A Guide for Parents (And Everyone Else Too!)

Data Throttling for Families

When your little dudes are using your phone more than you are, that can be some serious data use! (Image via jessgrrrr on Flickr Creative Commons)

You may have recently read about a man who sued a prominent wireless telephone company in small claims court for throttling his unlimited data plan. If not, it’s an interesting case and I highly recommend you check it out. Especially if your phone is more of a kid-boredom destroyer and less of a way to communicate with the outside world. (You might be reaching the limits of your data plan!)

The case got me to wonder how many people actually know what data throttling is, why it’s used, and how to avoid it happening to them.

Now, data throttling can be a touchy issue to talk about. On one hand you have cell phone carriers who are trying to keep their networks fast and efficient for everyone, and on the other hand you have consumers who think carriers are trying to pull a fast one on them. So, I will try to be as objective as I can be in this blog post.

What exactly is data throttling?

Data throttling is a technique used by wireless carriers to help insure that their networks are working efficiently and as quickly as possible for everyone. The carriers will slow down connection speeds for certain users who use more data than the average customer. For family phones that are multi-user (between kids playing Angry Birds in the doctor’s office and watching PBS KIDs videos in line at the grocery store) this can be a real concern for mobile parents.

Toddler with iPhone Data Throttling

Image via jenny downing on Flickr Creative Commons

Every single major carrier in the U.S. uses this technique with customers who have unlimited data plans. They only throttle the top data users on their networks, for most this seems to be around 2 to 3GB and some of the carriers will notify you when you are being throttled.

You might be thinking that you come nowhere near the top users of data each month, but all it takes is for it to happen once to realize just how useless your phone is when the connection is slow. No more Draw Something? Noooo!

We want to make sure that your family never has to deal with slow data; it’s a pain. So, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you keep data usage low, while still using your phone 24/7 for everything from playing Where’s My Water (that crocodile will get his shower!) to keeping track of your family’s crazy schedule and ever-changing whereabouts.

How to Avoid Data Throttling

1. Monitor your data usage.

I do this by using the AT&T My Wireless App. If you are on another carrier or your phone is not supported; you can always go to the carrier websites and check your individual data usage. This is just a basic step to be aware of how much data your family is actually using month-to-month.

2. Use wifi at home/work.

Why use the carrier’s network when you can use your own? Not only is it faster, but it’s a more reliable connection since you don’t have to worry about that random dead zone in the middle of your living room. You should also download and update most of your apps at home or on wifi.

3. Minimize the amount of streaming services you use.

Whether it’s listening to Pandora/Spotify or watching Youtube videos/Netflix, these applications can be a real data suck. I know that these are go-tos for a lot of parents, and if it’s going to prevent a horrific meltdown in line at the bank, by all means, break out the big guns. Just be aware that these kinds of apps will mean a spike in data usage. And an app like Cut the Rope might be even more fun and engaging than a show.

If you find that your data usage is already way below the 2 to 3GB limit that most carriers seem to be throttling around, I would suggest that you drop your unlimited plan and go with one of the tiered data plans provided by the carriers. You will save yourself a decent amount of money each month. Just be careful not to go over those limits, because instead of throttling your data, the carriers will charge you for using more than you’re allowed.


Originally from Fort Worth, TX, Yahya is currently pursing duel degrees in Marketing and Psychology at the University of Texas. When he is not busy with the “demanding” schedule of a college student, he is constantly testing new health and psychological studies on himself in order to combat bad science. Something he feels way too strongly about. He is also your go to guy if you want to know everything and anything about Fort Worth; which we don’t but, he wont stop talking about it.

Yahya Haque (10 Posts)

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One Response to What is Data Throttling and How to Avoid It

  1. paul headley says:

    I enjoyed your article about throttling because i got clear because ATT was too slow in uploading to youtube. well, last night, i went to upload a video and takes hours, the same baloney I had with att dsl. Not a happy camper. I live in fort worth too. let me know if charter internet is any better? this trottling is garbage.!!

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