Is AT&T tightening the screws on unlimited iPhone users with new, overly aggressive data throttling?

Is 2GB really all it takes now to be considered a "top 5" iPhone data user by AT&T and have your data throttled down?

AT&T now seems to be throttling iPhone users on grandfathered, unlimited data plans when they hit a paltry 2GB of data usage. We all know AT&T has been threatening to throttle iPhone users on unlimited data plans for quite some time now. AT&T announced data throttling last August and started implementing it last October. Since then we've heard from some of our readers that they were getting throttled down to 2G EDGE speeds. And it seems to be getting even more egregious.

As a rational person -- and long time customer -- I had a hard time believing it. I've been using anywhere from 4 to 8 gigabytes a month since October and never received any warning from AT&T. In fact, I told everyone in our AT&T forums that I had not yet received the infamous text message from AT&T, accusing me of being a "top 5%" data users.

Until yesterday.


blockquote>Smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users. These customers can still use unlimited data and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle. We're writing because you are in the top 5 percent of heaviest data users for this billing cycle.

It came in just as I approached 2GB. That's what apparently qualifies as a "top 5%" here in Chicago. 2GB. Two days before the end of my billing cycle.

I immediately called AT&T and asked them -- 3 of them of the course of several hours -- two simple questions: Why, all of a sudden, after previous months of heavy use, did I receive this message and why, when I am paying for "unlimited" data am I being crippled just at two gigabytes?

They had no answers for me.

So I began to think about it some more and realized the previous few months I was using my unlocked Galaxy Nexus. Did that have anything to do with flying under the radar? Or did I simply switch back to my iPhone 4S around the time AT&T decided to take these new, overly aggressive tactics?

Or is there simply no consistency or rationality with how AT&T is going about their data throttling? Do some people, depending on the area and month, get away with 5 to 6 gigabytes with no issues while some are getting nailed at 2 gigabytes? Is 2 gigabytes the new magic number based on all of the complaints in our forums and responses that I received on Twitter?

Whatever the case may be, it sure seems like AT&T is putting the screws to unlimited iPhone data users, trying to push us into giving up our grandfathered plans and pressure us into taking one of their new, limited, tiered plans instead.

And that sucks, plain and simple.

AT&T offered a service, we signed up for it, we paid them for it, and now they're reneging on the spirit if not the letter of that service. They're breaking faith with their customers.

Maybe they don't want our particular type of user any more, maybe they'd rather we go somewhere else, but if they're willing to do this to one group of users, they'd do it to any group of users, at any time. And that's a terrible way to run a business.

Unlimited data plans were sold to iPhone users from day one. AT&T needs to stand by them. If they want us to switch to tiered plans, make those plans better. Offer free tethering, or make 4G LTE exclusive to those plans and wait for the iPhone 5 to drive demand for it. Make them so attractive we can't wait to switch. Don't do it by making our existing plans worse.

But AT&T has unlimited data users right where they want us, and they seem to be pulling out all of the stops to get rid of us.

Have you gotten throttled for using 2 gigabytes yet? Did it get you to switch to the new, tiered plans? And how does it make you feel about being an AT&T customer?

