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iPhone Owner Gets $850 from AT&T Over Data Throttling



AT&T’s data throttling policy, aimed at curbing consumption of those grandfathered into unlimited data plans, has drawn the ire of smartphone owners on one of the nation’s largest cellular providers. However, one man decided to take his frustrations a step beyond customer service and beyond the forums where most complaints take  place.

Matt Spaccarelli has taken his battle against AT&T and its data throttling policy to the courtroom.

And rather surprisingly, Spaccarelli won.

iPhone Owner Takes AT&T to Court Over Data Throttling and WinsOn Friday, Russell Nadel, a judge with the Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley ruled in favor of Spaccarelli in his case against AT&T.

Nadel awarded him $850,$85 for each month left on his contract, and ruled that it was unfair for AT&T to slow down his data when the carrier had sold him a plan with “unlimited data.”

The company had, up until last year, allowed those grandfathered into unlimited data plans to keep using unlimited data. However late in 2011, AT&T started slowing down the data for the top 5 percent of data hogs owning such a data plan.

Spaccarelli was among those that saw his data slow to a crawl and like many smartphone owners who saw their data speeds throttled, he became upset. Upset at the fact that the carrier had promised unlimited data but had reneged on its agreement before the end of his contract.

(Read: AT&T Starts Throttling Grandfathered Unlimited Customers after 2 GB.)

So after a couple months of research, he took his case to small claims court and came out with the winning judgement. His fight is not over though as AT&T has said that it will appeal the verdict.

And if other iPhone owners follow suit, it could end up appealing a few more cases in the months ahead.

There are currently around 17 million iPhone owners who are still grandfathered into unlimited data plans and they too could attempt to take their fight to the courts. They just won’t be able to do so together.

AT&T has a clause in its subscriber contract that prevents customers from  forming class action lawsuits. That is why Spaccarelli had to take his case to small claims court.

What this means is that AT&T could be bogged down in small claims courts by thousands of customers who perceive the company’s data throttling policy as an unfair practice.

There might be another way though.

As we proposed last week, the best way to beat AT&T’s throttling might be to start consuming more data.

(Read: The Best Way to Beat AT&T’s Data Throttling is to Have Everyone Consume More Data!)

iPhone Owner Takes AT&T to Court Over Data Throttling and WinsIf everyone on AT&T were to start using more data, it would then push the data ceiling further up so that the top 5% of data use would be raised to a higher number and thus, everyone would be able to consume more data then they do now.

AT&T uses this data ceiling to determine who falls into the top 5 percent and who doesn’t. And thus, who gets throttled and who doesn’t.

Problem is, AT&T won’t tell customers what that threshold is. Instead, it just says that it throttles the top 5%. As we now know, the ceiling seems to fall somewhere between 1.5GB and 2GB.

Go past that, and the carrier will slow your data down to 2G EDGE speeds.

So, if every AT&T customer were to work together to increase that threshold by consuming more data, AT&T would be beaten at its own game and iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry users alike could enjoy data intensive content without the fear of being throttled.

In theory it would work, but when it’s as easy as heading down to small claims court to pick up an $850 check, there is little incentive.

Via: AP



  1. Tim Davies

    02/24/2012 at 10:07 pm

    what is stupid is that the newest plan is 3gb for the same cost as the unlimited data plan. If your going to throttle users…don;t do it at 2gb just because everyone, even on the new 3gb plans only use 1.5gb’s…throttle after 3gb’s since thats the amount of data you get for the same current price. I could live with that. Throttling can be better then paying a extra $10…though some NEED that speed for work and would be willing to pay for it.

    • GuesT

      02/26/2012 at 7:02 am

      I think they’re just doing it to get people off of unlimited plans. Maybe people will be like, “well if the unlimited is the problem maybe I should just go to a tiered plan after all..” which I for one will never fucking do

  2. Cuhulin

    02/25/2012 at 6:52 am

    From all available reports, the problem is that the Lamont of throttling is so great that it can lonely bbe considered a breach of contract. AT&T’s comment that they didn’t specify a speed becomes untenable when the speeds are so slow that the service is not usable.

  3. Nonavy2004

    02/25/2012 at 4:24 pm

    The Puerto Rico Goverment is also finening AT&T fot that practice. &2,500.00 a day per customer that complains. $5,000,000 Tops.

  4. asdfsdgdfh

    02/26/2012 at 4:09 am

    Our Website: ***** www flying4biz com **** Our main product list is as follows:

  5. Waqboch

    02/27/2012 at 10:16 am

    I got the first message of being in the top 5% on the second day of my monthly contract period. How much data did I use? I used 368 MB! That’s right! I reset the iPhone 3G data counter at the beginning of each billing cycle. I figured it was an error. But six days later I get the second text message from AT&T. And of course the throttling kicks in. By this time I’ve used 611 MB. AT&T however said I used 2,056 MB. I’ve tested my iPhone data counter many time and it has been dead on. I called AT&T to tell them their system is reporting incorrectly. They said they could not re-instate my speed until the end of my billing cycle. Guess the computers control them!

    Anyway, I got throttled at 611 MB. So while throttled I’ve managed to download over 4 GB plugged in and downloading day and night!

  6. Ky_le

    03/09/2012 at 11:29 am

    I am pretty pissed about this whole ordeal.

    I have been with AT&T for about 4 years now, I have the good ol unlimited plan, and i get like 15% off my bill for military service… so thats like 11 bucks… woo.
    Now… i use a lot of data a month… like 10+ a month.
    I am pretty sure I even got a notice saying that I am in the top 1% of data users.

    Your point AT&T?
    I paid for this shit, let me use it.

    Sadly I don’t see AT&T budging, they are set on saving money and hording their power. 
    So I think I am just going to have to give in, get rid of my $90 a month smart phone plan, move down to like a $20 a month on, and get a $30 a month internet plan….. and still save money…

    • ky_le

      03/09/2012 at 11:56 am

      1.) lowest AT&T cell plan = $39.99

      Time Warner Cable 10 MB/S internet = 34.95
      = $74.94
      2.) AT&T Unlimited data plan with 450 minutes= $87.08

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