name calling Bill?

  26. Neoc

    Re: Typo?

    @RichyS 17:19 GMT; "Is 'septics' a typo? I can't decide..."

    Not being British I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure it's cockney rhyming slang:

    "Septic Tank" -> "Yank"

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Less clear is why the onboard network was operational" - so as to fleece the punters; sadly this time it was noticed because some guy ran up a huge bill and queried it.

    Looks like the end of a nice little earner.

    BTW. could someone elucidate whether he paid $220 to watch the game, or was that per month? Looking at the comments, it could be either.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    unlikely to get money from cruise ship

    As virtually none of them are flagged in the US because they don't want to have to meet the US safety rules. A lot of them are flagged out of countries where they can get away with just about anything and you have no recourse.

  29. skeptical i

    If not the ship, then the cruise company?

    My knowledge of cruise operations is small, but I gather that cruise lines (e.g., Princess, Carnival, R Families, &c) do not own the ships but rent/ lease/ otherwise get them from someone else. If this is true, then going after Rent- a- Ship might not work (if the company is domiciled in a dubious country, enforcementwise) but going after the cruise/ event operator might if only to avoid bad publicity ("I went on a Brand X cruise and they fooked my cellphone bill through the roof!" doesn't sound like a positive endorsement, does it?). Especially if the ship didn't even move off the dock. Yaarrrr.

  30. Dax Farrer

    @ RichyS

    Septic Tank = Yank

    also "Listerene" ..thats sorta like a disinfectant .. someone who is not keen on Americans

  31. Arclight
    Paris Hilton

    He was one board

    but what about somebody stood on the dockside? Wave goodbye to friends, make a call back home to say "I'll be there in ten minutes", then get hit by a massive bill just because you where stood in range of the ships cancer maker.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Been there - Done that.

    Yes I too racked up a bill of about £1,900 (about $3800 at the time) using my slingbox for about 45 mins roaming over in Holland via 3G.

    However I argued them down based on the fact I didn't use the full 1Gb data allowance, plus the tariffs were not properly spelled out to me at any stage, including not upon arrival in Holland. Plus they tried to get out of it by saying Orange UK is NOT the same company as Orange NL and its O-NL that billed me thru O-UK and so UK couldn't do anything about it.

    So in the end I wasn't required to pay one penny, in fact they didn't even charge me for my data use at home the same month cos I never went above 1GB.

    Goes to show they're not making the slightest loss by relinquishing me of a bill of even that size, so this fool pays $220!! Hes getting ripped off!!

    $220 for - a very rough guess based on my usage of the slingbox - about 600MB of data throughput over the course of a US footy game. Shame u cant just buy a memstick with it on for a dollar!

    I thought things were cheaper in the US!?

  33. Dave
    Dead Vulture


    "international roaming rages"

    Nice slip of the pen there!

  34. Steve Evans

    @AC 24th February 2009 10:40 GMT

    Last time I checked the tariffs, as an Orange UK customer visiting France, you are best off roaming onto any carrier other than Orange FR. I wonder if the France telecom owned network screws Orange FR customers as badly when they visit the UK?

  35. Tom

    Not surprised the media had to get involved

    The big phone cartel don't give a shit about customer service. We've spend three months trying to fix our FIOS cable service with absolutely no results. I don't even think they'd care if we filed a lawsuit, just as long as the Post or the Times didn't pick it up.

  36. JonD

    InCountry Foreign Roaming

    This happens all the time along the boarder between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Some of the the UK networks have stronger signal so the Irish Network customers get sucked into Roaming even though they are still in Ireland.

  37. Alan

    Un-necessary use of technology

    He watched the game, live, via his Slingbox.

    He was docked on a cruise liner laden with communications equipment, surely they had a TV somewhere that could pick up the game...

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