IM Staff

Your source for all things Apple

  • I switched to the $25 2GB plan a while back because I usually only got to 1GB. So I figured I'd save the money. But now they've changed it to $30 for 3GB, which sucks if you don't need that extra GB. I'll stick with my now grandfathered in $25 for 2GB plan as long as I can.
  • especially now that we know the old 2GB plan was adaquate for 95% of all users. Why are they pushing the plans up to 3GB if only 5% are using 2GB????
    Something does not add up. More likely, they are targeting the unlimited users because they are only paying $30/mo. It is not about the bandwidth, it is about the revenue
  • This sounds like a pretty good excuse to leave AT&T and switch to an alternate carrier. If they give you crap about an ETF, you can simply point out they changed the terms of their contract with you, without prior consent. That is a breach of contract and as I understand it, releases you from the ETF or any other nonsense for that matter.
  • actually, this has been in the contract for several years. you missed out on using that excuse
  • This won't get settled until a lawyer-user decides to file a lawsuit to at least force AT&T to provide their data reports that determine the top 5%. I think there's something amuck with how AT&T is determining this threshold.
  • Here's my only issue with one of the criticisms of at&t: you're still getting unlimited data, just not at the top speed. You're still getting what you pay for, just like I am.
    With that said, I don't like that this is being done to my fellow users but to criticize them by saying you're not getting what you pay for is simply incorrect.
  • This is very simar to my situation. I got the same text, two days before the end of my billing period, after using only about 2 gigabytes, and after a few months where I had used much more than that with no trouble. It may well be that 2 GB is the magic number, and 2 days before the next bill period is the magic date, and they decided to send a warning shot out to the users who have had a pattern of heavy usage
  • @Michael, thing is it's really not a breach of contact as you still get "unlimited" but they hider your ability to get the same quality. They have us right where they want us sadly.
  • They really do. There's many paying 30 a month for unlimited plans barely doing any data. AT&T will happily take their money. No use in upsetting these folks which they would if they took their unlimited away. For the rest who do near 2GB or more, AT&T wants em paying tiered.
    Throttling is more effective. You don't get the criticism simply by ending unlimited. It's a more ninja approach. You don't even have to say who gets throttled. Just throw out percentages and say they're dynamic in nature from each month.
    The reason they don't do free tethering, and you know this, is because people would tend to use more data. AT&T doesn't want that. They don't expect people as it is to use much of their 2GB. These numbers are for marketing purposes. I'm sure many switched to 3GB thinking they were getting a deal just for 5 more dollars. Nope, that's AT&T raising their plans knowing most customers will still use less than 2GB per month.
  • Yep, got the first warning email that I'm in the top 5% a couple of days ago and had used slightly over 5 gigs of data, with about 10 days left in the billing cycle. Not throttled just yet and am being conscious not to stream audio or video too much. Maybe I can make it to the end of the 30 days. My employer does not have wifi so I'm stuck on 3G during the workday. A co-worker on AT&T also got throttled this month. The contract I signed was for unlimited data when I got my iPhone4, well before this top 5% throttling language was introduced. I guess I would not find it objectionable if the 2 year contract was passed and I was going month to month. My 2 years is not up until July. I've thought of buying a used virgin mobile mifi to supplement my data needs but they also have a throttling threat at 2.5 gigs which is ridiculous.
  • try Clearwire they have a true unlimited data. I have an Appolo hotspot. I can connect up to eight devices on it. I replaced my dsl with Clear. I get great speed also. It is 4g. That way you can switch to the cheapest data plan on your phone.
  • Answer:Yes.
  • As an AT&T customer I'm irritated. You can't even call them to complain because they read from scripts, and do not care about your problem. They are the most useless people I have ever had a conversation with. They do not care that you pay your bills on time, or your dissatisfaction. Sadly, most other cell providers aren't much different.
  • What is really disgusting is how at&t claims the throttling is for the top 5% and yet, coincidently, 2 GB always triggers the threats. Just another example of how AT&T has no respect for their customers.
  • that makes complete and total sense because AT&T said 95% of their users use less than 2GB.
    Assuming they're correct they are indeed throttling the top 5%
  • Maybe AT&T is just really bad at math?
  • That's wrong, when they signed up I thought unlimited meant up to 5 gigabytes.
  • "you thought" means you made up a number unless you have paperwork that's valid today that says otherwise
  • I didn't make up that number, it's been used for thousands of years.
  • 5GB isnt a made up number. before unlimited plans were taken away 5GB was definitely the usage elvel ATT would get peeved about. People used t report having their data plan taken away after 5GB. ATT needs to honor their agreements with remaining unlimited subscribers and let us have truly unlimited data.
  • The two things keeping me on AT&T is the unlimited data plan I have grandfathered in and the ability to talk and surf at the same time. Take these two away (with LTE?) and verizon and sprint become options.
  • LTE has that ability. It's one reason Verizon is moving to it.
    In fact, calls will eventually be moving to voip with LTE.
  • I get that message every month when I approach 2gb. AT&T said that 1.6gb was the average usage for users in October 2011. Why they are using data from Oct 11 is beyond me.
    This is how I fight back.
    When I get throttled down, which is almost unbearable. I set my phone to never lock and consistently leave pandora, Netflix, or any other streaming service running. AT&T said I used 2gb in two weeks that's why they slowed me down. I managed to add another 4gb to my usage by eating up their data. I'm hoping they will realize what they are doing is wrong. But it it only raises the "average" data usage, that's fine too.
  • I like this strategy. I'm not on AT&T but if VZW starts doing these kinds of things to their unlimited users, I'm definitely going to start doing the same.
  • I love it. I am going to do the same thing when at work.
  • I also like this.
  • I'm surprized to hear you can still stream when throttled. I'd heard otherwise from a friend who got throttled.
