AT&T Starts Threatening Heavy Data Users With Throttling

AT&T Starts Threatening Heavy Data Users With Throttling

Following AT&T’s announcement back in July that confirmed it would begin throttling heavy data users, the carrier has today begun sending SMS messages to those who are being a little too greedy to warn them that their speeds will be reduced.

The new policy isn’t actually due to take affect until tomorrow, however, a message uploaded to Reddit confirms that SMS messages are being sent out one day early. Only the top 5% of data users are being targeted, and the carrier hopes that by throttling speeds, users will consume less data.

AT&T’s initial announcement read:

Starting October 1, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users.  These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.  Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.

The plan will ensure that the heaviest users get the slowest data rates, while those who are more careful with theirs can enjoy the fastest speeds.

It’s unclear how much data you need to consume to make it into the top 5%, however, according to 9to5 Mac, the user who got the test message above had consumed a whopping 11GB!

Have you had a text message from AT&T yet?

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  • Mitch McKee

    Isn’t that the point of UNLIMITED data? So that you can use as much as you want?

  • Andrew Fitzgerald

    I’m so annoyed with AT&T.  

  • Skyler5949

    There not being greedy there using what they are paying for.

  • Skyler5949

    I love AT&T but build better infrastructure to support the usage.

  • AaronBushell

    I’d be interested in hearing how much usage people who are getting this message are using.  I’ve steadily increased my data consumption over the last two years from 500 mb the first few months to 1 gb and now I regularly consume 2-3 gb/mo.  No tethering, just downloading a lot of podcasts and videos and streaming music while I am at work.  I have not gotten the warning, but I’m interested if anyone else has.

  • harmo tend

    They all suck, and a Duopoly is no better than a monopoly. Tmobile and Sprint are barely relevant, and the regional carriers don’t matter at all.

  • Anonymous

    There will always be a top 5%.  How can there not?  Even if nobody exeeded 1MB of data/mo, there would still be a top 5% of users.  That statistic is useless.

  • edshouse

    Forget what the dictionary defines as unlimited. 

  • MacHead

    If youre using 11 gig of data on your damn iPhone you need to grow up. Its crapholes like this who refuse to get home internet and connect to wifi from 8pm til 7am. But the mass of commenting people will no doubt complain well whats unlimited for blah blah. Its not to bit torrent while you sleep to steal all 7 seasons of the office. Damn if people would just get home internet this whole bandwidth crap wouldnt be an issue! 3G data is for when you arent at home!

  • davester13

    It means AT&T can throttle anybody anywhere at any time.  You will always be in the top 5 percent of users for some area or group of people that AT&T can define unless you aren’t using data at all.

  • Abcnick

    it’s still unlimited data.  theyre just slowing down how fast you can get unlimited data.  I definitely don’t support it, but i just wanted to clarify that.

  • Mike Rathjen

    A reduced speed severely limits the amount of “unlimited” data you can obtain.

    Imagine winning an unlimited amount of money, but it’s doled out to you one penny per month. It’s not really unlimited money then, is it? It’s 12 cents a year.

  • TextmebiZnatches

    As an “unlimited” customer I now plan to make sure I use at least as much as the top 5%. I’m upset that I haven’t had the text already and will pursue this new goal with vigour in the future.
    Currently sitting at 7.5GB with 6 days of billing left. Wish me luck streamers. Viva la streaming revolution!

  • TextmebiZnatches

    What are you whining about?
    AT&T bill me $170 a month for two phones and you do t think I should be allowed to use as much data as I want? On top of a data plan they charge for texting?
    They should supply the infrastructure to support the billing model.
    Off to stream as much as I can, I will achieve my top 5% status.

  • Alexander530

    Here’s a message to AT&T
    “The number of your customers have reached its peak, causing your data and voice services to become unstable, and taking you to the #2 spot carrier in the US. Reduce activation of new accounts if you’re not able to accomodate customers’ needs to avoid being shut down. Thank you.”

  • Kent

    Should sue ATT for abusing the word “Unlimited”. They are just a liar.

  • Jason C

    Isn’t being on AT&T already the definition of reduced speeds?

  • minimalist1969

    “The plan will ensure that the heaviest users get the slowest data rates,
    while those who are more careful with theirs can enjoy the fastest
    speeds”

    And if everyone is “more careful” with theri data consumption the top 5% still get shafted.  Isn’t that convenient for AT&T?    This isn’t about vbansdwidth, its about creating a chilling effect on everyone’s data usage.   Either set a data limit or don’t.  This constantly moving target of the “top 5%” is a sleazy tactic to get all your customers to use less even though they pay you the same amount.

    Imagine if cops only pulled over the “top 5% fastest drivers”.  You’d never know what the speed limit was and you’d start driving slower and slower and slower.

  • Mitch McKee

    I’d disagree, especially considering Sprint is set up to start carrying the iPhone. And T-Mobile is really only dying because they were bought by AT&T, who their customers despise and don’t want to be associated with.

  • jdog25

    I wonder if the will do this the Nexus users because it comes with free tethering built in no Jailbreaking/rooting required so it is not against AT&T’s rules.

  • MacHead

    And have fun being slowed the F down by ATT, Since Dbags like you think streaming on your phone is a better experience than streaming on your aTV 2. Ill watch my netflix on my tv with my home internet and not have to worry about having my unlimited data messed with because i dont abuse the system. Unlimited does not mean unrestricted. Glad my speeds will do up when losers like yourself start getting throttled.

  • minimalist1969

    Don’t presume you understand other people and their data needs.  Number one,  its none of your business.  Number two,  even when only using 3G strictly while away from home its quite possible to rack up significant data.    I streamed Spotify to a car stereo on a recent 4 day road trip and discovered we used 1.75GB just during those days.  Yet I rarely go over 750MB during a regular month.   

    The point is that if AT&T or Verizon or whoever wants to cap unlimited plans then stop beating around the bush and cap them dammit.  Give us a number (2GB, 4GB, whatever) and give me the tools to manage my usage.   This “top 5%” is sleazy and underhanded and designed to do nothing other than scare all users into using as little as possible.  

  • Mos

    This is an absolute LIE.  Last month I received an alert that I was IN the top 5%, AFTER I had the phone data-disabled (on vacation) for over two weeks.  It only had 1 week data use when I returned and got the BS message.  This month my data usage is ONE HALF last month, and I received a warning that I am approaching the 5% again.  Time to switch to Sprint.

  • Goldenrod

    AT&T should just suck my dick and stop being a bitch.

  • Ezaske

    I just received the warning message and my data usage this month is well under 4 gigs. I normally fall into the 3-4 gig range each month. So it looks like the line is moving downward from over 10 to over 3.5 gigs.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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