Jul 29 AT 12:22 PM Alberto Vildosola 65 Comments

Rumor: AT&T will soon slow down the top 5% most data hungry users (Update: Confirmed)


I have some bad news for all you AT&T (and possibly T-Mobile) customers out there. According to some rumors, Ma Bell will soon start to throttle the top 5% customers who use the most data. Supposedly, you can expect this bandwidth throttling to go into effect this October.

Details are scarce on this rumor, and we’re not even sure if it’s true or not. However, if this somehow becomes a reality, a lot of people will be affected by it. And not in a positive way. We, like Gizmodo, are hopeful this will only apply to those AT&T customers who still have an unlimited plan. As we all know, AT&T killed unlimited plans a long time ago. But there were some who managed to “grandfather in” their unlimited plans and still enjoy the magic of browsing the web without worries.

Even though we’re not in favor of data throttling of any kind, it would make the most sense to throttle just those on unlimited data plans–not those already capped by a certain data limit. If this does apply to everybody, customers on tiered data plans would be getting screwed twice. They’d have to pay $10 for every extra 1GB of data, while being throttled at the same time. It doesn’t get any worse than that.

Only in the US do you pay a carrier an extra $10 to have a dial-up-esque wireless connection. Amazing. Let’s hope for our sanity’s sake that this is just a rumor and nothing else. Because frankly, I don’t think we can dislike AT&T’s money-sucking tactics anymore than we already do.

UPDATE: AT&T just confirmed the rumor, folks. And it’s both good news and bad news. The good news, this speed throttling will only apply for those people with unlimited data plans. The bad news, well, those of you with unlimited plans will start to see some serious speed degradation if you fall on that top 5% category. AT&T also made really sure we understand that this will only affect 5% of its customers. Which they say it’s a very small percentage, but it means at least a million people will start to see some sort of speed throttling. Yikes.

Show Press Release

An Update for Our Smartphone Customers With Unlimited Data Plans

Like other wireless companies, we’re taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data. Many experts agree the country is facing a serious wireless spectrum crunch. We’re responding on many levels, including investing billions in our wireless network this year and working to acquire additional network capacity. We’re also taking additional, more immediate measures to help address network congestion.

One new measure is a step that may reduce the data throughput speed experienced by a very small minority of smartphone customers who are on unlimited plans — those whose extraordinary level of data usage puts them in the top 5 percent of our heaviest data users in a billing period. In fact, these customers on average use 12 times more data than the average of all other smartphone data customers. This step will not apply to our 15 million smartphone customers on a tiered data plan or the vast majority of smartphone customers who still have unlimited data plans.

Starting October 1, 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. Before you are affected, we will provide multiple notices, including a grace period.

This change will never impact the vast majority of our customers, and is designed to create a better service experience for all.

The amount of data usage of our top 5 percent of heaviest users varies from month to month, based on the usage of others and the ever-increasing demand for mobile broadband services. To rank among the top 5 percent, you have to use an extraordinary amount of data in a single billing period.

There will be no changes for the vast majority of customers. 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 emails, surf thousands of Web pages and watch hours of streaming video every month and not be in the top 5 percent of data users.

Typically what puts someone in the top 5 percent is streaming very large amounts of video and music daily over the wireless network, not Wi-Fi. Streaming video apps, remote web camera apps, sending large data files (like video) and some online gaming are examples of applications that can use data quickly. Using Wi-Fi doesn’t create wireless network congestion or count toward your wireless data usage. AT&T smartphone customers have unlimited access to our entire Wi-Fi network, with more than 26,000 hotspots, at no additional cost. They can also use Wi-Fi at home and in the office.

The bottom line is our customers have options. They can choose to stay on their unlimited plans and use unlimited amounts of data, but may experience reduced speeds at some point if they are an extraordinarily heavy data user. If speed is more important, they may wish to switch to a tiered usage plan, where customers can pay for more data if they need it and will not see reduced speeds.

But even as we pursue this additional measure, it will not solve our spectrum shortage and network capacity issues. Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges.

Via: Gizmodo

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

    Most Tweeted This Week


    Wow is anyone else surprised by this? Carriers seem to invent more and more ways to make it harder for everyone to get there moneys worth. Its pathetic. I fear the trend will continue. What the hell is the point of upgrading your network if the ropes and monthly allowances get tighter and tighter? At this point I would rather have 3g speeds with unlimited access than 4g with caps and now throttling on top of caps. Even on those with grandfathered unlimited data plans.. Why would you punish them for there loyalty? I guess if they were consuming a gb or more a day, but then most likely they are tethering. Im babbling, to sum it up. Its a shame

    • Dre

      It’s At&t, nothing they do to their customers surprises me anymore

    • joshua sanders

      It hit me hard..now my speed is so slow can’t run apps trt

      • Joseph rider

        I agree hit me bad I lost my regular internet becoming homeless im having to use my phone to find job and everything now so slow this really hurts

  • Johnny

    Two words abbreviated: BS!