  • I could care less. I have got throttled but it's not that bad. Just us wifi that's what it's for. Just because it's unlimited doesn't mean they don't have the right to throttle, your contract is for unlimited services not unlimited speed.
  • No wifi at work so that doesn't work for me. Maybe I should just throttle AT&T and send them what I think is a fair price for their service...
  • +1 best
  • The problem is that they SELL you the expectation of the 'Nation's Fastest Network.' But then when you buy the unlimited data plan on the nation's fastest network, you're expecting what those words say, not to be throttled to the 'nation's dial-up modem network.' Its the contrast between their marketing and contract verbiage that is the problem.
    I'm mostly peeved because they can throttle my data when I go over 2GB. However, I spend most of my day in Chicago with 3G and 4 bar symbols on my phone and yet facebook never loads and iMessages never send. So do I get to throttle someone at ATT then?! I'm getting NO data at that point and I'm standing outside within one of their service locations...
  • Wrong,I was sold and advertised as unlimited 3G service on AT&Ts nationwide 3G service. 2G service on original iPhone was only $20 and AT&T raised it $10 for unlimited 3G service. that's why the trick your iPhone still shows 3G service signal but at 0.01mbps that's not considered 3G data speeds so eventually the scam will get crushed. Until then we suffer. AT&T is currently being sued in class action court for phantom data charges . They cannot and do not accurately gauge data usage when they lie and say the do.
  • I am tired of companies having their way their loyal customers, and treating us this way, all I want to know is What do we do? or at least How do we teach them a lesson?
  • your only option is to change to a provider that doesn't throttle.
    Sprint maybe?
  • Sprint is going to do the same thing, don't worry.
  • How are 50 million people in the top 5% AT&T is choking on our $$$ They won't let us update any apps over the air and I'm not that heavy of a user #Occupycarriers
  • I guess you must have missed the 100,000+ apps they let you update over the air.
  • I have never received a message from At&t about my data usage but my data speeds in Fort Lauderdale are HORRIBLE! I'm using an iPhone4S which At&t advertises 14.4Mbps data running speed tests on my phone I have never seen anything higher than 3.50Mbps. My data speeds have been averaging 0.90Mbps. When I called At&t, they said I'm NOT on their list and show no issues in my area yet they can't figure out why my data is horribly slow and this has been going on for years! I am 100% certain it's not my phone as I had my iPhone4 replaced 3 times and the problems still continued! I'm paying $30 a month for unlimited data that doesn't even work!
  • The same thing happened to me in NYC. I have been an ATT customer for years having an iPhone since the 3G. If you are a "legacy" customer (i.e. you had an iPhone data plan before getting your iPhone 4s), call ATT and demand that they register your plan with a 4G APN to use HSPA+. If they tell you that the 4s is NOT a 4g phone, tell them to check their website marketing. If HSPA+ coverage is available, you should start seeing better speeds after the switch is made on the backend.
  • I'm also a "legacy" customer, and yet have no trouble getting 4-7mbps down in western Massachusetts. The 4S may be HSPA+ but that doesn't guarantee there will be sufficient network infrastructure in your area to see those speeds, whatever your plan or phone.
  • 3.5 is very good. I am in Annapolis, MD. I just checked my history of speed tests. On 12/6, I had results of 4.05 download speed. Every other test (going back to September). All over MD, VA and DE, the speeds range from 3.09 to .04. Most of the results are in the 2.25 range. I actually have about 10 different days, from 10 different locations, that gave me under 1.0 download speed.
    And yes, I am on the unlimited plan, but I think I have gone over 2GB once. I am usually between 1-1.5 Gb a month
  • Happened to me, too. I wrote about it in my blog:
    I was a 2.1GB and was told that "everyone over 2GB will be throttled!."
  • I was at 1.6GB and recieved the message. I called as well before i saw this and got no answers also. I think it is ridiculous! i would understand if i was abusing my data plan or using 4GB atleast but come on AT&T!!!
  • I actually received two messages. The first one warned me that I was in the top 5% and that I should use wifi more. I called them and they told me to ignore it, that I wasn't really in the top 5%.
    The final message said I was in the top 5% but that they MAY slow me down until the end of the pay period. I immediately checked my speed and I was already slowed down.
    Calling them prior to the throttling made absolutely no difference. They couldn't explain where my data usage was coming from or what I could do to manage it.
    I tended to download 2-3 podcasts/day which I think could have added up to a couple of GB/month, but I stopped doing it prior to the slowdown. Apparently made no difference.
    I will give the CSR credit for his honesty. He was blunt when he said that everyone over 2GB will get throttled, effectively rendering the unlimited plan useless. He wan't thrilled about it either, because he also has an unlimited plan.
  • AT&T is horrible for doing that. I got the same message last month. I told them that obviously most people around me don't have unlimited data plans, so I will naturally use more data than them. I pay for that privilege. I was holding on to my unlimited data on my iPhone and iPad. Long story short, I got rid of the iPad data plan (that never worked with any speed anyway) and got the $45 plan w/tethering (which is fast enough to watch a netflix movie on the iPad). I saved $15 and now I can tether my iPad and Macbook Pro. At least thats how I console myself. BTW, my usage over the prior six months was always just slightly over 2gb. AT&T says I shouldn't receive that message with the new plan even if I use all 4gb. Go F'N figure.? So 4gb is good as long as the can rape me for another $15, but 2gb is bad if I'm paying for unlimited! #FAt&t
  • OMG THANK YOU! I've been saying this since they first started this crap! I'd gladly switch to the 4GB tethering plan for the $30 that I already pay, but I'm not, repeat NOT paying more AND being capped!
  • If I pay for limited data, I should be able to decide how I want to use that data. I should not have to pay extra for the "privileged" of tethering.
  • I was really mad when they said I was in the 5% using shyly 2GB of data this month. I called their customer service and I spoke to their manager. The manager says they are throttling down beginning nov or december of 2012.
    I replied, "Then that means it's going to slowly curve down to a minimal 1GB in due time for the 'top 5%.'"
