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back to article AT&T: 'Eat too much data and we'll strangle you'

If you're a heavy downloader with an unlimited AT&T wireless data plan, you have two more months of full-speed all-you-can-eat before your service may be throttled. "Starting October 1," the company explained in a press release on Friday, "smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their …

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Pint

Throttling

True, Sprint is the only truly unlimited carrier left, for now, but as Sprint just last $800 million this quarter, that won't last forever. Let the iPhone come to Sprint and surely thereafter, unlimited will likely get throttled. Doing away with unlimited completely would be a mistake for Sprint, as customers would just flock to Verizon to get LTE. Many have already done that, as WiMax has spotty coverage, at best.

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Silver badge

But hold the phone, so to speak.

Sprint just became LightSquared's best friend, meaning for the sake of this argument that Sprint now has a roadmap to LTE as well (through LightSquared's infrastructure). And of course AT&T is in the middle of an LTE transition, so it now looks like LTE is turning into a three-horse race.

That said, I don't expect the totally-unlimited plans to stick around. Sprint may not have iPhones, but they have an increasing Android presence, and and LTE rollout will only encourage more data usage.

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a

at least its better then T-mobile as they cap you to GPRS speeds (3KB/s or 32kb/s) once you hit your 1GB an month limit (i am guessing USA T-mobile do the same thing)

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Thumb Up

It's always the

the few that spoil it for the many.

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Of course

ISPs and carriers overselling bandwidth they haven't got doesn't help.

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FAIL

If folk want carriers not to oversell

then as a general rule folk won't like the prices. It's reasonable contention (ie reasonable overselling) that makes broadband tariffs affordable, as anyone who's ever looked at uncontended landline broadband tariffs will confirm.

And in the case we're looking at here, mobile broadband, there is no such thing as uncontended capacity anyway, so measures have to be taken to prevent unreasonable usage by a small number of users having a detrimental effect on the rest of the customers. Fact.

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Flame

"the few that spoil it for the many"

Yes, it is the few, pig ignorant and thieving, corporates who spoil it for the many people who have bought smartphones and "unlimited" contracts.

It is not, however, the 1 in 20 people who are getting the best use of their equipment.

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AKA

Those using their unlimited service as it is supposed to be (Hint, it is in the plan's title).

What is that? It isn't really unlimited? Well then that sounds like false advertising.

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Stop

Totally agree with you

It's only that the ISP should tell us exactly these words instead on selling unlimited bandwidth hoping (and making sure) we don't use that much. Besides that, the top 5% is not a very good measure. Let's (I know, I should say hypothetically) say the top 5% are using 500Mb per month. Are they still going to be throttled ? What is the reasonable threshold users should be aware of ? I can limit my Internet access if I know I'm close to 95% of the limit imposed by the ISP. But in this case, AT&T doesn't mention a limit, so how can I stay out of the 5% club ? Oh, I see it's when they are going to notify me. But they could do it as soon as I go beyond 1Mb couldn't they ?

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Go

the top 5% is not a very good measure

Or is it actually a rather cunning application of game theory to have people guessing how their usage compares with other people without any solid information on the subject? Probably most of the people who will cut back their usage weren't in the top 5% to start with. But it still feels like it only *really* affects the top 5%.

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Mushroom

You would be wrong.

I have PAID...and am PAYING (USD$60.00 per MONTH)for truly unlimited broadband access from Verizon, here in the US. I use my handset to tether to my laptop computer & handheld device when I am on the road working.

I have had the service since it first became available, over 5 years, and am "grandfathered in" to it, until I change to a "smartphone"...which I have no plans on doing.

So if I am willing to pay for such a service, then the company who sold it to me is just going to have to deal with my data use. Period.

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Anonymous Coward

It was bound to happen sooner or later

It doesn't sound as bad as Direcway's FAP for satellite users though.

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Anonymous Coward

As Simple As

Then they shouldn't be allowed to called it "unlimited"!

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Gold badge
FAIL

Ahh Verizon and AT&T...

the big jokes of data. AT&T switched a while ago (a year or so) from $30 unlimited to $25 for 2GB. Not to outdo them, VZW (Verizon Wireless.. who is still 40% owned by Vodaphone) then switched from $30 unlimited to $30 for 2GB towards the beginning of the month. Oh, and to top it off, even though that means you're now paying per GB for your data, they then want to charge *even more* to be able to tether using the data you've already paid for. What a joke. Thank goodness I'm already grandfathered into unlimited data, VZW has by far the best coverage in the US.

