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AT&T On Data Throttling: Blame Yourselves 406

Posted by samzenpus
from the reap-what-you-sow dept.
zacharye writes in with a story about Senior EVP of AT&T technology and network operations John Donovan's blog post detailing why customers with unlimited smartphone plans are getting throttled. "In an effort to justify its policies surrounding data service throttling for subscribers with unlimited smartphone data plans, AT&T on Tuesday issued a brief report regarding data usage on its nationwide wireless network. Senior EVP of AT&T technology and network operations John Donovan wrote on a company blog that data traffic on AT&T's network has grown a staggering 20,000% over the past five years. Usage has doubled between 2010 and 2011 according to the executive, due in large part to the proliferation of smartphones. AT&T sold more smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in any other quarter in its history. And because its smartphone subscribers use so much data, AT&T seems to suggest it has no choice but to put measures such as data throttling in place."
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AT&T On Data Throttling: Blame Yourselves

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  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:48PM (#39047697) Homepage Journal

    ...for trying to use the product they bought.

    AT&T needs to learn from the insurance companies - the REAL profit is in selling a product you never intend to deliver.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      and airlines... "overbooking," anyone?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:16PM (#39048201)

        I can forgive airlines overbooking, to a degree. Most airlines only overbook a few seats, and it works out fine the majority of the time (I don't have exact numbers, but I'm a very frequent flier and rarely hear about people being bumped) And in the few case when it doesn't work out and too many people show up, the airlines go out of their way to accommodate people. They'll ask for volunteers, provide free upgrades, meal vouchers and anything else.

        ATT on the other hand, has overbooked their network by a LARGE margin. They've invited easily double the amount of people they can handle, and all of those people are showing up. And in response to this problem, ATT says "just deal with it," I received no free upgrades, no discount on my bill, nothing to offset the fact that they didn't provide the service I payed for.

        • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:07PM (#39049131)

          I can forgive airlines overbooking, to a degree. Most airlines only overbook a few seats, and it works out fine the majority of the time (I don't have exact numbers, but I'm a very frequent flier and rarely hear about people being bumped) And in the few case when it doesn't work out and too many people show up, the airlines go out of their way to accommodate people. They'll ask for volunteers, provide free upgrades, meal vouchers and anything else.

          Fortunately the airlines have reduced overbooking a lot from the past and while it is true that they ask for volunteers when they have to bump someone, what is no longer true is that the compensation is worthwhile. Typically it's a credit towards a future flight and not a free flight, yet people remember how it was 20+ years ago and assume that the generous payments for self-volunteering still exist when in fact they do not. If you throw a fit you might get a crappy meal voucher that will buy you a hamburger and a coke. Upgrade? Unlikely unless the only empty seat on the next flight is one that's an upgrade for you and they have nowhere else to put you. The "compensation" is actually pretty bad most of the time but I guess if that $400 (or possibly less) credit towards a future flight is really useful to you, you might consider volunteering. Note that I am speaking of the USA and things may well be different in other countries.

          • by dmarcov (461598)

            Honestly, the voucher is better than the free flight most of the time. The free flight is subject to a seat in the "free" bucket being available, and you can ask anyone trying to use miles how easy that is, and you don't get miles for the flight.

            Whereas a voucher can be used for any flight, and even if the voucher covers the entire cost, you still "earn" miles. The risk, of course, is that you plan on flying someplace really expensive and only get a $150 voucher - but for me, when they get to about $400/$50

        • by tdc_vga (787793)

          Well, if they overbook the flight too much and no one will take their offers, the airline's involuntarily deny passengers entry and hand them a form detailing 14 USC 250.9 ( link [justia.com] ). The law is a protectionary measure that says, any airline can break our contract with you at any time by handing you a maximum of $200.00 and finding you an alternative flight within 2 hours of your flight, or by handing you $400.00 and telling you to piss off. Though, you can refuse the payment, and opt to sue them in court.

          O

          • by swillden (191260)

            Hmm.

            I was involuntarily refused boarding once. Delta gave me a $400 check and booked me a first class seat on the next available flight to my destination, which was an American Airlines flight. They also apologized profusely. This was about five years ago, but I don't think anything has changed in that time.

            It may have been a little different in my case because I not only had a confirmed reservation, I actually had an assigned seat.

