Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AT&T seeks a sit-down with iPhone throttling case user

AT&T wants a sit-down with Matthew Spaccarelli, the 39 year-old truck driver from Simi Valley, Calif., who sued the company in small claims court over data throttling --- and won $850. It's unclear what the settlement would be; in a letter, AT&T asked Spaccarelli to sign a confidentiality agreement before terms of the deal could be discussed further.

Since he then shared AT&T's letter with the Associated Press, it's obvious he's not interested in talking to AT&T about a settlement.

However, he may lose his AT&T service; the company threatened to shut off his service if he didn't sit down and discuss things with them. AT&T said it could do so because Spaccarelli had violated the company's Terms of Service by tethering his iPad to his iPhone.

AT&T has said it will appeal the Feb. 24 small claims court decision, but it hasn't done so, yet. Appeals in California small claims court are differ in format from the original hearings in that lawyers are allowed to represent the litigants.

AT&T said it had reached out to Spaccarelli after he first reached out to them. But he denied that, saying that he had only contacted the carrier to find out how to get the $850 that he had been awarded him in damages. He added,

"This isn't really about the $850. I guess they could offer me more money. But I don't really care about that. I just want to get the service that I've been paying for and that service is supposed to include unlimited data."

Spaccarelli had noticed the same thing that other AT&T users have been noticing around that time: that the speed of his data service was throttled after he had used between 1.5GB and 2GB of data during a single billing cycle. He also stated that while he had tethered his iPad to his iPhone previously, he was no longer doing it at the time of the throttling.

The throttling only affected users still on grandfathered unlimited plans, but was especially annoying because AT&T was selling a 3GB tiered data plan at the same price as the unlimited plan. AT&T had originally said it would only throttle those users on both unlimited plans and in the top 5 percent of users on its network.

Users found it difficult to swallow assertions that 2GB of data was in the top 5 percent, but that is what AT&T said.

Still, at the beginning of March, AT&T changed its policy once again, perhaps in response to the lawsuit and to numerous complaints. It now throttles unlimited users when they go over 3GB (HSPA+) or 5GB (LTE) of data in a given month until the next billing cycle begins.

Spaccarelli doesn't want to lose his AT&T service, as AT&T is the only carrier that operates reliably where he lives. It's unclear if AT&T will terminate his service, as threatened, since he AT&T has until the end of the month to file its appeal.

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