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AT&T Clarifies Data Limitations On "Unlimited" Data Plans 247

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.
MojoKid writes "Several months ago, AT&T notified customers that it would begin throttling network speeds for users who exceeded a certain threshold, with the definitive throttle point defined as an imprecise "the top 5% of mobile data users." The company has issued a statement clarifying this policy after irate customers with unlimited data plans demanded to know what the cap was and how the company determined who should and shouldn't be throttled. The magic number is 3GB, which conveniently happens to be the maximum amount of tiered bandwidth AT&T will sell you. So why would AT&T want unlimited users to move to tiered pricing when its maximum tier is also set at 3GB? Simple — the amount of money the company makes on customers who exceed that 3GB limit. The fine print reads: 'If 3GB is exceeded, an additional 1 GB is automatically provided at a rate of $10 for each additional 1 GB.' Anyone using above 3GB on an unlimited plan is a customer who isn't paying enough for the privilege (from AT&T's perspective)."
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AT&T Clarifies Data Limitations On "Unlimited" Data Plans

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  • by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:21AM (#39245711)
    Hypocrisy thy name is "insert your choise company here" ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AgentSmitz (2587601)
      Because it is enough for most customers. They do specify these limits too. IF you want truly unlimited, non-capped bandwidth, buy it yourself. But expect to pay 25x more!
      • by Racemaniac (1099281) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:28AM (#39245731)

        So then don't call it unlimited? it's not that hard -_-

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:38AM (#39245785)

          Bait and switch.

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday March 05, 2012 @11:33AM (#39248083) Homepage Journal

            Exactly, and it's illegal. Why are they not being prosecuted for consumer fraud? Of course, when Sony removed OtherOS that fraud was even worse. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that in the US, corporations are above the law?

          • by Pausanias (681077) <pausaniasx@gmail ... inus threevowels> on Monday March 05, 2012 @01:11PM (#39249711)

            Big point missing here is that unlimited plans are no longer offered to new customers. They exist solely as grandfathered plans. So this brings up the question, why offer grandfathering anyways? Can't they issue a sunset clause a year in advance and then gradually fade them away? I'd wager not that many of the unlimited customers would leave.

            The letter would say, "You are currently on an unlimited plan. Your actual usage is $$$. Under our new plan starting next year, your new cost would be $$$." By far the largest fraction of their users would stay.

            (Yes, I'm disgruntled that I can't get an ATT unlimited plan because I joined too late).

            • by Score Whore (32328) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:27PM (#39250965)

              They grandfathered -- or more accurately they honored -- the existing contracts because if they didn't the customer would have the option of walking away from AT&T without having to pay an early termination fee. Given that a lot of these people are iPhone users with heavily subsidized phones, that could be really painful for AT&T.

            • by rsborg (111459) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:37PM (#39251135) Homepage

              So this brings up the question, why offer grandfathering anyways

              Likely due to the fact that it's a contract. If they changed policy, they would require the customer to agree to the new contractual terms. Many would leave, also likely causing a PR incident.

              The big benefit of the unlimited plan is that you pay $X a month, regardless of usage, and you're guaranteed bandwidth and never have to pay more or worry about disconnection. Another pricing victory for Apple, who really innovated with the original iPhone ($20/mo for unlimited), which AT&T was forced to swallow, but profited heavily from.

              AT&T embodies the worst of big-business-thinking. Not only do they provide poor service and quality (in my 6+ years as a subscriber on and off), they nickel and dime you and make it seem like they're doing you a favor when they don't. They are truly exhibit the view that you don't have a choice (when in reality, you often do). They are penny-wise and pound-foolish, sacrificing customer loyalty and brand image to make a few extra million here and there, while ignoring large opportunities unless forced upon them.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          When I shop, I make a bee line for the charts that compare services and their agreements- after consulting Consumer Reports to see if they have anything.

          Advertisements and sales fluff are just lies - to state the obvious.

          Once I was in a very large home center. There was the guy with the table calling people over to buy their overpriced installation services (if you compare prices they charge 40% more than you local contractor - even though they too use local contractors.)

          Anyway, while he was giving me his

          • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:08AM (#39245909) Journal

            *Big dopey grin from sales dweeb* While I walked away happily - I enjoy wasting salespeople's time when I have nothing better to do.