    The manager replies, "I will not respond to "if" scenarios."
    Are you serious? This isn't an "if" scenario! If I plot a graph, it would depict a curved slope on a graph 100% PREDICTING your course of defining "top 5%" - slowly dwindling down to the Y-axis.
  • Two billing cycles ago I received my first warning. The message said that I was among the top 5% of data users, and would have my speed throttled next cycle if I did not use less. That was with two days left in the cycle. So I checked my current usage and was at 2.03 GB. Next cycle I received a slightly different message. On day 18, and with 1.56 GB used so far, the message said I was approaching the top 5% of data users and if I did not want to be throttled I should start using wi-fi or purchase more data.
    So I concluded that 2 GB was the new throttle zone. But then AT&T changed their data tiers again, so I am wondering if the throttle zone has been bumped up to 3 GB. I've just entered my new cycle so I'm gonna take it easy and in three weeks start probing for the mythical, ethereal, data boundary.
  • The problem with that is they can change that limit to whatever number they want, whenever they want.
  • Suck it Randall Stephenson and suck it AT&T.
  • Ive been unlimited since 2009. Always in the 2GB or higher range. Never got a text message from AT&T. Maybe cause I'm in southern California? But I don't think I've been throttled down as of yet.
  • Just wait til it happens to you -Kevin snarky
  • Well, of course. And when the 2GB+ users are all reined in, the top 5% threshold will be 1.8GB.
    And when the 1.8GB+ users are all reined in, the top 5% threshold will be 1.5GB
    Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • This could be combated by people continuing to use data even if they're throttled-- the person who posted that he fights back by continuing to stream data will be helping to keep the top % range higher.
  • Just got my text.
    First time I've seen anything like this. It's only going to get worse is my guess.
  • Having unlimited data since I joined att I was excited to be grandfathered into the unlimited data plan, that is until the past two months. I have received the 5% data excessive use text twice. When I received the first text I made sure to use more wifi than I ever had and yet I received a second text. AT&T Sucks
  • I'm usually around the 10Gb range with unlimited data on an iPhone 4. I'm in the Atlanta market, and have never received the 5% message. Let me know if I just blew some minds.
  • I was living in Atlanta and was using 5 to 8GBs a month, with no warnings.
    Now I'm in Philly and get a warning at 5GB. Is this really regional I wonder?
  • I live in Atlanta also, I average 3-6gbs per month and no messages yet.
  • I get this notice every month for at least 5 months now. I average about 3 gb a month. I get the message whenever I reach 2 gb. I don't really know if I've been throttled yet. There are some days my phone seems to run really slow. But others that it seems to run ok. Don't know if it's the throttling me or just their crappy service.
  • Got my first 'warning' ever a few days ago. I used just over 5GB this month. No tethering. Most of that was interacting with iTunes Match (which I love, btw).
    Unlimited, eh?
    Class action suit time.
    Additionally, for business purposes, I'm about to get a portable 'hotspot' device. Not a chance in Hell it will be from AT&T. 99% sure I will go with Clear.
  • And THIS is why I have STAYED with SPRINT
    I have the iPhone 4S 64gig and have NO PROBLEMS with my data speeds
    And u CAN'T beat the Prices either
    I'm in Richmond Va and I'm a HAPPY SPRINT Customer
    Everybody KNOWS AT&T Sucks
  • I did not get the texts of warning before October and I was always over 4 or 5 gb per month... then I was in Europe for past three months and suddenly I got the texts twice this month, at 2gb. =/
  • I've been on the unlimited plan with AT&T since 2009, not yet seen the throttle message, but I usually do go over 2Gbs. each month. Maybe they forgot that Maine is part of the U.S., so just haven't noticed me and my fellow Mainer users.
    This is another case of our greedy and dishonest corporate mentality. Get used to being screwed more and more.
  • I got restricted for LIFE as of last month for going over 1 month last October. They are very much in Maine and screwing us, they will find you. I cannot use any off network data at all.
  • I just called up AT&T to see if i was on a list that is going to get this treatment and the rep assured me that I was not on the list and spoke with a senior rep who said that nothing like this is to affect the unlimited grandfathered plans...not sure if I believe this...I use 3-4gb a month since I got the iPhone back in sept. '08. This whole situation seems fishy by AT&T.
  • I got the same thing. This pisses me off to no end. Unfortunately, it will take a class action law suit to make any difference and by the time that happens I will have moved to Sprint or Verizon!!
  • I got the message and now my data is basically unusuable. If I'm not on wifi I can't do anything data related. I check my usage and I was at 4.5 gb. I noticed a major Jump in my data usage with my 4s and using match for music. I don't really agree with throttling but I guess there gonna do it but making my phone unusable is a little much. I would expect a little more from a company I have used for the last 15 years
  • Do any of you all have enterprise accounts with ATT? I am thinking that I have never gotten that message for that reason. I get a discount from my company on the account. When I call customer service its a different customer service department. Maybe that explains why I have used my sling box daily for hours and never gotten a notification.
  • How much data do you use in a month with Slingbox?
  • I have been an unlimited subscriber since the beginning. I have hardly used up to 1GB per month of data as I usually am on my WiFi because I work from home. The past few months I've been on the road more and have to depend on 3G. Long story short, I have received that top 5% message each month while hitting only 1.7 GB of data usage and been throttled to unusable speeds at just 2.1GB. This is an OUTRAGE! I pay $30 per month for "unlimited" data on 3G speeds! If they have a tiered plan at 3GB for the same price, how can I be throttled at 2.1GB!?!? They say 1.7GB is in the top 5% in my market? Well, my market is Los Angeles!!!! Try more like 8GB is the top 5% here!!! Their has to be some sort of class action law suit coming. They can't get away with this! I mean, the only two options are to go to another carrier and pay the absurd fee for breaking your contract, or switch to their tiered plans. AT&T would be thrilled with either it seems! C'mon, is a lawyer in the house??????
  • I am on Verizon and you can be sure Verizon will follow AT&T's lead shortly.
