Nationwide carrier AT&T made a quiet revision to one of its policies this week over how it treats customers with grandfathered smartphone plans for unlimited data. Previously, those users had their data speeds throttled after exceeding either 5 gigabytes of LTE data or 3 gigabytes of 3G data within a month. The carrier would reduce customers’ data speeds regardless of how congested the network was at those times. AT&T’s revised policy now states in will only throttle unlimited data users during times or places with high network congestion.
The new language used on AT&T’s website indicates that the 3 gigabyte and 5 gigabyte limits still stand, but if an unlimited data customer is not using their phone during periods of peak congestion, they shouldn’t experience any data throttling. The updated policy text can be read in full below:
As a result of AT&T’s network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone or on a 4G LTE smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes (3G/4G) or 5 gigabytes (4G LTE) of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.
AT&T’s policy of throttling unlimited data users has spurred much controversy, even prompting an ongoing lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission. The carrier has denied any wrongdoing, but the FTC accuses the company of misleading tactics and reducing customer data speeds by as much as 90%.
Customers who experienced the throttling had to deal with speeds sometimes less than 0.5 megabits per second. Once they surpassed their 3- and 5-gigabyte limits, those throttled speeds would last for the rest of that monthly cycle, meaning users were paying for unlimited data but receiving nearly unusable speeds. The belief is that AT&T was basically trying to force customers to change from their grandfathered data plan to a more expensive tiered one in order to get decent speeds.