AT&T changes data rules for 'unlimited' plans

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AT&T is increasing the amount of data that customers on “unlimited” plans can consume before their speeds are slowed, three months after the Federal Communications Commission proposed fining the company $100 million for allegedly not being forthright with customers about its policies.

Under the new policy, users' data speeds will only be slowed — or throttled — if they use more than 22 gigabytes in a billing period and are in an area where the network is particularly busy. The previous threshold was five gigabytes.

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"As soon as the congestion at the cell site abates, or if the customer’s session migrates to an uncongested cell site, speeds and latency are not affected,” the company’s policy says.

Customers will be notified when they get close to 22 gigabytes, the company said in its new policy, which was first reported by the website 9to5Mac.

The change follows the proposal in June from the FCC to fine the company $100 million, which would be the largest fine in agency history. Officials allege that AT&T failed to properly inform customers with “unlimited” plans that their speeds would be slowed once they crossed a certain threshold.

AT&T flatly denies the charges and claims that it took appropriate steps to tell customers of the policy. The case has yet to be resolved.

The wireless carrier also no longer offers unlimited plans to new customers. The customers who are on the plans were allowed to keep their old plans once AT&T eliminated the option.

The FCC's net neutrality rules, approved earlier this year, ban most throttling but permit it for some network management. But the rules are explicit in saying that companies cannot use them to “justify reneging on its promise to supply a customer with ‘unlimited’ data.”