So, on the unlimited plan, VZW reserved the right to throttle the top 5% of users. In actuality, there are a few reports on howardforums of people being throttled at 9GB, but intermittently -- it seems they only throttle when the local cell site is under load, so most of the time even at 9GB they were not seeing throttling. AT&T tends to be much stricter in enforcement of their terms, so I'm sure at exactly at some number of MBs, rates will be throttled to some speed all month. Of course, the ridiculous 2GB plans are just a massive cash grab, throttling would already take care of users trying to stream videos all month, or run bittorent, or whatever.

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Pirate

Bee Line

There now - forward this little nasty to your representatives along with a question to the tune of: And what have you done today that helps to prevent the aggravated assault on freedom by corporate entities? Where 95% of their answers should entail: Helping the deep pockets strangle speech ... at any volume, at any cost. Don't forget to thank them for their time.

Thank you for your time.

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Holmes

Hmmmm...

That is sort of an interesting observation about Campaign Finance.

OK Corporate "People" you can donate as much as you want, but after you've donated $25 you have to cut checks for $0.25 each time. Never mind the check costs $50.

Yeah, the Supreme Court will be all for that, I expect.

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Thumb Down

That bloody word.

"Unlimited" is really beginning to get on my tits. Pros and sons of throttling notwithstanding.

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It IS unlimited, do learn to read...

It is unlimited, actually. You can use as much data as you like, but take the piss and they'll slow down the transfer rate

Seems very fair to me

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Anonymous Coward

Unlimited with throttling = All you can eat buffet

but with smaller plates.

To give the kitchen staff a chance to refill the serving dishes.

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Silver badge

But that's still a limit...

...and therefore against the very definition of "unlimited" (as in no limits whatsoever). Whether it's by cap or throttle, they're basically trying to hand you off a limited unlimited plan (which makes no logical sense).

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options

At least it's just throttling, rather than permanently disconnecting as companies like Comcast have done.

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WTF?

"the few that spoil it for the many"

What kind of moron downvotes a perfectly reasonable post like that?

Let's put to one side the issue of whether unlimited should mean unlimited.

It may not be a popular concept with mickeytaking freetards, but if some form of usage cap (preferably one that acknowledges the difference between peak and off peak) helps maintain quality of service for the remaining non-mickeytaking 95% of the userbase, where is the problem?

You only have to look at the UK's history of small but disastrous numbers of migrating mickeytaking freetards who in recent years brought down 'unlimited' ISP after ISP (at least until LLU became more widely available) to see what kind of effect these morons can have on any ISP foolish enough to offer unlimited usage tariffs without expecting unlimited revenue to cover the unlimited cost of the required bandwidth.

There, that feels better. Let's watch the downvotes now. But I'd prefer a reasoned objection, if anyone can think of one.

.

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Unlimitied lies

"Let's put to one side the issue of whether unlimited should mean unlimited."

No, let's not put that aside, as it is at the heart of the issue. If any ISP wants to market something as "unlimited", then it should be as described, unlimited. There may be many perfectly good reasons why ISPs need to set limits but they should be honest about it.

A similar issue arose over "lifetime warranty" some years ago, where some manufacturers, having used the promise of a lifetime warranty in their marketing, retrospectively decided that a "lifetime warranty" was only valid for few years - until a court told them otherwise.

It is perfectly reasonable to have various constraints and limitations when selling goods and services but it is fraudulent to lie about or conceal those constraints and limitations in order to sucker people into a purchase.

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Bronze badge

Not freetards fault, managements fault

In the case of people bringing down ISPs through over usage of unlimited internet packages (how can you over-use something that's being sold to you as "unlimited"?), it's not the people but the mis-management of the company.

Hark back to the days of the Hoover company and one single fuckup that cost them £50 million after years of court cases: free flights to anyone who spent over £100 on Hoover products.

That was simply people seeing an offer and taking it up - the same with internet packages, if the company can't afford to provide what they offer then they shouldn't be offering it in the first place.

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Silver badge

Well one reasoned objection

...is that the 'Unlimited' ISPs were also selling bandwidth that they couldn't provide. If someone sells me unlimited bandwidth at 1Mb/sec or whatever; I expect to be able to draw on that 24/7...that is what I've been sold and that is what I expect to be able to redeem.

