iPhone user successfully sues AT&T over 3G throttling

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014


In a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone's download speed due to high usage was awarded $850 on claims that the telecom's throttling measures are unfair to consumers.



Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unlimited data plan users' bandwidth speeds, reports the Associated Press.



The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T's smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.



The nation's second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T's tiered options.



As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple's handset and smartphones running Google's Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of "heavy users."



An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.



In Spaccarelli's case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T's network costs $30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run $20, $30 and $50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.



According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.



In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.



The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for $85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.





Sample of AT&T's pre-throttle warning messages. | Source: Simple Mobile Review







In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.



AT&T's attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won't know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • alienzedalienzed Posts: 393member
    The Top 5% figure makes no sense, what if it's a slow month some regular user just happens to in that top 5%, it should certainly only affect users that are actually using a significant percentage of available bandwidth on a per region basis. Otherwise it's just stupid.
  • ka47ka47 Posts: 25member
    How would we even know our data speed was slowed???

    I have a horrible service, on top of it now I have to suffer slow data speeds.
  • luckywluckyw Posts: 4member
    "was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"



    So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.
  • unotherunother Posts: 40member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by luckyw View Post


    "was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"



    So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.



    Sounds like $85 per month but yes they should edit.
  • galaxytabgalaxytab Posts: 122member
    This is good news. Nice to see a win for the consumer.



    AT&T's throttling practices with their grandfathered unlimited users is BS and ruins the unlimited aspect of it.



    Who wants an unlimited supply of slow internet speeds?
  • crisss1205crisss1205 Posts: 61member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by luckyw View Post


    "was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"



    So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.



    It is $85 a month for the 10 months in his contract, so a total of $850 for the 10 months.
  • applezillaapplezilla Posts: 941member
    Great. The millions of grandfathered users should follow suit.



    I plan to.
  • lordjohnwhorfinlordjohnwhorfin Posts: 394member
    I got the throttling message at 1.5GB, however I'm nearing 5GB now and still don't feel any difference (in San Jose, CA) although a friend of mine in Oakland, CA told me his had become unusable. Hopefully this will make them think twice about actually throttling.

    I find it really galling that they essentially claim I'm bogging down their network at 1.5GB, while they have no trouble selling 3GB contracts -- so these users are not bogging down their network then? They're just scam artists, thieves and monopolists.
  • realwarderrealwarder Posts: 131member
    Legal fees of thousands of customer going to court will be painful, but most won't be bothered.



    I just find it amazing that a company is permitted to sell something as unlimited and then limit it.



    They need to be held accountable for honest marketing. Thieves and liars! What is this nation coming to.
  • slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,608member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post


    I got the throttling message at 1.5GB, however I'm nearing 5GB now and still don't feel any difference (in San Jose, CA) although a friend of mine in Oakland, CA told me his had become unusable. Hopefully this will make them think twice about actually throttling.

    I find it really galling that they essentially claim I'm bogging down their network at 1.5GB, while they have no trouble selling 3GB contracts -- so these users are not bogging down their network then? They're just scam artists, thieves and monopolists.



    How the hell do people use 5GB of 3G? I'm serious. Do you not have wifi at home? Do you stream videos all day? I've never hit 500MB, and I use it constantly outside wifi. Seriously, what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data? Do you not have shit to do, or just spend the entire day, wherever you are, looking at your phones?
  • kpodkpod Posts: 9member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by alienzed View Post


    The Top 5% figure makes no sense, what if it's a slow month some regular user just happens to in that top 5%, it should certainly only affect users that are actually using a significant percentage of available bandwidth on a per region basis. Otherwise it's just stupid.



    I actually got one of those dreaded high-usage emails yesterday, and it made it clear I wouldn't get throttled over a single month of "top 5%" usage. So it's not quite as bad as THAT, but still.



    For a communications company you'd think AT&T would be better at, you know, communicating.
  • wigginwiggin Posts: 2,195member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post


    This is good news. Nice to see a win for the consumer.



