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iPhone User Awarded $850 in ATT Throttling Case

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 01, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Small claims court may soon prove to be a thorn in the side of corporate counsel everywhere. First, a woman opted out of a class action and was awarded nearly $10,000 in a suit filed against Honda. Now, a California man has earned himself $850 in a lawsuit brought against wireless carrier AT&T.

That man, Matt Spaccarelli, has accused AT&T of throttling -- or slowing down -- the data traffic speed of its top users.  Having signed up for an unlimited data plan, he doesn't think his contract gives AT&T the right to punish him for taking advantage of what he pays for.

AT&T disagrees with this analysis and plans to appeal, according to the Associated Press. In court, the company's representative argued that AT&T has the right to modify contracts if a customer's data usage adversely impacts the network.

With approximately 17 million smart phone customers on unlimited data plans, AT&T claims it must find some way to regulate network traffic. Throttling allows the company to minimize network congestion and ensure a more pleasant experience for all.

Though Spaccarelli may inspire a number of those 17 million consumers to file their own AT&T throttling cases, the legality of throttling may soon be a moot point. Verizon already uses a similar "data optimization" system, according to PC World, and T-Mobile will begin to throttle in April.

And AT&T? It announced plans to throttle the top 5% of its users back in July. Counsel must have updated the standard wireless contract by now.

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