Feb 25th, 2012

How much ever we may hate it, data throttling is something nearly all of us have had to come to terms with over the past year or so. It is undoubtedly unfair: unlimited means unlimited, and as we are expected to comply with our contract for its duration, so should the company.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t that simple. Most carriers see the “fair usage” mumbo jumbo as a great way to increase their profits, have too much clout to allow us users to take them on in a fair fight, and anyway insert clauses in the contract (that they don’t adhere to themselves) forbidding users from consolidating their claims into a class action lawsuit or a jury trial.

But Matt Spaccarelli decided enough is enough, and took on AT&T for throttling down his iPhone. And in a judgement that reaffirms my faith in humanity, he was awarded $850. AT&T has some 17 million users on unlimited plans who can be subject to throttling.

You can get the details of the entire case over at Yahoo, but I’ll just paste some portions to help summarize it:

Late last year, AT&T started slowing down data service for the top 5 percent of its smartphone subscribers with “unlimited” plans. It had warned that it would start doing so, but many subscribers have been surprised by how little data use it takes for throttling to kick in — often less than AT&T provides to those on limited or “tiered” plans.

Spaccarelli said his phone is being throttled after he’s used 1.5 gigabytes to 2 gigabytes of data within a new billing cycle. Meanwhile, AT&T provides 3 gigabytes of data to subscribers on a tiered plan that costs the same — $30 per month.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel found in favor of Spaccarelli inVentura Superior Court in Simi Valley on Friday, saying it wasn’t fair for the company to purposely slow down his iPhone, when it had sold him an “unlimited data” plan.

Nadel looked instead at the remaining 10 months in Spaccarelli’s two-year contract with AT&T and estimated that he might pay $85 a month on average for using additional data. AT&T charges $10 for every extra gigabyte over 3 gigabytes.

Nadel said it’s not fair for AT&T to make a promise to Spaccarelli when he buys the phone while burying terms in his contract that give the company the right to cut down data speeds.

local_offer    AT&T