Through Price Hikes And Annoyance, AT&T Still Waging War On Unlimited Data Users

from the competition-means-higher-prices! dept

Back in 2011 AT&T and Verizon killed off their unlimited wireless data plans, instead replacing them with usage caps and steep (up to $15 per gigabyte) over fees. And while these companies grandfathered the existing unlimited data users at the time, they've spent the lion's share of the last six years waging a not-so-subtle war on these users in an attempt to get them to switch to metered plans. This ranged from AT&T's decision to block Facetime completely for users on unlimited plans, to covertly throttling these users only after a few gigabytes of usage, then lying about it. Repeatedly.

Of course AT&T has also used vanilla rate hikes on these unlimited data plans to drive users to metered options.

In late 2015, AT&T announced a price hike for its grandfathered unlimited data users by $5 per month. Last week, AT&T confirmed it had tacked on yet another $5 increase. AT&T informed these users that they are still free to keep their unlimited data plan, but AT&T really hopes that you don't:
"If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," AT&T said. The unlimited data price had been $30 a month for seven years, until AT&T raised it to $35 in February 2016. The price increase this year will bring it up to $40. That amount is just for data: Including voice and texting, the smartphone plans cost around $90 a month."
Reports have indicated this attempt by Verizon and AT&T to annoy, cajole, and hammer grandfathered unlimited data users so they leave these plans has been hugely effective. Both companies have desperately tried to convince the public that they don't really want unlimited data anyway, with Verizon going so far last year as to hire an expert to pen a blog post claiming that the consumer desire for unlimited data was just a "gut feeling," and that it was simply technically impossible to offer simpler, easier unlimited data plans.

Even with limited spectrum, the rise of small cells, WiFi offloading, and more robust networks and intelligent network management tools means unlimited data certainly is technically possible. T-Mobile (even though its plans may technically violate net neutrality by throttling all video by default) has thrived thanks to its unlimited data plans. In fact, they've made consumer annoyance at AT&T and Verizon pricing the cornerstone of many of their media campaigns:
Unsurprisingly, both AT&T and Verizon have been losing customers hand over foot to T-Mobile. It's telling (both about these companies and the overall quality of real competition in the space) that their reaction to this competitive threat is to raise rates, whether that's AT&T's price hikes for unlimited data, or Verizon's recent decision to jack up a number of service fees. Yes, AT&T and Verizon could offer unlimited data. It's just far more profitable to have your customers so terrified of going over their monthly allotments, that they sign up for fat, pricey data plans they probably don't need in the first place.

Update: Like clockwork, AT&T has followed Verizon and will also be bumping its activation and device upgrade fee as well. Competition!
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Filed Under: broadband, grandfathered, price hikes, unlimited
Companies: at&t

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  1. icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 11:02am

    'A'T&T my A$$

    The A in AT&T hasn't stood for American in a long time.

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