Data Capped: I Never Thought It Could Happen To Me

My unlimited data plan has been throttled and I don’t know how it happened 


There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Data Caps and how they are only used for the top percentage of “data hogs,” or as a reasonable bandwidth pricing model for wireless carriers. I just never thought Data Caps could happen to me. 

Just an Ordinary Mobile Internet User 

I wasn’t trying to do anything fancy.  Like many of my friends, I use my mobile device everyday to send text messages, tweet, email, stream videos, read books, browse the web, video chat, and pay bills. I use my mobile device for everything I do, and it’s become an essential part of my life and the way I connect with the world. All of these things are important to me, which is why I pay AT&T for an unlimited data plan.

You Have Been Data Capped

Strangely, at some point AT&T decided to start interpreting my ‘unlimited’ plan as one that is limited to only 5GB of bandwidth a month. I received a text message from my wireless carrier that I was approaching my monthly data limit of 5GB and would soon face a reduction of my mobile data Internet speed. I had no idea how this had happened and I didn't know what to do, or how to fix it. This must be a mistake – I could never have used that much data, right? 

I needed to know how this happened. I quickly checked my mobile wireless data usage but my phone was telling me I used over 5GB of data while AT&T’s website said I only used 3GB.  And neither of them told me how I got here. Was it too many emails, too many web pages visited, too many hours of streaming music, too many facebook or twitter posts, video conversations, angry bird downloads, or netflix movies? 

What does a Data Cap Look Like?

Now that I was capped, what was going to happen? Was my digital life coming to an end?

Before I hit my 5GB limit, I ran an Internet speed test to compare my 4G data transfer rates before and after I was capped. Before I hit the data cap my Internet speed test registered on average a speedy: 17.47 Mbps download, and 4.27 Mbps upload. Several days after I passed the 5GB limit my Internet speed had slowed down on average to a mere: 0.39 Mbps download, and 0.48 Mbps upload. 

My punishment for using too much Internet was having my connection slowed 98%!

Living with a Data Cap

Life with a data cap prevents me from accessing any media that is data intensive. I can still make phone calls, send and receive text messages, and check emails, but all of my mobile applications that use the Internet are sluggish and slow to respond. 

Any streaming video content or video conversations – the uses that actually require the 4G connection I am paying for – will not load. Video from Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Apple, Skype, and on the web simply freezes. Data caps have impaired my ability to use the Internet to its full potential, and impacts not just other data capped individuals like myself, but all consumers.

The FCC Should Investigate Data Caps

The FCC should conduct a full investigation into the nature, purpose, and impact of data caps on consumers. Consumers receive little to no information on what data usage is causing them to be data capped – or receive conflicting information on how much data they have actually used. 

In an age where mobile devices are increasingly being used to stay connected and share media in more data intensive ways, more and more consumers will continue to be data capped and lose the ability to connect with the world, unless we stop data caps.

Original image by Flickr user Baytram366

The Latest