If you’re an AT&T customer and you recently noticed an increase in your wireless bill as I did, you aren’t alone. As of May 1, 2013, the carrier began tacking on an administrative fee of $0.61 per line for all consumers currently under contract. The new fee can be seen on your wireless bill below the service charges in the same area where taxes and other surcharges are listed.
As The Wall Street Journal points out, $0.61 may not sound like much money – and it isn’t on an individual basis – but when you add that fee across every wireless account, it adds up very quickly. In fact, it could result in an extra half-billion dollars in annual revenue for the telecom.
A spokesperson for the wireless provider said the new charges are in line with similar fees charged by other service providers. The funds will be used to help cover things like cell site rental fees, maintenance and interconnection. Customers were reportedly given 30 days notice regarding the fee and details about it will be included on each bill.
Not everyone agrees with the “below-the-line” tactic, named that because fees like this typically appear below the services portion on a wireless bill. Derek Turner, research director at Free Press, said the fee is nothing more than a way for carriers to stealthily increase their prices.
Senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge John Bergmayer blamed a lack of competition in the telecom market as well as regulators that allow companies to impose these types of fees. "Imagine if McDonald’s advertised hamburgers for 75 cents, but then required you pay a $3 bun fee," Bergmayer said. At the time of writing the Federal Communications Commission had declined to comment when asked about the new fees.