What can a carrier do to keep their data networks running smoothly when the appetite for bits keeps growing? One method is called “throttling”. This simply means slowing down a user’s access to the network when that user passes a certain threshold of data used. The theory behind this is that heavy data users, once throttled, cannot continue to consume massive amounts of data when the pipe is made narrower, leaving more bandwidth for everyone else.
Last summer, AT&T announced new restrictions for users on their unlimited plan. The restrictions look at the top 5% of the heaviest data users who are grandfathered in to the plan, and throttle them for the rest of the billing month. The problem is that the amount of data used by the top 5% changes every month. So, for example, if the top 5% all used around 2GB of data, that’s where they set the threshold. Any user approaching that threshold would be warned, then throttled once they pass it.