            I had some phone sales rep yell at me for politely letting him go through his spiel before shooting him down. He basically asked me why I would listen to his whole spiel, and then he dramatically hung up on me.

            As I was putting down the phone receiver, I was thinking to myself, "because you never gave me a chance to talk..."

            • *Big dopey grin from sales dweeb* While I walked away happily - I enjoy wasting salespeople's time when I have nothing better to do.

              I had some phone sales rep yell at me for politely letting him go through his spiel before shooting him down. He basically asked me why I would listen to his whole spiel, and then he dramatically hung up on me.

              As I was putting down the phone receiver, I was thinking to myself, "because you never gave me a chance to talk..."

              A actually cut in on an AT&T rep once & told her to take me off all marketing lists, she sounded genuinely shocked that I would give the great AT&T the C&D finger.

            • by JATMON (995758)

              I had some phone sales rep yell at me for politely letting him go through his spiel before shooting him down. He basically asked me why I would listen to his whole spiel, and then he dramatically hung up on me.

              As I was putting down the phone receiver, I was thinking to myself, "because you never gave me a chance to talk..."

              I did the same thing to a phone sales rep. I had him on the phone for almost an hour asking questions and never once agreeing to anything. The whole time that i was one the phone i was also playing games on the computer. He got pissed off when in the end I told him that I was not interested and he demanded to know why I kept him on the phone for an hour if I knew that I was not going to buy anything. I tried to explain to the dipshit that he was the one that called me not the other way around. He proceeded

              • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Monday March 05, 2012 @10:27AM (#39247215)

                The other fun thing to do is to answer the phone and then when they start talking just start doing something like giggling, laughing, screaming or breathing heavy and see how long they will stay on the line.

                That's always been the tradition in my home, ever since I was a wee child playing on the kitchen floor listening to my mother play her games with the poor sap that had the misfortune to have our number in his list of people to cold call, trying to sell something that no reasonable person would buy over the phone anyway...

                We have a tradition for junk mail, too. Anything that has a postage-paid return envelope, we stuff full of whatever extraneous non-identifying paperwork (usually other junk mail circulars and flyers) we have laying around...the more the better...and mail it on back to them at their greatly increased (due to excessive weight) expense. I really wish just once I could be there when the person on the receiving end opens our credit card application and finds a bunch of those shopper stopper coupons, fast-food napkins; hell, my mother even sent one back with ketchup and relish packets inside.

                You want to get taken off a mailing list quickly, start sending them back a bunch of random crap at their expense. We rarely get junk mail from the same place more than a few times anymore...

                • by Golddess (1361003)

                  hell, my mother even sent one back with ketchup and relish packets inside.

                  As amusing as that sounds, and despite how unlikely this might be to occur, I'd be too worried about something happening to cause those packets to leak, ruining innocent people's mail.

        • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:05AM (#39245893) Journal

          So then don't call it unlimited? it's not that hard -_-

          The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED. So you still get "unlimited" bandwidth.

          People need to remember that companies are going to sell you with the most non-obvious definitions available to them. How often do you hear "it's a steal at less than 14 thousand dollars!" Meanwhile it costs $13,999... sure it's true, but that doesn't make it misleading.

          Cynics however are in the know, and we're constantly looking for how they could be using these words to their best benefit.

          Other people just don't seem to get it, and no less always act surprised every time they get burned by assuming good faith in advertising.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:24AM (#39245977)

            The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED. So you still get "unlimited" bandwidth.

            To be a bit pedantic, throttled is the exact opposite of unlimited bandwidth. What they are talking about of course is unlimited data.

            • by snowgirl (978879)

              The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED. So you still get "unlimited" bandwidth.

              To be a bit pedantic, throttled is the exact opposite of unlimited bandwidth. What they are talking about of course is unlimited data.

              Indeed, but we all should know that unlimited bandwidth is physically impossible, anyways...

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                No, when they advertise unlimited bandwidth, what they mean is that they don't put any limits on it. If they put limits on it then it's not unlimited. The overly pedantic definition you're using is of no value to anybody ever.

                If they're placing any throttling or limitations on it, then it's not unlimited.

                • by L1mewater (557442)

                  No, when they advertise unlimited bandwidth, what they mean is that they don't put any limits on it.

                  I don't think you understand what "bandwidth" means.

