Matt Spaccarelli was outraged when he discovered his unlimited data plan was being throttled, a practice used by both AT&T and Verizon. Basically, Spaccarelli was paying $130 monthly for a 4G unlimited data plan that he could not use fully as once he exceeded about 2GB of data in a billing cycle, his speeds were slowed. Can a company truly limit that which is claimed to be unlimited? A California small claims court judge says no way.
The Speed Battle
Upon discovering his phone wasn't as fast as it had been and discovering he was one of the 5% of AT&T account holders affected by throttling, he decided to take them to court. He couldn't take it to the Supreme court, as a ruling dictates customers cannot file a class action lawsuit to change the throttling policy. The battle must be fought in small claims court.
As with any large corporation, AT&T attempted to settle the case. In their eyes, it's all about money. Not for Spaccarelli, who simply wanted to get a point across: I'm paying a lot of money to use this service that you told me was “unlimited,” but your limiting me. I don't want your money, just the unlimited data plan I signed a contract for. Simple, right?
Take That, AT&T
The judge agreed with Spacarelli, stating throttling his data speed violated the terms and conditions laid out in the contract for the data plan. He ordered AT&T to pay $935. In true large corporation fashion, AT&T reported they would appeal the ruling, but lo and behold a check arrived for Spacarelli which he photographed and tweeted in satisfaction. Mark Siegel, AT&T spokesman, confirmed the release of the check, but refused further comment.
Spacarelli feels the check is proof AT&T knows full well what they are doing is wrong. If they felt they could have appealed successfully, they wouldn't have mailed him the check. It is interesting to note Spacarelli tagged AT&T in his photo tweet, a final slap in the face. Well done.
They Just Keep on Throttling
Interestingly enough, Spacarelli's plan is still being throttled. He noticed even after receiving the check .31 Mbps download speed. However, it doesn't bother him much anymore. He feels the win in court was enough, and says he plans to use the money he received to not only terminate his contract before it runs out, but also to attend the AT&T stockholders meeting held in Salt Lake City next month.
Spacarelli noticed throttling after reaching about 1.5 or 2 GB of usage, but the company claims they will not consider the practice unless over 3GB of data used in a billing cycle for 3G and 4G customers. 4G LTE customers are allowed up to 5GB. They also claim 95% of their smartphone users aren't affected. Not quite believable after the evidence was released in this case.
Spacarelli has figured out a way to retain fast speeds without signing a contract with another provider, or being forced to stick with AT&T. He purchased another iPhone and obtained a SIM card from reseller Straight Talk, which gives him download speeds of 3.83 Mbps on AT&T's 3G network. The added bonus: paying less than half what he was paying AT&T each month. It is $45 each month for unlimited data, talk, and text.