          • by colinnwn (677715)
            Actually now it is $650 for 1-2 hr delay / $1300 for more than 2 hrs - in cash plus you get to keep your ticket to travel on a later flight or get a refund on (which must be provided). http://airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/flyrights.htm#overbooking [dot.gov]
      • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:43PM (#39048657)

        Question: Has anybody been able to successfully get out of their contract because they were throttled?

    • by AmigaMMC (1103025) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:59PM (#39047919)
      Data throttling is happening after 1.5GB to people on an unlimited plan whereas it doesn't happen to people who have 2GB or 3GB plans. That tells me that AT&T is coercing customers with an unlimited plan to drop it and go with a limited plan. It would be just fair for Data Throttling not to occur before 2 or 3GB of usage, to be in par with the other consumers. I think the FCC should step in and stop this abuse of consumer rights.
      • by BDZ (632292) <rich&fourducks,com> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:12PM (#39048157)
        I think the main reason they don't throttle the customers with the limited plans is that they very much wish to see those people go over the limit so they can then charge them for additional usage.
      • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:58PM (#39048947)

        Data throttling is happening after 1.5GB to people on an unlimited plan [...]. I think the FCC should step in and stop this abuse of consumer rights.

        The real abuse of consumer rights is that an "unlimited" plan even exists. Because of bandwidth overallocation, it's impossible for a company which promises unlimited bandwidth to actually deliver it to all its customers. Common sense says that tiered plans are the way to go. It's just that the marketing department found the term "unlimited" so sexy they overruled the engineering and accounting departments to be able to call their plans "unlimited". And as a competitor, how can you compete with your 1 TB plan when your competition is offering unlimited? You can't. You have to adopt their crappy marketing decision and label your plan as unlimited as well.

        Now they're being hoisted by their own petard. The FTC should've cracked down on this a decade ago back when it first began, with wireless companies selling unlimited data plans but having secret data caps, which if you surpassed they would warn you and/or drop you as a customer. That practice has come under increasing criticism from the government, so they're now resorting to throttling. The root cause of the problem isn't that consumers are using too much bandwidth. It's that "unlimited" plans are snake oil. Yes I know that tech geeks love their unlimited plans (I'm on one myself). But be realistic - given your pipes to the Internet have a finite amount of bandwidth, can you think of any way in which you can make your "unlimited" plan truly unlimited? You can't. It's unlimited only as long as the bandwidth per customer * number of customers
        So while the blame doesn't fall upon the customers who were sold and bought unlimited plans, neither do I think it's realistic for them (and me) to truly expect unlimited data.

        • by eyrieowl (881195)
          They surely have enough data about their customers usage patterns that they can make better plans for upgrading their infrastructure as needed. I don't see anything about, "We're sorry, we were more successful than we expected, this is a short term measure which is necessary to preserve your QOS, we're making upgrades and in the meantime here's some something for your trouble." No, instead they're basically saying, "We've been really super successful, so screw you." There's nothing wrong with having unli
        • by Firehed (942385)

          They should have advertised it as "unmetered" rather than "unlimited", since that's what they were actually selling*. Unfortunately, unmetered doesn't mean anything to most people. People would do well to think of it like their water bill - there's obviously not an unlimited supply of water, but it wouldn't be infeasible to have an "as much as we can provide without ruining it for everyone else" pricing tier. The flaw there is that it's very easy to get a sense of how much water you're using, and that's not

      • by dissy (172727) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:32PM (#39049743)

        Data throttling is happening after 1.5GB to people on an unlimited plan whereas it doesn't happen to people who have 2GB or 3GB plans.

        In Ohio, AT&T throttles unlimited plans down to 128kbps, while limited plans can reach speeds near a megabit.

        I tested this on my phone (3gs) with a friends SIM.
        My plan is unlimited, and I never could get speeds above 128kbps, even if I only used <100mb that month.
        My friends SIM/plan is 2gb, and when put in my phone I peeked just a touch under 1mbit, and most of that time of testing was getting around 600kbps average, over a 30 minute period.

        Ironically, I purchased the phone in LasVegas (Poker winnings FTW!) and I did get faster data service there. Unfortunately I didn't think to do any speed tests at the time, but I was happy enough with the bandwidth at the time. I just assumed it would remain the same once I got back home. Oops.

        I am extremely far from a heavy data user. Automated email checking on two accounts is all that is 'normal'. Perhaps 4-5 times a month I will do a Google look up for something. Most all of my high bandwidth needs are done on wifi.
        Note that this is directly because of the throttling, on top of the normal latency. A google query can easily take 2-3 minutes to just get the listing of search results, never mind tapping the first link to read it. It's just that painful.

