The Federal Communications Commission is taking action, and wireless carriers are now on guard. Once the government department's new net-neutrality rules took effect on Friday, Sprint stopped throttling customers on unlimited plans, according to The Wall Street Journal. The carrier says its policy would have been allowed under the new rules, but it made the change anyway just to be sure.
It's been almost eight months since the Federal Communications Commission opened its lawsuit against AT&T for misleading statements on its "unlimited" data plans. Today the Commission announced its intention (PDF link) to fine the wireless company $100 million for failing to notify its customers that going over unspecified data limits on an "unlimited" plan would result in severely reduced or "throttled" speed, well below advertised speeds, violating the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule.
Back in August, Verizon turned heads when it said it would begin to use "Network Optimization" for those few customers still on the old unlimited data plans. In layman's terms, it meant that Verizon intended to throttle the speed of the top 5% of unlimited data users on LTE networks, something that's already in place on the carrier's aging 3G system. But today, the very first day that the policy was set to go into practice, the company seems to have backed down.
It's impossible for new customers to buy unlimited mobile data from Verizon. But this wasn't always the case: back in the glory days of, uh, 2010 and earlier, Verizon Wireless was still offering true unlimited data for as little as $30 a month. It's been increasingly hard for users who want to keep their unlimited data to do so: since late 2012, they haven't been able to buy a new subsidized phone without switching over to a plan with a data cap, and the "grandfathered" unlimited data customers who download the most are already subject to "network optimization" when using Verizon's 3G network.
In this age of tiered data plans, an unlimited option is increasingly hard to come by. Well, little T-Mobile is looking to attract more customers by offering just that – an new unlimited data plan. The carrier already offers an unlimited option on its contract plans, but now that tier is being extended to its popular Monthly4G prepaid service.
The offering will come in at $70 per-month and replace the current $70 Unlimited talk/text and 5GB data plan.
The war on data throttling has been raging on for what seems like forever, with many users left furious that their carrier would slow data speeds to a crawl after X amount of gigabytes (usually two). While most carriers draw a clear line as to when throttling will occur, AT&T has taken a rather shady approach with its unlimited customers in the past, simply stating that "the top five percent of users" will be throttled.
What happens when AT&T sends Fox News' Shep Smith a text message letting him know that he's in the top 5% of data users and will be throttled? A hilarious rant about AT&T ensues, complete with comparison to crack cocaine. Check it out:
They hook you first - it's like giving you crack. It's all-you-can-eat crack, until, until, until you like a lot of crack and then you gotta pay them.
Back in July, Sprint announced plans to begin throttling speeds for customers who use more than 2.5GB of data in a month on its pre-paid subsidiary, Virgin Mobile. Naturally, this announcement did not sit well with Virgin customers, despite Sprint's claim that the change would only affect "3% of all data users."
However, the Now Network has decided to delay this throttling plan until sometime in 2012 to "ensure [they] have all the necessary systems in place so that [their] customer experience will remain positive."
Ah, the data saga continues. Throttling has been a long-time practice of T-Mobile, which drastically slows data speeds for users who go over their set-amount of high-speed access. AT&T recently announced a similar practice, slowing the top 5% of users who were grandfathered in on unlimited data plans.
Verizon also made a drastic change to its smartphone data packages recently, switching from an unlimited-only offering to a tiered setup. Now, even furthering the changes to its data structuring, Big Red will begin implementing "network optimizations" to all existing customers with unlimited plans on 3G devices in September.
In what can only be described as a real sphincter-clencher for Sprint customers, the nation's last true unlimited smartphone data provider has made a move that may signal the eventual end of that philosophy.
Yesterday, Sprint announced that customers on its Virgin-branded pre-paid arm, Virgin Mobile, will now be subjected to data throttling after 2.5GB of usage in a month. Sprint claims this will only affect 3% of all Virgin mobile data subscribers.