It always feel unfair when major service providers invoke the fine print. Comcast's "unlimited" Internet packages actually come with a 250GB cap, for example--cross the line too many times and you could find extra fees tacked onto your bill. AT&T's managed to do something even worse to its mobile customers: some users with grandfathered unlimited data plans report that the carrier has begun throttling their data for being in the top five percent of unlimited data users.
The catch: some users reporting the throttling have only used 1.5-2GB of data. Those users pay $30 a month for unlimited data; under AT&T's new tiers, $30 is worth 3GB of data. Unlimited users are being knocked from 3G down to 2G data even though they're within the limits of one of AT&T's basic plans.
AT&T instituted its oh-so vague capping of the "top five percent" of unlimited data users in 2011, and there's still absolutely no way for its users to know when they might hit that threshold.
Here's the difference between Comcast and AT&T in the examples above: after instituting its 250GB cap, Comcast gave users a way to see how much data they'd consumed. AT&T instituted its oh-so vague capping of the "top five percent" of unlimited data users in 2011, and there's still absolutely no way for its users to know when they might hit that threshold.
And that's giving AT&T the benefit of the doubt: the company could be limiting users even when they didn't consume radical amounts of data. It's hard to believe that using 2GB of data in a month places you in the top five percent of AT&T's unlimited data customers. It's also absurd to label a plan as "unlimited," charge $30 for it, and then cap users when an equally priced plan allows them three gigabytes of data up and down.
AT&T has the right to control data on their network, but transparency is key. Without giving customers a way to track the elusive "five percent" cap, AT&T appear to be bullying customers into switching from unlimited plans to tiered data. Considering they've had months to make that kind of information available, perhaps they're being exactly as opaque as they want to be.