AT&T Throttling – AT&T loses Small Claims Case

Quick update on AT&T throttling unlimited users. AT&T customer Matt Spaccarelli took AT&T to small claims court over the issue and a judge in Simi Valley California ruled in favor of Matt, awarding him $850 and describing AT&T’s data throttling of unlimited customers as deceptive. The AP reports “That means thousands — and possibly hundreds of thousands — of people who feel abused by AT&T’s policy could seek to challenge the company, one by one, in arbitration or small claims court.”

I spoke with Spaccarelli about his case. He plans to post a kit designed to help others in our situation throughout the process of filing and winning a small claims suit against AT&T as well. Spaccarelli’s case sets a precedent in this issue and I intend to file against AT&T as well. Hopefully many others do too.

Adventures in Freemium – Seuss Band goes free today

To free or not to free, that is the question.

NimbleBit and Appy are successful devs releasing free to download games under the freemium model, where all revenue is earned through streams like in-app purchases, advertising placement or whatever makes sense today in the ever-changing digital marketplace. Many devs do this, I use them as examples because I’ve recently attended talks about their experiences in producing freemium apps.

This week Oceanhouse Media, makers of Dr Seuss apps and the company I’m fortunate enough to be working for, is taking the first steps into the freemium arena. We’re dropping the price of music game Seuss Band from $0.99 to free. I personally love the app and so does my friend’s 2 year old. I hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think.
Seuss Band now free
App Store link

AT&T Throttling Unlimited Plans after 2GB Data Use

The top 5% of data users in a region receive a warning text message as they approach the 5% threshold. I received a message during my last billing cycle, warning I was in the top 5% of my region and would experience reduced data speeds next time I reach that level of data use. I immediately checked my data usage on the AT&T iOS app.

2.1 GB. Less than I expected considering AT&T offers a 3GB plan for $30 a month. The same amount I’ve paid for the unlimited data plan since signing up with them many years ago. AT&T no longer offers an unlimited data plan, anyone still on it has been grandfathered in.

I also received a ‘High Data Usage Alert’ email from AT&T:

Dear JOHN COZEN, 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…

…You may also consider switching to a tiered data plan if speed is more important to you than having an unlimited data plan. Customers on tiered plans can pay for more data if they need it, and will not see reduced speeds.

Frustrated and concerned, I contacted AT&T support via email.

I received a message warning that I am in the top 5% of data users. I have an unlimited plan and my usage this month is only 2.1GB. I feel I have received this message in error as that is not an overly large amount of data. Please contact me with more information as to why I received this warning.

Thank you,
John Cozen

AT&T’s response

Dear John,

Thank you for contacting AT&T about your wireless service. My name is Patti M., and I will be more than happy to assist you with your inquiry regarding high data usage.

I understand your concern. I have researched your account and verified your bill cycle just ended, the notification went out on 1/21/2012, and your bill cycle closes on the 24th of each month, and starts over on the 25th of the following month.

Starting October 1, 2011, Smartphone customers with unlimited data plans began experiencing reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reached a level that put them among the top 5% of heaviest data users. We sent information about this to all of our unlimited data Smartphone customers this past August and will continue to notify customers ahead of time if their data usage approaches the top 5% of heaviest users. If a customer is impacted, they still use unlimited data and their speeds are restored with the start of the next billing cycle.
This change does not apply to the 15 million Smartphone customers on tiered data plans. Again, you will always be notified when usage approaches the top 5% of heaviest data users and before you experience a change in speed. This was designed to create a better service experience for all our customers who use data.

John, if you have any additional questions about your data usage, please respond to this email. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new email via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

Patti M.
eCare Customer Service Specialist
AT&T Business Solutions Customer Care

My reply

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.

Thank you,

A different AT&T rep responds

Dear John cozen,

Thank you for contacting AT&T again, about your wireless service. My name is Bonnie and I am more than happy to assist you today.

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 and not be in the top 5% of smartphone data users. However, streaming video apps, remote webcam apps, sending large data files (like video) and some online gaming are examples of applications that can use data quickly. Typically what puts someone in the top 5% is streaming very large amounts of video and music daily over the wireless network, not Wi-Fi. Using Wi-Fi to stream video and music does not create wireless network congestion or count toward your wireless data usage. You’ll see the biggest impact when you try to stream video or upload large files. Speeds will be reduced considerably with those types of data transactions, though you should still be able to check e-mail and browse the Web. Unfortunately I can’t provide a specific speed reduction gauge because it will vary based on a number of factors, like the time of day and the number of local customers. But it might be similar to the difference between dial up speeds vs. broadband speeds. Your unlimited data plan and current data package rates will remain in tact. The notification you received regarding this process is about the speed of data transmission, rather than amount of data allowance.

