AT&T has made it a little easier for smartphone users who were frustrated over the company throttling their service on "unlimited data" plans. But many subscribers view the move with skepticism.
The new policy replaces a previous approach where AT&T throttled “service when subscribers entered the heaviest five percent of data users for that month and that area,” according to a report from The Associated Press.
Subscribers complained their data service was throttled after reaching two gigabytes of use. The old policy was confusing – and many users complained it was unfair, too, according to news reports.
Last year, AT&T stopped offering the "unlimited data" plans, though subscribers who had signed up for it kept it if they wanted to.
"Our unlimited plan customers have told us they want more clarity around how the program works and what they can expect," AT&T said in a statement Thursday when announcing the new plan.
Under the new plan, subscribers with a 3G or 4G smartphone – who have “unlimited data” – will have speeds reduced if they use 3GB gigabytes of data or more in a single billing cycle, according to an AT&T's statement. In addition, subscribers with a 4G LTE smartphone – who have “unlimited data” – will have speeds reduced if they use five gigabytes or more in a single billing cycle, AT&T adds.
AT&T also points out that mobile data use continues to “skyrocket” and there is “scarce” spectrum available – which is an apparent explanation of why the revised policy is not more generous. AT&T suggested recently if it were able to have acquired T-Mobile USA for $39 billion there would have been less congestion of networks and its subscribers would have benefited, according to news reports. The deal was blocked by regulators.
The new policy from AT&T comes shortly after a California judge awarded user Matt Spaccarelli $850, because his "unlimited" service was slowed down, according to a report from The AP carried by TechZone360. AT&T is expected to appeal the ruling, and a class action suit from the ruling was unlikely, The AP report adds.
But despite the changes from AT&T, many subscribers remain angry with the company for the lack of a true unlimited data plan. “I don’t think this is going to make any of AT&T’s unlimited data customers happy. It’s just smoke and mirrors,” says one subscriber, Jane Foody, who is leading a petition effort against the company on Change.org.
"Who is AT&T trying to fool?" Foody added. "An unlimited plan is an unlimited plan – not a 3 gigabyte plan. I paid for unlimited data, and no amount of AT&T's corporate-speak will get me and the 11,000 people who've joined my Change.org petition to back down until we get what we've paid for."
There are 50 petitions on Change.org urging providers to cease throttling download speeds on unlimited data plans.
Other providers are targeted, too. In contrast to AT&T – or Verizon – Sprint’s “unlimited data” plan is not throttled, according to The AP. The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T new policy impacts some 17 million unlimited data plan subscribers.
An “average” smartphone user will use some 435 megabytes of data a month, according to Read Write Web, citing data from Nielsen. The user would need to use up about seven times that to reach the 3 gigabyte level from AT&T, Read Write Web adds.
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