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AT&T Defends Being Awful to Its Customers

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At this point, is AT&T (T) in any position to force its subscribers to have an even worse opinion of it?

Coming off its third year of being rated the worst major carrier in the US by Consumer Reports, AT&T already has the reputation of awful customer service, spotty reception, and hiking data costs without much reward. And since it rid its data plans of an unlimited option for new customers, AT&T decided to screw over its subscribers even more by throttling the top 5% of its heaviest users.

But figuring it's 2012 and iPhone (AAPL) and Android (GOOG) users have a wealth of data-heavy services like iCloud, Google Music, Pandora (P), and YouTube, you have to figure that to be in the top 5%, you have to download 10-12GB of data per month, right?

Nope.

According to AT&T customer John Cozen, he received a high data usage notice after downloading 2.1GB of data, which is 0.1GB past the theoretical 5% barrier. Also note that Cozen was grandfathered into the unlimited data option for $30 per month, and his 2.1GB usage is significantly less than the 3GB plan AT&T offers for $30/month. The message he received read:

Dear JOHN COZEN,
Like other wireless companies, AT&T is taking steps to manage exploding demand for mobile data. We're responding on many levels, including investing billions in our wireless network this year and working to acquire more network capacity.

You may also consider switching to a tiered data plan if speed is more important to you than having an unlimited data plan. Customers on tiered plans can pay for more data if they need it, and will not see reduced speeds.

Seeing the absolute absurdity of getting throttled for an unlimited data plan when it costs the same as a data plan nearly a gigabyte higher than his usage, Cozen contacted AT&T and had to go through no less than five different representatives before he was told that there was nothing the company could do.

Really makes you want to switch to Verizon (VZ), doesn't it? Heck, even with its abysmal iPhone coverage, Sprint (S) doesn't look so bad in comparison either.

But adding insult to injury, AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel defended the throttling practice and said that it wasn't really that big of a deal.

"There's a very good chance you wouldn't be slowed," Siegel told the New York Times. He added that less than 1% of customers have been affected by the policy -- even though the top 5% are at risk -- and each one is handled on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, Cozen's account -- despite it being an unlimited data plan -- was reviewed then penalized for exceeding an arbitrary, dubious limit by 100MB, while staying under an equally priced data plan by 900MB.

Good to know that the company is thinking things through logically, Mark.

(See also: Apple Will Unveil iPad 3 in March, Say Sources and iPhone Can't Match Android's Versatility, Says Steve Wozniak)

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