        My bill date was the 10th, so my plan reset just 6 days ago.
        In the past 6 days, I've used 13.3 MB. Last month I used a total of 88.747 MB

        So I can confirm that for my city they throttle purely based on plan type, not how much you use.

        That tells me that AT&T is coercing customers with an unlimited plan to drop it and go with a limited plan.

        The sad thing is, it is working too. A 2gb cap on my usage would pretty much not require ANY changes in my data habits what so ever, although it will only lower my bill by $10/month. Once I renew my contract, I just know there will be more than $10 in random mystery fees to make up the difference, and likely my bill will go up.

        At least I can get them to pay for part of a new phone this way I guess :/

        I think the FCC should step in and stop this abuse of consumer rights.

        I very much concur. Sadly, there isn't much of a chance in hell the FCC will do anything about it.

      • by EvilBudMan (588716) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:46PM (#39050079) Journal

        Damn I have mod points but I want to reply. I have the 2 gig plan and AT&T throttles this app called "Wireless Tether". So basically you are paying extra to AT&T for that privilege. I think data should be data. I don't care to pay for it but I don't want to be raped either. I normally don't even get close to 2GB and get throttled but hey they wont kick me off because they are getting money.

    • by 18_Rabbit (663482) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:05PM (#39048029)
      Sounds like that's exactly what they were doing. UNLIMITED data plans, shouldn't, you know, have a LIMIT.
    • by sjames (1099)

      Apparently they already did. What they need to learn now is how to hire the sort of high quality weasels the insurance companies do. They have some good ones, but the want the ones who can condemn someone to death for a dime.

    • Not quite as profitable as selling insurance, but AT&T has the second-best thing: SMS. Astronomical margins, barely takes any airtime. If it were up to AT&T they'd probably be happy to get more text-loving customers and ditch all the data-loving customers.
      • by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@gmailREDHAT.com minus distro> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#39048239) Homepage Journal

        SMS doesn't technically take any additional airtime at all: the messages are sent via the control channel required to keep your phone "alive" to nearby cells in the first place--the marginal cost of a text message is zero, since the data is going to be used regardless. Charging extra for SMS is nothing but a naked money grab.

        • by jquirke (473496)

          I don't know how this myth keeps getting propagated. It is absolutely not true, for both the GSM and UMTS systems.

          You don't need to have a background in cellular engineering to understand that if you want to use a service in near real-time (i.e. SMS), it is going to have to consume resources then and now.

          Your phone is not using control channels constantly. This is for good reason - the control channels are extremely limited in capacity, and using them frequently would consume your battery as well.

          Your phone

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:22PM (#39048313)

        Astronomical margins, barely takes any airtime.

        Takes NO airtime. SMS are sent over the control channel which your cell phone is talking to every now and then anyway to know which towers to use. And because the messages are so short, there really is no overhead.

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:32PM (#39048463)

        AT&T has the second-best thing: SMS.

        The funny thing is - they used to.

        With iOS5, any iPhone owner who sends an SMS to another iPhone owner actually sends it through Apple, not over SMS! So suddenly the vast numbers of iPhones they are selling mean a dramatic drop in SMS revenue.

        It makes you wonder if that's why the sudden squeeze in other areas, as they need to adjust for making less money from the same customer base.

    • by MikeFM (12491) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:09PM (#39048089) Homepage Journal
      As somebody that had an unlimited data plan for a couple years.. AT&T already has this down. My unlimited data plan on my iPad, with a solid 3G connection, struggled to pull down data fast enough to pull down a simple web page or email. So when are they going to refund money to people with unlimited plans that didn't get what they paid for?
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:14PM (#39048181) Homepage Journal

      ...for trying to use the product they bought.

      AT&T needs to learn from the insurance companies - the REAL profit is in selling a product you never intend to deliver.

      I'd mod this to +6 if I could.

      AT&T is still running a lot of traffic, last mile/last feet, in copper and doesn't want to go through tens of thousands of neighborhoods and replace copper with glass. They also don't want to upgrade switches. It was such a shock to their crappy infrastructure when the first iPhones saturated their networks in New York City. Excuse me while I mock the blank, stupid looks on their faces, because some engineer, somewhere must have done the math and warned them it was coming. Dur. Got some great publicity out of that gaffe, didn't they?

      And so little of that, if any at all, was dependent upon copper.

