AT&T relents on unfair throttling practice, life improves for unlimited customers

AT&T relents on unfair throttling practice, life improves for unlimited customers
AT&T has come under a lot of heat for its throttling practices the last few weeks; unlimited customers complained that the 2GB limit prior to throttling was less than the 3GB of full speed data given to tiered customers. Others pointed out that AT&T often throttle users long before they hit the 2GB cap, simply by assuming after a couple of days of heavy use that the user would go over the cap. Throttled users then had to suffer through the rest of their billing cycle using data speeds so slow that even email or basic web surfing was all but unusable.

To top it all off, an independent study of data use showed that unlimited data users on average use about the same amount of data as their tiered brethren. Even the maligned “top 5%” of data users almost never topped 3GB of data use, although there are certainly individuals who do abuse their network bandwidth. In essence AT&T was punishing their longest-standing customers just because they had grandfathered data plans from back in the day when you could get unlimited data.

AT&T announced today that they will change their policy, and while they aren’t going to do away with throttling of the highest unlimited data users (pro tip: that will never happen) the new policy strikes us as far more fair. Unlimited data users can now expect to be able to use up to 3GB in a month before getting throttled – the same amount as their compatriots with tiered data plans. Even better, unlimited data plan owners with LTE phones can use up to 5GB of data before getting throttled.

According to sources speaking to The Verge, the speed of AT&T’s throttled data pipes has also recently improved. You still won’t want to stream an HD movie if you’re being throttled, but basic functions like email and web surfing shouldn’t be too painful anymore. AT&T also indicates you will get a text message from them the first time you approach your data cap – if that means that AT&T will no longer target you simply because your two or three day average makes it look like you may use too much data, but instead wait until you actually get there, then we think AT&T has really improved their policy all the way around.

We realize that some of you won’t be happy until you can consume all the data you want, even with tethered devices. While we’d all love to have more bandwidth, we think AT&T has made a big step in the right direction – their data throttling no longer arbitrarily punishes unlimited users compared to tiered data plans, and it rewards those who become early adopters on their LTE network. If they also stick to not throttling speeds until they actually hit the cap, and maintain a usable speed so that throttled customers can still use the basics of their smartphones, then AT&T may be able to move from worst to first in this department.

What do you guys think? Is this a fair compromise between the needs of consumers and the network carriers? Let us know in the comments section!

source: AT&T, The Verge



1. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

So does that mean throttling like T-Mobile after a certain amount, or just the top 5% over 3 or 5 GB?

10. Scott_H

Posts: 167; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

According to their statement it will be truly based on the cap (3GB for HSPA, 5GB for LTE) rather than a percentage of customers. And your data connection will still be usable after that, it just won't be a good way to stream video or use other bandwidth-sucking activities.

2. Jyakotu

Posts: 867; Member since: Dec 12, 2008

I think this is fair. Nobody can be upset at this policy since T-Mobile does the same thing for those with "unlimited" 4G data. After all, even though it's throttled 2G EDGE data, you still have unlimited use of it, but just at slower speeds. And with AT&T, you still have access to their WiFi hotspots.

3. issa8

Posts: 54; Member since: Jul 26, 2011

LOL how does T-Mobile doing this make it right that AT&T do it also? AT&T is a much more massive company than T-Mobile and should be able to handle its customers' data needs. EDGE is basically useless these days. If not, then they should give their customers some kind of monetary credit if they are unable to give the "unlimited data."

5. Jyakotu

Posts: 867; Member since: Dec 12, 2008

All I'm saying is, nobody should get upset at AT&T since T-Mobile does the same thing. If you don't like AT&T, then don't use them. Simple. *shrugs*

8. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

No, Tmo *explicitly stated* that if you go over 5 gb to begin with that you will be throttled. ATT's legacy plans, just like VZW, had no explicit cap at which point you would be throttled. When they said unlimited, it didn't say unlimited except for x,y,z, like Tmo states. So, if VZW changes my terms like ATT is doing, they will have a small claims suit on their hands.

