AT&T Is At It Again: Data Speed Caps

First they removed unlimited data plans for new customers, then the crackdown on tethering, now AT&T has a new weapon aimed at their loyal customers who are lucky enough to still have their precious “unlimited” data plans. It’s quite obvious that AT&T hates the fact that the unlimited data plan is still alive and kicking, so they are doing everything within their power to essentially blackmail people into one of their tiered data plans.

A few weeks ago, I received a text message and email from AT&T informing me of my high data usage. Here are some of the highlights:

High Data Usage Alert

Like other wireless companies, AT&T is taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data. We’re responding on many levels, including investing billions in our wireless network this year and working to acquire more network capacity.

As mentioned on a previous bill, we’re also taking additional, more immediate steps to help address network congestion and improve reliability. One of these steps involves a change for some customers who use extraordinarily large amounts of data in a single billing period – about 12 times more data than the average smartphone user.

For the current billing cycle, your data usage indicates you could be affected by this change. Here’s how it works:

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.

First, I have to say that I’m all for improving network reliability and tackling congestion problems. With the explosion in smart phone users and the ever increasing pool of data hungry apps, something had to give eventually. The problem I have is the way AT&T is going about addressing the deficiencies in their network infrastructure.

They attempted to just throw money at the problem by gobbling up T-Mobile and utilizing their existing towers. Now that that deal has collapsed, they are back to the good old tactic of screwing their customers.
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Out with Google Voice, iMessage to the rescue

Google Voice is a great way to supplement text message usage and cut down on the number of paid messages sent through your carrier, but it has its share of issues. After using Google Voice as my primary means of sending text messages for 2 months I had to switch back to standard text messages for a number of reasons.

Delayed and/or missed messages
On occasion I would get a text from a friend wondering why I never answered their previous text. My response would always be that I never received it in the first place. I would also receive messages saying “I’ll be there in 10 minutes” immediately followed by a phone call from them saying that they have been waiting for me for 15. In the age of instant communications, we depend on messages being delivered very quickly. GV just wasn’t good enough all of the time.
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AT&T eliminates $10 texting plan

In yet another ploy to get more money from customers, AT&T announced that they are getting rid of their 1000 message, $10 per month text message plan. New customers are now only given the choice between unlimited messages for $20, or a pay-per-text plan, which will cost you a ridiculous $0.20 per message.

I have no doubt that this is in direct response to users beginning to supplement their text message usage with other services. AT&T threw out some BS line about “streamlining” their plan offerings. They claim that a vast majority of their customers prefer the unlimited plan already. Maybe that’s because their pricing structure sucks since getting rid of the 200 and 1500 message options earlier this year, taking your number of options down from 4 to 3.

Now, with only 3 options remaining, someone had the brilliant idea to streamline things further. Yet, when I look at my available iPhone data options, there are eight different choices! I don’t see how they can try to spin this and make it out to be a good thing for the customer. Limiting your customers choices can never be a good thing for them. This is a decision based purely on greed and profit.
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The days of unlimited wireless data are numbered

Last year we saw AT&T eliminate it’s $29.99 unlimited data plan, and Verizon is now following in their footsteps. Both companies are allowing customers with existing unlimited plans to continue on as if nothing has changed. They are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, rather to avoid the flood of customers jumping ship due to a breach of contract. We are all aware of the pricey early termination fees you agree to pay when entering a 2-year contract with your cellular carrier. One of the few ways you can cut your contract short and avoid paying these fees is by cashing in on a little clause that states if changes are made to your original agreement, you can terminate your contract without being held responsible for the fees. Switching you from unlimited data to a metered rate plan would definitely qualify as a significant change to your terms. Disclaimer: please read your contracts carefully before calling your carrier and cancelling and getting hit with a huge bill.

The phone companies have one mission, and that is to maximize profits. When a mass change in data pricing occurs, you can bet your ass it is not to make the customers happy, but an effort to add to their profits. Phone companies offered unlimited data plans early on, when market penetration of smart phones was far smaller than it is today. Only a very small percentage of users were consuming enough bandwidth to be of concern. But everyone can see the upward trend in mobile data use.
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