Thursday, February 09, 2012

AT&T confirms that throttling for unlimited users can begin at 2GB

We wondered if, when AT&T began throttling users at just over 2GB, if that could really mean that 2GB had become the dividing line between normal and the top 5 percent of usage, which is the only set that AT&T said they would throttle. We actually didn't believe that could possibly be the case, but now AT&T has confirmed it.

The news started with reports from an AT&T user, John Cozen, who said that he was being throttled. AT&T told him that he was in the top 5 percent of its heaviest data users because he had used 2.1GB of data.

What doesn't make sense, and what Cozen pointed out, is that AT&T offers a tiered data plan for 3GB, above the point that he was throttled at, for the same price he paid for his grandfathered --- and no longer offered --- unlimited data plan. AT&T has always said it would only throttle those with grandfathered unlimited data plans.

The question was, are those above 2GB of data use really in the top 5 percent. Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, confirmed that to the New York Times. He said that as of the summer of 2010, the top 5 percent of the network's heaviest data users have typically used 2GB or more per month.

There's also a support document that verifies that as of August 2011, 2GB was in the top 5 percent of data usage.

Additionally, Siegel said that topping the 2GB limit doesn't mean you will be throttled. You will only be throttled, he said, if network capacity or spectrum is insufficient, on a case-by-case basis.

While both the AT&T spokesperson and the support document state that 2GB was in the top 5 percent as of August 2011, there are comments around the Web that seem to belie these statements.

For example, this one says

"I am in Houston and got warned on day 30/31 for reaching 1.54 GB! I was shocked because about two months ago I got warned at 4.5 GB. I find it impossible to believe that Houston is an "insuffcient network" area, and/or that the threshhold for 5% has dropped from 4.5 to 1.5 in a few months. This is BS!"

It's clear to many: AT&T is doing this to eliminate the unlimited plans, once and for all.

Another comment:

"This isn't about congestion. It's about getting people to switch off of the old unlimited plans."

And another:

"They are not worried about congestion if they are offering data plans higher than the ceiling of the throttling point."

It seems clear to anyone with common sense. The question is, what will Verizon do? They also throttle the top 5 percent. Will they begin following this sort of policy, strictly intended to remove the rest of their grandfathered unlimited plan users?

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