  • thaghost

    Happy fun ball? Lol…okay

  • coyotejbob

    Since as citizens we can petition for or against a merge, can we petition a company out of existince? If so my vote is with destroy at&t.

    • DistortedLoop

      You “petition” a business out of existence by taking your business someplace else. Vote with your contract dollars. The problem in the mobile space is there’s no business that’s any better.

  • GRAW

    Sounds more like the “Horrible sad ball” to me…


    Imagine if we all as a cohesive unit just began to leave the big providers and went month to month on a smaller carrier (metropcs,cricket,etc). Just tucked our tails in for a few months, long enough to show the big four that WE determine there success. I know it would be hard. Bad coverage, crap phones, slow speeds, etc. But imagine the benefits after, when the big four began to feel it in there pockets. How long can Verizon, Sprint and ATT survive on there other ventures? Not long if you ask me. Sprint is in trouble right now, ATT claims they cant survive without a merger with Tmo (even with the IPHONE), Tmo is pretty much giving itself away and even the MIGHTY Verizon cant survive on fios alone.

    • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

      They’d probably make more on early termination fees than they’d lose. Then, they’d insist on you buying a new phone and contract when you came crawling back (and make even more money). Though I like the enthusiasm.

      • BiGMERF

        sorry if there was an “edit” feature i would have added. I meant when contracts were up.

        • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

          Ah, in that case then… Cheers!

    • patronanejo

      The big three would continue to thrive on corporate accounts–and would by leasing more of their capacity to Boost, Cricket, et al. Such agreements would simultaneously relieve the majors of customer service and -support costs, and allow them to exchange the onus of matching demand to supply for a guaranteed, predictable revenue stream. It’s a dysfunctional market–voting with your dollars is much harder than it should be in this case.

      • patronanejo


        …and would BENEFIT by leasing…

  • Interpol91

    Yet another sad news in the world of data. Just BS regulation. Glad to be on Sprint but unlimited may not quite be “unlimited” for us soon

  • Distortedloop

    I disagree that only unlimited plan folks should be throttled. Throttling should never be about a certain number of bits for a certain class of user, it should be about a throttling speeds TEMPORARILY in times of heavy traffic so that everyone gets some throughput. Throttling stops when demand goes down.

    • SliestDragon

      I get your point, but should everyone be punished, really? If my mom only uses her phone to check emails, should she be throttled just because someone else likes streaming netflix to their phone?

      • DistortedLoop

        If all your mom is doing is checking email, she wouldn’t notice any kind of throttling to begin with, would she? ;-)

        Your point’s taken, and could be addressed by assessing higher throttling rate to greater volume users as needed, but the concept of you hit x number of bits this month means you’re now throttled for the rest of the month has no basis in how bandwidth works. My idea does.

  • SliestDragon

    More throttling? This is getting annoying. Everything is going online. This backwards mentality of carriers is just stupid…

    • Daniel

      I totally agree with you bud,more stuff online make the devices data cravers…..I don’t get it.

  • sylar

    Just another nail in AT&T’s coffin and every other internet provider out there, the amount of data people pull monthly is increasing while they start capping, and throttling their data. Web sites are getting fancier which means that the use more data….bla bla bla. I could go on for forever, this is just stupid.

  • patronanejo

    Distortedloop brings up a good point. ANY throttling should tame place only when capacity has been exhausted–and spread across all users, not only to minimize per capital effects, but more importantly to encourage migration of non-essential activities to non-peak hours.

    Introduction of throttling under any other circumstance is transparently punitive. Further, the imposition of rationing when conditions do not demand it–creating the impression of scarcity–is market manipulation.

    • patronanejo

      That’s per capita. Goddamn meddling spellcheck. Sorry for the double-post, I thought I caught it in time.

  • Richard Yarrell

    I can’t say I am surprised by this alot more things will come out as the days appear closer to the merger which I hope gets knocked down for tmobile sake. As for all those people hating and hoping for the demise of sprint currently the best carrier available for your dollar you’ll be waiting a very long time for that demise to happen.

    • snowbdr89

      I take it you’re dumbass didnt see sprints q2 net loss was over 800 million at that rate im sure it will be along time for the now (almost broke and behind) networks demise.

