You Can Now Pay AT&T Extra To Adhere To The Dictionary Definition Of 'Unlimited'

from the pay-me-more-to-avoid-my-nonsense dept

For years, US wireless carriers have had a... somewhat nebulous relationship with the dictionary definition of "unlimited." As in, for the better part of two decades they've sold wireless data plans professing to be "unlimited," then included all manner of heavy handed limitations, often buried in mouse print. Verizon received wrist slaps for this way back in 2007. AT&T recently settled accusations that it lied to consumers about the throttling limitations in the company's "unlimited" plans (impacted consumers got all of $22 for participating in the class action).

None of these penalties were meaningful enough to really change industry behavior. AT&T and Verizon for example now charge more for "unlimited" plans that don't throttle 4K or HD video. And you need to pay more if you want to use your phone and "unlimited data plan" as a mobile hotspot. Sprint at one point even tried throttling all games, music, and movies unless users paid more.

Somehow we normalized paying wireless providers more money just to avoid arbitrary restrictions, then celebrate when they ease off even modestly. For example this week, AT&T announced that users that buy the company's most expensive wireless plan ($85-per-month "Unlimited Elite) will no longer see their connection throttled after a set amount of usage. In short, if you want AT&T to get close to adhering to the dictionary definition of "unlimited," you'll need to pay more:

"AT&T is adding a few more benefits to its $85-per-month top-tier unlimited plan at no added cost. Unlimited Elite subscribers will now truly have access to unlimited high-speed data and will no longer be subject to deprioritization after hitting 100GB of data per month. Customers will also get a bump from 30GB of monthly hotspot data up to 40GB as well as up to 4K video streaming — boosted from a maximum of 1080p. The new plan features will be added automatically for all current subscribers starting this week."

Network management technologies have evolved to the point where well-built modern networks can detect, adapt, and avoid congestion bottlenecks by deprioritizing select traffic with virtually no detection by the end users. So there's no real reason for many of these kinds of arbitrary restrictions to exist, outside of creating a sort of pricing funnel that shovels you to the most expensive plan if you'd simply like your connection to work normally. Yet the press has normalized this sort of thing to the point where outlets applaud a company for charging you more to avoid bizarre restrictions.

AT&T only made this modest concession because a similar plan by T-Mobile pressured it to (read: competition). But as investors inevitably force AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to exploit the reduced competition from the Sprint/T-Mobile merger over the next few years, you'll see more and more nickel-and-diming, less real price competition, and fewer and fewer meaningful concessions. Especially if the government can't be bothered to restore net neutrality or the FCC's authority over telecom providers.

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Filed Under: fees, mobile broadband, throttling, truth in advertising, unlimited
Companies: at&t


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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 15 Jul 2021 @ 6:41am

    An idea for AT&T

    Dear AT&T,

    After your customers become accustomed to paying extra to not be in the slow lane, there is another way you can improve customer service.

    Charge customers a new fee that insures there are not arbitrary random dropouts in their connection.

    Your customers will be glad you are looking out for their best interests by offering a service that ensures steady connections.

    Sincerely,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 6:59am

    Wait. The hotspots still dont have unlimited data plans though?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Luke A, 15 Jul 2021 @ 7:14am

    The Big Three

    Sprint was going under.
    If T-Mobile had not gotten them, AT&T may have gotten them. That would have been bad. But odds are that Verizon would have gotten them. That would be WORSE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 15 Jul 2021 @ 7:33am

    What is the dictionary definition of slimey?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 15 Jul 2021 @ 7:49am

    But wait! There's more! While the unlimited plan*!!xx gives you limited unlimited, we offer our infinite limited plan for just an extra $40/month!
    And that's not all. Our infinite limited plan comes with a turbo unlimited conditional plan for a small price of $65/month!
    If you order now, you can get our boundless, very restrictive, data free network connection for just 1 mortgage.

    Sign up today!

    **!!xx Must be order on days ending in 'x' during a full moon when Alpha Centauri crashes into our sun.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 8:12am

    Clearly Richard Bennett has been taking his ISP stripper tips up the... shall we say, more sensitive orifices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter, 15 Jul 2021 @ 8:46am

    Really?

    Is that the "Unlimited....no, no really. This time we do actually mean unlimited. Yes everything including movies, social media and everything. And no we won't just change what we mean 6 months from now" unlimited data plan?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Jul 2021 @ 3:01pm

      Re: Really?

      Is that the "Unlimited....no, no really. This time we do actually mean unlimited. Yes everything including movies, social media and everything. And no we won't just change what we mean 6 months from now" unlimited data plan?

      No, it's still limited. "Customers will also get a bump from 30GB of monthly hotspot data up to 40GB"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 15 Jul 2021 @ 8:49am

    'Look, those contracts you signed weren't for unlimited data, they had a typo. They meant to say 'NuLimited' as we can impose nu limits at any point and you can't do squat.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 8:59am

    I have faith in AT&T

    I'm sure they'll come up with a way to limit this new service in record time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 9:15am

    Simple answer...Netflix etc should encrypt EVERYTHING.

    If AT&T break that encryption or even TRY to, then they're in violation of the DMCA and its circumvention clause and can be sued to hell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      Netflix etc should encrypt EVERYTHING.

      Don't they already? Netflix have historically been big pushers of DRM, which is why Sita Sings the Blues wasn't there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 15 Jul 2021 @ 6:52pm

      Re:

      "Netflix etc should encrypt EVERYTHING"

      Even if they don't already, that doesn't help with anything here. These ISPs don't need to know the content itself to pull this crap, only that it didn't originate from their own servers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2021 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    spam, cloned photo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 15 Jul 2021 @ 11:25pm

    Or…

    Switch to T-Mobile. Better coverage, better quality, better policies…
    True unlimited.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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