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Operators: “Please stop using our network!” (“And, er, thanks for your money!”)

If you’ve got a few minutes, go and have a read of this post from Peter Svensson of the Associated Press on It highlights the consumer shock and outrage at having their operators completely change the game on them. We’ve heard this all before, of course. The consumer buys an “unlimited” data plan only to find out that, half way through their contract, the operator — er — didn’t quite mean it was unlimited.

In some cases, operators have sought to re-word the meaning of unlimited. AT&T has — according to the post — decided to start limiting the unlimited usage of it’s top 5% of problem customers (that is, folk who have the temerity to actually use their phone’s data connection). AT&T has apparently throttled offending connections to the point that once folk have used up their “unlimited” 2.3 gigs of data, their connection becomes virtually unusable. Or really, REALLY slow.

Did you see what they did there? Aye. It’s still an unlimited connection. Just, the speed is rubbish. So you can’t sue! You are still getting unlimited access. It’s your own fault if you can’t be bothered to wait 2 minutes for a page to load. How is this possible?

Well, nobody ever signed up for a specific speed, did they? Most customers were simply sold an “unlimited data” connection because the operator didn’t have a flying fracking clue what is was doing in the first place — despite the fact they’re selling a resource that is, by its very nature, limited.

It’s the equivalent to me selling you unlimited access to my swimming pool. You assume that this buys you access to the whole pool. You might be a little bit annoyed if I rope off a swimming lane and assign that to you. But you’d probably put up with it. If I let you use the whole pool for the first twenty minutes of your swim and then restricted you to 3 square metres of water space, you’d probably go nuts. I’d happily point out that you still have unlimited access to the pool. You can use that 3 square metres ANY time you want.

Yeah. Ridiculous.

What would be even more crazy is if I started encouraging you to use my pool for twenty minutes then get out and go to the gym opposite. You’d be responsible for paying for the joining fee and the monthly maintenance.

Does that illustration sound a little bit off-the-wall? Well, it’s more or less what AT&T is doing…

Here’s one example from the AP piece. A consumer was sent this message:

ATT Free Msg: Your data use this month places you in the top 5% of users. Use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds. Visit or call 8663447584.

I’m really surprised to see this kind of ‘warning-marketing’. How rubbish does your infrastructure need to be when you start telling your customers to STOP using your facilities and to start using an alternative?

I really do have to breath deeply when I see this kind of behaviour in the mobile industry.

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