  • Actually VZW took the more sensible route and only reduces your speed while you're on a congested cell. Much more fair. Furthermore, if you are using LTE, you aren't subject to throttling either.
  • This is another prime example of a big company more intersted in filling stock holders pockets than providing good/loyal customers with excellent service.... Mark my words AT&T, there will be a day when we,the consumer will rise from the ashes of the fire your burning us in. That day will cost you greatly.... #occuppyatt
  • Do you realize that the more they throttle and harass people, the less the top 5% use? A year ago, it could have been 5+ GB was top 5%. Now after all this, the top 5% only use 2+ GB. The moving target is worse than the hard limits.
  • I got the dreaded email and txt message yesterday as well. Looking at switching over to Verizon and utilizing their 10 gig plan as that more suits my needs.
  • I am on " Big V" but I think this data throttling is a load of crap. I am not usually a conspiracy theorist but it is real convienent that the carriers have gotten us hooked on smartphones that pull all this data and are now starting to put the screws to us. And shame on the government for burying that big class action lawsuit concerning texting fees a couple of years ago. That has now set the standard for cell carriers to get away with their crap. I'm gonna hold on to my unlimited plan as long as I can.
  • Oh and guess who won the JD Powers award for Greatest Customer Care for the 2nd month in a row. I'll give you a ain't AT&T
  • Too bad customer care doesn't seem to translate to more sales. If AT&T lost half their members, you'd see them changing. Until that happens, customer care's seen as an expense, and they always want to cut it down.
  • yes. script readers are no help.
    I didnt buy a faster phone to be used on AT&T , only to slowed down.
    is there a Facebook page focused on this 5% throttle ?
  • From what I can tell is if your under the "Enterprise customer plan" you are not being throttled.
  • I dunno. I have a FedEx discount which I believe falls under "Enterprise" (at least that's what it says whenever I call 611) and I still got the warning.
  • I am an enterprise customer and I received the text and email two days ago. I am right under 2gb 3 days before the end of my billing month. I do not tether, but before I got my 4s I tethered with my android using 3-4.5 gb month and never got a high user message.
    The best thing for everyone to do is file a complaint with the FCC. It takes 30 seconds and AT&T has to answer to each complaint filed I simply stated they are threatening to affect my service without providing any info as to why. If I am in the top 5% for my area tell me what the top 5% use each month and tell me what my region is. I am ok with throttling if they can back it up with real usage stats, otherwise as far as I am concerned they are simply using mob tactics by twisting our arms. It is their network to throttle who they want and I am ok with it if they just come out and say they are doing it to make us switch to tiered, not talk about a mythical 5% of users.
  • ^^this
  • I got the warning when below 1GB. I needed some maps for my Navigon app and ignored the warning in the app about downloading over 3G (no WiFi available, so I had too.) I downloaded about 350MB in about 10-15 minutes and got the warning message an hour later.
    Less than 1GB used... But the download speeds were very fast. I'm thinking it is the impact on the network, that is, throughput, that triggers this, not the actual bytes.
  • I'm starting to feel like Verizon is secretly throttling my 4s. Im just over 3GB and all of a sudden my "3G" doesn't feel like 3G anymore.
  • It's no secret. If you are on an unlimited plan, using a 3G-only device, they do reduce your speed if you are using a congested tower and you have entered the top 5% of data users.
  • I personally find it ridiculas that they are going to throttle you at 2GB, even though the highest data plan you can purchase is 5GB. Why not start throttling later?
  • so they can sell that 5GB plan. That is the only reason for this whole thing.. to sell more expensive data plans.
  • same thing has been happening for the past 2 months for me. i asked how much data did i use in october? they answered 4 gigs, no throttling, no 5% top user txt. I asked about november, the sayd i used 3 gigs of data, still no top 5% message. Got my first top 5% throttle msg in December, i was right at 2 gigs. And let me tell you, when they throttle you they don't mess around, i can't stream even I Heart Radio and load a website at the same time. So at the end of December billing cycle I reset my data usage and monitored it myself. Was throttled a little over 1 gig. It's ridiculous. And my brother who lives with me started getting throttled in Dec-Jan too. He barely uses his phone! So YES this is true of AT&T. When I asked how 2 gigs can possible be top 5% because i'm not tethering, jailbroken, etc, just using my phone as it's meant to be used, they said it's based on location/cell tower, so I guess i'm top 5% in my AREA not in the nation.
    It's BS. my brother and I are looking at sprint.
  • This is part of the conversation I just had with a AT&T Rep online.
    ME: so you dont know how many GB's are considered the top 5%? 2GB? 3GB? ...???
    Betty Joseph: You are severely exceeding everyone else's usage. This email is just informing you and anyone else that uses unlimited data that you may see a slow down in your data service.
    ME: so you dont know how many GB's are considered the top 5%? 2GB? 3GB? ...???
    Betty Joseph: You have used 6399.30 MB on the line ending in ****.
    ME: i know that
    Betty Joseph: Anything exceeding 5GB receives a notice.
    ME: thank you!
    So if I get a text or throttled before I reach 5 GB I will be sure to use this when I call and complain.
  • A few days ago I got the text saying I was in the top 5% (I had used a around 2.2 GB's in 14 days. This is the first time I've ever seen this text.
    In the past 4 months (Oct-Jan) I've used: 3.1, 4.6, 3, 3.4
    I haven't noticed any throttling yet though.
  • Thanks for this blog. Welcome to the party. :-(
    I posted this issue in the at&t forum on 01-23-2012, 02:09 PM.
    Here is a repost:
    For the 2nd month in a row, I have gotten a bogus data usage message from at&t. I called up at&t support and asked my usage. My billing cycle is the 6th of the month. It is now the 23rd of the month. In those 2 ½ weeks, I have used 2.1 G is data. Oh and I forgot to say I have the unlimited plan. If I double the data for the next 2 ½ weeks, I get to 4.2 G. I can’t believe that in the NYC area, I am in the top 5% usage! I would think that anything about maybe 8G would be top 5%. Ok, even 6G a month. But 4G? Please…
