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AT&T Starts Throttling Heavy Wireless Data Users 158

tekgoblin writes "AT&T has started tossing out warnings for users that fall into the top 5% of data users on their wireless network. AT&T announced this change back in July and is now starting to actually enforce it."
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AT&T Starts Throttling Heavy Wireless Data Users

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  • By contrast, Sprint doesn't even offer an unlimited mobile data plan - not without a steep surcharge on data over the limit, for which, a reasonable-enough 5 gits monthly is the top - so, I don't suppose there could be much to complain about, for the AT&T customer.

    • by Gimbal ( 2474818 )

      Erm, gigs. 5 gigs, I mean. Pardon the slip, folks...

      • If you think about it, "gits" would be a pretty good shorthand for gigabits. I believe what your statement was referring to is gigabytes, which could be "gyts". A new standard is born?
    • Really? Because Sprint's latest advertisements [] seem to indicate that they won't throttle you, limit you, or charge you extra no matter how much you use.
      • by tycoex ( 1832784 )

        There's a limit if you use the wireless hotspot tethering thing.

        As far as using data on the actual phone there is no limit.

      • Well just hand me the dunce cap now, I had thought I was referring to Verizon though, for some reason, I wanted to say "Sprint" there. (Long night)

        It was not a consciously intentional matter of inaccuracy - as I feel I should note - though, I must admit, I didn't really enjoy some of the customer service I got from Sprint, before switching to Verizon. Well, then. Maybe it was a freudian slip of some bad press.

        I hadn't heard of the Sprint Unlimited plan, before - might consider switching back to Sprint, or

        • The one good thing about Sprint is that they attempt to make the best network. They don't always succeed, and their customer service is questionable (whatever you do, don't give them your bank account number. Give them a credit card number), but they do make that attempt.
      • Yes, for $80 a month, kind of pricey if you ask me...

        • Is it? How much SHOULD it cost to construct and maintain a cellphone tower network that allows unlimited access to everyone who pays? I really hope you have a reasonable basis for your claim, and you aren't just dreaming......
    • Last I checked, Sprint took out the 5 Gigs monthly limit from their terms and services, or are you speaking of their data-only plans (without voice)?

      • by Gimbal ( 2474818 )

        Strangely enough, I had meant to speak of Verizon, though I'd said Sprint instead. I'm still scratching my head about that, but I suppose it's a kind of "Freudian Slip." So, to correct my statement: Verizon, as far as I know, would still be applying the 5 gig cap they had, a few months ago. I've been out of the loop for a minute, as it were.

    • uhhh......
      Sprint's data plans are unlimited.

  • Perfect Plan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kuhnto ( 1904624 ) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @05:19PM (#37579448)
    There will always be a "top 5 percent", sot they will eventually throttle everyone to 0.
    • by pro151 ( 2021702 )
      I am sure your post was "Tongue in Cheek" but it actually makes sense. Especially the way most companies apply logic now-days.
    • by MrDoh! ( 71235 )

      Aye, never really got this. There'll always be a top 5%, and thus always a way to dump people until you get down to people who never use your service, but you can charge mad money. At what point do they stop getting rid of people who are paying to use their service and only keep customers who pay for, but don't use anything?

      • by xo0m ( 570041 )
        To answer your question - If I were in ATT's shoes, initially I'd declare the 'top 5%' rule and throttle those users until enough of them defect off my network. Once satisfied with how my customer base is behaving, I will continue to declare the 'top 5%' rule to deter my little darlings from acting naughty.
        • by xo0m ( 570041 )

          Forgot to add to the last sentence:

          ' deter my little darlings from acting naughty while not really throttling anyone.

    • Sense versus reference, and synchronic versus diachronic.

      So right now there is a group that is the top 5% of data users. They are the ones whose usage will be scaled back. Nothing about doing this implies that some other group who will later be the referent of "the top 5%" will also be affected. To illustrate, If I say that I am going to meet the judges of the Supreme Court, that can easily just mean I'm going to meet the 9 current judges; if there are successors, I don't also have to meet them in order

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        You could also meet people who are judging the Supreme Court, discussing the building's architecture, etc. and not meet any judges at all. This is why we need lawyers. On the other hand, this is why we should shoot lawyers.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      That's what I thought too when I read this news post.

      I think it's going to have a bad effect on their customer base. Guess who uses the top 5% - young people and geeks, people that are 'in the know' about technology and get asked for advice often. If you satisfy the top 10% of your customer base, the rest will simply follow, piss off the wrong types of people in your customer base and the rest will simply follow.

