PhotoOK, it's great that AT&T, Verizon and their competitors have been pushing everyone into upgrading to smarter, faster, snazzier 3G and 4G smartphones with all kinds of data-hungry features.

So, now the logical next step is -- you guessed it -- data caps.

AT&T broke the news today, saying it will no longer let its customers use more than a predetermined amount of data and will begin throttling heavy users' download speeds. 

For 3G users with unlimited data plans, the new limit is 3 gigabytes per month and for 4G LTE users, it's 5 gigabytes.

So how can an "unlimited" data plan have limits?  It's comparable to an all-you-can-eat buffet that forces you to eat with one hand after you've consumed so many drumsticks.  No one says you can't keep eating, but it will take you a lot longer.  

AT&T says -- what else? -- the measures are necessary because customers are using too much data, which is exactly what AT&T, Apple and Samsung have been urging them to do with all the glitzy ads showing happy smartphoners talking with Siri, watching videos and studying maps.

Apple's iPhones are notorious for hogging bandwidth but other smartphones are close behind.

AT&T and other carriers bemoan the billions they are spending to upgrade their networks so they can handle more traffic.  The logical question consumers might ask is: when all that extra capacity comes on line, will the data limits go away?

Actually, the data limits aren't new.  AT&T has been throttling the heaviest 5% or so of users for quite somet time but it has never specified exactly what constituted "heavy."

So now we know what's heavy.  The next question is, what's slow? How slow will those "throttled" speeds be?  

No word on that from AT&T.  Maybe the answer is working its way through a throttled circuit somewhere. 

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