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AT&T Threatens To Shut Off Service of Customer Who Won Throttling Case

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the unlimited-within-limits dept.

Cellphones 327

suraj.sun writes in about the recent small claims case against AT&T's throttling of 'unlimited' plans. From the article: "AT&T has about 17 million smartphone customers on 'unlimited' plans, and has started slowing down service for users who hit certain traffic thresholds. Spaccarelli maintained at his February 24 small-claims hearing that AT&T broke its promise to provide 'unlimited' service, and the judge agreed. In a letter dated Friday, a law firm retained by AT&T Inc. is threatening to shut off Matthew Spaccarelli's phone service if he doesn't sit down to talk. Spaccarelli has posted online the documents he used to argue his case and encourages other AT&T customers copy his suit."

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Duh? (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353953)

I have no love for AT&T and I'm glad the guy won, but if one of my customers sued me, I'd drop them in a heartbeat!

Re:Duh? (4, Interesting)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354049)

I have no love for AT&T and I'm glad the guy won, but if one of my customers sued me, I'd drop them in a heartbeat!

If you're not falsely-advertising your services, then you have nothing to worry about.

We run a hosting company and have been putting up with this for years. We provide underloaded servers that have packages with hard limits to prevent abuse and to ensure people get what they pay for. All these "unlimited" hosting plans have been scams from day-1 and we're glad someone is finally getting held to task for the dumbing down of the market.

Re:Duh? (4, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354485)

AT&T isn't really advertising falsely, the data is unlimited. The speeds are limited.

They should be ordered to clarify their advertising and say "3G speed up to 2GB" or similar.

Re:Duh? (4, Informative)

LoudNoiseElitist (1016584) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354663)

The data isn't unlimited, either.

Re:Duh? (3, Insightful)

naasking (94116) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354667)

AT&T isn't really advertising falsely, the data is unlimited. The speeds are limited.

Which means the data is effectively limited as well. If you sell "unlimited plans" and then throttle speeds to the point where downloading 24/7 for a month will only net you 1GB of data, that's not very unlimited is it?

Re:Duh? (2)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354779)

AT&T isn't really advertising falsely, the data is unlimited. The speeds are limited.

They should be ordered to clarify their advertising and say "3G speed up to 2GB" or similar.

It's misleading at-best.

Re:Duh? (5, Funny)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354877)

"AT&T isn't really advertising falsely, the data is unlimited. The speeds are limited."

If I had an "unlimited" data plan, but after 5GB, I reduced your speed to 0, it's still unlimited, just relative to the new current rate.

Re:Duh? (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354701)

All these "unlimited" hosting plans have been scams from day-1 and we're glad someone is finally getting held to task for the dumbing down of the market.

I have an unlimited hosting plan from DreamHost, and it has always worked quite well for me (currently in my second or third year, I forget). It works because they pay attention to what you're doing and assign you to a server based on how you use the service, e.g. poor-performing WordPress instances live in a festering cesspool all to themselves so that their search doesn't cause half-minute delays on other sites, static-only or nearly static-only sites are on servers with other static-only sites, high-bandwidth sites get sandboxed away from low-bandwidth sites, they limit the number of sites per Apache instance, etc. To be fair, if a site uses excessive CPU, they may ask them to move to a virtual private server, so I suppose it's not quite unlimited, but at least where bandwidth and storage are concerned, it is, and that's what most people mean when they call a hosting provider "unlimited".

As always, YMMV.

Re:Duh? (1)

MrAngryForNoReason (711935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354901)

They normally are fine for static sites as the "unlimited" services are normally limited by the following:

  • CPU usage
  • Memory usage
  • i-node usage

The first two rule out dynamic sites that receive any reasonable amount of traffic. The last one is their way of controlling how much disk space you can use. Basically you have unlimited disk space, but you can only have a certain number of files before you run out of i-nodes so you can't for instance upload a million images to your unlimited web space.

