I've had AT&T Wireless service for my iPhone ever since the iPhone 3G was introduced. I signed up for unlimited data back in April 2009. I upgraded to an iPhone 4 in June 2010 & signed on for another 2 years of contracted service. AT&T let me keep my unlimited data plan when transferred to the new iPhone.
In January of 2012, I began receiving messages from AT&T as follows:
Jan 28, 2012 3:01:42 PM
ATT Free Msg: Your data use this month places you in the top 5% of users. Use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds. Visit www.att.com/dataplans or call 866-344-7584
When I received that message, I immediately checked my data usage. I had just used slightly over 2 GB and that was 26 days into my plan cycle. About an hour later after receiving the above text message, my iPhone 4 data speed was reduced drastically! I was getting close to 2 mb per second and then suddenly I was getting about 20 kb or equivalent to 1% of what I was getting before! ONE PERCENT! I could barely send an email let alone a text with a picture. This would be like paying through the nose to rent a car that has unlimited miles just to find out that after you exceed 100 miles driven, that the car suddenly can go no faster than 2 mph. It would render the car useless and it rendered my unlimited data plan useless. This occurred for the rest of my billing cycle until February 2, 2012. Here's the next message:
Feb 16, 2012 3:07:11 PM
ATT Free Msg: Your data use is approaching the top 5% of users. Avoid reduced data speeds, use Wi-Fi where available. Visit www.att.com/dataplans or call 866-344-7584
I visited AT&T's data plan page and that was what threw me! They didn't have any more unlimited plans available and they were prompting me to switch to a measured data plan which would make me give up my grandfathered unlimited plan forever. Of course, I did NOT switch plans. But to my chagrin, I receive the following text 2 days later:
Feb 18, 2012 8:26:34 AM
ATT Free Msg: Your data usage is among the top 5% of users. Data speeds for this bill cycle may be reduced. Visit www.att.com/dataplans or call 866-344-7584
It wasn't that it "may" be reduced! Sure enough, my data speeds were immediately reduced to speeds I cannot even explain. I had just signed up for iTunes Match and I had many songs in "The iCloud". I was playing songs from Apple's iCloud through my phone but now my phone is rendered useless once again. No music, texting, emails, or picture messaging, etc! This lasted for the next 2 weeks until my plan cycle came to an end and reset. Once the new cycle started, the data went back to the regular speeds again.
I just feel that there are probably others like me. I heard of one guy in California who had this issue and took AT&T to California Small Claims court (despite AT&T having an "Arbitration Only" clause in their terms and conditions). He actually won a settlement for close to $900! Not bad for $30 a month service.
Apparently, AT&T is now only throttling unlimited data customers that exceed 3 GB which I rarely, if ever, do. But Verizon wireless throttles also. The way they handle it is, when a customer is using too much data in a particular service area and causing other paying customers issues with getting data, they throttle the very top "abusers" for that particular service area only UNTIL they either leave that service area, or the peak data has gone down. It is only very temporary and the regular fast data speeds are restored. Why can't AT&T do that? I feel that is reasonable. T-Mobile has a similar plan in place but they do not touch customers unless they exceed 5 GB and Sprint apparently doesn't throttle their customer's data plans at all.