      I sit and read about Euro telecoms running networks up to 100 Mb/s all over the place and see AT&T (among others) looking for ways to throttle the pokey 6 Mb/s I'm getting, or even figuring how to charge me for using it, effectively threatening the Golden Goose of the Internet for any company selling a product requiring high bandwidth, which really is the future growth direction. What do they want, a government subsidy? Of course they do, just like Big Oil, I bet.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        the TLDR of what they've done is basically refuse to spend on upgrades when their profits weren't up.

        The reality is that this is backwards finances when it comes to infrastructure, because you should always spend if possible when your company is down to increase efficiencies and save when your company is up for when it is eventually down again. ATT's executives are about as smart and up with the times as the RIAA.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#39048237) Homepage Journal

      ...for trying to use the product they bought.

      AT&T needs to learn from the insurance companies - the REAL profit is in selling a product you never intend to deliver.

      Really? Sounds like someone is forgetting why insurance (and reinsurance) is one of the biggest industries in the world (and rightly so). Insurance, the kind commonly purchased by an individual (as has been beat to death in many a /. thread) is merely the sale of a share in the risk of an event happening, as a way of mitigating the personal loss by pooling resources of everyone who has exposure to that specific kind of risk. There isn't an insurance company in the world that operates solely by taking in money and never paying it out in the form of claims. Instead, they have a constant churn of subscribers, claims, and modifications to their risk assessments to try to better price the products they sell (risk share is a VERY tangible product.) If anything, the nature of insurance as a product makes the industry very competitive and efficient (health "insurance", which is not really insurance in this definition, notwithstanding) so using them as an example of a marketplace as bent as the wireless one is pretty ignorant.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        You would be absolutely wrong if you count the hundreds of thousands of claims that insurance companies got out of paying in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        There isn't an insurance company in the world that operates solely by taking in money and never paying it out in the form of claims.

        There's a difference between the GP's claim of "never intend to deliver" and "never paying it out"
        Insurance companies have been sued and investigated and settled multiple times in multiple states over denying claims.
        This happens to be the first article I found: http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/02/26/california-investigating-7-health-insurers-for-denying-claims-hiking-rates/ [aflcio.org]

        In September [of 2010], California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) released a report that which states that since 2002 the state's largest health insurers rejected more than one in five medical claims. Data from the last half of 2009 shows the rejection rate has jumped to more than one in four (26 percent), with PacificCare leading the way, rejecting 41.7 percent of claims, according to the CNA/NNOC report.

        An insurance company denying 41% of claims never really intended to deliver the coverage you're buying.

    • by cixelsyd (239) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:20PM (#39048283)
      What I want to know is, why do they throttle down to ridiculously low throughput?

      Is there no way to traffic shape over wireless? Why can't I choose between several "unlimited" packages with varying speeds, like I can with a regular wired ISP?

      Wouldn't this solve their "problem" users issues? Or is there something about wireless networking that I'm not aware of making this difficult/impossible?

    • by mjwx (966435)

      ...for trying to use the product they bought.

      AT&T needs to learn from the insurance companies - the REAL profit is in selling a product you never intend to deliver.

      This is why I'm glad Australia has an advertising standards board. You're not allowed to sell an "infinite" service unless your service is 100% infinite. We had a case back in 02 or 03 where ADSL providers were selling "infinite" plans, the thing is that throttled you down to dial-up speeds after so many GB's. They put a stop to this practice pretty quick.

  • Throttle sales (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:48PM (#39047703)
    If their infrastructure wasn't up to it, why didn't they throttle sales of smartphones?
    • by GodInHell (258915)
      I wonder . . .
    • Oh, don't worry, they are. After all, since my grandfathered unlimited data is now taken away, and my 2-year contract is long expired, I don't have any reason to stay with AT&T anymore aside from their *cough* superior prices, coverage, reliability, and customer service.

    • Re:Throttle sales (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness.yahoo@com> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:34PM (#39048513) Homepage Journal

      If their infrastructure wasn't up to it, why didn't they throttle sales of smartphones?

      Or why didn't they just allow people to not buy a data plan?

      Seriously, if that is the issue they why should they be:

      1. Requiring all devices with a full keyboard to have atleast a text-messaging plan?
      2. Requiring all touch-screen devices to have a full data plan?

      While many customers may want that, not everyone does. So let them have the cheaper plans if they want.

