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The Data Dance: Is AT&T’s Throttling Tactic That Bad?

When I read about AT&T‘s newly announced data throttling measures, set to kick off on October 1, I was ready to settle in and have myself a good old-fashioned rant about it.

This is the same company that had implemented tiered data pricing last year, a move that, as I feared at the time, wound up inspiring others to follow suit. The only saving grace was that existing subscribers could grandfather in their unlimited plans. Now the idea is to discourage unlimited customers’ heavy use by slowing down their data speeds if they become excessive (i.e., reach the top 5 percent of heaviest users).

So I almost got myself into a snit about America’s #2 carrier monkeying around with people’s data services yet again. But then I stopped to think about it and realized I was being hasty.

You know, this may not be so bad after all. If huge data demands are slapping around the GSM network, then this could be a reasonable way to dissuade heavy users and ease the load. It’s certainly better than the alternative — killing unlimited altogether, capping everyone and tacking on those dreaded overage fees. And throttling seems to work fairly well for other carriers, like Verizon, Virgin and, of course, T-Mobile. In fact, given the proposed merger between AT&T and good old Magenta, it wouldn’t even surprise me if this was Tmo’s influence already at work.

Of course, it needs to be said that neither data caps nor throttling is anyone’s idea of ideal, especially with more cloud services and streaming media on the horizon. But given a choice, from the user’s POV, throttling seems like the lesser of the two evils. So I’m starting to think, “Good on you, AT&T,” for going the non money-grubbing route here. (Wow, go figure.)

Am I off my rocker for not totally hating this scenario? Would you accept throttling happily, if it meant preventing overage charges and keeping unlimited data? Weigh in.

Side note: Eagle-eyed smartphone enthusiasts may note the timing of this. Throttling is set to begin very shortly after a highly anticipated new version of a well-loved/-hated smartphone is rumored to launch — the very same one blamed for crippling the network to begin with. Interesting.

[image via Gizmodo]

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...