Under growing pressure from subscribers to clarify when their access speeds are likely to get throttled, AT&T finally offered a clear-cut answer on Thursday. Before hitting the "send" button, however, the company didn't need a Nostradamus to know that blowback was right around the bend.
In a morning announcement explaining the circumstances surrounding when it would reduce access speeds for customers who use its unlimited data plan, AT&T said its decision would affect only the top 5 percent of bandwidth users. The specifics were as follows:
- Each time a customer uses 3GB or more in a billing cycle, data speeds will be reduced for the rest of that billing cycle and then return to normal.
- The next time a user exceeds that usage level, speeds will be reduced without another text message reminder.
- If someone has a 4G LTE smartphone and still has an unlimited data plan, the same process applies at 5GB of data usage, instead of 3GB.
- Your data throughput speed will change if you use 3GB or more in one billing cycle on a 3G or 4G smartphone or 5GB or more on a 4G LTE smartphone.
Still, the clarification triggered howls of disapproval from many subscribers who saw it as the prelude to the inevitable end of unlimited data on AT&T's network. Here's a sampling:
How dare a customer use their phone for what it is capable of doing. If I pay for a service especially at these high prices and my phone can view videos. I want to view videos. AT&T should just turn off all the data hungry aspects of the phone. But we know what would happen next. No customers and no iPhone, so it is easier to bait and switch than improve service and network equipment. clynx
Translation of AT&T-speak: We love the fact that we got you all to buy iPhones and sign up for unlimited data plans, thus alleviating some of our insanity in giving Apple so much to subsidize the phones. Now that you are actually USING those phones for data consumption, we realize that we were idiots to allow for an unlimited plan. We can't kick you off of unlimited plans without more lawsuits, so we'll just arbitrarily slow you down to a crawl when we feel we can get away with it. BTW, now that we lost some legal suit to someone who feels like unlimited should be unlimited (the nerve, the gaul, the fool!), we'll just cap you off at the same limit our largest plan institutes and promise you a dribble of bandwidth from that point on. Nanananah! DatabaseDoctor
I'm dreaming of a class action suit against AT&T for consumer fraud in throttling "unlimited" access.— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) March 1, 2012
It is a amazing that this is so political. The fact is that it is 2012 and we reduced to use Wi-Fi...really? What is the purpose of 3G and 4G? With all of these new phones that use more data. Take the billions in profits and fix the problem. Users quit accepting the lame excuses and expect more from them! Americans are such pushovers. AmishWireless
This reminds me of the day (and I am showing my age) when AOL first offered *unlimited* AOL for $20/month. However, "unlimited" wasn't the same as 24 x 7 connection. Whereas some people interpret "unlimited" as "no limits," lawyers define "unlimited" as "limited." Right now, I'm at 2GB of my "unlimited" usage, and I'm just about 1/2 through my billing month. What do I do with my phone? I stream KEXP out of Seattle because my local radio stations are all cheesy commercial stations. And I can't pick up the one decent college radio station in my area because I'm in the middle of my building & have no reception. (Until Jan. 2011, I didn't even have cell phone coverage. AT&T did build a tower next to our parking lot, so I have five bars now!) irondog1970
Let's get some truth in here: "Because spectrum is limited (at least that's what we tell you, especially when we don't want to build out our network too much, since it's easier to buy another company) and data usage continues to soar (because of the phones and services we charge you for), we manage our network this way to be as fair as possible (to our shareholders) and so we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience to everyone (who can pay for it)," the statement reads... Skirge01
Boo! AT&T adds a throttling limit of 3GB for iPhone owners on unlimited plan aol.it/w6DFXd— Bill E. Dawson (@BillEDawson) March 2, 2012
First, they advertised unlimited data, then reneged on new plans, grandfathering some of us for our next two-year contract...then they decided to charge us an extra fee for tethering although the phone had the capability to tether without this ridiculous usury fee derived from sheer greed. Even two companies supposedly competing isn't enough to create the kind of pricing a real free market might. Monopoly, duopoly, it still isn't true capitalism...it's corporations using government to legislate their control over an industry...corporate welfare with the might of law. Mark Edward Attew