                • by snowgirl (978879)

                  No, when they advertise unlimited bandwidth, what they mean is that they don't put any limits on it. If they put limits on it then it's not unlimited. The overly pedantic definition you're using is of no value to anybody ever.

                  I think you'll find that the overly pedantic definition is useful to someone... advertisers.

                  As I explained elsewhere, advertising always uses the most pedantic definitions possible, stretching meaning to be misleading to customers, while still technically true, so that they're not hit by truth in advertising laws.

                  So, these pedantic definitions are quite valuable, and are consistently used all over advertising, which is why it is important for advertisement watchers to be aware and keep a skeptical (cynical?

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by snowgirl (978879)

              The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED. So you still get "unlimited" bandwidth.

              To be a bit pedantic, throttled is the exact opposite of unlimited bandwidth. What they are talking about of course is unlimited data.

              I owe you an apology... apparently, there are people who need this explained to them... :(

          • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:13AM (#39246165) Homepage

            So then don't call it unlimited? it's not that hard -_-

            The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED.

            I agree that this is the definition AT&T wants to use, but it's not advertised as "uncapped," it's advertised as "unlimited." Throttling is limiting. I'm sure there are many synonymous ways you could define "bandwidth throttling" which doesn't include the word "limit," but by reducing the available bandwith, you are limiting. Something which is limited cannot be called unlimited.

            When AT&T first started throttling, it was supposed to be the top 5% of users, who apparently consumed something like 90% of the overall data. Now this seems to have come to serve another purpose.

            • So then don't call it unlimited? it's not that hard -_-

              The bandwidth is not capped though, it's THROTTLED.

              I agree that this is the definition AT&T wants to use, but it's not advertised as "uncapped," it's advertised as "unlimited." Throttling is limiting. I'm sure there are many synonymous ways you could define "bandwidth throttling" which doesn't include the word "limit," but by reducing the available bandwith, you are limiting. Something which is limited cannot be called unlimited.

              When AT&T first started throttling, it was supposed to be the top 5% of users, who apparently consumed something like 90% of the overall data. Now this seems to have come to serve another purpose.

              So, sue them [chron.com].

            • I agree that this is the definition AT&T wants to use, but it's not advertised as "uncapped," it's advertised as "unlimited." Throttling is limiting. I'm sure there are many synonymous ways you could define "bandwidth throttling" which doesn't include the word "limit," but by reducing the available bandwith, you are limiting. Something which is limited cannot be called unlimited.

              To be completely and utterly pedantic, I feel the need to point out that it's not advertised at all. They don't still sell the "unlimited" package, it's a legacy package that people who were subscribers to another carrier were grandfathered in on when they took it over. It was advertised as "unlimited", and for a while it was "unlimited", but this is not a service they still sell.

              It's also worth mentioning that I have not seen their contract in writing, so I have no idea how they define "limiting". It could

              • by nahdude812 (88157) *

                They don't still sell the "unlimited" package, it's a legacy package that people who were subscribers to another carrier were grandfathered in on when they took it over.

                I'm still on an AT&T "Unlimited" package. It was sold to me BY AT&T in an AT&T retail location. It is the reason I switched to AT&T in the first place. Over time this definition becomes increasingly strained.

          • Not the way I read it. You want to sell me unlimited data, it'd better be unlimited. As in, no limits at all. Not "no limits on the amount". I'm talking "no limits on the amount, no limits on how you use it, no limits on how fast you can use it."

            Otherwise, you'd better stop calling it unlimited.

            • by snowgirl (978879)

              Not the way I read it. You want to sell me unlimited data, it'd better be unlimited. As in, no limits at all. Not "no limits on the amount". I'm talking "no limits on the amount, no limits on how you use it, no limits on how fast you can use it."

              Otherwise, you'd better stop calling it unlimited.

              I want to be able to access the internet as it will exist in 5 years, and if you can't provide it, then that's a limit, and by golly, I'm going to sue you for providing an unlimited plan that is limited by the rules of physics.

              People need to get over this shit, the "unlimited" was always restricted to the amount of data that you can download, and I've known this for years. But so many people seem to be taking this approach of, "I can distort your words to mean something that you never promised, and since I

              • by Talderas (1212466)

                >

                People need to get over this shit, the "unlimited" was always restricted to the amount of data that you can download, and I've known this for years. But so many people seem to be taking this approach of, "I can distort your words to mean something that you never promised, and since I never got it, I'm upset, and going to threaten to sue you!"