  • if they do this it should be only when you hit your cap and then no fee for going over and if you want full speed then bill the $10 per GB.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      By multiplexing download bandwidth through their cellular antennae, AT&T can support more customers unlimited service fee schedules, even though it means they are cutting your service quality in order to maximize their profits. Remember the old days when AOL was oversubscribing their modem banks in order to maximize its profit? Same thing...

      You have a smartphone that supports varible bitrate video, and the quality of the broadcast you paid to access will decrease when it makes sense for AT&T. It'll

    • They still have tons of unlimited data plans on their books. I'd bet money that 99% of the top 5% are people watching Netflix on an unlimited data plan.
      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        They aren't really unlimited though. If there are data limits then it's limited. I'm tired of the lying bastards calling it unlimited.

    • Some of us didn't give up our "unlimited" plans when AT&T nixed them. So, strictly in theory mind you, I don't have a cap.

  • This means that even if everyone uses less than their plan, someone is going to be in the top 5% and they'll get hosed. It would be better to throttle ANYONE who used more than their plan.

  • To tell me how awful and pathetic I am for wanting to get unlimited data on phone plans when the cost of the running the network is miniscule and the path to upgrade is littered with egotistical claims. Seriously, this isn't surprising simply because the telecommunications industry has had such a long-held monopoly they know of no other way to operate. Even now Verizon is attempting to sue the FCC over net neutrality while getting the very thing it requested (freedom to discriminate on the wireless side a

    • when the cost of the running the network is miniscule

      What makes you think the cost of running the network is miniscule? From what I've seen the equipment is expensive, the spectrum costs huge, and maintaining the network is not easy.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        Heh. That little gem made me laugh. I work for one of the big cellular companies, and we pay thousands of high-dollar-value engineers and programmers in an effort to make sure people can make a phone call when and where they want. That's after the billions we paid for spectrum, and after the many more billions we paid to site the cells.

        And every few years the technology changes, so we can't just get everything working and fix equipment failures - in the last ten years we've gone through two iterations o

    • by aix tom ( 902140 )

      FCC re-evaluates their rules and puts wireless internet access in the same boat as wired.

      Well, the FCC can regulate all it wants, but it can't change the laws of physics. You *can* easily double the bandwidth of a WIRED connection by adding a second pair of wires or a new line of fibre. Speeding up WIRELESS up is much more tricky and costly.

      • Well, the FCC can regulate all it wants, but it can't change the laws of physics.

        I know that, you know that, all of /. knows that. But does the FCC know that?

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        You *can* easily double the bandwidth of a WIRED connection by adding a second pair of wires or a new line of fibre. Speeding up WIRELESS up is much more tricky and costly.

        Why can't you just put up more towers and dial down the transmit power of each tower?

        • You *can* easily double the bandwidth of a WIRED connection by adding a second pair of wires or a new line of fibre. Speeding up WIRELESS up is much more tricky and costly.

          Why can't you just put up more towers and dial down the transmit power of each tower?


        • by nzac ( 1822298 )

          It probably is that simple in an open field where there are no bandwidth problems.

          In an urban environment due complicated paths to the phone (non line of sight) its a whole lot more complicated they are working on it in theory all the time.

          Also its say double the infrastructure cost (to double the bandwidth) which unless you want to double your monthly payments gets hard to justify to investors and CEOs.

          • Funny how it all devolves down to investors and capital and then this assumption that the vast profits they collect aren't subject to R&D or infrastructure improvements. Also for the record, the vast majority of our cellular traffic gets filtered back into the wired system for cost and efficiency reasons. Expansion of the network to support the traffic isn't as great an issue as the telecoms want everybody to think simply because there is no money in increasing internet data speeds or uncapping the li

            • by nzac ( 1822298 )

              How is that relevant to my post?

              My reply to what could be relevant: its a public company they don't put excess towers in just so they can keep the bandwidth cheep.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )

      To tell me how awful and pathetic I am for wanting to get unlimited data on phone plans when the cost of the running the network is miniscule and the path to upgrade is littered with egotistical claims.

      Actually, the libertarians area really big on property rights, so they're not going to have a huge problem with companies managing purchased spectrum in a way that makes them the most money. And what is "... the path to upgrade is littered with egotistical claims"? What does that even mean?

