HowTo: Throttle AT&T for throttling your ‘unlimited’ data in 5 steps

By | September 25, 2012

… MacTech provides a primer on taking AT&T to small claims court provided by attorney Bradley Sniderman. Recently a plaintiff in Los Angeles CA won a $850 settlement and per AT&T’s EULA, class action lawsuits are not possible so this might be your only means of exacting revenge on your limited unlimited plans. Excerpted:

1) Where to file — most lawsuits, even those from small claims, need to be filed in the jurisdiction where the defendant can be found. In this case (and let’s use AT&T), AT&T may have corporate offices in only a few locations, but since they are a nationwide phone company, they are usually subject to jurisdiction anywhere. What this means is that you can file your small claims suit in the courthouse most convenient to you.

2) Make sure you have a copy of your contract, and please review the entire agreement. It may be a slow read, but you need to know the terms of it. You may be able to use these terms to show that AT&T does not have the right to slow your data speed.

3) You need to be able to show that you have an unlimited data plan, which means you are entitled to unlimited data. You need to also show proof that AT&T had limited your data streaming. You next have to argue that AT&T has no right to charge you a fee for unlimited data, and then not supply it. It is not your fault that AT&T can’t keep up with demand for data. If you can even show that you are using less data that some of the fixed rate plans, such as the 3 gigabyte plans, that is even better (fixed plans using more data than you use, but they are not being throttled back). Make sure you have been paying your bill on time and that you are not late, since that could be used against you.

4) Make sure you have an amount for damages. You need to show how you were damaged by not having data streaming. This could be by showing lost business opportunities or showing how much you have paid for the service you never got.

5) Be polite, and make sure you are prepared. The court will listen to you, but if you don’t know what you are talking about, then your argument gets lost.

Read the whole thing here if you are planning to do this. Perhaps if enough people take AT&T to court, they will raise, and/or perhaps publish, their throttling speeds to something usable.

via HowTo: Throttle AT&T for throttling your ‘unlimited’ data in 5 steps | 9to5Mac.

Matthew Spaccarelli successfully sued the U.S. wireless carrierin a California small claims court over the speed throttling of his unlimited data plan, the doors were thrown open for thousands of users across the country to take similar actions. On Monday, five more users will file small claims suits against AT&T using Spaccarelli’s model.

The push to bring small claims cases against AT&T is being driven by a company called PublikDemand that says it strives to “give consumers voice against large corporations.” PublikDemand seems a little bit like ambulance chasers looking to make money against large corporations but the fact of the matter is that Spaccarelli created a blue print of success and followers are an inevitable consequence.

PublikDemand has a blog post outlining how to sue AT&T over data throttling chargers. The first thing you are going to need is a signed copy of your AT&T contract. In the contract, find the applicable section that promises unlimited data speeds and make sure that it is highlighted for court when you file your claim.

The next step is to find your jurisdiction. PublikDemand recommends using this list to find the appropriate courthouse. After you file you are going to need to notify AT&T.

That will lead to a “discovery” process where each side of the suit is given pertinent information from the other side. That means you are going to need to hand over your research to AT&T and they must give you pertinent information (about cell towers and speeds in your area) at the same time.

It is a good idea to keep track of your data usage on a monthly basis whether or not you are planning on suing one of the largest mobile carriers in the world. You can track your data usage directly through AT&T by calling *3282# (*Data#) or by using applications like Norton Mobile Utilities Beta on an Android device. Before “clarifying” its policy yesterday, AT&T had been throttling the top 5% of users in an area that meant that many people were seeing their speeds throttled after about 2 GB of use. From my own personal experience, I had not been throttled by AT&T after 2.5 GB of use in the Boston area but different areas had different limits. AT&T will now throttle users after 3 GB on HSPA networks and 5 GB on LTE networks.

Next, research your data speeds. AT&T increased the speed of users that have been throttled in recent weeks but it is an interesting exercise to check your speeds anyway. PublikDemand recommends Speedtest or Glasnost for this purpose. Document your un-throttled speed and then your throttled speed. Spaccarelli went from, “0.13Mbps, versus a normal rate of 3.46Mbps” in his research.

As in any court case, the more prepared you are, the better chance you will have for success.


This month I’ve cut back to 1,598.89 MB of unlimited on day 31 of 31 days in my billing cycle. Using the free app, I see that my phone while connected to the 4G network is only transferring data at 33kbps download and 13kbps upload?! I became suspicious when I could not email myself a 500KB image.  I was supposed to get throttled at 3 GB, not 1.5 GB. This is getting worse and worse! AT&T is running amok in violating their Unlimited Data contracts and must be stopped.

AT&T confirmed today that (contrary to a Feb 2012 NewYork Times article), according to a FAQ from August 2012, they will throttle every unlimited data user at 3GB, regardless of the service area and load in that area. This is probably in response to the fact that they have no access to meters to tell how much use is actually going on. The degree to which AT&T is in the dark about this throttling continues to baffle me.  They have no way to tell if your account is currently being throttled, I was told. That’s absurd. The company responsible for your service can’t access your account to see if it is being cut down to an unusable trickle?  They told me I was not throttled because I was not at 3GB, but my phone was acting exactly as if it was throttled.

Then, I was told that, wait, my account IS throttled, because my account did not get reset at my last billing cycle. Someone in Business Data Support, canceled my registration and added it back while my phone was off. This solved my throttling problem on the 4G network and I was again getting over 2 MB/sec download and over 1 MB/sec upload speeds using the app.

Note that many AT&T reps think you will get a text message before you are throttled. This is only true ONE time. The next months, you will get no warning.