Say I go into a pub and order a pint. The landlord brings me back a half and says "sorry mate, those pissheads in the corner are really slurping it up tonight"...and then charges me for a pint anyway...same thing.

I work on the internet and am a heavy user. On my own, I can do in 2-5Gb/day without going near anything that could be described as "mickeytaking freetardery". Linux users can do in a few Gb just staying current. Heavy use != freetardery...there are many perfectly kosher reasons that people use a lot of intertubes.

ISPs in the early days were very much 'boom and bust'...you announced the service and obtained infrastructure that could support a certain number of users. In the early days, your service was popular because your infrastructure was undersubscribed. Gradually you packed more and more users onto that infrastructure. Along the way you noted that your infrastructure could support *more* than the rated number of users as not everybody was ramming the pipes all the time. So you crammed more and more users onto it. Eventually the service slowed down and became more unreliable. So then you upgrade your infrastructure to cope with more users and start the cycle again. If at upgrade time you had 1) Spent the cash or 2) Left it too long in the 'unreliable' state so that your reputation was trashed; you went bust. That's putting it simplistically and there are loads of other reasons ISPs went bust...there are always casualties in early adoption.

Blaming the heavy users is only ever an excuse. If you resell what you don't have, you are going to run into problems. And implying that all heavy use is down to freetardery with no exceptions is untrue.

You're just swallowing and regurgitating the ISPs' PR; and that's where your downvotes come from.

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FAIL

No

"Let's put to one side the issue of whether unlimited should mean unlimited."

See title.

Beep Boop Bee Bee Boop Bop Tring Boop Bong...

Brrrrr Brrrrr Brrrrrr Brrrrrr Click..

'Hi!! Welcome to the dial up line for genuine physical SEX with Britney Spears!!!!, only $5 per minute. She will be with you soon. Enter your credit card number after the tone..... boooooooooo

Beep Boop Bee Bee Boop Bop Tring Boop Bong...

Thank you!!! Make Coffee, Sit back and Britney will be with you soon. Click.'

Brews Coffee and makes food stuff just to impress.

Bing Bong, Bing Bong.

Clunk. Opens Door.

'Hi Britney here!!!!'

'WTF. You are a bloke!"

'Damn! No shit. What did you expect? Coffee smells nice.'

'Got Nachos and Nintendo as well..'

'I'll cancel and take the night off. These heels are killing me.'

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Facepalm

ME!

I'm the kind of moron that downvotes a 'perfectly reasonable post' like your and whoevers.

You go to a restaurant which advertises 'All you can eat for X quid' and you are told " you've had 3 courses, no more for you".

Your response is:

a. "That's perfectly reasonable. I'm a mickeytaking freetard"?

or

b. "WTF? The sign says all you can eat"?

or

c. "Since you've explained that your business model depends upon people being attracted by an 'all you can eat sign' but you refuse to honour it, I'm persuaded it's in your best interests that I don't take advantage of your wonderful offer mainly because, as you've explained, it doesn't exist. Stupid of me to think it might!".

Vonker.

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Mushroom

Hint

When you're getting lots of downvotes, you may have said something stupid.

Throttling can be used in a legitimate fashion; the only time that's legitimate is when there is serious contention on the local infrastructure. There will always be a "Top 5%" no matter the amount people are using. To choke their bandwidth when there is no contention is the real "mickeytaking" that's going on.

The very ISP's that advertise bandwidth heavy services are no making it impossible to use them.

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Boffin

Reasoned argument coming your way

Well, for a start, unlimited means unlimited, check a dictionary. But as you say, put that aside..

Why are only the top 5% "mickeytaking freetards"? What about those that are only in the top 6%? Are they lovely honest paying people? Why is it OK to make a throttle applicable to a moving target? Put it this way, if July's top 5% all go on holiday for a week (could happen), suddenly Mr Reasoned Downloader in the top 6% moves up into the bad-boy category, without changing his own behaviour. Sound measured or fair? Try arbitrary and unpredictable.