    And the support person was giving me excuses like: “Well it isn’t only how much you use, it is also how fast you use the data”. What? Another gem was: “Well you might be in the top 5% in your geographic area.”. WTF? I told her that I am in the NYC area and I can’t believe with the population density of the area, that my measly 2.1G was in the top 5%. All she could say is that it is a computer generated message. And I said: “All I can say is that you have a computer generated bug”. I did say that it isn’t her fault and I’d like to speak to a manger (which she already claimed she was one) above her. It’ll take 72 hours before I get a call-back. I’ll keep you all posted.
    This is the 2nd month I got this bogus message.
  • I've definitely noticed a lot of ghost data being put on my bill. times when I know for fact I was on wifi, sleeping, or my phone is off. if over 2gb is the top 5% they better redo their research. With all the streaming being done with new apps, the top 5% has definitely changed from 2 years ago. Get it together at&t. by the way, I hate you randall stephenson.
  • AT&T implemented the throttling in October, and it didn't get the system in place for about 2-3 months. That's why this is getting so popular now. And i talked with some directors AT&T about this and was told its a moving target. The 2gb customers can easily be included in the top 5% if only the top 3% are ridiculous usage that 5% covers the 70-80mb users all the way down to the 5-6gb users. AT&T has 109 million users. So the top 5% is over 5 million users. That's a large number.
  • We need to band together folks. You can only be in the top 5% if other people aren't using their data.
    All AT&T customers need to make sure they use EVERY BIT OF DATA on their play EVERY MONTH...PERIOD. So if you have friends on AT&T with iPhones tell them to use all their data...cuz it seems they are hitting us first, after using us to be the carrier with the most subscribers...
    The plan should be to use your phone as you would normally. But as you get towards the end of the month and you are still below the 2GB limit, turn off wifi and stream some movies or some music or something.
    ENOUGH. ENOUGH. ENOUGH. It is time to fight back.
    And the next person that steps to me with some GOP BS about the market solving it capitalism I'm gonna go ballistic medieval Chicago Hot Dog style up in here!
  • Well,
    I started that Forum post about this issue. As Jeremy says, and I can verify, I am being throttled down to .04Mb - .06Mb downstream. That is practically unusable. If the calculation is true above (about 5 million users being effected), that is one heavy class action lawsuit.
    I understand throttling (don't agree with it tho), but .04mb? That is unusable.
    My only recorse right now is to go to minimum data plan and investigate companies like Clear (althought I don't think they have unlimited anymore and were accused of hidden throttling as well).
  • Here's a better approach from someone a lot smarter than you at&t. Too keep your customers happy and from jumping ship, and you sort of still want to be complete assholes, only throttle unlimited data users who exceed 3 GB. It's the same price that new subscribers will pay for 3 gb anyways. this keeps everything fair and happy. Now if you wanna actually have good customer service, throttle it at 5gb like you originally intended "unlimited" to be. Oh ya, and I hate randall stephenson.
  • I'm an AT&T customer sInce 2007 ( original iphone ) my data plan was $20 per month for unlimited data ( edge speed ). When i up-grade my phone for the 3GS my data plan whent up to $30 per month !! Back then i ask why was that , AT&T salesman toll me that was because it was a 3G data plan !!! So i pay for the speed not the usaged of gigs !!!!
    What they are doing is illegal and you can break the contract because of that !!! A new customer pays for the gigs that they use , the customers with unlimited data plans pays for the speed (3g) if they change that its a breach of contract !! Thats my two cents !!!
  • is there anyway this story came make it to the news, people need to know and raise!
  • And another thing !! Even if your iphone (4s) is off , it still consume data !!! It happen to me !! call this number before you go to bed *3282# and call back after you wake up to check your data usage !!!
  • I received my first text last week, but per my phone's stats, I was only at 1.7GB. So the text was a huge surprise. I decided to check my usage via the ATT app and it came as a bigger surprise it showed me at 3.7GB. I havent had the chance to call ATT but I really need to. It is too big of a discrepancy in usage.
  • Well there's one way to fix this. Does anyone remember Verizon's convinience fee or boa debit card fee. People, you need to get together and start making noise about this ridicoulus and unfair practice. They already take a big chunk of our hard earned money. The least they can do is give us unlimited data. We need to get together and say enough is enough.
  • Stay clear of Clearwire they throttle at an unofficial threshold that they will not disclose. They are another AT&T clone.
  • Felix,
    Yeah I read about Clear in some article last year about this hidden throttle.
  • the only thing that will stop them will be a class action lawsuit from the grandfathered unlimited users...
  • AT&T needs a bailout is right, there is a big discrepancy between the data usage recorded by iphone compared to the one listed at AT&T's website.
    My Data was throttled, and my new billing cycle started today. I reset my Cellular Usage Statistic yesterday afternoon. Since I got my speed back, which is less than a day:
    1. Per iPhone's Cellular Network Data, Sent = 5.8 MB and Received = 9.4 MB, which brings the total data usage close to 16 MB. Per AT&T website, my data usage is 55.97 MB!! The difference is 4 times what is actually recorded by my iphone. People need to be aware of this. AT&T at the moment is being sued for the exact issue: over charging of data usage.
  • I am an unlimited ATT iphone user and received my first text on 1-25-12 warning me that I was in the top 5%. I immediately checked my data usage and discovered I had used 2180 MB. I called today after reading this article and learned from Wendy in the overage department of ATT that this is calulated based on the following critera.
    1.Unlimited data plan
    2. Same Market
    3. Same billing cycle
    those three factors all have to be the same and that is who they compare me too. She was able to see where I had used 4-6 GB in previous months but advised that doesnt matter and that if I continue to use this much data I will be throtteled back. She did try to sell me on numerous occassions to switch back to the tier planned...
  • What kills me is that when LTE becomes more main stream, the 3G network won't be as clustered. So why are they so worried about the 3G network???
