Customers Howl Over AT&T Data-Use Curbs

Wireless carriers are getting increasingly forceful in their efforts to pitch mobile bandwidth as a scarce, valuable commodity—setting up a battle with consumer groups that support open-Internet rules and longtime customers who treasure their unlimited data plans.


Among U.S. carriers, AT&T Inc. is leading the charge. Its latest scuffle came on Friday, a day after the country’s second-largest wireless company said its 17 million customers who subscribed to unlimited-data plans will see much slower speeds if they exceed a new monthly usage cap.

“I pay for unlimited usage, and I’m not getting it,” said Jordan Hackworth, an AT&T customer in Salem, Ore. “Why would I stay with a carrier that doesn’t respect that?”

For now, less than 5% of AT&T’s smartphone customers exceed the new three-gigabyte monthly cap put in place by the carrier. But as wireless technology gets faster and data-heavy services like mobile video proliferate, the question of who pays the price for expensive networks—and how much the phone companies are able to profit from them—is increasingly taking center stage in the mobile industry.

AT&T has tried to put the onus on Washington, insisting that the push by antitrust enforcers and regulators to block the company’s $39 billion takeover last year of rival carrier T-Mobile USA hurt its effort to bolster its network. AT&T said the deal would have given it more access to the wireless airwaves that carry mobile traffic and lashed out at regulators after the deal was killed in December.

“In a capacity-constrained environment, usage-based data plans, increased pricing, managing the speeds of the highest volume users—these are all logical and necessary steps to manage utilization,” Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said in a January conference call with analysts.

Full Story Via WSJ