                It's no different that W=VA except that it's D=BT for Data, Bandwidth, and Time. The indignation stems from AT&T advertising unlimited D then restricting how much B you get. That in turn directly impacts the max potential for D and that is where people are getting confused. D is still unlimited. There's no limitation on how much D you can get other than how much T you're willing to spend to get it. Of course there is a maximum D which can be obtained based on T.

        • by edgr (781723)
          Exactly this happened in Australia with fixed-line broadband. ISPs offered 'unlimited' plans, in small print noting you get throttled after a certain figure. They got smacked down by the ACCC (the government consumer watchdog) and now plans are either "x GB - throttled" or "x GB - $y/GB excess fee", or genuinely unlimited.
      • by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:32AM (#39245757)
        There is something inhertly wrong with an unlimited plan that is not unlimited. It's not about what is enough and what's not enough for most customers, it is simply that in this cases some customers are beind decieved ( because they expected to recieve something they were offered), to remedy this issue is to just don't call it unlimited. No one is forcing them to offer unlimited plans!
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by AgentSmitz (2587601)

          There is something inhertly wrong with an unlimited plan that is not unlimited. It's not about what is enough and what's not enough for most customers, it is simply that in this cases some customers are beind decieved ( because they expected to recieve something they were offered), to remedy this issue is to just don't call it unlimited. No one is forcing them to offer unlimited plans!

          Generally, you cannot walk into a restaurant and just eat for as many days as you want, even when they advertise unlimited buffet. There are expected limits to unlimited offerings, and considering the state of the mobile network, it's not that surprise.

          • I agree, If I have a 10Mb/s connection my theoretical limit is 25Tb per month. I don't think I will ever reach that limit. But the issue is that if my company offered me an unlimited connection, then it is not logical for them to say I used to much if it was more than 100Gb in one month. The problem is not with the limitation with the network, the problem is with the naming of the service.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:02AM (#39245877)

              No, capping the monthly data volume is not fine. The total amount of data is not a cost to the provider. The cost of the network is determined by the maximum concurrent data transfers, i.e. peak load. You can construct the network for the minimum speed that users will tolerate at peak times, but no less. That is your cost driver. If you cap the total amount of data per month, the first to go is the bulk downloading, which is not timing sensitive and much more evenly distributed than typical "must have on the mobile" usage. In other words, caps are mostly ineffective at reducing a network operators costs.

              So why are caps used anyway? It's price-gouging. Caps are not meant to reduce costs, they're meant to increase earnings per customer. If you accept caps, you have already accepted the price gouging. How they call the service is irrelevant. Suppose they stop advertising "unlimited" plans and start advertising "one price, no matter how much you use".

              • The rare AC comment worthy of mod points...not that I have any, of course.

                I agree, the whole cap bullshit is just their way to squeeze out a new revenue stream, now that something like 50% of adults are rolling with smart phones these days, the days of unlimited anything are fast coming to a close. They don't have to entice people to dump their dumb phones and switch as much anymore, so now it's time to start gouging those that did by figuring out the most efficient way to bill them for the maximum amount

          • by flimflammer (956759) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:23AM (#39245973)

            I disagree. You're trying to rationalize away the definition of unlimited with a poor analogy. An all you can eat buffet is not advertised as "unlimited". Usually plainly just "all you can eat". It becomes obvious after a certain point you cannot eat anymore. That is your limit. They are not offering "all you can eat for the next week/month/year/lifetime", but for your current meal. So if you're sitting there after having pounded down several plates of food, they're perfectly within their rights to ask you to leave since they satisfied their end of the bargain.

            AT&T once upon a time did offer completely unlimited bandwidth. It was of course at a time when there was very little to consume while mobile so if anything, it was little more than a marketing strategy. The problem came when there was a boom in mobile internet activity, where people had a reason to consume copious amounts of bandwidth. They realized they could get far more money by removing the unlimited plans and moving to tiered plans. Their "unlimited" plan outlived its usefulness and they've been trying to remove and cripple it as much as possible to get everyone grandfathered out of it.

            It is, however, and always will be shady to still claim something is unlimited if it is inherently not. No amount of rationalization of "expected" or "obvious" limitations will ever change that. If you're offering a finite resource, do not claim it's unlimited with an asterisk explaining the limitations. Offer the service with a proper name. We should not be tolerating this sort of false advertising.

