Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm Being Throttled!

i received a text from AT&T informing that my unlimited data plan will be run at full speed until i hit the 3GB speed bump.  from then on it’ll be throttled back.  i think this new policy of theirs to limit mobile user’s data by capping or throttling is bad, not just for mobile users, but for the internet services out their we use.

for example storage/syncing. we have cloud storage to supplement what mobiles devices have been limited with due to design and/or expense. services like DropBox, Box.net, and iCloud give mobile users the ability to extend the limited storage found within mobiles devices by providing them with access to cloud storage services.  as a DropBox user i find syncing files between my desktop, laptop, and iPhone very useful. but it'll suck if syncing files to my iPhone is going to eat up some of my data.

here’s another one; photo/video uploads. how many clouds services out there that users dependent on to provide them with a way to upload photos and videos to social networking services they belong to?  Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram just to name a few.  and whatever goes up must come down.  meaning that mobile users want to download these photos and videos that other user have uploaded for the purposes of sharing. isn’t that what social networking is all about?  seems user's experience may be affected with data throttling.

streaming is another one.  i’m a huge Netflix fan.  even more so now that i can get my Netflix fix on my iPhone.  the other day i was watching a TV show and realized that the video quality was really crappy.  and YouTube can’t play anything without these long loading times.  i have to switch off the HQ option to get some playback. this will not bode well when i become a Hulu subscriber.  this problem may be limited to video.  audio streaming hasn’t been a issue just yet.  Pandora and SomaFM have been spared from this, though, i have noticed how much longer it takes to start the streaming audio.

i don’t get it.  this new digital society our world is entering into is predominantly motivated by mobile devices, social networking, and cloud services.  mobile devices are out-pacing sales compared to laptop and desktop PCs.  meaning more and more people want to take their computing experience on-the-go with them.  however, mobile devices have certain limitation to them that have been supplemented with internet/cloud based services; the user's experience of these services will be affected with this capping/throttling policy.

the justification for this data capping/throttling is that AT&T cannot handle the amount of traffic with so many users connected at once.  it’s over loading their servers (or some excuse like that), and their solution is to to have their users pay more money for a larger data cap, or use wi-fi hot spots whenever they are out and about.  thanks AT&T.  easier said then done.  it’s not like i live in a major metropolitan city with wi-fi hot spots pouring all over the place.  even if a wi-fi hot spot could be utilized some places limit the use during certain hours of the day.

of course AT&T is not the only carrier doing this.  Verizon is in on this racket as well.  in fact they just announce that any users grand-fathered into their unlimited plan will loose them when moving into a new subsidized handset or discounted one. less they pay full retail price for a new handset to keep the unlimited plan.  i understand that Sprint and Virgin Mobile is offering unlimited data plans -- but for how long? -- even though they are throttling their user after 2.5GB.

now, for a moment of reality, this data throttling may not really be as bad as i'm making it out to be.  i'm nine days into the new billing cycle and already i've used a little more than a third of my 3GB. so it's possible this new policy may have little affect on my usage. but i am an iPhone multi-tasker; i do tend to run more than one internet dependent app on my phone including radio apps. so time will tell if my ranting is truly merited for me. here is my real problem i don't like having something i'm paying AT&T for be altered just because it suits them.  even more so i don't like being limited to anything. it's possible i may never go beyond 3GBs a month.  it's equally possible i may.

still, to be "tech" honest, why do carriers still offer voice & text plans to begin with?  shouldn't have they evolved beyond this yet?  why don't carriers drop these options, and dedicate all that bandwidth to data only?  there's voice-over-IP (VOIP/telephony). there's instant messaging (IM).  can't carriers figure out a way to transparently use these technologies to continuously provide voice & text services without dedicating any bandwidth to them?  it's just so stupid and inefficient.

though, i think Virgin Mobile is on the right path.  last year they announce unlimited data-only plans for their mobile offerings.  AT&T does offer a data-only plan, but only to iPad users. i wish they'd extend it to the iPhone as well.

i don't know if the data-only idea is a solution for this data capping/throttling problem, but it amazes me how much technical resources are devoted to voice when it's the feature least used by the overwhelming majority of mobile users. i don't believe any TV ads from carriers; most people don't use their phones to talk to one another.

i'm sure wireless carriers didn't anticipate the explosive rate of mobile internet users in such a relatively short period of time. i just feel capping/throttling data is simply not the answer.  building a better mobile data infrastructure is.


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