  • Maybe if AT&T wouldn't have just handed over 5 gazillion dollars to T-Mo and spent it on their network instead, they wouldn't have to resort to throttling a measley 2gb of data. We are now paying for their huge F*CK UP!
  • I am Pi**ed with AT&T....... I only used 2.1gigabytes on my unlimited data plan and they slowed down my phone to the point its almost useless, 160kbps WTF!!!
    Now until next month I have a text messaging phone. Way to go AT&T looks like i'm gonna have to buy out of this contract and go to Verizon and get there 5 gig deal. It really bothers me because I never used over 4 gigs with them and now my "unlimited data plan" means "Unusable data plan"!
  • "unlimited" customer and have been getting this message for the past 2 months. December they throttled me at almost 4 gigs and then January almost near 8 gigs. The January thing was my pushing to see what they'd give me since I've never ever received a "top 5%" message. I pushed and they gave me nearly 8 but it still makes me nervous because they can throw out any number and say I'm in the top 5% of users in my area and I'd have to trust what they say. Anyway, I did the same thing a few users did in the above posts and downloaded some tv episodes I've had from iTunes and repeated it several times and have ran my data up to over 20 gigs. I feel that what they are doing is wrong and it's my way of sticking it to them while they're d*cking me...why oh why can't it be like the good ole' days...
  • I got this message last month with ten days left on my billing cycle. I had used 2.16 GB. I don't think they actually it throttled. I periodically did speed tests and got 2.5 to 3.5 Mbps depending on my location and quality of signal. That said I think these recent messages are scare tactics to get us to use wifi more. I called customer service and she said that in my region I was in the top 5% of users which I new was crap, that hitting 2 GB this month was all the sudden me being in the top 5% when last month my 3 GB wasn't. I think the worst part of it is that we pay the same amount of money as people on the new 3 GB plan, but if they use more than 2 they aren't throttled. It's only the unlimited people that get throttled. Be fair AT&T. If 3 GB is all you want people to use for $30 then make that the limit on the "unlimited" plan. They should change their warning to "We will throttle the top 5% of data users who have been loyal customers for at least 2 or three years" not top 5% of data users because they don't include those with a tiered plan. It's bad business and it's frustrating. The worst part is we don't really have any better options. I wish Apple would buy AT&T and make it better.
  • I'm an AT&T user in Chicago since 2008 grandfathered into unlimited data. I can honestly say I was and continue to be in the top % of data users and I'm not sorry about it, until now. I was consistently averaging 20-30GB/mo and often-times spiking to 50-60GB but more recently, was only averaging 5-10GB/mo. I got my first text and throttle experience in Nov 2011. Then in 12/11 and 01/12 at a number of right over 5GB, I was immediately throttled.
    I understand I use a lot of data and the polite thing to do is share the wealth. But I also believe I'm entitled to use as much data as I like given that I signed up and pay for unlimited.
    That said, I'm also among users whose data is not just being throttled, it's being crippled.
    This is unacceptable. I'm furious. ALL AT&T users, data heavy or not, should also be furious. This is highway robbery.
    I was told (off the record) by an AT&T employee that there are many factors that decide throttling; but most importantly it's "based on being in the top % of users in your market (location)" meaning that there's a smaller sample size to choose from and that data statistics are likely to show data usage to be smaller thus making the throttle threshold smaller. Furthermore, the second key factor I was told is that (to their knowledge) there is no magic number that AT&T has decided to throttle users, that instead its a month to month sliding scale, again based on top % in your market. I was kindly asked not to repeat this btw.
    This leads me to conclude that AT&T is purposefully and maliciously engaging in measures to not only throttle/punish heavy users, but also intentionally work to drive down ALL data usage.
    I'd like to start throttling how much I pay.
    We need to stand together and fight against big orange. We need action. We need a class action suit.
    AT&T's throttling practices needs to be the new SOPA/PIPA.
    I'm considering starting a petition site. I'll post the link if I pull the trigger. At the very least, we can maybe start to collect information to start a class action suit.
    The main problem I'm unhappy about is not necessarily the throttling in general, it's the fact that while the defined set of guidelines that determine throttling might be clear, concise and well thought out to benefit the majority of users (as AT&T claims), the guidelines have not been clearly publicized which force users to walk on data eggshells. The secrecy behind the practice implies that something less than honest is taking place behind the scenes. There isn't a single reason I consider valid for AT&T not to have full transparency for this practice.
  • So once the unlimited people get a throttle, they continue to stream all day raising the 5% tier. And if they actually go by top 5% then you should slowly be allowed more data month by month.
    And if they decided your costing them too much and cancel...can we apply the Early Termination Fee to THEM? Unless the contract specifically says its a 1 way thing, I don't see any reason why we can't. And that should hold up in court. Then you can use the "fee" u receive to pay for another iPhone on a different carrier.
  • My usage for the last 6 months : 4.9,3.2,2.8,4.4,3 &2GBs. No throttle message yet.
  • Got message 5% warning message this morning for the first time. 3.8GB Day 27 of 31.
  • We really have to stand up for this and tell AT&T that we will not tolerate this pressuring. I had been using, at the most 6GB (mainly because the lack of Wi-Fi spots in my region and iTunes match streaming service) for the past few months, but was throttled back in January for going over 4GB. I called and all I received was a flat "there is nothing I can do at this time." No attempt to help me fix the problem, transfer me to higher officials, nothing. They simply told me to switch to one of the tiered plans so that I won't be throttled, basically stating that it isn't a matter of can the AT&T servers handle the traffic, but more so how can we make sure everyone is paying for all the traffic. My unlimited plan is $35-$40, for using as much data as I so choose please. Switching to a tiered plan would mean possibly a $60, $80, etc. a month which is unacceptable! I have always been a loyal AT&T customer, but this customer service and the "under the radar" hacking and pressuring me to give up a service that I have paid for since day one is unacceptable! I'm studying public relations currently, and I have no idea how their firm is going to handle it, but AT&T has always recieved a bad reputation and now I'm starting to see why.