Of course there are a lot of other reasons the packages aren't suitable for serious/business web sites mainly due to the very rigid controls over access and settings, but that is the case with most shared hosting environments whether they are limited or not.

Re:Duh? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354923)

    Right. There's always a limit.

    I worked for a place that provided unlimited service. Unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth. We had some specific restrictions to what could be served. They had to use our payment system, and provide content related to that system. The majority of the users did this perfectly. In exchange for complying to our restrictions, they had "free unlimited" hosting. We never took money from the client. We took an agreed upon percentage of sales via our payment system. It worked out very well for everyone.

    The real limits were what the machines could sustain. At the time, we were using 100Mb/s switches with GigE uplinks. Using TEQL, we bound two NICs together and could provide about 150Mb/s on a single machine. After that, we started running into memory and CPU capacity issues if they were serving lots of small files. Space was limited by what we could install in them.

    So, on machines that had 250GB drives (the largest at the time), you couldn't store 1TB of data. You couldn't serve up more than 150Mb/s. We had the occasional legitimate user (within the restrictions mentioned earlier) that we'd have to work with to serve their purposes. Data would be split between servers, and they could get multiple servers just for them. Still, we had bandwidth limitations of multiple GigE circuits. Our own main site used up the majority of that bandwidth, and was always our reason for expanding.

    I do hosting for friends and family. I moved over to a 25Mb/s CDR, and a decent amount of storage. For them, it's unlimited, at very reasonable prices. I'm done with hosting for the masses. Too many customers make for too many problems. I really don't want the pleasure of someone setting up a streaming porn site on my equipment, saturating my bandwidth, and then demanding to know why "unlimited" isn't really unlimited. I'm happier servicing a couple dozen customers with a few hundred sites. The don't get the headaches of wondering if they'll exceed their GB/month transfers and get hit with overage. I don't have the headaches of random people around the world complaining, doing chargebacks, or suing, because they want the world on a silver platter for $12.95/mo. That, and I like actually knowing my customers. It makes them much happier too. We can sit down over a beer and talk about stuff which sometimes includes their hosting. :)

Re:Duh? (5, Interesting)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354063)

It's not actually always legal. For example, if you take government tax breaks for providing a publi service, you don't get to pick and choose which public, even if they are suing you.

Dunno the specifics here, but cell phones are a great way for companies to get a 2nd chance at changing the laws that were already settled for landlines, and that's part of what we're seeing here.

My landline company cannot legally deny me service, EVEN IF i'm suing them. But part of that is the psuedomonopoly of landlines, which doesn't apply to cell phones. But probably should. Especially if they take one penny from the government, even in the form of tax breaks.

Re:Duh? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354277)

Your landline company couldn't drop you for no reason, and they couldn't drop you solely because you had sued them, but that doesn't mean they can't drop you for any reason. The guy who sued has admitted he's used his iPhone for tethering, in direct violation of his ToS, which gives AT&T every right to drop his account. The only reason they haven't already is they were clearly hoping to avoid this publicity. It's hard to come up with a direct analogy to a landline since there aren't many limitations on landlines, but if you were using something like a blue box on your landline to get free long distance, then your phone company would disconnect you in a heartbeat, public service or not.

Re:Duh? (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354299)

Unlike land-line service, wireless is unregulated and receives no government subsidy (caveats apply for such things as under-served communities and low-income subsidies which don't seem to apply in this case). As such, they can pick and choose customers (again caveats - excepting issues of discrimination, for example). In this case, this is a customer who they don't want to have and that seems to be legal to drop. I know I wouldn't this guy as a customer if I were AT&T.

Re:Duh? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354505)

"receives no government subsidy"
yes they do. Who do you think backed the loans so the can build the infrastructure? Who paid for the 911 services?
AT&T is a phone company. They get subsidies. Good luck showing the the Cell portion of the corporation in no way got an advantage from any subsidy to any other portion of the company.

Re:Duh? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354921)

wireless is unregulated and receives no government subsidy

I'm sorry, but you're completely fucking wrong.

