AT&T just forced customers to pay more for 'bonus' data

(Image credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Editors' Note: Updated at 2:13 a.m. ET on Nov. 11 with a comment from AT&T.

Some AT&T customers with older cell phone plans have learned in the last week that they'll be paying more each month.

AT&T couches this $10 monthly price hike as a way to enjoy "bonus data" in a support document detailing the changes to older Mobile Share plans. In each case, AT&T has added 15GB of data to the plans while also increasing the monthly rate.

Some AT&T customers are getting this email notification from the carrier.

Some AT&T customers are getting this email notification from the carrier. (Image credit: AT&T)

The change affects Mobile Share Value plans with 30GB to 60GB data allotment as well as Mobile Share Value plans that have rollover data for 20GB and 30GB. In each instance, the cost of the plans are going up $10 per month.

AT&T isn't giving customers the opportunity to decline the extra data and keep their old plans. I spoke to Dan Frakes, who tweeted about his interaction on Twitter, and he told me that his only options were to accept the higher monthly rate (and extra data) or switch to a different plan. (Full disclosure: Frakes and I are former colleagues who worked together at a different tech website.)

"We are communicating with some customers regarding changes to their mobile plans," an AT&T spokesperson told us Sunday (Nov. 10). "Customers have the choice to change their plan at any time and can always contact us with questions or to understand their options." 

It's not uncommon for some carriers to raise rates on older, legacy plans. (Frakes tells me his family has had this plan for about a decade, and AT&T's current Mobile Share plans offer significantly less data.) Carriers do this to either push users to upgrade to more current plans or to get more revenue from customers who stick with the old plan. Customers on these legacy plans can often find cheaper rates by upgrading, but they'll also give up perks associated with their current legacy plans that may no longer be on offer.

Plans with tiered data are becoming harder to find these days, as wireless carriers have shifted toward unlimited data plans in recent years. (Even those unlimited plans aren't entirely without limits — every Big Four carrier has a threshold of data where if you consume too much data in a given month, they'll slow your speeds.) AT&T, for example, only has two Mobile Share options in its current plans — one with 3GB of data and the other with 9GB. Rivals T-Mobile and Sprint have essentially eliminated tiered data plans.

The increased prices on older plans come at the same time AT&T has introduced new unlimited data plans. Four lines of AT&T's Unlimited Starter plan cost $140 a month, with AT&T reserving the right to throttle data speed whenever its network gets congested. The Unlimited Extra plan raises the monthly cost to $160 for four lines, with the data threshold increasing to 50GB; Unlimited Extra subscribers also get 15GB of LTE hotspot data.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.