            • by AnttiV (1805624) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:35AM (#39246277)

              [clipped]

              It is, however, and always will be shady to still claim something is unlimited if it is inherently not. No amount of rationalization of "expected" or "obvious" limitations will ever change that. If you're offering a finite resource, do not claim it's unlimited with an asterisk explaining the limitations. Offer the service with a proper name. We should not be tolerating this sort of false advertising.

              I have to disagree on this, to a point. Namely, I'm willing to let my current subscription to be called unlimited, with asterisk explaining limitations. No, don't yell at me yet, let me explain.

              My current plan let's me download unlimited amount of data each month, no throttling, no caps. This truly is unlimited, but with an asterisk. See later.

              My plan also doesn't cap my bandwith, at all, ever, but allow unlimited downloading each month, for the whole month. That, also, is truly unlimited, but with the aforementioned asterisk.

              Okay, see here. The asterisk: Please note that these are limited with the current technology. The network available here is limited by the hardware and infrastructure to about 15-20Mbps, theoretical. It usually sits anywhere between four and twelve. So the amount of data, while unlimited in the meaning that no company limits your downloads, is still limited to a finite amount by limits in the hardware of the network and the device you are using. You cannot download 34579823475 TB of data each month, since the devices you own and the network provided are physically incapable of such speed that would be required for that amount of data.

              If the company who sells the product/service to me does not intentionally limit the use in any way, I'm fine for them to call it "unlimited", even if it comes with an asterisk explaining the limitations of the underlying system.

              • Exactly.

                There are limitations inherent in the system (natural limitations, if you want to call 'em that), and then there are "artificial" limitations imposed by a carrier.

              • by Muad'Dave (255648)

                So the amount of data ... is still limited to a finite amount by limits in the hardware of ... the device you are using.

                What happens when the cell provider 'updates' your phone to limit the transfer speed to 'prevent overheating' or to 'increase hardware reliability'?

                How do you know they don't already impose artificial limits on the transfer speed that lower the effective rate below the phone's native capabilities?

              • That is the one circumstance I agree with using the phrase unlimited, since they're offering everything they have. It's not so much the asterisk that I have a problem with, but the conditions tied to that asterisk. "Unlimited bandwidth* *3GB cap, further bandwidth will be neigh unusable" is not unlimited. It's a bold faced lie.

            • by mapkinase (958129)

              >It becomes obvious after a certain point you cannot eat anymore

              1Mbyte/s=2,500,000 Mbytes/month

              Your analogy would work only if a visitor to the aforementioned buffet (you must be hungry - I have no other reasonable explanation for your absurd analogy) can consume 1000 goat karahis at a time.

              For those who does not get it:

              1Mbyte/s=2,500,000 Mbytes/month

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:42AM (#39245799) Journal
        One of the important prerequisites for a free market is informed customers. I have no problem at all with ISPs providing caps. If everyone saturated their connections 24/7 then they would not be able to provide the service, and the cost of actually providing that amount of bandwidth to everyone would be far greater than most customers are able to afford. The problem is not the capping, it is misleading advertising. If you are going to offer 5GB per month, advertise 5GB per month. If you are going to offer 50GB per month, advertise 50GB per month. If you are going to deploy a transparent proxy that resamples images, specify that. If you are going to block access to certain sites, or only permit HTTP traffic, don't say that you provide Internet access. Tell people exactly what service you will provide and allow potential customers to decide whether they think it is worth what you are charging.
        • by Tx (96709) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:23AM (#39245963) Journal

          Unfortunately, even when they are up-front about their bandwidth management policy, sometimes they make it so complex that it's still hard to know if you're complying. Check out the policy [virginmedia.com] for my ISP, Virgin Media. Props to them for publishing the policy, although you do have to keep checking that it hasn't changed while you weren't looking. But give me a break - two different periods during which traffic is metered, one including an upstream cap, one not, with different levels in each. Plus separate DPI-based management of P2P "between 5pm and midnight on weekdays and midday and midnight on weekends". And if you do exceed one of the caps, they throttle you to 25%, which would be fine, except that however they've implemented that throttling, it makes your connection almost unusable. Download a game from Steam at the wrong time, and you might basically lose the ability to stream video from the web for the rest of the day. Fun.