In this case, this is a customer who they don't want to have and that seems to be legal to drop. I know I wouldn't this guy as a customer if I were AT&T.

And it shouldn't be, because that puts a huge fucking hurdle in a consumer's ability to get justice for you fucking them over. Consumer rights should vastly trump any "right" you think you have to profit. Especially in this case.

Re:Duh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354677)

Remember these "Private" companies are using OUR airwaves. The airwaves belong to the people. They're leasing the spectrum. They should have to provide the service and stick to their commitments.

Re:Duh? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354955)

I think their primary argument will be that he was tethering (and even admitted it in court). Since tethering was clearly not allowed by the ToS and AT&T has an added service allowing tethering if he wanted to do it, they really do have a pretty good case not only for dropping him, but winning their appeal. If he is going to hold AT&T to their side of the contract, he has to hold up his side as well...

Someone who hasn't actually broken their ToS and yet has still been throttled needs to sue AT&T for this to really go anywhere.

Re:Duh? (3, Insightful)

whatkey (2514316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354091)

Seriously? I hope you don't own a company that solely generates revenue from long and short-term contracts. Your customer demands you live up to the terms of your own contract, you lose in a court case, and then you (potentially) illegally breach the contract again? Nice. I hope everyone threatens AT&T. I work in the telecom industry, and "most people" only know the tip of the iceberg about AT&T...

Re:Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354327)

I bet the grandparent thinks that people breaking their mortgage contracts are EEEEVIILLLLL.

Remember folks, only Big Corporations get to walk away from signed contracts whenever they please.

Re:Duh? (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354933)

Not a perfect analogy; most mortgage contracts lay out the foreclosure process very specifically. Choosing to stop paying your mortgage doesn't necessarily break the contract, it simply allows them to potentially foreclose on the property. Of course, every mortgage can be different so this may not apply universally.

Re:Duh? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354481)

I don't use AT&T, or I'd be trying to get in on the fun. I did post the article to G+ hoping that some of my friends can do the honors.

Re:Duh? (2)

slapout (93640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354115)

Can you say "two year contract"?
It works both ways.

Re:Duh? (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354171)

Somebody hasn't read the terms of their service. AT&T claims the right to terminate for any reason at any time.

Re:Duh? (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354251)

But if the customer is unhappy? Nope - they're bound to the contract.

Bastards.

Re:Duh? (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354491)

If they make you that mad why do you continue to do it? Get a pay as you go phone. No one forced you to sign the contract. You did it because you like the subsidized phones or something.

Re:Duh? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354959)

I just did this - I feel like a sucker for paying T-Mobile 40 extra dollars every month for so long.

Re:Duh? (2)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354351)

They can say anything they want in the contract, that doesn't mean it overrides the law even if you signed the contract. If the law (a judge ruling for instance) says they can't drop him, then they can't regardless of the paper they signed says.

Its important to note though, that no one said AT&T can't drop him. It seems they can so far until someone actually shows otherwise.

I think the point here however is that if everyone does this and AT&T 'drops them' thats a half a billion dollars or so in lost revenue per month from lost unlimited plans. They'd probably think twice.

Re:Duh? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354939)

Unless the consumer has the same rights, and can do so without penalty, then that clause should not be allowed.

Re:Duh? (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354121)

And then you'd get sued a second time, for discrimination!

Re:Duh? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354161)

Well, apparently, the guy admitted to tethering, which the contract also forbids. You can argue whether it should be verbotten, or even allowed in the contract, but it is in the contract.

Re:Duh? (5, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354179)

and I'm glad the guy won

I for one wonder why he won; he admits to sucking down the bandwidth due to tethering which is a clear violation of the terms of service he signed up for as part of getting unlimited bandwidth. If he'd used it all watching videos and whatever else you can do with just the phone itself, I'd be completely supportive. But are all the people complaining about ATT throttling them using so much due to tethering? If so, I've suddenly lost all interest and sympathy. Here I thought all the complaints were from people using their phones' internal capabilities and getting cut off.