      • Re:Throttle sales (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rwv (1636355) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:05PM (#39049081) Homepage Journal

        So let them have the cheaper plans if they want.

        You mean give the customer what they want? Seriously, I would love to have a Wifi-only Smartphone that can't access a 3G Data network. Though, FFS, $30/month for a data plan ought to be enough for them to beef up their goddamned network. Where is all that money going?

        • Re:Throttle sales (Score:4, Informative)

          by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness.yahoo@com> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:21PM (#39049441) Homepage Journal

          So let them have the cheaper plans if they want.

          You mean give the customer what they want? Seriously, I would love to have a Wifi-only Smartphone that can't access a 3G Data network. Though, FFS, $30/month for a data plan ought to be enough for them to beef up their goddamned network. Where is all that money going?

          Hint: Join the Android Developer Community (https://market.android.com/publish/signup) and then buy a Developer Phone at full price.

          I have a Nexus One that I got a full price, outside of AT&T, without a contract, and simply moved my SIM card over from my previous 2G phone. I even went into AT&T and got them to replace the 2G SIM card with a 3G SIM card. I have no data plan, and have disabled the (Celluar) Data Network access on the phone, so I only get data via WiFi.

          Disclaimer: I've heard some here on /. do the same only to have AT&T force them into a data plan. However, I don't know if they did everything I did - e.g. turning off the Data Network access, etc; which I did pretty much immediately after getting the phone. Still, it can be done.

          • Re:Throttle sales (Score:5, Informative)

            by puto (533470) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:29PM (#39049661) Homepage
            I work for ATT and none of us are happy with the decision. As to your phone. What is going to happen is once every couple of months our systems match imeis on file, to the imei actually in your phone, and when it does a data plan will be added automagically to your account.
    • If their infrastructure wasn't up to it, why didn't they throttle sales of smartphones?

      Because they can.

      The majority of customers are unaffected by throttling or data caps. Those that do complain, will have to put up with it because their competitors have similar polices.

      There is no incentive to stop selling phones because it brings them money. There is some incentive to invest in the network, but they only have to do the bare minimum to stop customers from leaving them.

  • Alternatively (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:48PM (#39047711) Homepage

    Alternatively, they could not sell a service they can't actually deliver. Crazy, I know.

    • Re:Alternatively (Score:5, Interesting)

      by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ... -retrograde.com)> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:32PM (#39048477)

      Or, perhaps they could use a portion of the money they've obtained from their "staggering 20,000%" growth over the past five years to improve the network instead of lining their higher-ups pockets? You would think that since "AT&T sold more smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in any other quarter in its history" they would have SOME profit available to them for reinvestment?

      Oh, but investing in your company's future means that your share-holders see less profits short term, and thus sell shares. It's really too bad that stock price is based on opinions and feelings instead of actual value...

      Sadly, it's more profitable to increase prices and reduce service quality than to actually provide better services. YAY FREE MARKET!

      • Re:Alternatively (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sir Realist (1391555) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:46PM (#39050081)

        But whats cool about the article is that AT&T is actually producing statistics demonstrably proving their own staggering incompetence as the reason why we should feel good about giving them more money.

        I mean hello? So this trend of staggering growth has been going on for FIVE YEARS, and even after finally noticing that the problem has already gotten pretty bad, and noticing that its directly related to smartphone usage, you sold more new smartphones last quarter than ever before without first doing something to fix it? And I got all those numbers from YOUR OWN PR?

        I can't decide which is more incompetent: the management of your core buisiness, or your EVP's attempts a damage control.

        Perhaps a tie.

  • Horseshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by redmid17 (1217076)
    Looks like ATT didn't plan or execute their long term strategy well. And they wonder why they weren't allowed to buy T-Mobile
  • I Agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:50PM (#39047729) Homepage

    I agree with him. They only have themselves to blame for picking AT&T in the first place.
    If they wanted good honest service then they had every reason to believe that AT&T was the last place they would find it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:51PM (#39047751)

    In one of the rare moments of clarity our federal government has, they told AT&T to spend some of the cash they wanted to use to buy out competition to expand their infrastructure instead (there was a link on slashdot a while ago).

    Seems like they do have a choice, but aren't willing to do anything but screw their customers.

  • IPhone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:51PM (#39047761)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is like selling 5,000 tickets to a show that can only host a thousand people, and blaming the people who complain about not getting what the paid for.