          • Forces you to go with their XXL package of 50mb. I don't have fibre right now but I will soon. I will need to get the 50mb package, to avoid throttling (they still throttle P2P but there is no download threshold like the other packages), even though I cannot actually get 50mb speed (probably tops out at around 40). Thats the only way unfortunately. It used to be 20mb was the highest and that was unlimited. Traditionally, VM's best package is the only unthrottled one.
        • by mapkinase (958129)

          >One of the important prerequisites for a free market is informed customers

          No. Informed customers is a result of regulation of a free market.

          Free market is when somebody sells you a snake oil and you are responsible for figuring out if it is snake oil or not.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        This is just the same bullshit which reminds me that the word is "nigga" not "nigger" and only black people can say "nigga" so don't even try it. "Unlimited" means there is no limit in the same way that "nigger" is an obscene, derogatory and abusive word. But, if somehow a different party uses the word, it's "okay" especially when they redefine the whole meaning of words for the purpose of causing confusion.

        It's okay... dat's AT&T ma nigga!

        I'd like to see AT&T's upstream provider start to put limi

    • by gsslay (807818) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:32AM (#39245755)

      It's not the plan that's the problem it is the entire concept, which is based on a logical impossibility.

      So how much longer are ISPs going to be allowed to use this lie when promoting their products? It's not even misleading, it's a plain falsehood. Very little in life is "unlimited". We live in a world of limited resources. No company can sell you "unlimited" anything.

      Or are we witnessing a lexical change to the language where "unlimited" merely means a vague "lots"?

      • Reminds me of my first web host back in the 90s, crosswinds.net. Free unlimited storage and unlimited data transfer -- the only catch being you had to upload through a browser interface that required files to be less than a couple megabytes, took forever, crashed half the time... and then the site would be down for power outages every weekend. "Unlimited" is something I try to avoid.
      • "Unlimited" here means "without artificial limitations." At least that's what it used to mean when they first advertised it.
      • Well, without getting into the problem where "bandwidth" isn't the same as "data transferred", bandwidth in my mind describes a bit rate, not amount of data transferred, even unlimited has a theoretical limit.

        If a mobile customer transfers data at say 1.5 Mbps (assuming that is their speed) continuously for 1 month then that would be a theoretical limit to what "unlimited" would be, my quick calcs show that to be 486 GB.

        I've heard that comcast has a threshold of 200 GB a month or so. THAT could be a pr
    • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:35AM (#39245773)

      They don't offer one. But they have grandfathered old unlimited plans so as not to piss off existing customers. It's a strange idea, though, because anyone still with AT&T at this point is already a certified masochist.

      • "But they have grandfathered old unlimited plans so as not to piss off existing customers" - and are pissing off those same customers by limiting them ..?

    • by jonwil (467024) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:40AM (#39245793)

      Better yet, get rid of the ridiculous idea of "data plans" in the first place. Charge users a certain per-megabyte fee on their bill for the data they use and offer them the option to pre-purchase data per-gigabyte at a discount.

      • Charge users a certain per-megabyte fee on their bill for the data they use and offer them the option to pre-purchase data per-gigabyte at a discount.

        Which would be different than the current tiered (non-unlimited) dataplans... how, exactly?

        Did you mean "cut off the service when the cap is reached instead of assraping the customer with overage charges?" If so, then good luck with that. These guys are certified bastards.

        • by jonwil (467024)

          I meant eliminating the data plans completly (including the requirement to buy one because AT&T thinks your phone is a "smartphone") and replacing it with the ability to buy data in 1gb blocks at a discount to the normal per-megabyte price. In particular, there wouldn't be a hard limit on how many of these data blocks you can buy.

        • It's easy - just do what ISPs do in many other parts of the world. You have a monthly subscription fee and a monthly cap. The better plan you're on the bigger the cap and better value-for-money you get, but the more money you pay overall.

          If your cap isn't enough for the current month you can top up at a rate that's better than the price-per-gig that you pay for the cap on your plan but not quite as good as the more-expensive plans. That way you are encouraged to upgrade your subscription if you go over your

      • by Mitreya (579078)

        Better yet, get rid of the ridiculous idea of "data plans" in the first place. Charge users a certain per-megabyte fee...