      I can only hope

  • Trickle down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Saturday October 01, 2011 @05:22PM (#37579470) Homepage Journal

    But the top 5% hoarding all of the resources is the most effective way to run a limited economy! They know the best use of those packets and can distribute them better than all those poor saps that use lower QoS queues. This unnatural regulation is going to strangle the health of the overall network and everyone is going to suffer SEVERELY! And it's all the current administration's fault!

    • by skine ( 1524819 )

      How has this been modded insightful? Is it just the four-digit ID?

      The concept of trickle-down economics simply has no analogue in this context. It is simply idiotic to compare bandwidth to money.

      It's more accurate to compare bandwidth to jalapenos. The vast majority of people buy them rarely, while a very few buy them often, where the number that each person buys is determined by how much they use. Unlike money, the vast majority of people will not increase the number of jalapenos they use even if they are

      • by DamonHD ( 794830 )


      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        How has this been modded insightful? Is it just the four-digit ID?

        This would be the part where you exclaim that the top premier 1% of UIDS garner more than their fair share of the moderator point economy. But instead by going off on a tangent on something completely unrelated, you have only reaffirmed the awesome responsibility of the top 1% UID community in collecting and directing the tone and flavour of Slashdot commentary. To imply anything else class warfare!

  • by cyberzephyr ( 705742 ) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @05:33PM (#37579526) Journal

    Until i read it and know i use landline :-)

  • To expect nothing to happened (yes their should be high cost plans). These users negatively effecting other users performance and expecting the other uses to subsidise them. There are other fixed cost associated with a monthly mobile account and taking on large amounts of data at the end for fixed cost while other small users pay a lesser but similar amount and don't overload the service. I am assuming that in some areas the system is being overloaded/oversold and I do think $10 per GB is excessive.

    I just d

    • by Pi1grim ( 1956208 ) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @06:44PM (#37579956)

      Hey. Those 5% of the users are trying to use what they bought. They paid fair and square for what was advertised as "unlimited plan". If provider is unable to hold his end of the bargain then there should be consequences for false advertising. The only one you are subsidizing is your wireless provider, not those 5% of the users that actually tried to use the service.
      Imagine someone rented you a room and said that you can use it anytime you want. And then you suddenly find out that it is rented to several other people are renting that same room and the witty landlord just decided to use the fact that all of you are at home at different times to sell rent it to all of you simultaneously. Who should you sue/roughen up, the other clients, that are "spending too much time in the room" or the landlord?

      • by nzac ( 1822298 )

        I assume you signed up to a contract that has fine print that allows them to change the terms at will. At least that’s what it appears to be.
        You got your months notice and here are you new terms, not saying I agree with it but it appears it's legal enough. Until someone finds find a way to change it you should expect that mobile companies in US can change your plan at will and especially wireless.

        Hey. Those 5% of the users are trying to use what they bought.

        Supposedly you were informed last month you were no longer buying full speed, if you just use the 2 gigs t

        • by saihung ( 19097 ) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @01:47AM (#37581718)

          A contract by its very nature is a set of terms by which two parties agree to exchange things of value. If one of those parties can change any provision of the contract at will, with no possibility for negotiation and no additional value provided in exchange for being able to change the contract terms, then it's not really a contract at all.

          The problem here is that AT&T has all of the cards. It can force me to abide by the terms of the contract no matter how onerous, can prevent me from accessing the courts when I have a grievance, and then has the power to change that very same contract that you and I have to abide by no matter what, on a whim. If that seems fair to you, then you must be an AT&T shareholder.

          • by nzac ( 1822298 )

            A contract by its very nature is a set of terms by which two parties agree to exchange things of value.

            I did not say it was fair in our country our government would possibly do something about it. Yes AT&T does have all the power due to voters still not understanding the true free market. But that said my take on a Phone contract is you get a cheep phone if sign up to pay them money once a month for 24 months with some freedom for both side to change the contract (say if i wanted more data less calls). Yes you were mislead but your contract probably only gave you 2Gigs and they have an open offer to let

  • As a BOFH (Score:3, Funny)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @06:07PM (#37579722) Homepage

    There are plenty of times when I'd like to throttle my lusers. Usually, though, I just solve the problem by changing the DNS resolution for their bank to a Russian phishing site, and following it up with planting some nice illegal content in their network share and calling the authorities when I "discover" it.

  • "Cellular" would be clearer than "wireless" in the /. headline; there's no ambiguity in the linked source. Yes, cellular is wireless but usually "wireless" connotes WiFi.