    • by ynp7 (1786468)

      Sort of, but isn't it really like selling those 5,000 tickets and then kicking everyone out after they've seen 1/5 of the show so that the other customers also get to see an equal portion of the whole thing they paid to see?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, its even worse than that.

        It's like selling users unlimited bandwidth and then throttling them when they try to use it.

    • It's called overbooking, and it's actually standard practice for events like shows: You can sell a few more tickets than you have seats, because it's unlikely everyone will turn up. It only goes wrong when the business pushes the sold-to-available ratio dangerously high, which AT&T have done.
    • Re:IPhone (Score:4, Funny)

      by future assassin (639396) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:19PM (#39048257) Homepage

      >Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is like selling 5,000 tickets to a show that can only host a thousand people, and blaming the people who complain about not getting what the paid for.

      I think this is like selling 5000 tickets to an all you can eat buffet and when you realise all those 5000 people are obese and are about to eat you alive you narrow down the door so only the skinniest people can get it on at a time. Also once in a while you get someone stuck in the door which gives your cook some extra time to cook up new food and get closer to business closing hours. THEN you call all those people fat pigs and blame their weight for you not being able to supply the amount of food that was needed.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swv3752 (187722) <swv3752&hotmail,com> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:51PM (#39047763) Homepage Journal

    It is called build up your damn infrastructure. Stop taking our money and using it to give the excutives bonuses, and start investing in infrastructure. They get gobs of tax breaks and straight up funding to build infrastructure.

    Now they have the gall to complain about folks actually using the unlimited data plan they get sold, because they have not properly built up their infrastructure. Fuck them. Fuck them in the skull.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dhalka226 (559740) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:04PM (#39048017)

      I agree completely.

      I could maybe, maaaaaybe feel sorry for regular ISPs. There's undeniably a lot of piracy that goes on that inflates bandwidth usage beyond their predictions for reasonable.

      But that's not a significant issue on phones. Instead the phone companies are complaining about users doing the exact fucking things they market their phones as doing! "Your phone now plays YouTube videos!" "Whoa whoa whoa! Why are you guys watching so many videos on your phone? How could we possibly have predicted such a thing?" "Hey, now you can review that PowerPoint presentation in the cab!" "Whoa whoa whoa, why are you downloading files and shit?!" Well let me think about that for a while guys. Clearly the thought I've given the matter in this post alone exceeds what AT&T and their billions of dollars of profit gave it.

      Infrastructure is expensive. We get it. Hey, guess what? So are your phones, the mandatory data plan, smartphone fee and regular service fees over a multi-year contract. Nobody feels sorry for you for overselling your service even more than you calculated you were going to. Shut up and provide customers the service they bought with those billions of dollars of profit you make every quarter, even in one of the worst economies since the Depression. You'll find nobody here shedding a tear for you.

  • no opt-out either (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fred fleenblat (463628) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:51PM (#39047765) Homepage

    I like the way AT&T mandates that all smart phones on their network have a data plan. God forbid someone have a smart phone, do smart phone stuff over wifi, and just use it as a regular phone the rest of the time not eating into AT&T's precious bandwidth.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Someone should write a dumb-phone emulator for smart phones.

  • by cshark (673578) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:52PM (#39047773)
    If they're selling more smart phones than they ever have... and they're overselling their resources, which they seem to know they're doing... why not just upgrade the network?
    • If they're selling more smart phones than they ever have... and they're overselling their resources, which they seem to know they're doing... why not just upgrade the network?

      It isn't as simple to just upgrade the network. They have only a finite amount of frequency spectrum to squeeze a large number of data hungry devices so it will not necessarily help to just add more towers. Of course, if AT&T is sitting on unused spectrum, they should be upgrading the network.

      • Then maybe stop requiring data plans for all smart phones? Poor AT&T was forced against its well to have to sell all these smart phones then also forced to make their evil customers purchase a data plan. And *gasp* hope dare those asshole users actually use the data plan they were forced to purchase. All this is making the executives at AT&T cry.

      • by Terwin (412356)

        A whole new area of spectrum is only needed if you are broadcasting at powers that blanket the whole countryside.

        Cellular towers have a certain pattern of spectrum reuse (I think the standard pattern requires 8 sets of distinct frequencies), so if you need more bandwidth in a certain area, just make the towers closer together(they already do this in cities vs the countryside, you need not even change the operating voltage). As an added benefit, the phones will use less power because the tower will be close

  • Sounds like AT&T has only itself to blame.
  • by Necroman (61604) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:54PM (#39047813)

    Logic does not seem strong with this one.