        That would not benefit the provider, so that won't happen
        The beauty of tiered plans is that everyone overpays. You either pay for stuff you don't use (like on those months when you don't use 3Gigs or whatever your tier is), AND you get the privilege of paying a ridiculously high price for going over limit ($10/1G, seriously?). Naturally, they encourage you to plan high, pointing out that over-plan costs are very high.
        And since humans lack the capacity to predict their monthly usage, EVERYONE overpays -

      • by jackbird (721605)

        That might make people start wondering why voice data is so special as to require comparatively exorbitant prices to transmit.

    • I have an unlimited 3G plan with Verizon Wireless for my smartphone, and this made me curious. Verizon has a nearly identical throttling policy: http://goo.gl/RIXbF [goo.gl]
    • by camperslo (704715)

      The U.K. and E.U. do a god job with truth in advertising. Why can't the U.S.too? Maybe if we ban paid radio t.v. political ads (stations running only as much non-paid balanced public affairs programming as they choose), we would not have so many elected officials selling influence through those corporate campaign contributions.

    • "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
  • run a data counter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khipu (2511498) on Monday March 05, 2012 @06:22AM (#39245719)

    In my experience, AT&T doesn't even deliver the data I bought. So when they throttle you at 3Gb, they may actually be throttling you at 1Gb (the difference is far larger than what can be explained by network overhead). Run a data counter on your phone to see what is actually going on, and compare that with the data they claim you used.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      This sounds very similar to the old usage caps when they were first introduced in Australia. 3GB of download? Hell no mate, we'll count your uploads too. In reality you get about 2.2GB of downloads if all you're doing is heavy use of the web. Skype? Peer to Peer? Nah you'll never see 3GB of data come your way.

  • is there a bandwidth cap on these networks or is it what can the device (phone) muster ?
    I've never seen the logic in capping usage as something that can prevent congestion. if all hell Should breaks loose at a given time in the day it will caps or no caps (especially for a conventional ISP). One can argue that the diffidence with cellphones is that ppl always have them and if there were no caps everybody will use them. but I think that ppl have better things to do during the day to just watch videos on
  • by PARENA (413947) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:09AM (#39245915) Homepage

    I live in Finland and I can't understand what is going on in all those countries where they start charging more while giving less. I wanted to get an extra set of text messages in my mobile package. So the guy looks at my info and says "I see you have the '500 minutes + 100 text messages' package and a 3G package on top of that. Let's improve on that." The result was that I have those 2 packages for the price I used to pay for just the minutes+texts. Making my 3G (1/3rd of the price of the old agreement) 'free', really. And there's no data limit. Maybe it's the advantage of having a 'large' country with a big network, but very few people.

    • by cpghost (719344)

      I live in Finland and I can't understand what is going on in all those countries where they start charging more while giving less.

      That comes with network congestion... or more precisely with congestion of the RF spectrum: more and more users are competing for a larger and larger chunk of what amounts to a finite resource. Maybe Finland's RF spectrum isn't congested yet as that of other countries?

    • Finland has Nokia and just across the border there is Ericsson. This means that the local telephone companies get to test a lot of new networking hardware before it goes into mass production, which lowers their costs. The problem in much of the rest of the world is that phone companies sold data plans for early smartphones that had tiny screens and could just about do web browsing if you had a lot of patience and just about managed email. An unlimited plan for one of these phones was well under 1GB - irr
    • The thing here in Finland is that usually the upload/download speed is limited, not the amount of data you can use. E.g. I'm Saunalahti-customer and they offer this mobile broadband-thing in various "sizes." The smallest one, the Mini, costs 4.99€ a month, has absolutely no throttling or data cap, but the speed is limited to 512KB/s. I think such pricing works great and there is absolutely no worries of going over the cap. Oh, and before someone asks: no, you're not required to sign a 2-year contract or anything, you can end the contract whenever you wish.

      That said I have full package myself; no caps, no throttling, and I can upload/download at full available speed. It still costs only 15€ a month, so it's still tens of times better than anything those poor Amercans are gettin'!

    • I live in Finland and I can't understand what is going on in all those countries where they start charging more while giving less

      Here is some clarification:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_v._Ford_Motor_Company [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please read until the end of the post, because I'm going to be in the minority here. Some posters say that AT&T shouldn't use the term "unlimited" if it means 3 GB. Another poster says they declare that you have reached 3 GB when approximately 1 GB has gone over the wire -- which cannot possibly be accounted for by network bandwidth. I'm about to express a minority view here, but I will tell you why I'm doing it so please read to the end.