  • Comcast and a few other ISPs will throttle your account without disclosing that they're throttling you, let alone why.
  • They called it an "Acceptable Use Policy", except they never quite defined "Acceptable Use". In the end our consumer watchdog the ACCC come in and said either you define what "Acceptable Use" is and put it in the advertising or you open yourself up to lawsuits.

    I wonder what will happen here given the USA is in general a far more litigious society. How do AT&T's customers feel about using an unlimited service with a potentially completely unknown and moving upper limit that wasn't what they signed up for

    • We're litigious but it takes gross incompetence for a corporation to get anything more than a token fine and a "Now try not to do that in the future, please." When that corporation is big enough, it's more "I'm sorry I took time out from fondling your fun zone to give you a fine, now where was I?"

    • We're talking about a phone company that had a monopoly and abused customers badly and was broken up and which is now reforming and once again owns the vast majority of land lines in the USA. Indeed, its counterpart in Canada still does. Until this T-Mobile thing, every acquisition has been readily and speedily rubberstamped by this government, the one that has been going on for years and years now with different figureheads. It's all part of one drive, though, of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the we

      • We're talking about a phone company that had a monopoly and abused customers badly ...

        This is no different than Telstra who until the ACCC forced them into submission prevented ISPs from installing DSLAMs into their exchanges, charged them higher wholesale rates than their own ridiculously high retail rates, and at one time prevented competition over the 90% of the telephone lines it owned in this country (built by tax dollars mind you given how they used to be government owned) altogether.

  • They've been throttling data usage for several months already - this is not a new thing from them. They've been testing this for a while now. They offered an "unlimited" usage plan and then began throttling almost immediately after. I don't download movies or stream music - often it's messaging and looking up information. IOW data usage. The assumption it is "selfish" is ridiculous, and knowing there are ops who redirect people to phishing sites is inexcusable and predictably immature.

    At the end of the

  • This is old news to rural households in the midwest, whose only unlimited bandwidth option was AT&T before they slammed everyone onto metered plans. Never mind they're getting federal rural broadband dollars to supply flat-rate unlimited broadband to rural America. They should have to either hold up their end of the bargain or pay the government back the money they received, plus interest.
  • Perhaps I'm not quite understanding this, but is AT&T saying that a mere 5% of its customers (who we can pretty much assume are not all in one place) are able to use the network in such as way that it can bring it to it's knees, such that they need to throttle them back? Really? Mind you, any one of those 5% only have to get from their phone to a tower... ONE connection. After that, it's at least copper, right? So at any one cell point, these magical 5% are causing huge issues? Aren't our phones connect

  • So they're choking fat people on cell phones?!
  • I have a HSPA plan which includes a data-enabled SIM card for my phone as well as an extra SIM card + USB modem, all for 13,90€ per month. One of my friends doesn't have an own Internet connection so he uses my USB modem as his main connection. Last month my data transfer totalled about 64GB, although usually it averages around 15GB. Guess who cares? No one. And guess what? Speeds are still good, and there is no congestion on the network.

    This is a mostly artificial limit brought on by a monopolistic ma

  • I can understand how silly this seems to a lot of people from a lot of different points, but I see a positive at the end of my thought train.

    Instead of throttling all users or imposing limitations, they're allowing decent usage and simply issuing a kind warning to the top 5%, at THIS TIME, that they should think about alternatives to eating up so much of the distributed OTA bandwidth.

    What I'm getting at is that it's better to try and poke the heaviest users to put a little thought into finding another sourc

    • What I'm getting at is that it's better to try and poke the heaviest users to put a little thought into finding another source rather than instantaneously throttling all users as a means of being "fair".

      that makes sense if at&t was some sort of collective run by the users. it's not. it's a system where users pay at&t to provide a service. i don't give a rats ass about fairness. i care about getting the service i paid for. regardless of how much bandwidth i consume, it's not my problem that at&t sold a service they could'd provide. oh, and my bill says "unlimited data".

      i do understand this sort of thinking though ... this small subset of consumers wreaking havoc on at&t's network. however th

      • it's called reaping what you sow, and they've sown very little. they have a system where it only takes 5% of the users to use their maximum bandwidth (if that?) to bring down the network? that indicates a larger problem in the infrastructure.

        I'm with ya. Something that you and I know that a lot of people forget to take into account, however, is that there isn't a magic happy land where everything is exactly the way you want it to be.

        There is a bandwidth limitation because of the way EMR works. Until we can find technology that can have more users share the same frequencies in designated (or complete areas of) the RF spectrum, there is still an ability to abuse physics.... Unless, of course, it's logically limited, like most of the other carr

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