AT&T’s stance on unlimited data is once again in the spotlight as
a new wave of smartphone users cry foul over the carrier’s questionable
policies. The nation’s No.2 carrier does not currently offer an
unlimited data plan to its smartphone subscribers. Instead, there are
three available data plans that include “soft” caps, allowing
subscribers to continue using data services for additional fees after
the soft cap is reached in a billing period. Users who have been with
AT&T since before the carrier switched to tiered data plans — loyal
customers who have in some cases maintained the same account in good
standing for more than a decade — had the option to retain their
unlimited data plans when AT&T first made the move to tiered plans.
While heavy users were initially relieved when the opportunity to retain
their old unlimited plans presented itself, that relief has quickly
turned to disdain.
AT&T announced last summer that it planned to throttle unlimited smartphone data users
beginning in October. The carrier said that the move would only affect
the top 5% of heavy users, and it was a necessary measure in order to
“manage exploding demand for mobile data.” The new policy meant that
unlimited data users could continue using their handsets without data
limits, but heavy users would see their data speeds reduced at a certain
point each month if they used too much data. AT&T took particular
care in not setting a specific limit that would have to be reached
before throttling kicked in, but most typical users presumed it would be
a number they would never hit.