AT&T is offering to double customer's data on certain plans without charging them anything extra. That sounds like a good deal, right? On the surface it seems that way. Free data is good data, and who doesn't love free stuff? The problem is that AT&T doesn't think its network can handle it. They are throttling existing subscribers that have unlimited data plans in order to give new subscribers un-throttled data access.
Just like Verizon, AT&T is throttling their unlimited data customers. They aren't targeting all heavy data users, only those that have "legacy unlimited data plans." AT&T's unlimited data plan has never been truly unlimited. They've had it in their terms and conditions to throttle or cut off data access after 5GB, even though the plan is supposed to be "unlimited." As of July of this year, AT&T says that they only throttle these customers when the network is congested. According to AT&T's website in June, they reserve the right to throttle only their unlimited customers whether the network is congested or not. They actively encourage unlimited data plan subscribers to move to current tiered data plans.
The problem with this situation, just like with Verizon's throttling that we covered back in July, is that unlimited data plan users are being unfairly targeted. A commenter on DSLReports put it this way: "You see, when you use data on a Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plan, that's called "congestion", so you're throttled at 5 GB to EDGE-like speeds to "prevent" it. Note this "congestion" doesn't occur when you double a shared 15 GB data plan to 30 GB, or a 20 GB plan to 40 GB, or a 30 GB plan to 60 GB, or a 40 GB plan to 80 GB, or a 50 GB plan to 100 GB. It doesn't occur if you let both new and current customers keep this "doubled data" in perpetuity, or at least until they change their plan. No, "congestion" only happens with Unlimited Data Plans throttled at 5 GB. What a farce."
AT&T can and will throttle their "unlimited" subscribers even when they're using less data than those customers on newer plans. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was not happy when Verizon did this last summer. Let's see if he actually does anything about it now that AT&T is doing the same thing.