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AT&T On Data Throttling: Blame Yourselves 406

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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:19PM (#39048243) Journal
    I don't know how long this hack will last but here's what I'm doing... I just went to, 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 []. 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 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?

  • Re:Alternatively (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <.moc.edargorter- ... . .xetroCxetroV.> 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!

  • 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 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 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.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn