AT&T Punishes Subscribers by Throttling Modest Data Usages *UPDATE*

I woke up to a couple nasty grams from AT&T this morning via txt and e-mail that noted that I was in the top 5% of data users this month and I needed to use wi-fi to help avoid “reduced” 3G speeds.

I pay very close attention to my 3G data usage after every billing cycle and as you can see from the screen capture on the right, the last 3 months of my data usage is pretty average in my opinion. My data usage stems from the music subscription services I listen to while I’m the go (, TomTom, social media status updates, and the occasional youtube or web searching. When I’m home, my phone is configured to always switch to my FiOS wifi.

So, what do these txt and e-mail messages from AT&T mean to customers who are threatened not to use their phone for data over 3G or face consequences? Soon after you receive this initial message, you will be sent maybe 1 or 2 more messages reminding you about your usage, and a final message your data will now be throttled until the next billing cycle.

It’s really frustrating to be told that you’re using too much of a service when in fact I’ve proven my usage is fairly modest. AT&T recently announced new tiered data plans that offers 5GB + tethering for $50 a month, something that is compelling because of the tethering feature, but its at the cost of $20 more than what I pay today for my “unlimited data” at $30 a month.

*** update ***

I contacted AT&T customer support about the txt and e-mails I received, and I was told that if I switched to a tiered data plan then I would not be throttled. I explained that should I take AT&T’s advice and switch to the 5GB + tethering plan, then I would be consuming the same about of data that I’ve consumed since the start of my contract, which would be less than 5GB of data a month. I continued, why would switching to a tiered plan protect me from having my data usage throttled when my usage would be no different? AT&T rep couldn’t answer the question and simply repeated that AT&T does not throttle tiered plans. I responded and said, well, AT&T does not throttle tiered plans YET just as AT&T did not throttle unlimited plans when I signed my contract 2 years ago and now throttles them today. I continued, it’s probably just a matter of time until AT&T throttles tiered plans, too, so customers are bullied into more expensive plans only to be throttled by those data plans as well later. AT&T rep had no comment on the matter, but understood my frustration and noted that this was a new program they launched in November 2011. AT&T mentioned the reason why I fall into this heavy data usage category is because it’s based on my region. I said, I live in the DC metropolitan area where everyone carries smartphones with data plans, so why is my regional consumption the majority when I should actually be the minority? I closed the conversation with, unless you can guarantee in writing a tiered data won’t be throttled then AT&T’s actions will cause you to lose a customer that plans to switch to Sprint once iPhone 5 arrives. There I can join a network that offers unlimited plans without throttling honest contract binding customers.

Here’s a demonstration of what it’s like to be punished by AT&T when your data is throttled

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