  • If you want to do something about it, [1] call your state's attorney general and [2] call the BBB. The more complaints to these places, the better consumers are.
    My state's AG did not require my contract because they stated at the time unlimited data and 3G was on the display sign and that would incur I have unlimited 3G data.
    So after I got the message and supremely complained and become a thorn, my account is back to the 5GB "unlimited". Call and complain. You'll get your answer.
    If AGs threaten to sue based on the signage, advertised meanings, and common assumption, AT&T will shut up.
  • Just got off the phone with att rep. He said metropolitan areas have high data congestion and will be throttled at 2gb. He then said lower population areas arent as data congested and their 5% is in the range of 5gb. So it sounds like they are throttling based on data congestion in your area not your actual data usage. I'm just going to go to sprint. Sell my AT&T iPhone 4s on Craigslist to pay for the ETF.
  • Early last month I needed to pet sit a friends cat for a week. She didn't have wifi. Being bored I watched a lot of Netflix on my phone. Now mind you, for three years I have had the unlimited plan and never one broke past 700mb. Last month I hit 7gb. Almost all during that week. Well I got the AT&T text. And it irked me. One time in 3 years I have to use a lot of 3G data and I get yelled at for utilizing my unlimited plan. I kept the unlimited plan just for this reason. Maybe once in a blue moon I'd need the extra data. I'm still gonna keep my unlimited because AT&T will have to rip it from my cold dead hands. But I wonder, would they throttle me if I was on a tiered plan and paid overages. Or is throttling just for us unlimited people.
  • Yes, throttling only applies to people w/ unlimitted data plan. AT&T is trying to force us to move to the tiered plans.
  • Same happened to me, I went over just 1 month, last October, yet they never sent a text or a letter. They simply restricted me to only on network data. I live in a spotty rural area, wrok in their network and use wifi at home, yet after being a customet for 16 years, they dump me from unlimited to just on network. I called and spoke to Steve Birchum, what a drone, read a script and admitted that they are trying to get rid of grandfathered plans and nothing I could do and I would be restricted for LIFE, it can never be changed yet I can leave ATT if I want. Pathetic, I pay good money and just get used and told I have no rights. Never be changed? Isnt it just a computer program? What a crok and what a horrible company with horrible reps. I would never treat my customers as I have been treated.
  • It's DOWNRIGHT DISPICABLE the way that AT&T is treating their LONG-TIME customers...and iPhone customers at that. We literally put them on the map as the premier smartphone provider. Sure, we still get "unlimited" data, but what's it worth when you can't even stream a two-minute video clip? THIS IS BOGUS. They slashed the prices and oversold the iPhone 3G in '09 without building the network to because they are GREEDY, and they paid Luke Wilson peanuts to lie to us rather than BUILD/UPGRADE THEIR NETWORK. Their customer service reps are as corrupt as career politicians...the only difference is that those peons can't convincingly read off of a script.
    Please join me at, and let's stand together and FIGHT AT&T. Post screenshots of speed-tests, provide links to articles such as this one, and help restore the age-old adage "THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT". Most of us shell out over $100 to AT&T EVERY MONTH for their service, and NONE OF US paid less than $200 for our original devices when the "unlimited" plans were still offered. : FIGHT AT&T "Unlimited" Data Throttling!!
  • Sprint is the only carrier doing the right thing right now.
  • I switched to the2 gb plan because i coildnt take the trottled speed anymore If I am being charged for going over now, where's my credit when I've stayed under? If this is the whole spectrum/bandwidth crunch BS then I should be rewarded for preserving my allotted bits back into the fold!
  • I have had my unlimited plan since day one. I only use my iphone for listening to music while I drive and work. I generally use 4 to 8 gbs a month. A few weeks ago at 2.1 gbs of use ATT began throttling me to .10 mbps down with 1 mbps up. Today was the last day of my cycle I went ATT store about my 3g speed. They told me it was a Iphone 4s issue. I proceeded to the Apple store; the workers there said yes there is an issue with my new iphone and gave me a new one. After leaving there my speeds went to .05mbps down so I went to another ATT store where they gave me a new Sims and still had no idea why my 3g data was so slow. The store clerk called the ATT help desk, that’s when they told him I was throttled back. So my feelings on this issue is that it’s obvious ATT is trying to sneak this in because I went to three stores dealing with iphones and they had no idea that ATT was throttling people back. Since ATT didn't notify people of this new process it cost apple a new iphone 4s and a new Sims card along with a lot of wasted time at their stores.
  • I have Verizon and have used 62 Gbs this month and have yet to noticed any decrease in my speed. I am grandfathered in with the unlimited data and have the a jailbroken iPhone 4. I tether netflix every night and use it to download music. No problems at all.
  • What the "h" is going on. This is corporate aggression against its clients. Our voice needs to be heard loud and clear. This kind of business tactics should not be acceptable in the 21st century. If they want us to be served by second rate service we should use all the viral resources available to let the world know exactly what kind of service AT&T offers their faithful data users.
  • Hey Im like the many of you who have also been throttled, im in the Chicago area. Anyway I was looking for a class action lawsuit on this matter but couldnt find one. If anybody knows of one going on please let me know or if people affected want to send me an email we can get a group together to start one. So let me know at if you were effected!
  • I got the message last night after they said I got to 2 GB. I have unlimited - I asked them why throttle me at 2 gb when I pay more than 2gb limited who are not throttled.
    My average usage is well under 1 gb. Only thing different this month is I added iTunes match and have listened while commuting and I streamed 1 Netflix show.
    ATT sucks but nothing else is better. May use my CLEAR hotspot with iPad and get a cheap phone, LOL.