It's clear AT&T wants its customers who were lucky enough to have the unlimited data plan, something they do not offer any longer, to switch plans to one of their tiered plans, and to facilitate this, the communications monolith announced it would start throttling the connections of the top 5% of bandwidth users.
Now, thanks to a post from AT&T customer John Cozen, the "top 5%" evidently refers to users who go over 2.1 gigabytes a month. Before Cozen's story, it is important to keep in mind that, to new customers, AT&T offers data plans that exceed 2 GB a month with no throttling.
So what gives in relation to Cozen's pathetic treatment from his service provider, aside from the fact that AT&T simply doesn't want their customers to have unlimited data plans? Before that, here's glimpse at Cozen's unfortunate dealings with the ubiquitous AT&T. We'll pick things up with Cozen's reply to AT&T's first, "well, you exceeded the cap" email:
Hi Patti, thank you for your message and attention to this matter. I am aware of the policies and procedures regarding the top 5% of data users on an unlimited plan. My concern remains that I am not actually in the top 5% of data users as I only used 2.1 GB of data before receiving the message. 2.1GB is not an exorbitant amount of data and barely exceeds the 2GB plan offered by AT&T. Please inform me as to what levels of data use generally cause an unlimited data customer to exceed the 5% barrier.
An excerpt from AT&T's subsequent response is incredibly telling:
To give you a baseline – the average data use across the country by the top 5% of AT&T smartphone customers was 2GB per month, effective August 2011. The amount of data usage of our top 5% of heaviest users varies from month-to-month and by market, based on the usage of others and the ever-increasing demand for mobile broadband services. To rank among the top 5%, you must use an extraordinary amount of data in a single billing period. It’s not how much time you spend using your device, it’s what you do with it. You can send or receive thousands of e-mails, surf thousands of Web pages and watch hours of streaming video every month...
It almost seems fitting to end that particular stanza with a "blah, blah, blah." The fact is, even though AT&T offers data plans that exceed 2GB a month, Cozen, with his 2.1 GB worth of bandwidth usage, put him that dreaded "top 5%" category," which doesn't seem remotely like fair and just business practices, something Cozen also pointed out:
It seems unfair that AT&T would throttle my data plan after 2GB of usage that costs $30/ month yet offers a 3GB plan at the same price with no throttling. As a loyal customer, this is extremely frustrating and feels unfair. I look forward to your response.
Naturally, AT&t's response to Cozen's follow-up was just a rehash of the "top 5% get throttled" nonsense, while completely avoiding his point about their current data plans. Instead, they invite Cozen to change his data plan, which is quite telling in relation to what AT&T's true desires are concerning those of us with grandfathered unlimited data plans.
In fact, that's who Cozen's story ends. There wasn't a "this was our mistake, so here's a refund for you because we were acting so obtuse about this" from AT&T. To illustrate this point even further, when Cozen finally received a phone call from AT&T's management team, again he was told to consider switching to a tiered plan, because, let's face it, AT&T does not want any of their customers to have -- or use -- unlimited data plans on their smart phones.
The question is, why is AT&T being so stingy with bandwidth as a whole? Even those who use AT&T's home Internet service don't get it on an unlimited basis, so again, what gives? Why is AT&T treating bandwidth like it's a dwindling resource? Does the lack of competition allow these communication giants to act with such impunity, because this is not an example of good customer service or support? Let us know what you think.