Re:Duh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354335)

The judge must have ruled certain provisions null and void. Happens all the time. I wonder if a precedent wasn't set here on tethering.

This reminds me of AT&T of the 70s and 80s. You know you had to pay for each jack and it violated the TOS to use a non-AT&T handset. This who forget history...

Re:Duh? (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354359)

It's small claims court.

Probably none of ATT's lawyers showed-up, so the judge never learned the customer was using tethering, and so he issued a judgement based on lack of knowledge. In a real court this guy would probably be torn to shreds by ATT's lawyers.

Re:Duh? (1)

queequeg1 (180099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354815)

I don't know about this particular court, but in many small claims courts, parties are not allowed to be represented by counsel (even if the attorneys are in-house counsel).

Re:Duh? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354963)

Care to back that statement up? Or are you just talking out of your ass because you're upset that a consumer actually won something, and was able to stand up to the big guy?

Re:Duh? (1)

FallSe7en (2101132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354911)

...except that tethering IS one of the phone's internal capabilities.

Re:Duh? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354953)

Except you're placing an arbitrary and retarded limit on the data. There's no difference from using the data on the phone, to using it as tethering.

Re:Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354257)

Care to provide a list of those companies, so I can make sure I'm not a customer of any of them, or drop them in a heartbeat if I am?

Re:Duh? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354935)

Huh? What companies? I'm pretty sure you aren't one of my customers.

Re:Duh? (2)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354467)

I have no more sympathy for this guy since he admitted to tethering. Running Remote Desktop from your phone for 10 hours a day is something that might be considered fair use for an unlimited plan. Plugging your phone into your PC and spending the day on Netflix or Second Life isn't.

That being said, I think there are some other people who would deserve the win. All AT&T has to do is stop calling their plan unlimited, and then they can cap all they want. Just have two plans: Lite, and Standard. Advertise the caps for each of them, and be done with it.

It's really not difficult.

Re:Duh? (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354633)

> I have no love for AT&T and I'm glad the guy won, but if one of my customers sued me, I'd drop them in a heartbeat!

Yes, but I would assume that the 24months minimum contract period plus termination notice apply for both sides. In which case you hanged yourself with your own contract. 5/5 for style, 1/5 for thinking it through.

Re:Duh? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354975)

"but if one of my customers sued me, I'd drop them in a heartbeat!"

And he will enjoy suing you again. It's a vicious cycle when you lie about service and whine about getting used because you lied about what you were selling.

Moral of the story? Dont be a scumbag company and you will not open yourself up for the vicious lawsuit cycle.

Does sitting down help? (5, Funny)

mattdm (1931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353971)

I mean, I'll try anything to improve AT&T signal reception, but I'm skeptical. I tried sitting, standing, and even lying down, and it doesn't really seem to change anything.

Re:Does sitting down help? (5, Funny)

WarpedCore (1255156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354043)

Have you tried bending over?

Re:Does sitting down help? (0)

magnusrex1280 (1075361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354107)

If I had mod points they would go to this.

Re:Does sitting down help? (5, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354129)

If I had mod points they would go to this.

Vaseline might be even more helpful...

Re:Does sitting down help? (5, Funny)

Guppy (12314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354135)

Have you tried bending over?

Well, that definitely made it easier to take what I was receiving from AT&T, but it didn't help with the cell phone signal one bit.

Re:Does sitting down help? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354199)

you have to "lion king" it.

He violated the TOU though (4, Insightful)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354041)

He violated his terms of use with AT&T by accessing the internet tethered. That violation alone warrants termination.

Re:He violated the TOU though (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354143)

Which would be fine, though that's not why they're threatening to cut him off.

Re:He violated the TOU though (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354269)

The article says otherwise. Can you back up your claim?

Re:He violated the TOU though (0)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354333)

I access the internet tethered...my head to my arm to my phone. What makes electronic tethering different than allowing a friend to use your phone?

Re:He violated the TOU though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354545)

He must have been tethering using a Mac, those things are not your friend.

