A year ago AT&T changed the cell phone industry by moving away from the standard of unlimited data plans to a system of tiered ones. Verizon and T-Mobile have since followed, leaving Sprint as the only major national carrier to still offer data without limits. Yet AT&T did throw its then-current subscribers a bone by allowing them to stay on their unlimited data plans. Grandfather clauses last only so long, though, and it appears that the time has come for AT&T to shuffle all those data hogs off their unlimited plans. They don’t plan to do this by direct force, but rather, by making the unlimited plans as obnoxious as possible. Sure, you can still use as much data as you want, but don’t dare fall into the top five percent of users. That will slow your data connection to a crawl. It’s an interesting tactic to ween people off of unlimited plans. Clearly, those on tiered data plans are unaffected by this, because they pay for a specific amount of data. That is, AT&T wouldn’t throttle someone on the 2GB plan who was using, say, 10GB per month, even if that 10GB does fall into the top five percent. That customer is paying $125 for that data, and AT&T would rather have that income. But an unlimited plan subscriber using 10GB might fall into that top five percent, at which time he’d experience slow speeds until his billing cycle resets. This seems to be just the first step in getting everyone off of unlimited data. Now that there’s a caveat to the unlimited nature of the offering, the next step is to not offer it at all. That was inevitable from the start. It’s just as inevitable that Verizon pulls a similar tactic. They might go about it slightly differently, but there is no doubt that they will end the grandfather period with their unlimited customers and force them onto a lower-use tier. That leaves Sprint as our one last hope for unlimited plans. Will people vote with their wallets and leave behind Verizon’s and AT&T’s restrictive and expensive plans in favor of Sprint’s unlimited ones? Will Sprint build out its LTE network at a rate that will allow them to follow closely enough behind AT&T and Verizon? Will they be able to handle a customer influx and maintain their unlimited plans? These are all pertinent questions, but the first is the most important. If people remain complacent with their current situation, nothing will change. It takes an exodus from these restrictive carriers to get anything done. Via Phone Scoop.