By Kurtis Ming

It’s amazing how much smartphones can do these days. But if you do too much online, you could face fees or slowed down service.

Data is racked up anytime you access the Internet through your cell phone. Call Kurtis set out to learn how smartphone users can keep their data in check.

AT&T user Vishal used to use his iPhone for a number of functions.

“I watch videos on it. I email, games, Facebook, everything,” he says.

But Vishal recently learned even with unlimited data on his AT&T wireless plan, there are consequences for using too much.

He reads us a recent text from AT&T, “‘Your data usage is among the top 5 percent of users. Data speeds for this bill cycle may be reduced.'”

AT&T has now slowed his service so much that Vishal says it takes minutes to pull up email. He doesn’t even bother trying to pull up a video.

“‘Cause I mean, it takes too long.”

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all reserve the right to clamp down on data hogs by dropping the speeds of the top users dramatically.

But a small claims court judge in Simi Valley recently ruled in favor of Matt Spaccarelli, a throttled AT&T customer.

“If you call them up they say, ‘Well we never promised you what speed we were going to give it to you at.’ Well, they don’t need to promise. If all of their ads say they’re the fastest wireless network that’s as good as a promise,” says Spaccarelli.

He won an $850 judgment against AT&T by comparing his cell phone service to a sports car.

“If you buy a Ferrari, you know that it’s going to do 200 miles an hour because Ferraris are fast. So you drive it around for three months, take it in for an oil change and you get it back, it does 45 miles an hour and then they say, ‘Unless you pay more, you can’t go fast again.'”

“The top 5 percent of users is still a relatively small number. But for those people who are affected, it’s a big deal,” says CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt.

She says you can put your data usage on a diet by jumping on Wi-Fi whenever you can. Dolcourt also recommends limiting streaming movies or music, which eats up data. Also, turn off apps that track you through GPS.

And if you have no idea how much data you’re using, here’s how to keep track:

“The phones usually come preloaded with apps from the carrier, where you can check on your account, check your minutes, check your data, things like that,” says Dolcourt.

Vishal’s slow service will last until his next billing cycle. He has the option to switch from his unlimited plan to a tiered plan that gives him a limit.

“I’m more likely to switch providers than to switch to one of those plans,” says Vishal.

AT&T recently relaxed its policy on throttling. Instead of slowing down the top 5 percent of users, they’ll now throttle customers once they pass 3 gigabytes of data.

The company doesn’t offer new customers unlimited plans anymore, just tiered plans. Among the big players, Sprint is the only company still offering unlimited data plans without throttling.

Comments (3)
  1. still kicking says:

    The real story here is that of the deceit AT&T is pulling with their marketing arm constantly promoting the idea that their products can be used to rapidly connect the user to an online world of streaming movies, music, gaming and other features and yet immediately penalizing the same user when they avail themselves of these features. These is blatantly false advertising on the part of AT&T and is allowed to continue only due to the fact that these companies have bought off our politicians.

  2. J Mann says:

    AT&T has gotten rediculous with their out-of-control selfishness and fraudulent practices. My wireless bill is for a certain monthly amount. The amount varies nearly evry month, and almost every month, I have to call them and complain to get it reduced. One month for instance, they billed me for some “Insurance Deductible”, which was not only totally unfounded, but also an insurance regulations crime here in California. Of course, they reduced it, but how many people are they betting on, that just pay their bills, and how much extra revenue does that make for AT&T? Also, I just signed up for U-Verse internet. The offer included “no installation charges”. I just got my first bill yesterday, and sure enough, an installation charge of $149.00… Again, how many people are they counting on that would just pay the bill? is a consumer and public advocacy that addresses, among many other elements, government and corporate crime and coruption. Please log any AT&T complaints on the site and once enough are received, a formal complaint for a proven business practice of AT&T’s wrongful actions can be presented to regulatory and prosecutorial agencies. This coulod include The Postmaster General for mail fraud, since the bogus charges are sent through the mail. This could also include the U.S. Attorney General, state attorney’s general, FCC, FTC, etc. .

  3. Rift Lake says:

    This is purely a bait and switch scam. If you are on a tiered plan and you go over your data amount, you do not get throttled, you just get charged more! So, At&t has no merit to claim this is about relieving stress on their network. All At&t is trying to do is force it’s unlimited users to tiered plans so they can charge more. FCC, are you watching this?

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