Re:He violated the TOU though (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354591)

Does ATT sell any devices that are specifically for use with PCs? Like the link below? If so then they can't use that "no tethering" clause to escape false advertising charges ("unlimited") that future customers might bring:

http://www.virginmobileusa.com/mobile-broadband/broadband2go.html [virginmobileusa.com]

Omitted in Summary (5, Informative)

JeanCroix (99825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354047)

In TFA, it is stated that AT&T's threat to discontinue his service is based on his admission of tethering, which is against the TOS he agreed to. Not that their tactics here aren't shady, but they do have a contractual basis (excuse) for the threat.

Re:Omitted in Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354169)

Good. Let them breach the contract. They're kidding if they think they're getting any fees out of him though.

I bought an iPad! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354057)

Did you hear? I bought an iPad! AN IPAD!!! Now all the guys at the gay bar will finally notice me! I've also made sure to buy a dozen pairs of skinny jeans and some emo glasses in preparation of receiving it on Friday so I can go straight to Starbucks and show it off! AN IPAD!!! WOOHOO!!

Re:I bought an iPad! (1, Funny)

errxn (108621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354109)

Welcome to SXSW. Hope you enjoy your stay.

Oops. (2)

errxn (108621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354059)

Spaccarelli has admitted that he has used his iPhone to provide Internet access for other devices, a practice known as tethering, which violates AT&T's contract terms. AT&T says that means it has the right to turn off his service.

Game, set, match. I have NO love for AT&T, but if this guy admits to violating their ToS, he doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.

Re:Oops. (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354207)

Assuming, of course, that a ToS provision against tethering is enforceable in the first place, which sounds dubious to me, at least from technical perspective (bits are bits).

Re:Oops. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354339)

Why wouldn't it be enforceable? What statute or case law would invalidate it?

Re:Oops. (1)

DrGamez (1134281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354479)

I think he's trying to say that it would be akin to the telephone company saying there is no change in how your phone gets the bits from the internet. If you're using your thumbs and managing to pull 5GB down it's exactly the same looking data if you used your laptop to tether to your phone.

You're allowed to use the internet, but only if you get the bits a very specific way.

Re:Oops. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354523)

Yes and it's perfectly legal to do so. That is unless you can show me the statute(s) or case law that says otherwise.

Re:Oops. (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354607)

Well, saying your can't tether your phone is a bit like saying you have unlimited text messaging unless you're sending messages to your mom, then you've violated your TOS. Never mind that the data being transferred is exactly the same type whether your streaming through your phone or through your laptop attached through your phone.

Re:Oops. (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354611)

The unlimited plan part, which the judge agreed.

Re:Oops. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354643)

Regardless of that text, watching the videos of him he has only ever admitted to connecting his phone to a projector to project Netflix...that, to me, is not tethering...unless you tether your monitor to the internet via your computer? The internet was used on his phone alone, which used a bigger monitor. Would they say hooking your iPhone up to one of the thousands of docking radio stations and streaming Pandora through its speakers is tethering as well?

What would victory look like? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354085)

What would victory look like? Forcing them to acknowledge that they're genuinely incapable of delivering what they promise is really about as much as can be achieved...

Re:What would victory look like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354259)

How about forcing them to only promise what they can actually deliver, from now on? That would be worth something.

Disclosure. (0)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354095)

AT&T just needs to clearly indicate that you get X gigs of data at 4G or 3G speeds, then anything after that is subject to lower speeds.

You don't have a "right" to unlimited data, sorry. The only issue I see is AT&T hasn't been clear with how it works.

Re:Disclosure. (3, Insightful)

webheaded (997188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354163)

I do have a right for words to be used properly though don't I? The word unlimited means that there are no limits...you know UN-LIMITED. If they want to sell plans based on bandwidth, then just do it. All the other carriers do. If I go to T-Mobile right now, they tell me I can get different tiers of data at high speeds and after I hit my limit, I get bumped down to 2G. It's called, not lying. AT&T should try it some time.

