AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers with Unlimited Data Plans

February 10, 2012 -

In 2011 AT&T warned its heavy data using mobile customers that it would reduce their connection speed if said usage inched in to the "top five percent." AT&T is defining that metric as anyone who uses more that 2.1 GB of data a month. As chronicled in this NYT blog post, one of AT&T's customers hit the 2.1 GB mark and had his connection throttled. The problem, that customer says, is that he has a data limit of 3GB a month because a legacy unlimited plan.

In 2010 AT&T discontinued its unlimited data plans, but customers who were already enrolled in the plan had the option to be grandfathered in and not affected by the changes.

John Cozen, the AT&T customer we just wrote about, was among the first to report receiving a throttle notice. Basically AT&T told him that his connection would be slowed down until the next billing cycle. Cozen says that it was unfair to be throttled because he pays $30 for an unlimited plan and has a 3 GB data cap.

In a phone interview AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told the New York Times that the "top 5 percent" of its heaviest data users have typically used 2 gigabytes of data or more a month. He also claims that their throttling policy does not target everyone that exceeds that number and that it is done on a case-by-case basis. I'm sure that provides solace to customers like John Cozen...

“There’s a very good chance you wouldn’t be slowed,” Mr. Siegel said. He went on to say that less than 1 percent of AT&T smartphone customers were affected by the policy last month.

Of course, AT&T’s throttling policy only applies to customers with unlimited data plans.

Source: NYT, Image Credit: Shutterstock


Re: AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers ...

Serves us right for not blocking the Cingular/AT&T Wireless, SBC/AT&T, at&t/Bellsouth mergers.

If only people were smart enough to pay attention then. Hell most people assume that the current at&t is the same AT&T that's always been around.

Re: AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers ...

Someone needs to send mobile companies a dictionary, with the entry for "unlimited" highlighted.  If it's capped, then it's limited, and is therefore not unlimited.  What else could they possibly be referring to when they say unlimited?  The speed?  Ha!  The fact that you can use it 24/7 instead of only on every third Monday between 3 and 7 PM?  Well gee, I would hope that would just be a given that you are able to access the service you subscribe to during the period you subscribe to it.  Maybe they mean that you are able to browse the whole internet, not just their own private network?  Seriously, what do they mean?  In what sense is a capped plan unlimited?  That drives me nuts.

Re: AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers ...

Can't they do sued for false advertising for making their unlimited plans, well, limited?

Re: AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers ...

I am wondering if "not target everyone that exceeds that number" is code for "we will throttle people are are accessing content on a competitors' site when we have our own partner that does something similar".  

Re: AT&T Begins Selectively Throttling Smartphone Customers ...

Something like that wouldn't surprise me, especially if it came from AT&T.  I've never had a particularly bright outlook on them.

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