I'm all for charging based on bandwidth consumed. But why not just move to an actual model where you can pay for a proper unlimited package? ISPs already understand there's no such thing as unlimited, even when they claim to truly offer it. Sky is the one example I can think of, that for the moment is able to sell a truly unlimited service. But everyone knows that at some point it will become problematic and they'll reintroduce a similar solution - by which point they potentially have people under contract. They're effectively moving the goalposts once you're playing, and quite often you're trapped on the pitch.

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Silver badge
FAIL

"A reasoned objection"...?

What kind of moron tries to stifle responses to his post by, straight off the bat, trying to deny the fundamental issue with a phrase like "Let's put to one side the issue of whether unlimited should mean unlimited"?

When a supplier uses a word like "unlimited" and then, in short order, starts putting limits on it the expression "Bait and Switch" comes to mind, so for a "reasoned objection" how about basic advertising standards?

If a business is going to offer a service, they should be *able* to provide the service *as advertised*, so claiming to offer an "unlimited" service and then relying on "weasel clauses" in the small print (it's only unlimited as long as you don't actually try to *use* it that way) is deceptive advertising just as "up to XX megabits" is (you can only get "up to" that if nobody else is using the connection).

Bleating that "it's not our fault, it's the fault of some customers who won't play fair" doesn't get past the fact that the company *LIED* in the first place.

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FAIL

No

"Let's put to one side the issue of whether unlimited should mean unlimited."

No, lets not. Redefining common usage of words for nefarious purposes is the domain of scumbag groups such as politicians, lawyers and advertising people.

This is something a lot of techies are against. We tend not to like Bullshit.

For that reason anyone who defends faux-"unlimited" should expect being downvoted to oblivion.

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Bronze badge

Didn't someone say they no longer sell the "unlimited forever" contract?

If they've discontinued this deal, then evidently their current deals are better FOR THEM and they WANT to either move customers onto limited deals or lose those customers. Paring away the users who find the deal most advantageous is a sneakily smart way to do that, whether legal or not.

It is like the legend - true or not - that whoever stopped applauding first whenever Stalin made a speech would be shot. It seems to me impractical for Stalin to do that when addressing a large gathering, not to mention a great waste of time on applauding instead of getting on with business, but it's a fine story.

Having said that, the characterisation of heavy users as probably being bootleg media criminals is probably quite right, in my opinion. But then why not go after them on that basis? Well, maybe they'll do that too. And also, better to use that as the excuse to put in place a rule to hassle and terminate ANY customer that you don't want to serve any more, and not only the ones who are really doing something wrong. Better from the "evil tormentor of your client-victims" point of view, that is.

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Anonymous Coward

Where in the contract does it say that unlimited means

unlimited and unthrottled?

It is perfecly practical to be unlimited with throttling.

Any ISP who attempts unlimited unthrottled deserves everything they get.

It would help if advertising was honest, but c'mon guys...

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Anonymous Coward

The definition

From the OED, (Other dictionaries also have a pretty similar set)

Unlimited:

Pronunciation:/ʌnˈlɪmɪtɪd/

adjective

* 1 not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent:

offshore reserves of gas and oil are not unlimited

* Mathematics(of a problem) having an infinite number of solutions.

* 2 (of a company) not limited.

"Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent" seems to sum it up nicely. Throttling is limiting by extent.

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title

So cancel the service.

I cancelled my comcast service.

Lucky for me I can use local wifi at about 1mbit without losing any packets or sleep.

These companies all took money with words like "unlimited" and they never ever should of been permitted to use such language to begin with.

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Facepalm

Did ATT hire Bill Clinton?

I thought "Unlimited" meant, well "unlimited". Throttling sounds like a very clear case of applying a limit. Truth in advertising lawyers, ready your briefs?????.

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Big Brother

Re: Bee Line

Give me HSDPA or give me death.

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Silver badge

Two things make this unreasonable

First of all, if they're still going to call it unlimited, that is what I believe is known as a "lie".

Second, the policy itself is not nearly as reasonable as it first sounds. There is nothing inherently abusive about being in the 5% of users. Remember 1 in 20 users are ALWAYS in the the top 5%. After this policy forces the top 5% of used to cut back, or perhaps switch carriers, someone else will be in the 5%, and they next month, a new 5%, repeat ad nauseum.

This is nothing but a moderately clever attempt to drive bandwidth usage down across the board. The only people who won't eventually be effected are the very light users who never should have signed up for "unlimited" data in the first place.