Today I complained at the BBB and selected “Contract Issues”, then “Failure to Honor a Contract or Agreement”. There is a loophole in the contract that allows AT&T to reduce my bandwidth:

“AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny Service and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network. ”

However, I do not believe I am using the service in any manner prohibited nor adversely impacting AT&T’s wireless network or service levels. As evidence of this:

“Wireless bill analysis firm Validas extracted data from more than 55,000 cell phone bills belonging to AT&T and Verizon Wireless subscribers from 2011, and the firm sought to determine whether or not data throttling is necessary. According to Validas’s findings, throttling may indeed simply be a ploy to push unlimited users into newer tiered plans. “When we look at the top 5% of data users, there is virtually no difference in data consumption between those on unlimited and those on tiered plans-and yet the unlimited consumers are the ones at risk of getting their service turned off,” Validas wrote in its report. “So it’s curious that anyone would think the throttling here represents a serious effort at alleviating network bandwidth issues.

Previously I was told by an AT&T rep that “no human can remove the throttling!” so it is reasonable to suspect that aliens are running AT&T. This claim from “gasolara2002” on four months ago, however, suggests that you can get someone on the phone at AT&T who can remove the throttling:

AT&T started throttling my data this afternoon. I kindy went up to my local AT&T store and asked to be put on the phone with customer service. Their phone was tied up so I just ended up using my cellphone and leaving it on speaker phone to amuse the customers and make the staff look ****ty. The employees thought i had no chance but little did they know I remember my contracts and agreements class from college. I never signed a contract with AT&T since i bought my own phone in and I never upgraded or even bought a phone through them. I explained to the customer rep that I am following the terms of the original plan that was provided to me. I explained to them that as long as I have not put a signature on any sort of agreement altering my account then you guys can’t legally alter it without consent from me. They tried to say they could and I told think twice before you make your company look really uneducated. Then I told the lady I would like to speak to your supervisor. Oh i got transferred 12 times until this cocky idiot came on the phone. This guy tried to be a smart one when i was explaining the law to him. He said, “The company doesn’t give a damn about a law.” Then i said sir your conversation is being recorded on my phone as well as your company phone.” He said “excuse me?” I said “you heard me fool. You are being recorded and i got you on speaker phone with about 35 people listening and taking notes.” He thought i was lying so me being in the bad mood i was in i gathered 10 people around my phone and let them say something to him. The little girl sad “bad man!” She was so adorable. This elderly lady cancelled her service and told the man to go burn in hell. The rest just laughed. After I the elderly lady left went to the counter the guy was kissing butt for real. He said he will see what he can do for me. I told him I can just send Jim a text. He said Jim who. I said Jim Hood our state attorney general. He put me on hold and 5 minutes later he came back saying that i was correct and your data will be fully restored in 10 minutes. I told him we can wait together then. 5 minutes later i did a speed test and I got 6.8 mbs down and 1.58 mbs up. After that i told him i am glad that this was resolved but I will save the conversation for just encase this happens again. He said have a nice day and thanks for being an at&t customer. I said whatever and hung up. The customers actually clapped and the staff looked like someone died. I’m on cloud 9 at the moment. I think I should have went to law school instead getting into Networking and Computers.

Fun story. Might be true. Too bad the writer didn’t name the individual who was able to remove the throttling. It might have been be proof of alien life on earth. And by the way, you know that “4G” at the top of your iPhone? It might make you think you have a 4G data connection, but you don’t:

4G = 4th Generation Cellular Network

When most companies, and some people, talk about 4G, what they mean is a phone that is compatible with a 4th generation (i.e. 4G) cellular phone network.

4G networks, also called LTE Advanced or Mobile WiMAX networks (among other names), are next-generation wireless networks used by mobile phone companies to transmit calls and data to mobile phones. Just like the current 3G name means that something is a third-generation network, 4G networks are newer, more advanced, 4th generation networks that will replace 3G networks.

4G networks are faster than 3G networks and can carry more data:

  • 4G network speeds: up to 1 GBit/second download; 500 Mbits/second upload
  • 3G network speeds: up to 14.4 Mbits/second download; 5.8 Mbit/second upload.

The iPhone 4 Is Not a 4G Phone

4G phones are phones that work on 4G networks. The iPhone 4 is not compatible with 4G networks (the same is true for previous models). Because the iPhone 4 works on 3G and EDGE networks only, the iPhone 4 is not a 4G phone.

Neither Is the iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S can download data at a faster speed than the iPhone 4 (up to 14.4 Mbps). While this isn’t 4G speed, some cell phone companies may promote the iPhone 4S as being a 4G phone or close to a 4G phone. Technically, this isn’t true. As noted above, 4G requires a particular type of cell phone network and chips in the phone. The iPhone 4S doesn’t have this chip. Some of the phone companies that offer it in the U.S., most notably Verizon, have extensive 4G networks, but the iPhone doesn’t take advantage of them.

How About the iPhone 5?

4G phones are notorious battery hogs and don’t deliver much use before needing to be recharged again. Giving the iPhone a long battery life is very important to Apple; battery-life concerns are probably what kept 4G LTE support out of the iPhone 4S.

Thanks to the iPhone 5’s larger dimensions, and engineering changes by Apple, the iPhone 5 both offers 4G LTE networking and solid battery life (Apple claims that the battery life is as good as the 4S, or better in some cases). So, if you want to get 4G LTE for the fastest cellular data experience, pick up an iPhone 5.

via About

Supposedly, there is a way to get the unlimited data plan, but I’m not sure why this would help anyone, since the unlimited data plans are now limited.

0 thoughts on “HowTo: Throttle AT&T for throttling your ‘unlimited’ data in 5 steps

  1. Fred Killer

    Remember the ATAT’s greatest weakness young Jedi; it’s legs.

    If you can undermine it’s support, it will come crashing down.

    How many (news) stories high are they?

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