AT&T to Slow Down So-Called Data Hogs

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

According to a report by Robert Yu of USA TODAY, if you have an unlimited data plan with AT&T and you have noticed slower transmission speed, it’s because AT&T has joined ranks with some of their competitors who throttle data of unlimited plan customers who reach 3 gigabytes (GB) of data usage within a billing cycle.

What is “throttling”?

It’s a process where your wireless carrier slows down the transmission speed of the data your wireless device sends and receives.

In 2010 AT&T joined the positioning of Verizon when they stopped selling “unlimited” data plans. Those of us who already had unlimited data plans were allowed to keep our plans, but now those individuals who exceed 3GB will notice slower transmission speeds in an attempt to supposedly salvage data that can be freed up for other users.

T-Mobile throttles after 2 GB for its unlimited plan, Verizon is considering throttling their top 5% of heavy users, while Sprint (who continues to offer unlimited plans) doesn’t throttle, but they do push out data abusers. It’s not clear how they go about kicking out these users, and whether they can reclaim their ‘spot’.

Now for those of you who didn’t have an unlimited plan with AT&T before the 2010 cut-off, and for all new customers, you would have been offered tiered monthly data plans ranging from 300 megabytes (MB) to 5 GB. If you exceed your limit you are then charged an “overage” fee.

Now prior to this strategic move, AT&T used to only slow monthly transmission for those in their top 5% of heavy data users. However AT&T never revealed how much data would place a user in the top 5%, although many subscribers guesstimated a limit of 5 GB per month. There are some customers who complained that AT&T throttles much sooner than what the company claims.

What can you expect when throttled?

Well you can still send and receive emails and browse the web, but video and audio streaming may be difficult or impossible.

A student, Matt Spaccarelli, sued AT&T in a small claims court in Simi Valley, CA and won $850 in damages, from a judge who stated that AT&T’s unlimited data service shouldn’t be throttled.

The speculation in the telecom industry is that data throttling of unlimited plans is merely an attempt to force customers to transition to tier plans. So if you are being throttled down to 3GB you may be inclined to upgrade to a 5GB plan.

Let’s test this theory.

Try contacting your cell provider about your unlimited plan throttling concerns and see if their customer service reps don’t try to persuade you to sign up for a tiered plan. That’s what Robert Yu’s telecom source, Deepa Karthikeyan says is happening to customers.

Consider the benefits to the wireless carrier who can now get even more money from you in tiered plans and overage fees. Sounds a lot like the flawed reasoning for charging customers for text messaging even after it was proven that there was no data consumption through this feature. We have been paying for years to use a feature that costs absolutely nothing.

We still pay, and unless someone forces the issue, we will continue to pay…and pay…and these companies will continue to find more products and reasons for us to spend our hard-earned money!

Copyright 2012. Natasha L. Foreman.

Source: Roger Yu, USA TODAY. Money Section B/Page 1B. Friday, March 2, 2012.

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