After many complaints, even more abandoned internet searches, and a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), AT&T has finally changed its long-standing policy of throttling unlimited data users to unbelievably slow speeds once they reached a certain amount of data.
The adjustment is that unlimited data users will now only be throttled out of necessity, when they find themselves in areas with heavy traffic.
An AT&T spokesman who spoke with PCMag explained that “Customers on an unlimited legacy data plan may experience reduced speeds only when using data services at times when in an area where the network is experiencing congestion. Like other wireless companies, we manage our network resources to provide the best service possible for all of our customers”.
Prior to the adjustments, internet speeds would drop as low as half a MB per second, if not lower, after unlimited data users hit the 5GB mark (for LTE users) and 3GB mark (for 3G/4G).
Ironically, customers on a limited plan would typically end up using more than 5GB per month, having access to better internet speeds and services than customers on an unlimited plan.
To make matters worse, the policy seemed to be different for users depending on their smartphones: “customers on a 3G or 4G [HSPA+] smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. Customers on a 4G LTE smartphone will experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle exceeds 5 gigabytes of data”.
AT&T admitted no wrongdoing when facet with the FTC’s lawsuit and insisted that not throttling users would’ve led to worse speeds for all their customers. They did promise however to revise their policy.
Despite their statement, the unfortunate quality of the service was seen by some as tactic to encourage customers to move to more expensive monthly plans. AT&T discontinued their unlimited data plan years ago, but allowed user who already had them to keep using them.
The FTC is still pursuing the case, claiming that AT&T failed to help their customers understand that an unlimited data plan doesn’t necessarily mean unlimited high speed. They are actively seeking refunds for millions of users that may have misled or misinformed by AT&T.
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