  • patronanejo

    Distortedloop brings up a good point. ANY throttling should tame place only when capacity has been exhausted–and spread across all users, not only to minimize per capita effects, but more importantly to encourage migration of non-essential activities to non-peak hours.

    Introduction of throttling under any other circumstance is transparently punitive. Further, the imposition of rationing when conditions do not demand it–creating the impression of scarcity–is market manipulation.

  • codesplice

    There’s a bit more detail now in a story posted over at BGR: http://goo.gl/fb/HLBA6

    This does only affect users that still have an unlimited plan, and again it’s only for the top 5% or so of data users. You have to be using an insane amount of data to rank at that level – and you’re probably “illegally” tethering at that point anyway.

    I’m on AT&T, grandfathered into an unlimited plan, and I still tether on occasion. This new news doesn’t bother me in the least.

    • BiGMERF

      5 percent now, 10 percent later, etc, etc………

    • Khaled

      I’m an unlimited data plan user. I’ve been with AT&T and the iPhone since the iPhone 3G. I upgraded to the 4 and now to the 4s. There’s a reason I got the unlimited data plan. I don’t have the luxury of utilizing wi-fi. So I am one the top 5% of users. Last month, I was a week into my billing cycle and already at 16 gigs. I got throttled. This month, a week into my cycle I’m at 8 gigs. I just got throttled. Again. Here’s the problem. I may be in the top 5% now, but by next week, I might not be. Do I get my data back? No. Once condemned, there is no forgiveness (not until the start of the next cycle anyway). Here’s the other problem, when throttled, they don’t just slow you down, it’s practically non-existent. My download speed is now 0.01 mbs

      • Giovanni

        I agree….I signed up with an UNLIMITED DATA CONTRACT, what the heck….can I get a discount if I don’t use up enough. I’m hella throttled right now, sucks…..

  • xXZairisXx

    I with tmobile and as of late I’ve began having my gripes with them as far as certain policy changes that that they’ve implemented. Now for throttling, I personally can’t stand the concept, I’m a above average data user and I rarely ever tether, I have a night job where I rely on apps like netflix and hulu to help out in those later hours of my grave yard shift. Five nights a week for a 2-4 hour stretches of viewing could make me look like a low data tether just because the use is abnormally higher then average yet Im using that device for its intended use. The world is in the data age and it should be unlimited or at least working towards that goal, not applying caps and fees upon caps and fees already in place to support the corporate cash cow which we the consumer keep afloat with our loyalty and usage. We pay for a service we should get what we pay and are taxed for. Could you imagine your electricity being throttled to half your household because your a heavy user? In this world the internet is becoming just as important as the very source that powers the equipment that allows us to use it, its seriously time to change the standard for data so that we the end user are not handed the shaft to for the very devices were sold to use.

    • codesplice

      “Throttling” is quite different from a “cap” or extra fees. If they’re going to go for one of those, I’d much rather it be throttling.

  • Ryan Kim

    Dangit! I have an unlimited plan on AT&T, and I take full advantage of it, probably used like 50 GB so far. I guess now is the time to switch carrier. Just another reason to hate AT&T.

    • Ryan Kim

      The thing is, I paid for unlimited data at normal speeds. Now they just decided to throtle my data and take the same amount of money. If I had a lot more resources, then I would sue.

  • Daniel

    What’s next? Will they will turn off your data plan at night so the device doesn’t spend the whole night retrieving emails.? ;-)
    Holy cow.

  • SirWally

    @Ryan Kim

    50GB?! This month? Really? Wow.

    1) What on earth are you doing to consume that much data (none of my business — don’t answer that).
    2) Why can’t you do whatever it is you are doing at home on a better connection? Mybe this is your only connection, in which case, OK,…I guess.
    3) The unlimited plan was not unlimited, and still isn’t. It has a 5GB cap. I am curious how you actually manage to get away with that level of consumption (which is way beyond the point of abuse, IMHO).Was there at some point a truly unlimited plan and you somehow managed to get the unlimited part grandfathered all the way through?

    I hav no qualms at all with people that use that much data getting their connections throttled on the wireless network once they get to the point of abuse (beyond their cap). This is was T-Mobile is starting to do — go over your cap, get throttled, but there are no overage charges. Sounds acceptable to me.

    • Ryan Kim

      50 GBs was an exaggeration. I actually have no idea how much I use, but I use a lot, and I am just about sure that I fall in the top 5%, and possibly the top 1%. I spend a lot of time out of my home, and I use a lot of data from a lot of tethering and watching movies on my phone. The thing is, even if the cap is at 5GB, I’m still paying $30 a month for it, and I don’t think that it is acceptable for AT&T to throttle it.