    The minority view is: AT&T has a fiduciary and legal obliga

    • by alen (225700)

      Most people I know with a smartphone use around 1gb. No one cares about your revolution

      At&t wants you to go to sprint to kill them off

  • REally? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:33AM (#39246005) Homepage

    "The magic number is 3GB, which conveniently happens to be the maximum amount of tiered bandwidth AT&T will sell you."

    that's funny because I am paying for 5Gb from them. It's available on the website and at any location. Sounds like the article writer did not know anything about it's data plans.

    Yes you can get a business 5GB data plan on your phones, and it had better be outside that 3Gb data cap or they are refunding a lot of money.

  • by guitardood (934630) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:50AM (#39246077)

    They knowingly and willingly over sold their infrastructure (bait) and now that customers are trying to use the service they signed up for, their service is being throttled (switch). Period.

    The real truth here is that they offered services which they knew they could not provide and rather than do the correct thing and increase their infrastructure capacity, they opted to increase shareholder profits and to purchase the other smaller companies who were coerced into selling selling off their business for lack of ability to compete with the unlimited plans. Now that they have a large percentage of the market share, their strategy is to punish the customer that they probably wouldn't even have if it was not for the unlimited plans. Basically they gambled that customers would not utilize the service and lost. However, unlike when we get our pockets emptied at a casino, they're somehow able to pawn their losses on the customers.

    I couldn't imagine a more clear example of a ponzi scheme than this.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      They knowingly and willingly over sold their infrastructure (bait) and now that customers are trying to use the service they signed up for, their service is being throttled (switch). Period.

      Keep in mind that by now the grand-fathered plans are probably expired and are month-to-month at this point. I don't know that they guaranteed to provide unlimited bandwidth to their customers in perpetuity...
      And even if they weren't month-to-month, anyone would be able to break that contract due to provider pushed changes.

  • Vodafone finally has started to put simple clear limits on its dataplans, granted this is pure data (tablets, laptop) but at least you know what you get. Two years sees the first year for half the price, so it is in reality 75% of 47.50 with either a cheap dongle or wifi/3G modem for "free". 19% sales tax is included in the price.

    Net result, roughly twice the data for the same price. But no sign of LTE so far in Holland.I suppose one way or another, you get what you pay for. In Holland the competition is ra

  • Bandwidth != Usage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kbolino (920292) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:08AM (#39246471)

    The magic number is 3GB, which conveniently happens to be the maximum amount of tiered bandwidth AT&T will sell you.

    BANDWIDTH is the RATE at which bits are transferred.
    USAGE is the AMOUNT of data that has been transferred.

    After 3GB of USAGE, AT&T will limit your BANDWIDTH.

    I'd expect this kind of confusion on CNN, but Slashdot?

    • I'd expect this kind of confusion on CNN, but Slashdot?

      Like everything else on the Internet, Slashdot exhibits regression toward the mean.

    • You are wrong. Bandwidth is a correct term for describing the 3GB cap, because it's not a 3GB absolute cap, it is a cap of 3GB PER UNIT OF TIME. Which as you point out, is a RATE of usage. And so BANDWIDTH is the correct term.

      It's a rate averaged over a span of time, rather than an instantaneous rate, but it's still a rate, and therefore, it's perfectly correct to call it a bandwidth cap. 3GB/MONTH or 100Mbit/s or 9600bits per second--a unit of information divided by a time is a bandwidth.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:24AM (#39246603)
    The majority of the "profit" telcos make is from their business clients. Residential customers are not profitable at all. The only reason they care in the least about resi customers is because, in order to own the territory you have to service both. What little money they do make in the residential market is usually due to large government subsidies, like Obama's recent DSL expansion project. And trust me, all that money went strait into the bank. The telcos just listed projects they had already had on the books in planning for years, and then collected the money. Thank you uncle sam.
  • when AT&T first started their unlimited data plans, 5gb was their limit. data caps are limits, and the definition of unlimited is without limit. so AT&T has been lying through marketing since day 1. recently a supreme court judge stated that consumers should expect hyperbole from the marketing they read, so one cannot bring charges against company's false claims. after giving corporations all the rights of citizens but not requiring any of the responsibilities, I would expect no less from the cabal

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