AT&T Unlimited Data Use Not Unlimited After All


The smart phone wars have been waging for over a decade. Different companies have offered various programs in their efforts to attract consumers to sign up with them as their phone carrier. Several major carriers had offered unlimited data plans in their efforts to woo you over.

One of those companies that offered the unlimited data plans was AT&T. For one flat fee, you could download and send as much data over your phone as you wanted. As more people took advantage of the plan, AT&T realized that some of their customers were using far more data than the company had anticipated. Coupled with the fact that newer phones were able to do more, download at faster speeds and a plethora of apps being constantly created for everything in the world, AT&T stopped offering their unlimited data plans in 2010, grandfathering all of those customers that were on the unlimited data plan.

However, according to the Federal Trade Commission, AT&T unlimited data plan was not as unlimited as customers thought. In a complaint filed against AT&T in federal court, the FTC accused the company of intentionally ‘throttling’ data speeds once a person exceeds a certain amount of data usage. In some cases, the FTC said that AT&T slowed the data speed as much as 90% which basically makes it impossible to download anything.

In other words, their unlimited data plan does not limit the amount of data you download or access but does limit the speed at which you have access to the data after your usage reaches a certain amount.

Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC stated:

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”

AT&T is fighting back against the FTC complaint and claim the complaint is baseless. In a statement released by AT&T they state:

“The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program. It’s baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts.”

“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning. We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented. In addition, this program has affected only about 3% of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.”

So what does ‘unlimited’ mean to you? AT&T’s response reminds me of Bill Clinton’s response in the Monica Lewinski sex scandal of what does ‘if’ really mean. Are you one of those unlimited data users and if so, have you experienced any slowing in your download speed? Did you get a text message from AT&T notifying you that they were slowing you down because of your usage?

Reports like this and others about different phones and apps being hacked makes me glad that I still use a ‘dumb’ cell phone. It makes phone calls, sends text messages and a few internal tools, but it does not connect to the internet or use any apps. Call me old fashioned, but I feel safer with what I have and it’s a whole lot cheaper.

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