Of course the whole idea of limiting our bandwidth is fucking ridiculous to me, but that is a different discussion that I'm not going to bother with right now.

Re:Disclosure. (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354497)

>>>Of course the whole idea of limiting our bandwidth is fucking ridiculous to me

I don't know why? The wireless spectrum only has a limited amount of space, so a single tower can only stream a maximum amount of data in a month (deviced by thousands of customers).

It's the same as my dialup connection which is also limited (~12 gigabytes/month max) because of technical constraints. Wireless/cellular internet is not different.

Re:Disclosure. (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354869)

cellular internet is not different.

What is it about the term "cellular" that you don't understand?
When a cell tower starts getting saturated with connections, you build several more towers and make the cells smaller reducing the xmit/recv power requirement to reduce interference.. The "we need more bandwidth" argument is and always has been maximally Bogus. They are just to frakking cheap to upgrade/build out their infrastructure because it would cut into all that wonderful grant money from taxes we paid that they were given to do just that. Asshats.

Re:Disclosure. (1)

markkezner (1209776) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354271)

Maybe it's not a right, but it's what AT&T agreed to sell these people.

Unlimited [reference.com] , def:
1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

If it has a limit, tier, cap, or threshold, it's not unlimited. Unlimited is not newspeak for limited.

Re:Disclosure. (2)

Chatterton (228704) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354453)

But AT&T doesn't say Unlimited but Unlimited* :-)

*For very low value of limited

Re:Disclosure. (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354601)

It's all semantics. He still has unlimited data, just not at the speeds he was accustomed to. Only number 3 comes close to this. They never promise any speed with any service contract. Even when they adverstise for their 4G network it says "Not available in all areas." It's not false advertising, but it is. It's amazing what you can get away with a disclaimer.

As much as I hate AT&T, I have to side with them on this one. This guy broke his part of the contract, and they are now calling him on it. As has been stated before and after, I'm not even sure how this guy won his case. Don't look at too many more of these working. At best, it'll be changed to a class action lawsuit, and then only the lawyers will win.

Re:Disclosure. (1)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354273)

If it's about the wording then you can bet if it was an issue of wording in their favour he would be beaten over the head and made to stick to the letter of the law.
I don't understand why a company isn't held to the same rules.
If the contract said "and the customer will pay $20 every payment interval" without specifying the interval you can bet they would argue the right to change the interval to their favour and they would be within their rights to do that. Now you could argue that would be an unfair contract and as such not legally valid, but that is not what they're saying here.

Re:Disclosure. (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354399)

AT&T just needs to clearly indicate that you get X gigs of data at 4G or 3G speeds, then anything after that is subject to lower speeds.

You don't have a "right" to unlimited data, sorry. The only issue I see is AT&T hasn't been clear with how it works.

I think that unlimited needs to mean truly unlimited or face false advertising penalties from the FTC. Let's just state what the hard upper limits are and be truthful in advertising. All of the cellular telecom companies have mudied these waters enough and there is no harm by just calling it what it is. It has become a war of words between companies when in actuality they are all equally poor.

Re:Disclosure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354927)

Ok, so I want 3,000,000,000 GBps downloads 24x7x365.25 on my phone or else I'll scream that it's *limited*, and throw a fit.

Wait... You mean there's no current technology which would allow that? But they *said* 'unlimited', so they've got to provide what I want, how I want it *WITH NO LIMITS* or else they're lying and I should sue them!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously. When the 'Unlimited' contracts were offered, *really heavy* data use for a phone user was in the 100s of MB of data per month. When the iPhone came on the scene, suddenly a phone with a genuinely useful browser existed, and average data usage (by the same people, just with a new phone) skyrocketed by a factor of 50 or more. That's why they stopped offering 'unlimited' plans in the first place. They've tried to be generous by 'grandfathering' people in on those old plans, but there's only so much they can do to improve their infrastructure when it can take upwards of 2-6 years for the necessary permits for new towers to go through all the NIMBY nonsense. (Everyone wants better coverage, but nobody wants a tower anywhere that they have to see it.)