12. Tux4g63

Posts: 121; Member since: Oct 21, 2011

Exactly. Under the terms of our original contracts we signed, Unlimited came with unlimited speed. No one back in the unlimited 3G only days put a clause on it, so hence it counts as a "material breech of contract" should they throttle you now. It's basically the companies way of saying excuse all the money we may have made from you in the past, we are going to try and wrangle it so that we still make positive revenue from you, even if a slight oversight was our mistake and no fault of your own.

17. Astreo

Posts: 105; Member since: May 05, 2011

under that same contract you signed they can change whatever they want without informing you.

18. redsox21

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 03, 2012

uh, no. Actually they can change it and if you catch it within 30 days of the change, they are legally obligated to let you out of the contract free of charge if you decide to do so.


Posts: 52; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

AT&T has said in a memo to its employees about this to remind the customers that they "will still have a good quality time browsing the web and sending email, but the biggest difference will be in the quality of streaming video."

6. nyamo

Posts: 274; Member since: Mar 19, 2011

while stil not fair, i believe that this is a step in the right direction. at least with the new terms people KNOW what to expect. instead of giving a vauge percentage number and nothing to back it. while i feel that 5gb for hspa and 7gb for lte would be fair to long time customers before throttling, i'm not in charge

7. guyver192

Posts: 14; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

I for one say that if you are paying for "UNLIMITED" within fair use of your plan. That is what you signed up for when purchasing your phone under there contract then that is what you should have. Just because another Carrier arguement holds no merit. That is what you signed up for then the Carrier you are currently using should Honor that. I switched from At&t to T-Mobile I had the unlimited Grandfather plan so I am speaking on from my own experience. Being slowed down Is a breach of contract since there were no predetermined limits to your Unlimited plan to begin with. Then for the tiered counterpart to experience no slow down past your now limit is down right wrong.

9. dcgore

Posts: 234; Member since: Feb 24, 2012

The contract states that those services are subject to change at anytime by the carrier.

11. guyver192

Posts: 14; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

That is a change in contract terms so you would be absolved of remaining in your contract. It has happened once already.


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

contracts can not be ambiguous.....if they say unlimited then unlimited can not be changed to only on Mondays never on Sundays and only up to three gigs. UNLIMITED means U N L I M T E D! They are just trying to make more money for the stock holders to increase the value of their stock, while extorting the consumer

16. dcgore

Posts: 234; Member since: Feb 24, 2012

Of course but you still have unlimited. It's just now being surveyed for abuse.

14. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

@ Jyakotu people should not have 2 choose between being throttled or giving up their unlimited plan. &Tmo doesn't throttle unless you go over 5 gigs. At&t shouldn't be allowed to throttle unlimited customers for goin over 1 1/2 gigs. Nobody forced them to sell lifetime unlimited plans!

15. johnny9000

Posts: 50; Member since: Sep 10, 2011

Where exactly in the AT&T contract (or ANY wireless provider contract) does it EVER state any feature is lifetime feature? Look closely at that thing that no one ever reads : THE CONTRACT. You will find that every single wireless provider states that they can change the terms, of any part of your contract, at any time, with due notice. AT&T notified subscribers in October that they were going to start throttling November 1st. The contract also states that they have the right to limit the use of individuals who adversely affect the network. Is the occasional one dude using 10 GB of data really hurting the network? That is up for debate, honestly I doubt it is. But those clauses in the contract give them every option to do as they please. Every carrier contains such clauses in their contracts, I guarantee it. And guess what? We sign them, so they can do what they want. To say anything a carrier provides is "lifetime" is naive at best. They are competing in a extremely competitive business, so they have to change on the fly. And to all those people and commercials with Sprint bragging about the "truly unlimited" plans, yeah, unlimited, all 200 KB max download speeds with it, good luck with that. In my area AT&T gets 2-5 MB (non LTE) on HSPA and 200-300 KB on edge. I'd take a throttled AT&T over Sprint any day (this coming from someone who has had both).

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.