    AT&T's throttling practices with their grandfathered unlimited users is BS and ruins the unlimited aspect of it.



    Who wants an unlimited supply of slow internet speeds?



    True, but is the contract for unlimited data amounts or unlimited data speed?



    I can see the need for throttling in extreme cases, but starting the throttling at such low levels is going way too far.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post


    True, but is the contract for unlimited data amounts or unlimited data speed?



    I can see the need for throttling in extreme cases, but starting the throttling at such low levels is going way too far.



    Or unlimited time. Surely even the dullest people understand that unlimited is defined as being a specific metric not all possible metrics.
  • libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,039member
    Well throttling is a bone-headed move by AT&T -- they should look at the data use over the entire time as a customer. i.e. if I am a customer since 2007 with the original iPhone, compared to all other users, how many days, weeks, months of those years have I used as the top 5% -- guaranteed in my case, the numbers would indicate that AT&T made money on me, and they can afford me doing top 5% once in a while because they have made their money on me over YEARS of low/average data usage!



    So much for common sense at the old phone company.
  • lordjohnwhorfinlordjohnwhorfin Posts: 394member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post


    How the hell do people use 5GB of 3G? I'm serious. Do you not have wifi at home? Do you stream videos all day? I've never hit 500MB, and I use it constantly outside wifi. Seriously, what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data? Do you not have shit to do during the day?



    You use it constantly to do WHAT, exactly? Play Solitaire?

    Streaming 128Kbps audio (like Sirius satellite radio) uses up 56MB/hour; Netflix at its lowest quality, 300MB/hour. You don't have to be a torrent junkie to use up gigabytes of data.

    I mostly stream Sirius during my commute, and I think that's completely within reasonable use and what I pay for and the bill of goods I was sold. There you go, maybe you learned something today and you'll go to bed a little less dumb than you woke up this morning.
  • daekwandaekwan Posts: 155member
    I stream Pandora to/from work during my commute. I also check facebook & email, play games, send 1000's of messages & pics via iMessage and watch quite a few youtube videos. The highest amount of monthly data I've ever used was 2.2GB.. and that was while I was biz travel to San Francisco for 9 days and I was using my iPhone's WiFi hotspot to play around 40 hours of Call of Duty Black Ops on my Xbox 360 that I brought along with me. My average use is around 1GB a month.



    While I cant personally understand how someone is using 5, even 10 or more GB's of data a month. Unlimited is UNLIMITED. Dont advertise it and do not call it that, if it is not. Even still I cant help but feel so sorry for these big telecom companies when I have no doubt 10GB's of wifi data costs them pennies.. literally.



    I hope two things comes from this. 1) That several 1000's of throttle customers sue AT&T in small claims court. 2) That AT&T (and Verizon/TMobile) change their stance on Unlimited data.. and keep it truly UNLIMITED. I believe Sprint is the only company that delivers truly unlimited data with no throttling.
  • phippsterphippster Posts: 16member
    I love NPR. I want to listen to a complete NPR episode which is available from iTunes as a podcast. I jump in my car for a ride and go to grab the podcast, just to be told I can't download it via 3G because it's over 20 MB. Isn't an unlimited plan unlimited -- why does AT&T or Apple have any say as to what I can download and do with my data plan?
  • gtrgtr Posts: 3,208member
    Great.



    Now bring on FaceTime 3G!
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GTR View Post


    Great.



    Now bring on FaceTime 3G!



    Coincidently just got a message out of the blue from a friend who JB his iPhone 4S and installed the app that allows FaceTime over '3G'. He said, "FaceTime on 3G is jerky." I know that he's in one of AT&T's best areas for fast data throughput, too. They simply haven't invested in priority QoS to all the service to be real time. I can't imagine them doing so unless Apple pays them in order to get ahead of competing video chat services. This may be different in other countries but in the US this is the case, and not just on AT&T.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post


    How the hell ... what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data?



    Data Hogs ruin it for everybody else. They make us pay higher bills and slow down our connections.
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