And, yes, 2-6 years for the permits alone. That doesn't count the bidding process, or construction necessary to actually create the tower, just the long, drawn-out process of getting permission to build a new tower. Finding good sites can take months or years, and getting qualified contractors, and getting the thing built can take a couple more years. Nobody could realistically have foreseen the huge increase in bandwidth consumption triggered by modern smartphones before the iPhone was released, so complaining that they haven't expanded their network by a factor of 50 in the time since isn't disingenuous, it's either ignorant or flat out dishonest.

Re:Disclosure. (4, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354559)

The issue is not that they were unclear, it's that they LIED about it.

I have an iPhone. I have an unlimited data plan. I expect that means whenever I try to use it, AT&T will not impose limits on how much of that data I use. Now, there are a couple ways they might limit me. They could impose a cap after which I get zero data. They don't do that. They could restrict my data rate after I reach some threshold. They DO that. I know some people don't get that it's a limit, but it is, especially if they're throttling you to 1% of your normal speed. That's a cut off in all but name.

I'm not saying AT&T needs to provide me a Gb/s or infinite bandwidth, but if they sell me an "unlimited" plan, I should be able to get whatever their network is technically capable of delivering whenever I ask for it. I can accept that it may be slow if 10,000 other people are on the same pipe. That is not AT&T limiting me. When AT&T singles me out for using too much data on an unlimited plan and artificially restricts how much more data I can use, that's a limit, plain and simple.

The part that really galls me is how aggressively they advertised these things. Come and get an iPhone, they said. Browse the web! Stream music and video! The entire intarwebz are at your fingertips! NOW they want to back away from that. No. Honor your contracts, AT&T.

Re:Disclosure. (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354565)

If you offer me unlimited Bar-B-Que in exchange for fifty bucks, and I pay the fifty, you have to keep serving the chow until I call it quits. If you don't want to stay up all night serving spicy sauce covered meat, then you had BETTER make it clear in your offer that I have to consume all my food before your 9:PM closing time. And - if you don't want me to be waiting for you when you return to open in the morning, you had BETTER make it clear that I can only eat what I'm capable of consuming in one sitting.

In short - offer what you intend to deliver. Or, be prepared to deliver what you offer.

None of the telcos wants you to have unlimited data. They need to make that clear in their advertising, and in their contracts. Stop offering unlimited to induce people to sign up for overpriced 5 gig contracts.

Re:Disclosure. (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354627)

It's in the contract. Point, Match, Set.

Forced arbitration (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354159)

"We don't care what some judge said. You either do it our way, via arbitration, or we ban you forever."

Damn corporations. Sound similar to how Paypal operated in the previous decade, until a class action lawsuit was brought against them by the States. Well at least corporations don't have power to throw me in jail forever, or draft me to serve in some foreign war (like government can).

Re:Forced arbitration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354221)

Maybe you'll get thrown into one of the FEMA death camps so no one has to suffer your posts anymore.

Re:Forced arbitration (1)

project5117 (2550152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354365)

Maybe you'll get thrown into one of the FEMA death camps so no one has to suffer your posts anymore.

FEMA [ready.gov] would be happy to have you do some training so, in the event of an emergency, you'll be prepared to assist more effectively.

Be Informed! Make a plan! Build a kit! Get involved!

Honda owner did the same thing (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354245)

For those that don't RTA: "Spaccarelli's victory in small-claims court is similar to that of Heather Peters, a California woman who won $9,867 from Honda last month because her Civic Hybrid did not live up to the promised gas mileage. She, too, is helping others bring similar cases."

I'm surprised she won. Perhaps it was because Honda *reprogrammed* the car after purchase, and that immediately made the MPG drop by ~10. I own a Honda Insight and am happy with the results (90mpg at 50 mph; 70mpg at 60 mph). Nice little car.

Re:Honda owner did the same thing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354885)

My god you are such and incredible faggot. Just go die in a hole already.