If they wanted to address his fairly, #1 don't call it unlimited, #2 throttle users who exceed something like 10 times the average usage. That way it only effects genuine outliers, not the guy who just happened to watch one more Youtube video than any of his 19 neighbors.

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Thumb Up

Nice post

And nicer logic.

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Anonymous Coward

If it was a nice normal distribution then I'd agree - but it isn't, so I don't.

The heavy data modem users are using several times more resources than 'normal' smartphone users.

And this is the case even though the smartphone users outnumber the data modem users many times over!

So its a normal distribution for the iPhone users and then at about 100 standard deviations away you get this big spike of bit torrenters who think unlimited means unlimited.

Unlimited means the bill is limited - if that makes sense.

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WTF?

Unlimited?

un·lim·it·ed /ʌnˈlɪmɪtɪd/

[uhn-lim-i-tid]

–adjective

1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.

2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.

3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

Can Networks not speak english anymore?

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So they'll always throttle the top 5%

Ok, so what happens in a situation where everyone is abiding by a sensible amount of data usage? The way the article is written implies that they'll still throttle the top 5%, even if they reduce their data usage....

In effect, if you're in this demographic, you might as well keep sucking down as much as you can because unless you stop using the service entirely, you're gonna keep getting capped.

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Facepalm

Here in Australia....

...we'd love to get throttled at 9gb or so.

Man, 5gb would be awesome.

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Unhappy

Throttling is better than hidden fees.

AT&T is implementing a 150 GB cap for DSL and 250 GB for Cable. The first two months they warn you, then after that they automatically bill you $10 per 50 GB overage pack.

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Stop

unlimited

surely there is a limit to the time in the month and the bandwidth available - therefore unlimited should effectively equal that sum and should be disclosed to customers (probably averaged down to account for lower speed areas).

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5% of users at any one time

I'm suprised that noone except the last post mentioned the fact that from what's told to us, it's not at all 5%.

Even Old Handle is not seeing it as black as it may well be.

As soon as you reach those 5%, you're throttled for the rest of the month, even if you drop out of it.

Does that mean that if I heavily use my phone on the first day of the month, I'm throttled, and then i don't use it as much, sonce I can't, so the very next day, someone else is bound to replace me in the top 5%?

If so, it may very well in the end touch a huge proportion of people in any given month

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Just what I was thinking

If you're in the top 5% then you get capped, so you're no longer able to remain in the top 5% and someone else overtakes you, but you're still limited for the rest of the month.

It sounds like someone driving alongside a race and kneecapping the 3 people in the lead, they

fall to the back of the pack and people 4, 5 and 6 are now the leaders. So they get kneecapped too, eventually everyone is forced to run in a line at the speed of the slowest runner.

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Pint

"5% consume 12x more than average"

Analysis: I will generously assume that the "average" is the average of just the 95%, not including the heavy users. In fact, by definition, the "average" should include all users. Therefore the following will be an overstatement.

Network traffic = (95% * Avg) + (5% * [12*Avg]) = 155% of Avg

In other words, because 5% is such a small fraction (1 in 20), even at 12x the usage, the total is still well within the bell curve of normal distribution. There will be FAR MORE variation from one cell site to the next, or especially over time, than this relatively minor ~50% increase in the total traffic originating from such a small fraction of the users.

Conclusions:

5% is a small enough fraction that they can't really plug-up the entire network all by themselves. The numbers literally don't add up.

Their wireless network problems are therfore localized in certain locations and at certain times. They should fix those locations.

This is a money-making scam. Ripe for a lawsuit.

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Pirate

you ignore the fact they are competing for a limited resource...

From one who does this stuff for a living - yes it really is 5% consuming 95% of the resources.

The resources are limited so the normal distribution does not apply.

If you want your reasonable all-you-can-eat iPhone data plan to go up by a factor of 5 or 10 to pay for all these guys who are bit-torrenting night and day 24/7 when they should really use a landline then be careful what you wish for.

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Thumb Down

"the few that spoil it for the many"

It's downvoted because by definition, Unlimited means unlimited.

It doesn't mean unlimited, but (said with a mere whisper) limited under certain conditions.

That kind of logic is confined to politicians just before election day.

The customers (well 5% of them anyway) are taking _exactly_ what AT&T were offering.

There's nothing wrong with that.

Just because you chose not to, doesn't put you in any higher moral position.

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