Hey, iPhone Users: Get Ready For Data CapsS

So you've got the FCC, to whom you've just made a very public concession, on your back. How do you remind the world, and your regulators, that you're still totally over net neutrality? From AT&T's CEO, a case study.

PCWorld caught Ralph de la Vega making a few, um, intimations at CTIA yesterday. First, a setup, in which he describes an actual problem:

He cited AT&T research showing that just 3 percent of AT&T's smartphone customers use 40 percent of all smartphone data

So, iPhone users! They use data! Then he adds some connective tissue, to draw a possible—and disagreeable—solution to the problem into view:

Without the proper management of these networks, De la Vega said, regular data users will be "crowded out" by the small number of users who use massive amounts of data.

Finally, he repeatedly drives the point home that the problem is the fault of greedy users, not his company:

"We have to manage the network to make sure that the few cannot crowd out the many," De la Vega continued. He said the words "crowded out" at least five times in that part of his keynote address.

Never mind the fact that the iPhone has been out since 2007, and that AT&T has has since the first month of returned usage data to figure out what to do about increased demand for wireless data services. All in all, this is just a reminder: AT&T's choice to allow VoIP communications over its 3G network was huge, sure, but it was a strategic move to fend off the FCC, not a sign that they're happy about cooperating in the future, especially when it comes to the really data-intensive stuff, like SlingPlayer or now-even-more-conspicuously-absent iPhone tethering.

In other words, it'd be a stretch to say that "managing the network" is going to be a transparent process—we're going to have to pay, probably through new data rates or tiered plans. [PCWorld]