    • Ruben

      When I was sold the plan there were no caps when they tiered it they said people with the old plan would not be affected now they throttle it so it’s to the point my/our phones are useless… And to that point seems like there is alot of 5%s on here is it really only tge top 5%

  • Aktafoo

    For all those people that agree on the merger maybe this will make them change their mind.

  • aj

    not surprised at all.

  • http://www.openintro.com OpenIntro

    I hate this company so much. Nothing surprises me anymore. When I was on the phone with them recently regarding my terrible DSL connection, the rep tried to coax me back to AT&T by saying “Would you be interested in the iPhone?”

    My answer….Are you kidding me lady? Your phone service sucks worse than the DSL!

    • inviolable

      Anything to get a sale. Just as bad as Microsoft.

  • robert

    Gee here is a idea. Before sucking the whole world into smartphones u should of made dank sure the network could handle it. I mean really!

  • barry

    att did this to me today they slowed my data they said i was a lil over 2 gb for the bill cycel and im 20 days in to it but im at more like 8 gb the did it before the 1st of oct and they didnt not tell me they where doinging it like they said they would

    fuck att im soooo pissed sorry for the spelling im pissed as hell

  • derek

    Is this legal? Do our contracts state that they can do this? My friends data is down to 16 KB a second at best. Those are old edge speeds. When I was sold an unlimited data plan I was told that it was UNLIMITED, NO LIMITS, FREE OF LIMITATIONS, WITHOUT A LIMIT, LIMITLESS, NOT LIMITED BY USAGE!

  • Jimmy

    This is bull, im in the unlimited plan and they slow me down today. This shoul be ilegal, it is not what i being paying for so many years. So how about my other 2 iphones in my plan, hardly used any data, do i get money back for useing less than 2 g all this years and how about all my rollover minutes over 7.000 do i get something back. I payed for unlimited data and that’s what i want, no unlimited bull. Shame on you at&t

  • andrew

    Add me to the list. 20 days into my billing cycle I got throttled. Went from 28mbps to 160k. Called ATT they told me yep, your in the top 5% so we slowed you down until my next billing cycle. I admit, I tether. I guess I need to be more cautious and use wifi more (Lte was much faster so it was off) I’m upset because Ive been a loyal customer, iPhone, 3g, 3gs, 4 and now the skyrocket, and have paid for unlimited data for 2 lines for years now. Now my unlimited data is limited because I use it. Everything is on the web, its the digital age, we all have smartphones,we are able to download and stream large amounts of data. I understand the cap and can deal with it, but 160k…are you kidding ATT. You should at least put us on hspa+ or 3g at the least. 160k is practically cut off, but they can’t cut us off legally so they give us next to nothing and put they’re hands up and say, you have unlimited service sir. Another ATT fine moment.

  • Dan

    I smell class action!!!

  • Arturo

    I been with AT&T for a really long time. I hate the company but the unlimitted plan kept me with them. I am just pissed right now because whats the point of having unlimmited plans if the speed is reduced to zero. They should at least warn you or something so that we can stop before we get our speeds cut off for the rest of the month. My phone is like worthless right now since it takes decades to find an adress in google maps or simply post dam post of 240 something characters on twitter. yeah I use my phone a lot but these days who doesnt. The problem is that I mostly use my phone really late at night when hardly anyone else uses the internet

  • Woody

    I agree with how absolutely horrible AT&T treats it’s customers. All carriers really. There’s not another kind of business or service in the country that can screw it’s customers over like cell providers. But, it’s huge corporation only concern is bottom line. Where u need to direct your anger is to the politicians who legislate what they can and can’t do. Politicians get elected by spending more money than the other guy in campaign. Get bulk of their money from the same big companies they pass laws on that effect how much that company makes. Basically an employee and lacky for benefactors. That is the real problem. Exact same problem that’s at the root of nearly all major problems with our country. If only the people we trust to be public servants actually served the public…..

  • Bama2213

    I’m always in the top 5% of users. That’s because I listen to pandora about 9 hours a day. I work overnight buffing floors and I don’t have wi-fi options.

