Bye Bye Unlimited Data Plans

Last weekend AT&T advised wireless customers, who have the unlimited data plans, that it plans to begin slowing down its most active smartphone users.

Once October comes around the top 5% of AT&T data users in any given billing period, will be subjected to reduced access speeds. Multiple notices will go out and an initial grace period will be observed, after that the data will be slowed down inevitably, until the end of the billing cycle, when the entire process plays itself out again.

AT&T is not the only company saying good bye to unlimited data plans. Rival Verizon initiated a similar policy this year, just as it was introducing Apple’s iPhone.

It may seem that this is fair on the surface. Why should a few data hogs bog down the surfing experiences for many? However, there is something wrong about having an asterick attached to an unlimited data plan.

Where’s the uproar?

If a buffet operator cut off 5% of its heartiest eaters from making another run at the carving station, there would be a groundswell of criticism. If an amusement park manager made 5% of its most active riders stand in longer lines, it wouldn’t sit well, not just among coaster enthusiasts.

Why aren’t more people complaint about is taking place with the countries two largest wireless telephone carriers?

The obvious rebuttal is that consumers do have choices, at least after their two-year cellular contracts are up, if they don’t want to deal with stiff early termination fees. We can let the free market decide. If these moves send more customers to Sprint or smaller carriers, AT&T and Verizon will have to change their data-shackling ways.

It gets worse.
New AT&T customers do not even have the option to go with the new plan that was just announced. AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans to first time buyers of smartphone users last summer. These changes apply to older users of AT&T wireless accounts. As long as they stick with AT&T they can continue to upgrade their phones with the now-restricted unlimited data plan.
Watch out Cable you’re next.
It’s not just wireless that are moving toward tiered data plans, internet and cable providers are doing the same thing, to beef up their networks to handle the uptick in traffic.
Comcast the country’s largest cable company, began experimenting with usage caps on its popular broadband access service three years ago. Smaller players have followed suit.
Even AT&T has moved to cap the same “unlimited” wired and Wi-Fi connectivity that it was telling smartphone users to rely on so they wouldn’t have to be on its mobile meter. It decided earlier this year to top out its originally unlimited DSL data plans at 150 gigabytes of monthly usage. Its U-Versebroadband television customers get maxed out at 250 gigabytes a month.

The ceilings may seem high, but have you checked your consumption habits lately? More media and dot-com giants continue to crank out compelling streamed content. More home theater devices make the video streaming process seamless. Pandora and other music-discovery sites are making it more popular to stream music through mobile devices.

You may not be a data hog now, but you may want to feel for the beginnings of a pig tail in a year or two.

You’ll be missed, unlimited data plans. The Internetrevolution won’t be the same without you.

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