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AT&T Scales Back Throttling of Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans

attlogo375wide.jpgAT&T has quietly updated one of its policies to reflect that it will now only throttle customers that are connected to a cell tower experiencing network congestion, reports Ars Technica. The carrier previously throttled all grandfathered customers with unlimited data plans that exceeded 5GB of 4G LTE data usage in a single monthly billing period, regardless of network congestion.

The updated policy reads as follows:
"As a result of AT&T's network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone or on a 4G LTE smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes (3G/4G) or 5 gigabytes (4G LTE) of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle."
Last October, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a federal court complaint against AT&T, accusing the carrier of misleading its smartphone customers by charging them for unlimited data while reducing their data speeds by up to 90 percent. The FTC claimed that AT&T did not adequately inform its customers that they would be throttled for using more than a certain amount of data during a billing cycle. AT&T could still face penalties from the FTC if it loses the case, despite changing its policy.

AT&T customers with unlimited data plans have experienced speeds as low as half a megabit per second when being throttled, according to the report, resulting in barely usable service. By throttling unlimited data plans, AT&T is naturally encouraging customers to switch to one of the tiered data plans that it introduced in the years after discontinuing unlimited plans. Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have similar throttling practices where there is network congestion.



Top Rated Comments

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24 months ago

Too late. I left for Verizon long ago with no regrets.


I'm sorry but this is like being punched on the left side of your face instead of the right.
Rating: 27 Votes
24 months ago
What does this mean though? If I have a non-unlimited plan (let's say 30GB a month), I won't get throttled even in a congested area. But those who have unlimited plans will get throttled in a congested area? If they don't have to throttle a person that pays for their data in buckets, obviously there isn't congestion to begin with?
Rating: 16 Votes
24 months ago
seems to be vague to me so how many towers are congested all the time ? and what exactly counts as congested?
Rating: 11 Votes
24 months ago

I'm sorry but this is like being punched on the left side of your face instead of the right.


Agreed, which is why I never left ATT. They all have issues.
Keeping Unlimited until they claw it out of my dead hands.

In the meantime we need an iPhone that can have 2 different numbers and 2 different carriers (or more), which we can select depending on the coverage area.
Rating: 11 Votes
24 months ago

I'm sorry but this is like being punched on the left side of your face instead of the right.


And then bragging about it to your buddies, and getting that awkward silence after you say it.
Rating: 9 Votes
24 months ago

Not necessarily. During congestion, it makes some sense to throttle the unlimited data guys to ensure there is sufficient bandwidth available for those who bought the bucket of data. From AT&T's point of view, those are the "paying" customers who have a higher priority than the "freeloading" guys with old unlimited plans.


Not quite. How is paying for unlimited free loading? You need to recalibrate yourself. With that said - there were so many folks using 100GB data per month at the beginning of the unlimited plan - no idea how one uses that kind of data but it is absurd. These are the users that ruined it for all unfortunately. Anyway, I have a much better plan for me now anyway so the point is moot.
Rating: 9 Votes
24 months ago
Why would they throttle until the next billing cycle. Why not until congestion is gone
Rating: 7 Votes
24 months ago
Great! Let me just tell 2010 me so I can keep not being able to use personal hotspot or FaceTime over LTE for a few extra years because it'll be worth it in the end!
Rating: 7 Votes
24 months ago

Well, this explains why I keep getting reduced speeds halfway through my billing cycle. I gotta get out of this. Unlimited just doesn't mean what it used to.


That was AT&T's goal all along. They wanted to make that grandfathered plan so unattractive that you'd want to move to one of their more profitable plans. Bad that you had to experience their shenanigans, but good that you've held out and can actually benefit from your plan. Fear not though. This is AT&T. I'm sure they are plotting a new way to "convince" you to abandon your plan.
Rating: 6 Votes
24 months ago
This was one of AT&T's biggest blunders. They were THE iPhone carrier at the beginning, but the whole throttling thing cost them a whole lot of smartphone customers.
Rating: 6 Votes

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