AT&T has clarified some details of its data-throttling policies. While not saying it's related, the move comes after AT&T was sued in small-claims court and lost.
AT&T has relented a bit on its throttling policies and
shared new information about what has been an opaque area. In July 2011, the
carrier had told smartphone customers who had unlimited plans thatin a step to
"manage exploding demand for mobile data"anyone whose data use
during a billing period put them in the "top 5 percent" of heavy data
users would experience slower speeds, a process known as "throttling."
On March 1, AT&T
that using more than 3GB on its Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) network put a user in the
top 5 percentalso known ashere comes the throttling. Users with
smartphones capable of accessing its 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network can use up to 5GB before
the throttling activates. Users unsure of how much data they've used during a
billing cycle can dial *data# on their phones to check.
Such measures, AT&T said on its Website, are a
"response to soaring mobile broadband usage and the limited availability
of wireless spectrum."
AT&T no longer offers unlimited plans. However, when the
program ended in 2010, it honored the contracts of the customers who had
already signed up for it.
Or, sort of.
Throttling wasn't part of the deal then, and the
introduction of the process has created a number of disgruntled customers on a
network that has already ranked last on J.D. Powers and Associates' customer
(Although, a survey by Vocalabs has told a
One California-based user, Matt Spaccarelli, was so
frustrated by speeds throttled to the point of rendering his iPhone useless for
checking email, Web browsing and using apps, that he sued AT&T in a Simi
Valley small-claims court, The
New York Times
reported March 1and won a whopping $850.
Whether AT&T's decision to be less secretive came as a
result of Spaccarelli's court win is unclear. The carrier wouldn't give the
an interview, but said in a statement, "AT&T, like other
wireless companies, must take steps to manage the exploding demand for mobile
data as fairly and effectively as possible."
Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest network, and
T-Mobile, the fourth-largest carrier, also have throttling policies. Only No. 3 carrier Sprint doesn't step on the hosea practice that some say
isn't sustainable for much longer, especially since Sprint now offers the
Sprint's open, unlimited plan is for now its main selling
point. Despite ending unlimited data plans for data cards in Oct. 2011, Sprint
CEO Dan Hesse has said the iPhone actually helps it out.
One of the beauties of carrying the iPhone is it extends
the period of time and increases the likelihood of us maintaining unlimited
data longer because it uses our network so efficiently, Hesse told Forbes'
Elizabeth Woyke, in an October interview, likening it to the Prius of
As for AT&T's throttling and unhappy customers, its
terms-of-service agreement includes language preventing users from banning
together and filing a class-action suit. Each, should they be inclined, needs
to file against the companywhose fourth-quarter 2011 consolidated
revenues were $32.5 billionon their own.
Spaccarelli, telling the Times
that he doesn't want anyone
to think he just "got lucky," has created
where he's posted the paperwork he painstakingly compiled and
the steps he took, in case it should be a help to anyone also considering
putting together a suit.
He's also accepting donations.
"An appeal from AT&T is most likely from my
ruling," Spaccarelli wrote on his bare-bones site, which includes an ad
for poker chips sold by the buddy who helped him put up the site. "If
you'd like to support me for future battles, please donate via Pay Pal with the