AT&T Clarifies “Unlimited” Data Plans in New Policy

AT&T logo displayed on iPhoneAT&T has clarified, and simplified, its “unlimited” data plans after confusion and outrage over throttling thresholds and a recent small claims court award to an AT&T customer had been deemed an “extremely heavy user.”

Essentially, AT&T customers who have been grandfathered in with “unlimited” plans have been given the same data cap and price as the current DataPro 3GB plan. However, users that go beyond those caps are treated differently depending on which plan they have.

There were numerous reports recently of AT&T customers being notified that they were in the top 5% of data users, even though they used as little as 1GB of data. Those users then reportedly had their data throttled for a period of time thereafter.

The actual data used by customers receiving this notice varied from market to market and seemed to be very arbitrary. In addition, AT&T’s explanations have seemed muddled.

This came to a head last week when a small claims court in California awarded US$850 to a customer who’s data had been throttled after only 1.5GB of use. The customer pointed out that AT&T currently offers a data plan for the same $30 he paid for his “unlimited” plan that allows for 3GB of data use.

In defense, the manager that was serving as the representative for AT&T in the case could only say that AT&T had the right to modify or even cancel a customer’s contract if they were harming the network.

While still arguing that mobile broadband usage is soaring and that it has the right to manage its network, AT&T has made its policy clear now. You are in the top 5% of users in the network if you use more than 3GB of data. There is no mention of market area or monthly rolling averages in this new policy. If you have a 4G LTE smartphone, which is not yet available in an iPhone, your limit is 5GB.

According to the new policy, AT&T will send a text message when you are approaching the 3GB limit for the first time. If you hit the limit, you will be throttled for the remainder of the billing cycle at which time data speeds will return to normal. If you hit the limit after that, you will not get the text message - only the throttling.

AT&T points out that you can use as much data as you want for your $30 “unlimited” plan. It just gets throttled after 3GB. Users on the DataPro 3GB plan would not be subject to throttling, but would have to pay $10 for each additional 1GB of data used.