Count that as two strikes against AT&T and two points for the consumers! Judge Russell Nadel of Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley, CA found in favor of a disgruntled AT&T “unlimited” data customer this week, awarding him $85 a month for the duration of his contract-or $850. The lawsuit was filed in small claims court for $10,000 and stated that it was unfair of AT&T to throttle him at all, let alone at only 2GB of usage. While $10,000 is a bit extreme, so is AT&T’s throttling.
This is a current hot-button issue for many companies, with AT&T in particular getting a lot of heat lately. The problem arises when “valued customers” are paying $30 for a grandfathered unlimited data plan—allowed by stated policy—but AT&T has started throttling them after 2GB of usage-even though that same $30 would otherwise buy you 3GB of tiered data.
This sounds a lot like racketeering. “Of course you can keep the grandfathered unlimited plan, but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll choose the tiered option. And it’s only a few dollars more.” Ol’ Bell’s response has been that the top 5% of data users may experience throttling to help alleviate network congestion for the good of all.
Socialism politics aside, this too is a load of crap. According to a recently released 2011 study by analysis firm Validas,
As you can see from the graph [above], extracted from a sample of over 55,000 2011 cell bills, this does not appear to be an issue of data hogging. When we look at the Top 5% of data users, there is virtually no difference in data consumption between those on unlimited and those on tiered plans-and yet the unlimited consumers are the ones at risk of getting their service turned off. So it’s curious that anyone would think the throttling here represents a serious effort at alleviating network bandwidth issues. After all, Sprint gets by fine maintaining non-throttled unlimited data to its customers.
The study went on further to state that “the vast majority of folks still use less than 1GB per month, with over 40% of sampled Verizon Wireless Smartphone customers using less than 50MB monthly.” So where is all this congestion AT&T is referring to, eh?
While I get occasionally throttled by Verizon for 30 minutes here and there, I can’t really complain. After all, it’s only 20 days into this cycle and I’ve already used nearly 7GB, placing me firmly in the top 5%. But getting throttled at 2GB? Hopefully with all this concrete data and the courts on our side, AT&T will be forced to change something. Let’s just hope it chooses to go the way of Sprint, not T-Mobile.