Fun fact: As of yesterday, T-Mobile is now the only carrier in the US that no longer allows you to buy a plan on the internet with high-speed tethering. Did you know that? With the utterly confusing and pointless splitting of T-Mobile's ONE plan (already split into ONE and ONE Plus), the carrier has officially hidden high-speed tethering behind a phonewall. You have to call T-Mobile's sales number to buy the new ONE Plus International plan, the only T-Mobile plan advertised with high-speed tethering anymore (Note: T-Mobile has clarified that existing T-Mobile customers can get ONE Plus International through the T-Mobile app, but was unable to provide any explanation why new customers needed to call).

This means you either have to call a phone number and go through the painful signup process for the plan over the phone, or visit a T-Mobile store in person. It's almost like T-Mobile doesn't want you to sign up for tethering, isn't it? The standard, 3G-speed tethering ONE Plus plan is, of course, available for your internet checkout convenience. T-Mobile offers no explanation for the disparity.

While far from as gross as the ONE Plan itself, it's just another example of T-Mobile becoming the carrier not of consumer choice and advocacy, but of outright hostility toward those who don't use their smartphone in a way T-Mobile approves of. T-Mobile has become the arbiter of "appropriate" data usage, and the ONE Plan is its judging gavel. T-Mobile ONE, in a nutshell:

  • Doesn't let you stream video at the quality you want without having to pay more, and even then, makes you hit an obnoxious button at least once a day to do so.
  • Won't tether at anything above 512Kbps unless you pay more, and now requires you to call or go to a store to get said high-speed tethering if you're a new customer.
  • Is now apparently three plans (ONE, ONE Plus, ONE Plus International) with all sorts of arbitrary and confusing differences, which makes no sense when the whole idea was to create a single plan.

In short, it is my strong belief that T-Mobile's goal with the ONE Plan is to confuse consumers with a litany of fine print, limitations, and add-ons into never actually being able to consume the unlimited data they advertise. Its premise is deeply misleading in almost any practical sense. T-Mobile's motivation with these plans is to reduce the average amount of data consumed by subscribers, decreasing load on the network, allowing them greater capacity to add new subscribers and increase average revenue per user by slowly raising rates and charging for ridiculous "premium" features like the ability to stream HD video over LTE for a single day.

T-Mobile openly mocked Verizon for its 1-hour unlimited data feature - which is also exceptionally poor value and, frankly, bullshit - but T-Mobile is just as guilty in spirit here. And at this point, T-Mobile's competitors seem far more open and honest than America's Uncarrier.

AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all offer metered data plans which allow you to then use that data for high-speed tethering - no asterisks (Sprint makes these plans slightly harder to find versus its awful T-Mobile-ONE-like "Unlimited" plan, but they very much exist). Your tethering is at whatever speed the network can offer, and it simply draws from your available allocation of data. It is simple.

Verizon and Sprint both offer metered data plans that do not apply any unwanted compression of video content - you can stream at the quality you like, by default. AT&T does, too, but will soon switch to an opt-out system that caps video quality at 480p, similar to T-Mobile's old Binge On (though on AT&T, usage counts against your plan anyway). At least with AT&T, the optimization can be disabled. T-Mobile's ONE Plan only allows optimization to be turned off through daily HD video "passes," which cost $3 on the base plan, or are unlimited if you pony up $15 more a month for the Plus version of the ONE plan.

AT&T and Verizon both also make understanding what your data plan does pretty damn simple: you buy a bucket of data, that's how much you get. I don't love this model - don't get me wrong, it's not ideal - but it has nowhere near the fine print and insane restrictions of T-Mobile's increasingly byzantine ONE-but-not-actually-one Plan. The only simplification T-Mobile is interested in is in simplifying the process by which you agree to their draconian and convoluted terms. Sprint is trying T-Mobile's tricks, but at least Sprint still does offer more traditional, easier to understand and use plans, and you can still buy them on the freaking internet.

In short, while AT&T and Verizon may not be beacons of net neutrality adherence or particularly interested in providing amazing value to their customers, they are at least honest about what it is they're selling. And Sprint, well, they're kind of crappy in the same way T-Mobile is, but at least savvy consumers have a less icky option with their standard plans if they look for them. T-Mobile and its CEO hype man John Legere, though, berate their competitors endlessly for perceived bad business practices, while they themselves continue to show in their actions just how cynical they are, as opposed to the empty "uncarrier" rhetoric they peddle so shamelessly.