    1) Provide unlimited data
    2) Sell people devices to use said data
    3) Take away unlimited data because people are using it.

    Unlimited data was (I think) introduced with the original iPhone in 2007 (or at least that's when a lot of people got the plan). AT&T then continued to grandfather people with the plan as they renewed their contracts. And now that we've been paying AT&T for 4.5 years of unlimited service, they are taking it away because our devices made it easier to consume the data.

    I'm sure by the data usage models AT&T was using 4 years ago, they didn't think people would use all that much data with their phones. But companies like Apple and Google have made cooler services and made it easier to use bandwidth. Now AT&T is calling foul? AT&T should either stop grandfathering the plan forward or leave us alone.

    • by b0bby (201198)

      3) Take away unlimited data because people are using it.

      That's not exactly what throttling is though, is it? You still have data access, but at a lower speed than otherwise. I don't use AT&T, but Virgin is doing this too & I don't really have a problem with it. Admittedly I have the $25 unlimited data & 300 minutes plan grandfathered, and Virgin at least only throttles over 2.5Gb, but I feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of the plan. If I ever hit 2.5Gb, I'll still be able to check email & stuff, just maybe not stream Pandora. I can live

  • I call bullshit... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:54PM (#39047815)

    Seriously, they stated the top 5% in congested markets would be throttled, which would be fine, if they utilized the actual top 5%. Not the arbitrary number they pulled out of their ass that stated the top 5% used approx 2G of traffic.

    Yet they are selling tiered plans with 3G caps.. If throttling should occur, it should not start until the 3G mark.

    I was going to go on a rant, but I have been ranting about this shit for months now every since I found out about the throttling, and ended up being throttled at 2.2G.. in the DC area, I seriously doubt 2.2G is even close to the users in the top 5% for the DC Metro area.

    This is strictly a money play, ATT can go fuck themselves for all I care.... The only reason I stay with them.. is because when I am not throttled, I get between 30 and 50mbit rates on the LTE network in DC... Verizon does not even come close, and I hate Verizon more than I hate ATT..

  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:56PM (#39047875)

    standard /. car analogy for AT&T mgmt:

    1. The new Ford Focus seems to be selling well.
    2. I know, lets manufacturer fewer of them!
    3. .....
    4. Profit!

  • I am so sick of watching commercials, doesn't matter which carrier, of watch this, watch that, surf, surf, surf, unlimited (sort of), etc, etc, etc. Then they turn around and blame the users, their customers? Build a better network and quit bitching. Better yet, stop telling your customers they should really use your network and we are the fastest, the best, more coverage when there are plans to limit use not encourage it. Truth in advertising needs to make a come back and have some bite. Corporatocrac
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @02:57PM (#39047883) Homepage

    The problem is not throttling per se, but that the threshold for reaching throttling on an "unlimited" account is *lower* than on a tiered plan (the top 5% is allegedly between 1.6 GB and 1.8 GB), and that using a sliding metric will trend usage downward over the long term. People will be fearful of reaching the throttling threshold, and so they will be unreasonably conservative in their use, which in turn lowers the bar for what constitutes the top 5%. Theoretically, "unlimited" could eventually be even more limited than a 200MB plan.

    Obviously the best (and only) way to push back is to use as much data as possible on an unlimited plan, driving the ceiling upwards.

  • Sprint.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by JDAustin (468180) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:03PM (#39048003)

    And this is one of the reasons why I stay with Sprint. Yea, they have a a more limited coverage and WiMax is slower then LTE but their unlimited data plans are truly unlimited.

  • A phone plan that filters all ads at the central office end would cut way down on over-the-air bandwidth.

  • Wow, 20,000% eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:04PM (#39048011) Homepage

    20,000 % is 200 times. That's not a lot when you're considering total data, and not just maximum theoretical speed. For a start, if I use something everyday now that, five years ago, I only used one a month, that's 30 times more data already.

    But it would be a lot in speed capability. The mobile I had when I was a kid years ago could only handle GSM data (i.e. 9600 bps at best at the time). If that speed had increased 20,000%, I'd have a 230Gbytes/s phone today.

    I'm sorry but it's just poor planning. You know exactly how many customers you have and are likely to have. You know exactly what the theoretical maximum of those phones are. You know exactly what the average person will do (slowly use it more as time passes and upgrades pass by). Yet you still sell an unlimited package.