Mr. Cozen, if you have any additional questions about your data plan, please respond to this e-mail. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new e-mail via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

Bonnie Losh
eCare Customer Service Specialist

nope

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.

a third AT&T rep responds

Dear John Cozen,

Thank you for contacting AT&T about your wireless service. I understand your concern and frustration with our new Smartphone Data Plans. My name is Mysti and I am more than happy to assist you today with your inquiry.

While we understand your perspective on the matter, as indicated in the notice sent out on one of your prior bills, customers who currently have the unlimited Smartphone data plan will experience data speed reductions should their usage fall within the top 5% of Smartphone users on those plans, to provide the best network experience for all of our customers. Our tiered data plans do not suffer such data speed reductions, as you’ve pointed out; should you wish to avoid reductions to your data speeds, you are welcome to change to one of the tiered data plan options. Conversely, if you do not wish to change your data plan, you can utilize Wi-Fi without any data speed limitations. I do apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Mr. Cozen, if you have any additional questions about our currently offered data plan, please respond to this email. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new email via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

Mysti Lopez
eCare Customer Service Specialist

me again, clearly not satisfied

This is unacceptable and unfair. I signed up for an unlimited data plan at the agreed upon price and am now being throttled for exceeding 2GB of data while those on a 3GB plan paying the same price do not experience throttling. I remain upset and feel taken advantage of. Please escalate this issue to your supervisor, as a loyal customer I demand a fair solution. A fair solution would be throttling after 3GB of use. I look forward to a response.

rep no. 4

Thank you for contacting AT&T regarding your wireless service. I understand your concern that your data speeds may be throttled as you are in the top 5% of users at only 2.1 GB of usage. My name is Devina and I am happy to help you.

I have routed a copy of your e-mail to manager advising him that you would like a callback. He is out of the office for most of the day today, but you should expect a callback in two to three business days.

John, if you have any additional questions about our throttling policy, please respond to this email. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new email via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

Devina H.
eCare Customer Service Specialist

a few days go by and no manager calls

I have not yet heard back from a manager about this issue as promised. As you know I am very frustrated and upset that my unlimited data plan is being throttled after only 2.1 GB of usage, especially considering I pay as much per month for data as someone on a 3GB plan and have been a loyal customer for many years. I demand satisfaction in this issue if my family and I are are to remain AT&T customers. Please reiterate my stance to your manager. I expect prompt assistance with this matter.

Sincerely,
-John Cozen

fifth rep

Thank you for contacting AT&T about your wireless service. My name is John and I am more than happy to assist you today with your inquiry regarding data throttling.

Thank you for your reply. I have just spoken to my manager. He says he is going to work on his call backs starting tomorrow. He told me to tell you to expect to hear from him by Friday.

John Cozen, if you have any additional questions about data throttling, please respond to this email. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new email via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

John L.
eCare Customer Service Specialist

No call by 6PM Friday

Hi John,

Thank you for your attention to this issue. It is now end of business day Friday and I have not heard from a manager as promised. This is my fourth contact attempt regarding this issue.

As you know I am very frustrated and upset that my unlimited data plan is being throttled after only 2.1 GB of usage, especially considering I pay as much per month for data as someone on a 3GB plan and have been a loyal customer for many years. I demand satisfaction in this issue promptly if my family and are are to remain AT&T customers.

Sincerely,
John Cozen

Rep no.5, John L. responds

Dear John Cozen,

My manager apologizes but had some calls ahead of you. He told me to tell you that he will be calling you this evening before 9 PM.

John Cozen, if you have any additional questions about data throttling, please respond to this email. If you have a question about another issue, please send us a new email via the Contact Us link in the lower left-hand corner of your myAT&T account. Thank you for choosing AT&T; we appreciate your business.

John L.
eCare Customer Service Specialist

Around 9 PM Chris calls. He’s very understanding but unfortunately there’s nothing he can do about it himself. This kind of claim is handled by a special department and he will pass on all my concerns to them. Chris suggests switching to a tiered plan so I won’t be throttled after 2GB of use.

I don’t know what AT&T thinks they’re doing here. I’ve experienced nothing but excellent service over the years up until this fiasco. I wonder how people are liking Verizon these days. Feel free to follow my updates on twitter.