Despite past claims, AT&T still throttles unlimited data when its network is clear

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pressures U.S. carriers to abide by their own rules and not throttle customers. No, we don’t mean choking the annoying ones — we’re talking about slowing data connection speeds without any warning. Based on recent reports, it seems none of the major carriers are listening.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and most recently AT&T have all been accused of such tactics. Based on alleged communications between AT&T and several customers, Ars Technica discovered that contrary to promises made by the network earlier in the year, it’s still throttling those subscribers connected to “unlimited data” plans.

Essentially, AT&T’s “unlimited data” plans offer 3GB and 5GB of high-speed data, respectively.

Anyone using an AT&T smartphone that only supports 3G speeds is relegated to the carriers’ so-called “legacy unlimited data plans.” As soon as 3GB of data is reached in a month, speeds are severely slowed. AT&T claims that the throttling occurs only “at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion.” AT&T also throttles 4G LTE customers with unlimited plans after they’ve gone past the 5GB data mark. To make matters worse, many experienced slower data speeds for the rest of the month, regardless of whether the network was congested or not. Essentially, AT&T’s “unlimited data” plans offer 3GB and 5GB of high-speed data, respectively.

An AT&T spokesperson stated the carrier does indeed throttle those customers, but added that the policy will change in 2015. AT&T still distinguishes between 3G/HSPA+ and 4G LTE on its network, and the carrier claims this is the reason for throttling. The carrier added that once the necessary technology becomes available in 2015, all customers’ data will be treated the same. As such, the carrier will be able to allow data to remain at high speeds for all users — even after 5GB — as long as the network isn’t congested.

Of course, by that point, many customers will have moved on from the legacy unlimited data plans. Already nearly 80 percent of AT&T customers have data caps, and are therefore subject to overages, which of course earn AT&T more money.

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