AT&T will once again offer unlimited mobile data plans -- but not for cord-cutters.
The telecom said today it will resume selling unlimited data to smartphone users, provided that they purchase television packages from DirecTV (acquired last year) or U-Verse. If subscribers cancel their TV, they will lose their unlimited data plans. The company will charge $100 for the first time and $40 for each additional line. Tethering to other devices will cost extra.
The move comes six years after AT&T moved to a tiered pricing model. While the telecom stopped stopped offering unlimited data to new customers in 2010, it promised to allow existing users to continue with those plans.
But that promise turned out to be hollow. Instead, starting in 2011, AT&T throttled its unlimited users after they hit a cap between 3 and 5 GB a month, depending on their phones. In some cases, AT&T allegedly cut consumers' speeds down to 512 Kbps -- too slow for features like video streaming, mapping applications and video chat apps.
The slowdowns sparked a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission, which currently is pending in federal court in California. The Federal Communications Commission also proposed fining AT&T $100 million for its policies. Consumers also filed a potential class-action lawsuit, which is pending in front of U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in the Northern District of California.
AT&T recently revised its throttling practices and no longer automatically slows down customers with unlimited data who exceed their caps. Now, the network imposes a "soft cap" of 22 GB, meaning that it only slows down people who have consumed 22 GB in a billing period, and only when the network is congested.
The company plans to impose the same 22 GB soft cap with its new version of unlimited data.