You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

That is probably my favorite quote from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It came to mind as I read recent news about AT&T’s policy changes regarding its “unlimited” data plan. I put “unlimited” in quotation marks here since it sounds like AT&T no longer knows what this word means and has decided to make up its own definition for it.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell:

  • AT&T used to offer an unlimited data plan for $30/month (this plan was available, most notably, for those who purchased the original iPhone in 2007).
  • AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans for any phone in June 2010 though those who already had this plan could keep it. However, if anyone left the plan, there was no going back.
  • AT&T starts throttling (intentionally slowing the connection speed) of those on unlimited data plans who are in the top 5% of data users in some areas. These areas are not defined for users and the top 5% metric varies from area to area, with no way for users to find out in advance what could get them into the top 5% and subject to throttling.
  • AT&T announces that they’ve done away with the “top 5% of users” criteria and are now beginning throttling for all users on unlimited data plans who go above 3GB of data transfer in a billing period.

You know, I get that AT&T’s network may no longer be able to handle its customers data needs and it needs to take steps to manage this before even more customers are negatively affected. But I think they’re going about this in the wrong way entirely.

AT&T: Just do away with the unlimited data plan if you’re not going to honor it anymore. It makes no sense to even keep calling it unlimited it if it no longer is. Migrate current unlimited data plan users to the 3GB plan (and allowing them to leave if they choose to instead) and deep-six the unlimited plan altogether. This would be a more appropriate and honest way to handle this situation instead of trying to redefine what “unlimited” means and dealing with the negative PR as a result.

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