    It's just bad business, but they don't want to admit that, like the small businesses that let Groupon sell 20,000 coupons for a free cupcake, etc. You didn't plan. You didn't extrapolate. You didn't price your products properly. You didn't expand the capability of your network. You didn't do anything that I would expect a large business like AT&T to do.

    Ramp your prices up. Then wait for your customers to see all those Japanese telco's that give everyone huge allowances at top data rates for manageable prices on both mobile and fixed-line broadband. I don't care about your bad business planning, all I look for is value-for-money. If you can't provide it, I won't buy from you. If I do buy from you, I expect to get what I bought without any wording-tricks and revisions of the contracts. How hard is this to understand?

  • I recently changed cell providers to Sprint. My number one criteria when shopping for new cell service was "anybody but AT&T"

  • by Amphetam1ne (1042020) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:13PM (#39048163)
    AT&T buys all you can eat shrimp restaurant. Complains that it attracts too many fat people.
  • by rat7307 (218353) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:14PM (#39048187) Homepage

    You DO have unlimited data......

    Just not at unlimited speed

    Am I missing something here?

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#39048231) Journal

    As recently discussed here on /., AT&T is about to cash in big by shedding un-needed real estate.

    http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/02/12/0340214/all-ip-network-produces-100b-real-estate-windfall [slashdot.org]

    Perhaps they can use that money to build out their infrastructure. Build it to the point where they can actually deliver on unlimited smartphone data plans and watch the customer count soar as people flee other carriers that can't keep up. Seems like a smart business decision to me.

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:19PM (#39048243) Homepage Journal
    I don't know how long this hack will last but here's what I'm doing... I just went to StraightTalk.com, bought a Nokia E-71, activated it. (It's WalMart's $45.00 a month unlimited text, web and phone plan). Pulled the SIM card from the Nokia and put it in the iPhone. Turn on the WiFi connection on your iPhone. Using Safari, go to http://unlockit.co.nz [unlockit.co.nz]. I changed my IMEI to ATT and BAM! Unlimited phone, web and text. I just pay 45.00 a month to WalMart. Just YouTube search for iPhone on Straight Talk. Works with the 4 too.
  • by ScooterComputer (10306) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:26PM (#39048377)

    I posted this the other day, but I'll post it again: AT&T is trying to fundamentally go against the basic tenets of Capitalism. And although it seems pretty well established at this point that Americans don't understand Capitalism, this is actually pretty easy to grok.

    Capitalism 101 says that pricing acts as a regulator between supply and demand. AT&T is arguing that they have a supply problem. The capitalistic approach would be to price plans such that moderation would be rewarded, and excess would be limited. We would expect to see AT&T increasing data caps at the lower end to try to get more users onto those plans at a price they find equitable, to promote a more balanced usage pattern that includes cellular data and WiFi. Yet AT&T, has done the exact opposite. They have continued to increase prices on the low end, such that any user with even half a brain sees that the value proposition lies with the more expensive plan. The low end plans are NOT sufficient for even a near majority of users, by AT&T's own numbers (700MB - 1200MB per month average use).

    It is ridiculous to believe that a company the size of AT&T doesn't understand basic Capitalism. The only other option is that they are lying. And their recent price hike disguised as a data cap expansion is proof. The "new" plans do nothing to ameliorate the proffered issue of too much data use, since they do not fundamentally change the value proposition of the data plans. Their continued insistence on pushing this particular narrative belies a strategy of thinking the American people are stupid. They might be right; but we'll know they aren't truthful until we see a FREE base plan that includes Visual Voicemail and AT&T WiFi access, and a $10-15 plan that includes 250MB-750MB.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:26PM (#39049587) Journal

    If a data company throttles any data plan, they may only advertise what the lowest capped rate is. Actual rates may be included in the contract between the subscriber and the utility.

    If a data company limits total download capacity, even if it is a "soft" limit (TOS limit), the plan must be advertised with the cap noted at the same relevance as the speed of the connection.

    If the connection has a minimum acceptable (or guaranteed minimum) speed for a given price point, only the minimum speed may be advertised. No advertising of temporary, limited, or "burst" speeds is allowable. Maximum or burst speed may be included in the in the contract between the subscriber and the utility, provided the minimum allowable speed is also provided.

    Utilities may not advertise speeds in markets where such speeds are not available in at least 1/2 the landmass area. National advertising may only note the minimum speeds or availability available to all subscribers in the US.

I wish you humans would leave me alone.

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