  • AT&T

    Now I can’t enjoy my iPhone as I did before. Another GOOD reason to leave AT&T 👋

  • Steve

    Christmas morning I recieved the text saying I was at the 5% of top users.I have unlimited data. I have never tethered. I don’t own a tv because I don’t want a cable bill. No Internet at my house. And now AT&T has has slowed my data to where it’s impossible to watch anything with my iPhone for the next 2 weeks. How do I know if I’m at 5%? I used 9g last month and now they stopped me at 5g this month. None of this makes any sense. You cannot pay for a plan that would allow you unlimited access to the web. Why? WTF? Who is running this fucked up operation?

  • Jose

    Not only does at&t slow your speed down, there customer service won’t tell you when you are about to reach your limit on your unlimited plan. One month it could be 4 gigs and the next it could be 5 gigs. This is all BS. I am
    Being ripped off by at&t.

  • Ruben

    I’m one of the loyal customers that has been with them since …… Anyway they are throttling me to the point where I can not even check my e-mails in a timely fashion …. Thanks for the bs ATT!!! Soon to be ex customer!!!

  • Ruben

    There seems to be a lot of 5%’s hmmm… Makes me think it’s more bs ATT is trying to sell us!!!!

  • Kmking4200

    I thank its wrong of at&t to throttle data speeds.I fell in the top 5% of users.I work a graveyard shift I only watch one movie on netflix a night sometimes,then stream some videos on the net.but I manly play my snes emulator all night.I try and reduce my data consumption by turning on wifi when at home,turning my phone off when I sleep and turn on airplane mode when playing my roms.but still I got throttled,so slow I can not watch a 30sec video on you tube or even load some web pages.for 5+ years now pay $2160 a year for there services.I did get grandfathered in to the unlimited plan.but why should I have to suffer with such slow speeds when I have been a loyal customer and pay alot of money.its a breach of there contract by throttling my data,and yes it is capping if they limit me to 5gigs a month when im paying for unlimited and my contract says unlimited.if I can sue I will because that’s just wrong of them.

  • Urcrazydude

    If anyone knows of a class action lawsuit pertaining to us early iPhone unlimited plan users please inform the masses. Show me where to sign!!!

  • Sherri E

    I have unlimited plan, have upgraded to every nre phone for faster speed! Paid more for unlimited and the faster phone!!! Now they want to slow me down? I think I should get a refund an adjustment based on the average speed provided to me when I reach the top 5%- save your space…but refund my money. Credit me for what your taking away… That I paid more than others to get the fastest speed phone and unlimited plan!

  • Anthony G Vendittoli

    I got the email about top 5% and I was not even at 2GB!!!! They slowed me down for 2 weeks!!!

  • Mattyboy

    I think this is rediculous! You should see the letter they sent me because I am one of the 5%! They give you the “option” to change your plan to a non unlimited data plan! How condescending is that?! The only reason I stay with them is because I have been with them since it was unlimited and I am grandfathered into it. They tell you to use wi-fi instead. I use it whenever I can but unfortunately I travel a lot so I have to rely on the network. Now they are going to slow my speed even more?! Anyone else want to file a lawsuit with me? Sounds illegal to degrade my service when I have paid the same price for full service for YEARS. Pissed

    • Aaron

      Yes i agree i8 spent three hours on phone with them to tell me that bull shit. and i just spent 250.00 on skyrocket to have the fastest lte network made and they slow it down whitch now legaly it is not the fastest network i also have a burst that runs faster than my skyrocket. They clasify 2GB to be heavy usage but now they offer a thee GB data for people why dont they get punished why only us they a making a wrong decision and will end up in a court they cant do tha to us because the lose money they should have neve made the plan to begain with then .I never once got email or text saying i was in top 5 percent till i called then they told me on phone.


    I use my iphone for business, dont have internet at home, no cable, and my business is only part time job. When im not working, Im looking for jobs. Now i get this message that im in TOP 5%…And my service is slowed now but will return next billing cycle??? Cmon man! I spend $144 per month for the past 5 years and this is what I Get??? ATT, YOU SUCK!
    Isnt this a breech in contract?
    For those that question why i pay so much, I pay for three phones and my mother in law pays for car insurance. But thats besides the point. Iphone is useless. My parents hace DSL ATT and it takes 3-5 minutes just to load up a page…PATHETIC! ATT YOU SUCK!

  • Jonathan

    I think this is bs also it hasn’t even been a week and I am also in the top 5% heavy users.. its called unlimited data plan for a damn reason at&t is full of it I work as a marketer and I’m on the road 8 hours a day I depend on my cellphone internet a lot such as GPS,Google maps,emails and I also am studying to be a barber and I use YouTube to stream videos on new techniques at&t needs unlimited data plan I think its the only way to keep customers and yet make more customers.. if this keeps on I’m getting a new provider!!!