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Jewish World Review August 21, 2001 / 2 Elul, 5761

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports

It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Unlimited" Is -- THIS week I received an e-mail message from my Internet service provider. They informed me that because I was a heavy user of my unlimited service they would be forced to either triple my monthly fee or cancel me. Since I had neither been given any notice that I was a heavy user (except in social situations where I was much too insecure to go it alone) nor told what constituted heavy usage, I phoned customer service.

Customer Service. Thanks for using our unlimited service plan, the Internet's best unlimited server. This is Zack. Can I help you?

Yes, Zack. I just received notice that my rate will be tripled or canceled because I went over the limit of my unlimited service.

Yes. I do see here that you are a heavy user.

But that was a self-esteem issue and thanks to Alcoholics Anony... Oh, right. You're talking about my unlimited Internet service.

Of course. You have over-used your unlimited service. Our new policy stipulates that customers who cannot limit their usage to the limit of our unlimited service will have to pay for that over- usage.

I don't understand. How could I overuse it? It's unlimited.

Yes. But you have to understand, Mr. Young, unlimited service has it's limits.

No, Zack, I don't understand. How could "unlimited" be limited? "Limited" would have limits. Unlimited, by definition, has no limits.

Not really. Let me explain it this way. If you went to an all-you-could-eat buffet, you couldn't actually eat all you could eat. If you did your stomach would explode (see exploding stomach scene in Monty Python's "The Meaning Of Life").

You're saving me from exploding?


Okay. Then what is the actual limit of my unlimited service? I'll just limit my usage to whatever that limitation is.

I can't tell you that, Mr. Young. The main office doesn't tell us.

Then I'll ask them myself

You could, but that wouldn't do you any good. Their method of calculating your limit is much too complicated for them to explain to you.

Then how do I know if I've gone over my limit.

Remember my all-you-can-eat analogy?

You mean, if I use the your service too much my stomach will explode?


But what if I want to limit my unlimited usage before my stomach explodes?

Same analogy.

My stomach will get crampy?


We are only helping you when you cannot help yourself.

Then you are like AA.

Correct. Except there are not twelve-steps. Just one. "You are powerless over us raising your rates and your usage is unmanageable.

Still, it seems that the unlimited part of your unlimited service seems entirely misleading.

(Chuckling) Oh, I see where you're confused. "Unlimited" is only the name of our service. It's not the actual application of the word. Like "One Day Car Painting" or "Open 24 Hours."

But I go to a twenty-four hour diner that is open twenty-four hours.

And how is their Internet service?

They don't have any?


Okay, but...

I'm sorry, but you're only limited to so many questions.

How many is that?

Can't tell you.


Thank you for calling your Internet Service Provider. Where our service is unlimited, but yours isn't.

Steve Young is a Prism Award winner and a Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing and is author of "Great Failures Of The Extremely Successful. (Tallfellow Press). Comment by clicking here.



© 2001, Steve Young