By Stephen Schenck | February 6, 2012 11:55 PM
When we heard from AT&T last summer the details of its plan for some new tethering restrictions for users on unlimited data, we immediately became concerned. Carriers obviously need to be able to manage their network resources, and if that means scaling back services to a few excessive users, so that the vast majority of us can still enjoy our smartphones, so be it. If AT&T’s plan had been along the lines of “start throttling after 4GB of data consumption”, that might make sense, but instead it announced an odd-sounding plan that throttled users from among the top 5% of bandwidth consumers each month, regardless of just where the 5% cut-off happened to fall at the time. It’s taken until now to come to light, but one AT&T subscriber has come through with some evidence showing just how nonsensical AT&T’s throttling plan really is.
Part of what we touched on when visiting the topic last summer was what effect this would have on long-term data consumption. If AT&T managed to encourage subscribers to use less wireless data through these tactics, wouldn’t we see users being “punished” for consuming less and less data as time went on? Sure enough, one user’s been notified that AT&T is throttling him for falling into that 5% class after using only 2.1GB of data in a month.
In a series of emails that followed, AT&T confirmed with the subscriber that, as of January, at least, it only took a hair over 2GB of data to fall into the top 5% tier. While both unlimited and 3GB tiered data customers pay the same $30 a month, throttling only affects those on unlimited plans. At this point, AT&T’s actions seem less like reasonable network management, and more like a way to harass customers on grandfathered unlimited accounts.
The way AT&T’s explained how it calculates that top 5% figure, it looks at the monthly consumption of all data users (even though only those on unlimited accounts are at the risk of throttling). That means, according to its own claims, that the vast, vast majority of customers on 3GB plans are paying for at least a gigabyte of data each month that they never use.
It’s not like there are many options for great deals on wireless data in the States, but has this throttling business encouraged any AT&T subscribers on old unlimited plans to finally break ties with the carrier?