Here's a thought .... (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354255)

Just as he is free to not renew, AT&T is also free to not renew.

I have no problem with a business telling a customer "you cost us too much, we don't want you as a customer anymore." At the end of his current term, drop him like a hot potato.

Let Verizon or Sprint deal with him....

Re:Here's a thought .... (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354323)

Absolutely. Smart businesses "fire" customers all of the time. I've done it plenty of times.

Re:Here's a thought .... (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354451)

The problem is that wireless spectrum is owned BY THE PEOPLE, we lease it to these companies. It is this fact alone that moves telecomms from ordinary companies to necessary infrastructure, subject to special rules and regulations. We should be HAMMERING wireless with regulation right now. I have a problem with a corporation, denying access to PUBLICLY OWNED airwaves because he is taking them to task legally.

Re:Here's a thought .... (2)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354655)

Just as he is free to sue do to breach of contract.

Corporate Bullies (4, Informative)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354301)

This is a cut-and-dry case of corporations pushing around the consumers. Given it is over internet service, this would make a great case of 'cyber-bullying' (as much as I hate that whole concept).

If American customers have any sense, they will file these suits in droves and this guy will never talk to AT&T again.

The Guy Admits He Violated the TOS (2)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354345)

Since they guy admits he violated the Terms of Service by tethering, is it really a surprise?

Re:The Guy Admits He Violated the TOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354697)

Paying for tethering is frankly bullshit. Just like you having to pay for text messages is bullshit. It's abusive toward the consumer because they can be and the government isn't an agent of the people, but is instead an agent of corporations and the wealthy.

I'd like to see AT&T taken to court over the absurd, outrages and likely immoral act of charging more for the 'right' to tether than the cost of the data plan itself. Of course as I'm not a corporation, nor wealthy I can't afford to do so.

Re:The Guy Admits He Violated the TOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354951)

Perhaps, but since when did disagreeing with a rule/law/contract give one clearance to violate it? He agreed to it, he is bound by it - that's the POINT of a contract.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll disagree with speed limits, lets see how well that defense flies in court.

Re:The Guy Admits He Violated the TOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354977)

...and AT&T violated the ToS by capping his "unlimited" data.

To me, it would be a matter of principle to cancel service, and claim the ToS violation as reason the termination.

I am not saying that he was not in violation, but who is the service provider here?

New tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354455)

I use about 5GB a month. Just lots of Netflix and browsing and ventrilo calls. I called them about my slow speeds and one guy said in slowed because of the cap. I fuss and explain how it's now limited blah blah. So I talk to a supervisor who says I'm not being limited. It's just slow.

There is a minimum bandwidth of 3G they can bring you to. This is what they did. Rather than flagging you as capped and then reducing your speed, they just cite your connection as slow and say it must be the towers. As long as they keep you above that minimum speed without flagging your account and admitting it, they will just blame the equipment. Additionally, you can't ask for a credit since it technically is still giving the 3G speeds.

They never heard of the Streisand Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354639)

These guys just don't get it. They never heard of the Barbara Streisand Effect:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Streisand_effect

pr0n? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39354719)

FTFA: his notes read to the judge says : "Most of my usage is at night when data usage is usually at a minimum. They don't want my usage to affect other users. "

Dude... I don't know what you're doing at night that causes soo much bandwidth... but if I were ATT, I'd release what sites you're visiting. Quid pro quo for the court documents you're releasing..

I do applaud your efforts. F*ck ATT.

This is the world we live in. (2)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354725)

And it's nuts.
A company should be on their knees begging customers for business. Customers are the lifeblood for a company.
Ahh, but I suppose I'm just too old fashioned for this world...

wow people on slashdot (1)

topgun966 (1377185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354845)

I love these tools that keep siding with ATT. you guys crack me up. You do realize he had a tether plan right. He therefor is not violating the terms of the contract. ATT is being tools cause they are caught with their pants down. We all know how good the PR department is over there.
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